Los 17 mandatos del anticapitalismo
El geógrafo David Harvey en su última obra, Seventeen contradictions and the end of capitalism, propone a su vez 17 “mandatos” para animar la praxis política:
“Deberíamos luchar por un mundo en el que:
1. La provisión directa de adecuados valores de uso para todos (vivienda, educación, seguridad alimentaria, etc.) sea prioritaria sobre su provisión a través de un sistema de mercado que maximiza el beneficio y que concentra los valores de cambio en unas pocas manos privadas y distribuye los bienes de acuerdo a la capacidad de pago.
2. Se cree un medio de cambio que facilite la circulación de bienes y servicios pero limite o excluya la capacidad de los individuos privados para acumular dinero como una forma de poder social.
3. La oposición entre propiedad privada y poder estatal sea desplazada tanto como sea posible por regímenes de derechos comunes –con énfasis concreto sobre el conocimiento humano y la tierra como los comunes más cruciales que tenemos- cuya creación, gestión y protección se sitúe en las manos de asambleas y asociaciones populares.
4. La apropiación de poder social por personas privadas no sea sólo limitado por barreras económicas y sociales sino que sea desaprobado universalmente como una desviación patológica.
5. La oposición de clase entre capital y trabajo sea disuelta en productores asociados decidiendo libremente sobre qué, cómo y cuándo producirán en colaboración con otras asociaciones en relación con la satisfacción de las necesidades sociales comunes.
6. La velocidad de la vida diaria sea reducida –la locomoción debe ser sin prisa y lenta- para maximizar el tiempo para actividades libres llevadas a cabo en un entorno estable y bien mantenido protegido de episodios dramáticos de destrucción creativa.
7. Las poblaciones asociadas evalúen y comuniquen entre sí sus mutuas necesidades sociales para proveer la base para sus decisiones de producción (a corto plazo, las consideraciones de realización dominan las decisiones de producción).
8. Se creen nuevas tecnologías y formas organizativas que aligeren la carga de toda forma de trabajo social, disuelvan las distinciones innecesarias en las divisiones técnicas del trabajo, liberen tiempo para actividades libres individuales y colectivas, y disminuyan la huella ecológica de las actividades humanas.
9. Las divisiones técnicas del trabajo sean reducidas mediante el uso de la automatización, robotización e inteligencia artificial. Aquellas divisiones técnicas del trabajo residuales consideradas esenciales estén disociadas de las divisiones sociales del trabajo tanto como sea posible. Las funciones administrativas, de liderazgo y de control deberían rotar entre individuos dentro de la población general. Nos liberemos del dominio de los expertos.
10. El poder monopólico y centralizado sobre el uso de los medios de producción sea conferido a asociaciones populares mediante las cuales las capacidades competitivas descentralizadas de individuos y grupos sociales se movilicen para producir diferenciaciones en las innovaciones técnicas, sociales, culturales y de estilos de vida.
11. Exista la diversificación más amplia posible en formas de vivir y de ser, de relaciones sociales y relaciones con la naturaleza, y de hábitos culturales y pensamientos dentro de asociaciones territoriales, comunas y colectivos. Se garantice el libre e ilimitado pero ordenado movimiento geográfico de individuos dentro de territorios y comunas. Los representantes de las asociaciones se junten regularmente para evaluar, planificar y emprender tareas comunes y tratar con los problemas comunes a diferentes escalas: biorregional, continental y global.
12.Todas las desigualdades en la provisión material sean abolidas aparte de aquellas implicadas en el principio de de cada cual según su o sus capacidades y a cada cual según su o sus necesidades.
13. La distinción entre el trabajo necesario hecho para otros distantes y el trabajo acometido en la reproducción de uno mismo, el hogar y la comuna sea gradualmente borrada, de manera que el trabajo social se integre en el trabajo doméstico y comunal, y el trabajo doméstico y comunal se convierta en la forma principal de trabajo social no alienado y no monetizado.
14. Todo el mundo debería tener iguales derechos a educación, salud, vivienda, seguridad alimentaria, bienes básicos y acceso abierto al transporte para asegurar la base material para la libertad para vivir sin la miseria y para la libertad de acción y movimiento.
15. La economía converja en el crecimiento cero (aunque con margen para desarrollos geográficos desiguales) en un mundo en que el desarrollo más grande posible de las capacidades y energías humanas tanto individuales como colectivas y la búsqueda perpetua de la innovación prevalezcan como normas sociales desplazando la manía por el crecimiento compuesto perpetuo.
16. La apropiación y producción de fuerzas naturales para necesidades humanas deberían mantener un ritmo sostenido pero con la máxima consideración para la protección de ecosistemas, la máxima atención prestada al reciclaje de nutrientes, energía y materia física hacia los lugares de los que vinieron, y un abrumador sentido de re-encantamiento con la belleza del mundo natural, del cual somos una parte y al cual podemos contribuir mediante nuestras obras.
17. Los seres humanos no alienados y las personas creativas no alienadas emerjan armadas con un nuevo y confiado sentido de sí mismos y de seres colectivos. Nacido de la experiencia de relaciones sociales íntimas contraídas libremente y la empatía con los diferentes modos de vivir y producir, emergerá un mundo donde todos sean considerados igualmente merecedores de dignidad y respeto, incluso al bramar el conflicto sobre la definición apropiada de la buena vida. Este mundo social evolucionará continuamente mediante revoluciones permanentes y continuas revoluciones en las capacidades y energías humanas. La búsqueda perpetua de la innovación continúa”.
Enlace (en inglés):
El libro completo en inglés
Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism
Prospects for a Happy but Contested Future: The Promise of Revolutionary Humanism
From time immemorial there have been human beings who have believed that they could construct, individually or collectively, a better world for themselves than that which they had inherited. Quite a lot of them also came to believe that in the course of so doing it might be possible to remake themselves as different if not better people. I count myself among those who believe in both these propositions. In Rebel Cities, for example, I argued that ‘the question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from the question of what kind of people we want to be, what kinds of social relations we seek, what relations to nature we cherish, what style of life we desire, what aesthetic values we hold’. The right to the city, I wrote, is ‘far more than a right of individual or group access to the resources that the city embodies: it is a right to change and re-invent the city more after our heart’s desire … The freedom to make and remake ourselves and our cities is … one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.’ Perhaps for this intuitive reason, the city has been the focus throughout its history of an immense outpouring of utopian desires for happier futures and less alienating times.
The belief that we can through conscious thought and action change both the world we live in and ourselves for the better defines a humanist tradition. The secular version of this tradition overlaps with and has often been inspired by religious teachings on dignity, tolerance, compassion, love and respect for others. Humanism, both religious and secular, is a world view that measures its achievements in terms of the liberation of human potentialities, capacities and powers. It subscribes to the Aristotelian vision of the uninhibited flourishing of individuals and the construction of ‘the good life’. Or, as one contemporary renaissance man, Peter Buffett defines it, a world which guarantees to individuals ‘the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life’.
This tradition of thought and action has waxed and waned from time to time and from place to place but never seems to die. It has had to compete, of course, with more orthodox doctrines that variously assign our fates and fortunes to the gods, to a specific creator and deity, to the blind forces of nature, to social evolutionary laws enforced through genetic legacies and mutations, by iron laws of economics that dictate the course of technological evolution, or to some hidden teleology dictated by the world spirit. Humanism also has its excesses and its dark side. The somewhat libertine character of renaissance humanism led one of its leading exponents, Erasmus, to worry that the Judaeo-Christian tradition was being traded in for those of Epicurus. Humanism has sometimes lapsed into a Promethean and anthropocentric view of human capacities and powers in relationship to everything that exists – including nature – even to the point where some deluded beings believe that we, being next to God, are Übermenschen having dominion over the universe. This form of humanism becomes even more pernicious when identifiable groups in a population are not considered worthy of being considered human. This was the fate of many indigenous populations in the Americas as they faced colonial settlers. Designated as ‘savages’, they were considered a part of nature and not a part of humanity. Such tendencies are alive and well in certain circles, leading the radical feminist Catherine MacKinnon to write a book on the question, Are Women Human? That such exclusions have in many people’s eyes a systematic and generic character in modern society is indicated by the popularity of Giorgio Agamben’s formulation of ‘the state of exception’ in which so many people now exist in the world (with the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay being a prime example).
There are plenty of contemporary signs that the enlightened humanist tradition is alive and well, perhaps even staging a comeback. This is the spirit that clearly animates the hordes of people employed around the world in NGOs and other charitable institutions whose mission is to improve the life chances and prospects of the less fortunate. There are even vain attempts to dress up capital itself in the humanist garb of what some corporate leaders like to call Conscious Capitalism, a species of entrepreneurial ethics that looks suspiciously like conscience laundering along with sensible proposals to improve worker efficiency by seeming to be nice to them. All the nasty things that happen are absorbed as unintentional collateral damage in an economic system motivated by the best of ethical intentions. Humanism is, however, the spirit that inspires countless individuals to give of themselves unstintingly and often without material reward to contribute selflessly to the well-being of others. Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist humanisms have spawned widespread religious and charitable organisations, as well as iconic figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Bishop Tutu. Within the secular tradition there are many varieties of humanist thought and practice, including explicit currents of cosmopolitan, liberal, socialist and Marxist humanism. and, of course, moral and political philosophers have over the centuries devised a variety of conflicting ethical systems of thought based in a variety of ideals of justice, cosmopolitan reason and emancipatory liberty that have from time to time supplied revolutionary slogans. Liberty, equality, fraternity were the watchwords of the French revolution. The earlier US Declaration of Independence, followed by the US Constitution and, perhaps even more significantly, that stirring document called the Bill of Rights have all played a role in animating subsequent political movements and constitutional forms. The remarkable constitutions recently adopted in Bolivia and Ecuador show that the art of writing progressive constitutions as the basis for regulating human life is by no means dead. And the immense literature that this tradition has spawned has not been lost on those who have sought a more meaningful life. Just think of the past influence of Tom Paine’s Rights of Man or Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman within the English-speaking world to see what I mean (almost every tradition in the world has analogous writings to celebrate).
There are two well-known undersides to all of this, both of which we have already encountered. The first is that however noble the universal sentiments expressed at the outset, it has time and again proved hard to stop the universality of humanist claims being perverted for the benefit of particular interests, factions and classes. This is what produces the philanthropic colonialism of which Peter Buffett so eloquently complains. This is what twists Kant’s noble cosmopolitanism and quest for perpetual peace into a tool of imperialist and colonial cultural domination, currently represented by the Hilton Hotel cosmopolitanism of CNN and the frequent business-class flier. This is the problem that has bedevilled the doctrines of human rights enshrined in a UN declaration that privileges the individual rights and private property of liberal theory at the expense of collective relations and cultural claims. This is what turns the ideals and practices of freedom into a tool of governmentality for the reproduction and perpetuation of capitalist class affluence and power. The second problem is that the enforcement of any particular system of beliefs and rights always involves some disciplinary power, usually exercised by the state or some other institutionalised authority backed by force. The difficulty here is obvious. The UN declaration implies state enforcement of individual human rights when the state so often is first in line violating those rights.
The difficulty with the humanist tradition in short is that it does not internalise a good understanding of its own inescapable internal contradictions, most clearly captured in the contradiction between freedom and domination. The result is that humanist leanings and sentiments often get presented these days in a somewhat offhand and embarrassed way, except when their position is safely backed by religious doctrine and authority. There is, as a result, no full-blooded contemporary defence of the propositions of or prospects for a secular humanism even though there are innumerable individual works that loosely subscribe to the tradition or even polemicise as to its obvious virtues (as happens in the NGO world). Its dangerous traps and foundational contradictions, particularly questions of coercion, violence and domination, are shied away from because they are too awkward to confront. The result is what Frantz Fanon characterised as ‘insipid humanitarianism’. There is plenty of evidence of that manifest in its recent revival. The bourgeois and liberal tradition of secular humanism forms a mushy ethical base for largely ineffective moralising about the sad state of the world and the mounting of equally ineffective campaigns against the plights of chronic poverty and environmental degradation. It is probably for this reason that the French philosopher Louis Althusser launched his fierce and influential campaign back in the 1960s to eject all talk of socialist humanism and alienation from the Marxist tradition. The humanism of the young Marx, as expressed in The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Althusser argued, was separated from the scientific Marx of Capital by an ‘epistemological rupture’ that we ignore at our peril. Marxist humanism, he wrote, is pure ideology, theoretically vacuous and politically misleading, if not dangerous. The devotion of a dedicated Marxist like the long-imprisoned Antonio Gramsci to the ‘absolute humanism of human history’ was, in Althusser’s view, entirely misplaced.
The enormous increase in and nature of the complicitous activities of the humanist NGOs over recent decades would seem to support Althusser’s criticisms. The growth of the charitable industrial complex mainly reflects the need to increase ‘conscience laundering’ for a world’s oligarchy that is doubling its wealth and power every few years in the midst of economic stagnation. Their work has done little or nothing in aggregate to deal with human degradation and dispossession or proliferating environmental degradation. This is structurally so because anti-poverty organisations are required to do their work without ever interfering in the further accumulation of the wealth from which they derive their sustenance. If everyone who worked in an anti-poverty organisation converted overnight to an anti-wealth politics we would soon find ourselves living in a very different world. Very few charitable donors, not even Peter Buffett I suspect, would fund that. And the NGOs, which are now at the centre of the problem, would not in any case want that (though there are many individuals within the NGO world who would but simply can’t).
So what kind of humanism do we need in order to progressively change the world through anti-capitalist work into another kind of place populated by different kinds of people?
There is, I believe, a crying need to articulate a secular revolutionary humanism that can ally with those religious-based humanisms (most clearly articulated in both Protestant and Catholic versions of the theology of liberation as well as in cognate movements within Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and indigenous religious cultures) to counter alienation in its many forms and to radically change the world from its capitalist ways. There is a strong and powerful – albeit problematic – tradition of secular revolutionary humanism both with respect to both theory and political practice. This is a form of humanism that Louis Althusser totally rejected. But, in spite of Althusser’s influential intervention, it has a powerful and articulate expression in the Marxist and radical traditions as well as beyond. It is very different from bourgeois liberal humanism. It refuses the idea that there is an unchanging or pre-given ‘essence’ of what it means to be human and forces us to think hard about how to become a new kind of human. It unifies the Marx of Capital with that of The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and arrows in to the heart of the contradictions of what any humanist programme must be willing to embrace if it is to change the world. It clearly recognises that the prospects for a happy future for most are invariably marred by the inevitability of dictating the unhappiness of some others. A dispossessed financial oligarchy which cannot any more partake of caviar and champagne lunches on their yachts moored off the Bahamas will doubtless complain at their diminished fates and fortunes in a more egalitarian world. We may, as good liberal humanists, even feel a bit sorry for them. Revolutionary humanists steel themselves against that thought. While we may not approve of this ruthless approach to dealing with such contradictions, we have to acknowledge the basic honesty and self-awareness of the practitioners.
Consider, as one example, the revolutionary humanism of someone like Frantz Fanon. Fanon was a psychiatrist working in hospitals in the midst of a bitter and violent anti-colonial war (rendered so memorable in Pontecorvo’s film The Battle of Algiers – a film, incidentally, that the US military now uses for anti-insurgency training purposes). Fanon wrote in depth about the struggle for freedom and liberty on the part of colonised peoples against the colonisers. His analysis, though specific to the Algerian case, illustrates the sorts of issues that arise in any liberation struggle, including those between capital and labour. But it does so in stark dramatic and more easily legible terms precisely because it incorporates the additional dimensions of racial, cultural and colonial oppressions and degradations giving rise to an ultra-violent revolutionary situation from which no peaceful exit seems possible. The foundational question for Fanon is how to recover a sense of humanity on the basis of the dehumanising practices and experiences of colonial domination. ‘As soon as you and your fellow men are cut down like dogs,’ he writes in The Wretched of the Earth, ‘there is no other solution but to use every means available to re-establish your weight as a human being. You must therefore weigh as heavily as possible on your torturer’s body so that his wits, which have wandered off somewhere, can at last be restored to their human dimension.’ In this way ‘man both demands and claims his infinite humanity’. There are always ‘tears to be wiped away, inhuman attitudes to be fought, condescending ways of speech to be ruled out, men to be humanised’. Revolution, for Fanon, was not simply about the transfer of power from one segment of society to another. It entailed the reconstruction of humanity – in Fanon’s case a distinctive post-colonial humanity – and a radical shift in the meaning attached to being human. ‘Decolonisation is truly the creation of new men. But such a creation cannot be attributed to a supernatural power. The “thing” colonised becomes a man through the very process of liberation.’ It was therefore inevitable in a colonial situation, Fanon argued, that the struggle for liberation would have to be constituted in nationalist terms. But ‘if nationalism is not explained, enriched, deepened, if it does not very quickly turn into a social and political consciousness, into humanism, then it leads to a dead end’.
Fanon, of course, shocks many liberal humanists with his embrace of a necessary violence and his rejection of compromise. How, he asks, is non-violence possible in a situation structured by the systematic violence exercised by the colonisers? What is the point of starving people going on hunger strike? Why, as Herbert Marcuse asked, should we be persuaded of the virtues of tolerance towards the intolerable? In a divided world, where the colonial power defines the colonised as subhuman and evil by nature, compromise is impossible. ‘One does not negotiate with evil,’ famously said Vice-President Dick Cheney. To which Fanon had a ready-made reply: ‘The work of the colonist is to make even dreams of liberty impossible for the colonised. The work of the colonised is to imagine every possible method for annihilating the colonist … The theory of the “absolute evil of the colonist” is in response to the theory of the “absolute evil of the native”.’ In such a divided world there is no prospect of negotiation or compromise. This is what has kept the USA and Iran so far apart ever since the Iranian Revolution. ‘The native sector’ of the colonial city, Fanon points out, ‘is not complementary to the European sector … The city as a whole is governed by a purely Aristotelian logic’ and follows the ‘dictates of mutual exclusion’. Lacking a dialectical relation between the two, the only way to break down the difference is through violence. ‘To destroy the colonial world means nothing less than demolishing the colonist’s sector, burying it deep within the earth or banishing it from the territory.’ There is nothing mushy about such a programme. As Fanon saw clearly:
For the colonised this violence is invested with positive formative features because it constitutes their only work. This violent praxis is totalising since each individual represents a violent link in a great chain, in the almighty body of violence rearing up in reaction to the primary violence of the coloniser … at the individual level, violence is a cleansing force. It rids the colonised of their inferiority complex, of their passive and despairing attitude. It emboldens them and restores their self-confidence. Even if the armed struggle has been symbolic, and even if they have been demobilised by rapid decolonisation, the people have time to realise their liberation was the achievement of each and every one …
But what is so stunning about The Wretched of the Earth, and what indeed brings tears to the eyes on a close reading and makes it so searingly human, is the second half of the book, which is taken up by devastating descriptions of the psychic traumas of those on both sides who found themselves forced by circumstances to participate in the violence of the liberation struggle. We now know much more about the psychic damage suffered by those US and other soldiers who engaged in military action in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the terrible scourge on their lives as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder. This is what Fanon wrote about with such compassion in the midst of the revolutionary struggle against the colonial system in Algeria. After decolonisation there is an immense work that remains to be done, not only to repair the psyches of damaged souls, but also to mitigate what Fanon clearly saw as the dangers of the lingering effects (even replication) of colonial ways of thought and being. ‘The colonised subject fights in order to put an end to domination. But he must also ensure that all the untruths planted within him by the oppressor are eliminated. In a colonial regime such as the one in Algeria the ideas taught by colonialism impacted not only the European minority but also the Algerian. Total liberation involves every facet of the personality … independence is not a magic ritual but an indispensable condition for men and women to live in true liberation, in other words to master all the material resources necessary for a radical transformation of society.’
I do not raise the question of violence here, any more than did Fanon, because I am or he was in favour of it. He highlighted it because the logic of human situations so often deteriorates to a point where there is no other option. Even Gandhi acknowledged that. But the option has potentially dangerous consequences. Revolutionary humanism has to offer some kind of philosophical answer to this difficulty, some solace in the face of incipient tragedies. While the ultimate humanist task may be, as Aeschylus put it 2,500 years ago, ‘to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world’, this cannot be done without confronting and dealing with the immense violence that underpins the colonial and neocolonial order. This is what Mao and Ho Chi Minh had to confront, what Che Guevara sought to achieve, and what a host of political leaders and thinkers in post-colonial struggles, including Amilcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and Aimé Césaire, Walter Eodney, C.L.R. James and many others, have acted against with such conviction in both words and deeds.
But is the social order of capital any different in essence from its colonial manifestations? That order has certainly sought to distance itself at home from the callous calculus of colonial violence (depicting it as something that must necessarily be visited on uncivilised others ‘over there’ for their own good). It had to disguise at home the far too blatant inhumanity it demonstrated abroad. ‘Over there’ things could be put out of sight and hearing. Only now, for example, is the vicious violence of the British suppression of the Mau Mau movement in Kenya in the 1960s being acknowledged in full. When capital drifts close to such inhumanity at home it typically elicits a similar response to that of the colonised. To the degree that it embraced racialised violence at home, as it did in the United States, it produced movements like the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam along with leaders like Malcolm X and, in his final days, Martin Luther King, who saw the connectivity between race and class and suffered the consequences thereof. But capital learned a lesson. The more race and class get woven seamlessly together, then the faster the fuse for revolution burns. But what Marx makes so clear in Capital is the daily violence constituted in the domination of capital over labour in the marketplace and in the act of production as well as on the terrain of daily life. How easy it is to take descriptions of contemporary labour conditions in, for example, the electronics factories of Shenzhen, the clothing factories of Bangladesh or the sweatshops of Los Angeles and insert them into Marx’s classic chapter on ‘the working day’ in Capital and not notice the difference. How shockingly easy it is to take the living conditions of the working classes, the marginalised and the unemployed in Lisbon, São Paulo and Jakarta and put them next to Engels’s classic 1844 description of The Condition of the Working Class in England and find little substantive difference.
Oligarchic capitalist class privilege and power are taking the world in a similar direction almost everywhere. Political power backed by intensifying surveillance, policing and militarised violence is being used to attack the well-being of whole populations deemed expendable and disposable. We are daily witnessing the systematic dehumanisation of disposable people. Ruthless oligarchic power is now being exercised through a totalitarian democracy directed to immediately disrupt, fragment and suppress any coherent anti-wealth political movement (such as Occupy). The arrogance and disdain with which the affluent now view those less fortunate than themselves, even when (particularly when) vying with each other behind closed doors to prove who can be the most charitable of them all, are notable facts of our present condition. The ‘empathy gap’ between the oligarchy and the rest is immense and increasing. The oligarchs mistake superior income for superior human worth and their economic success as evidence of their superior knowledge of the world (rather than their superior command over accounting tricks and legal niceties). They do not know how to listen to the plight of the world because they cannot and wilfully will not confront their role in the construction of that plight. They do not and cannot see their own contradictions. The billionaire Koch brothers give charitably to a university like MiT even to the point of building a beautiful day-care centre for the deserving faculty there while simultaneously lavishing untold millions in financial support for a political movement (headed by the Tea Party faction) in the US Congress that cuts food stamps and denies welfare, nutritional supplements and day care for millions living in or close to absolute poverty.
It is in a political climate such as this that the violent and unpredictable eruptions that are occurring all around the world on an episodic basis (from Turkey and Egypt to Brazil and Sweden in 2013 alone) look more and more like the prior tremors for a coming earthquake that will make the post-colonial revolutionary struggles of the 1960s look like child’s play. If there is an end to capital, then this is surely from where it will come and its immediate consequences are unlikely to prove happy for anyone. This is what Fanon so clearly teaches.
The only hope is that the mass of humanity will see the danger before the rot goes too far and the human and environmental damage becomes too great to repair. In the face of what Pope Francis rightly dubs ‘the globalisation of indifference’, the global masses must, as Fanon so neatly puts it, ‘first decide to wake up, put on their thinking caps and stop playing the irresponsible game of Sleeping Beauty’. If Sleeping Beauty awakes in time, then we might be in for a more fairytale-like ending. The ‘absolute humanism of human history,’ wrote Gramsci, ‘does not aim at the peaceful resolution of existing contradictions in history and society but rather is the very theory of these contradictions’. Hope is latent in them, said Bertolt Brecht. There are, as we have seen, enough compelling contradictions within capital’s domain to foster many grounds for hope.
Ideas for Political Praxis
What does this X-ray into the contradictions of capital tell us about anti-capitalist political praxis? It cannot, of course, tell us exactly what to do in the midst of fierce and always complicated struggles on this or that issue on the ground. But it does help frame an overall direction to anti-capitalist struggle even as it makes and strengthens the case for anti-capitalist politics. When pollsters ask their favourite question, ‘Do you think the country is headed in the right direction?’ that presumes that people have some sense as to what the right direction might be. So what do those of us who believe capital is headed in the wrong direction consider a right direction and how might we evaluate our progress towards realising those goals? And how might we present those goals as modest and sensible proposals – for such they really are, relative to the absurd arguments put forward to deepen the powers of capital as an answer to humanity’s crying needs? Here are some mandates – derived from the seventeen contradictions – to frame and hopefully animate political praxis. We should strive for a world in which:
The direct provision of adequate use values for all (housing, education, food security etc.) takes precedence over their provision through a profit-maximising market system that concentrates exchange values in a few private hands and allocates goods on the basis of ability to pay.
A means of exchange is created that facilitates the circulation of goods and services but limits or excludes the capacity of private individuals to accumulate money as a form of social power.
The opposition between private property and state power is displaced as far as possible by common rights regimes – with particular emphasis upon human knowledge and the land as the most crucial commons we have – the creation, management and protection of which lie in the hands of popular assemblies and associations.
The appropriation of social power by private persons is not only inhibited by economic and social barriers but becomes universally frowned upon as a pathological deviancy.
The class opposition between capital and labour is dissolved into associated producers freely deciding on what, how and when they will produce in collaboration with other associations regarding the fulfilment of common social needs.
Daily life is slowed down – locomotion shall be leisurely and slow – to maximise time for free activities conducted in a stable and well-maintained environment protected from dramatic episodes of creative destruction.
Associated populations assess and communicate their mutual social needs to each other to furnish the basis for their production decisions (in the short run, realisation considerations dominate production decisions).
New technologies and organisational forms are created that lighten the load of all forms of social labour, dissolve unnecessary distinctions in technical divisions of labour, liberate time for free individual and collective activities, and diminish the ecological footprint of human activities.
Technical divisions of labour are reduced through the use of automation, robotisation and artificial intelligence. Those residual technical divisions of labour deemed essential are dissociated from social divisions of labour as far as possible. administrative, leadership and policing functions should be rotated among individuals within the population at large. We are liberated from the rule of experts.
Monopoly and centralised power over the use of the means of production is vested in popular associations through which the decentralised competitive capacities of individuals and social groups are mobilised to produce differentiations in technical, social, cultural and lifestyle innovations.
The greatest possible diversification exists in ways of living and being, of social relations and relations to nature, and of cultural habits and beliefs within territorial associations, communes and collectives. Free and uninhibited but orderly geographical movement of individuals within territories and between communes is guaranteed. Representatives of the associations regularly come together to assess, plan and undertake common tasks and deal with common problems at different scales: bioregional, continental and global.
All inequalities in material provision are abolished other than those entailed in the principle of from each according to his, her or their capacities and to each according to his, her, or their needs.
The distinction between necessary labour done for distant others and work undertaken in the reproduction of self, household and commune is gradually erased such that social labour becomes embedded in household and communal work and household and communal work becomes the primary form of unalienated and non-monetised social labour.
Everyone should have equal entitlements to education, health care, housing, food security, basic goods and open access to transportation to ensure the material basis for freedom from want and for freedom of action and movement.
The economy converges on zero growth (though with room for uneven geographical developments) in a world in which the greatest possible development of both individual and collective human capacities and powers and the perpetual search for novelty prevail as social norms to displace the mania for perpetual compound growth.
The appropriation and production of natural forces for human needs should proceed apace but with the maximum regard for the protection of ecosystems, maximum attention paid to the recycling of nutrients, energy and physical matter to the sites from whence they came, and an overwhelming sense of re-enchantment with the beauty of the natural world, of which we are a part and to which we can and do contribute through our works.
Unalienated human beings and unalienated creative personas emerge armed with a new and confident sense of self and collective being. Born out of the experience of freely contracted intimate social relations and empathy for different modes of living and producing, a world will emerge where everyone is considered equally worthy of dignity and respect, even as conflict rages over the appropriate definition of the good life. This social world will continuously evolve through permanent and ongoing revolutions in human capacities and powers. The perpetual search for novelty continues.
None of these mandates, it goes without saying, transcends or supersedes the importance of waging war against all other forms of discrimination, oppression and violent repression within capitalism as a whole. By the same token, none of these other struggles should transcend or supersede that against capital and its contradictions. Alliances of interests are clearly needed.
 David Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, London, Verso, 2013, p. 4.
 Peter Buffett, ‘The Charitable-Industrial Complex’, New York Times, 26 July 2013.
 Catherine MacKinnon, Are Women Human?: And Other International Dialogues, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2007.
 Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 2005.
 John Mackey, Rajendra Sisodia and Bill George, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, Cambridge, MA, Harvard Business Review Press, 2013.
 Louis Althusser, The Humanist Controversy and Other Writings, London, Verso, 2003; Peter Thomas, The Gramscian Moment: Philosophy, Hegemony and Marxism, Chicago, Haymarket Books, 2010.
 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, New York, Grove Press, 2005, p. 144.
 Ibid., p. 6.
 Ibid., p. 51.
 Ibid., p. 144.
 Frederick Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England, London, Cambridge University Press, 1962.
 Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 62.
This is an excerpt — the last two chapters — from Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism by David Harvey, out now from Profile Books. David Harvey the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and Guggenheim Fellowship recipient. He has authored such books as The Condition of Postmodernity (1989), A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005), and A Companion to Marx’s Capital (2010). An interview with Harvey was featured on our website in 2012.
- Crítica del capital
- Guerra global