Arquivo da tag: Capitalismo

Mundo deverá quadruplicar energias renováveis até 2050 para conter mudanças climáticas (O Globo)

PUBLICADO 04 NOVEMBRO 2014.

9620

Novo relatório do IPCC afirma também que combustíveis fósseis precisarão ser ‘extintos’ até 2100. Combustíveis fósseis deveriam ser ‘extintos’ até 2100, segundo o IPCC

Copenhague – No capítulo final de uma pesquisa iniciada 13 meses atrás, o Painel Intergovernamental sobre Mudanças Climáticas (IPCC) desfilou uma saraivada de números que refletem o caótico aquecimento global. Segundo o estudo, divulgado ontem em Copenhague, a temperatura média na superfície da Terra aumentou 0,85 grau Celsius entre 1880 e 2012. A concentração de gases-estufa na atmosfera é a maior dos últimos 800 mil anos. As ondas de calor vão se tornar cada vez mais intensas e comuns, especialmente no Hemisfério Norte.

Se o mundo quiser evitar que as mudanças climáticas se tornem irreversíveis, o uso de combustíveis fósseis — o principal motor da economia mundial — deve ser zerado em 2100. Para isso, os países precisam quadruplicar o uso de energias renováveis até 2050. Ignorar este ultimato provocará danos “graves, generalizados e irreversíveis”.

Atualmente, os governos gastam cerca de US$ 600 bilhões por ano no subsídio ao consumo de carvão. Ao mesmo tempo, menos de US$ 400 bilhões são investidos por ano no mundo em políticas de redução de emissões ou em outra forma de enfrentar as mudanças climáticas. Segundo o “New York Times”, esta quantia é menor do que a receita de apenas uma petrolífera americana.

De acordo com o presidente do IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, os projetos de mitigação contra as mudanças climáticas custariam cerca de 0,06% do PIB mundial por ano até o fim do século. Estima-se que, no mesmo período, a economia internacional crescerá 300%.

— O custo da inércia será horrivelmente maior — assegura Rachauri. — Temos pouco tempo pela frente antes que passe a janela de oportunidade para o aumento de temperatura permanecer abaixo de 2 graus Celsius. Manter o atual modelo de crescimento não é uma opção para nós.

GOLPE NA ECONOMIA

Copresidente de um dos três grupos de trabalho do IPCC, Youba Sokona ressalta que há, no mínimo, 66% de chances de a temperatura global aumentar mais de 2 graus Celsius até 2100, caso a queima de combustíveis fósseis continue no ritmo atual.

— A transição para uma economia com baixo teor de carbono é tecnicamente viável — destaca. — Mas faltam políticas e instituições apropriadas. Quanto mais esperarmos para agir, maior será o custo para mitigação e adaptação.

A liberação de gases-estufa segue em escalada nas últimas décadas. Cerca de metade das emissões de CO2 da era industrial ocorreu nos últimos 40 anos. Com isso, o cenário mais provável é que a temperatura média global ultrapasse os 4 graus Celsius até 2100. Atingir esta marca significa “dificultar a redução da pobreza (…) e corroer a segurança alimentar”, diz o estudo.

Entre 1901 e 2010, o nível do mar aumentou 0,19 centímetro — um valor maior do que nos 2 mil anos anteriores. Se os termômetros continuarem crescendo, em 2050 o gelo do Oceano Ártico terá praticamente desaparecido nos meses de setembro. Até o fim do século, o nível do mar pode aumentar 82 centímetros. Há previsões de grandes enchentes e desaparecimento de países insulares e cidades costeiras.

A mudança do regime de chuvas, a absorção de gases-estufa pelo oceano e o derretimento de geleiras vão afetar a disponibilidade de alimentos para as espécies marinhas. Sua migração também prejudicará a indústria pesqueira.

O calor também afetará o rendimento de safras de trigo, arroz, milho e soja. Estes recursos são a base da economia de países em desenvolvimento. Suas populações, as mais atingidas por eventos extremos, devem migrar para outras regiões. A chegada dos refugiados climáticos aumentará a desigualdade social e a possibilidade de conflitos violentos.

Esta descrição foi atenuada na redação final do relatório. O documento original, editado durante a semana, afirmava que a migração em massa de populações provocaria conflitos violentos “na forma de guerra civil”.

Segundo o Banco Mundial, a comunidade internacional precisará investir entre US$ 1 trilhão e US$ 1,5 trilhão por ano para ajustar sua infraestrutura ao perigo representado pelas mudanças climáticas.

— O impacto das mudanças climáticas será muito diferente em cada país. Por isso é tão difícil estimá-lo — admite a economista Stéphane Hallegatte, coautora do relatório do IPCC. — Eles precisam de dinheiro para desenvolver a tecnologia ecológica, defesa costeira, planos de mitigação e adaptação e gestão de risco de desastres.

Pachauri lembra que as nações mais vulneráveis contribuem pouco para as emissões de gases-estufa. Por isso, atacar o problema torna-se responsabilidade de todos os governos:

— Enfrentar o aquecimento global não será possível se cada agente pensar apenas em seu plano. Precisamos de cooperação entre os países para alcançar nossos objetivos.

FALTA DE ACORDO GLOBAL

O relatório do IPCC, que está em sua quinta edição, deve servir como base para as discussões da Conferência do Clima de Lima, em dezembro deste ano. As esperanças, porém, estão concentradas na edição do ano que vem do encontro, em Paris. Espera-se que este fórum resulte em um acordo global contra as mudanças climáticas. Havia a mesma expectativa em Copenhague, em 2009, quando o debate foi pautado pelo quarto documento do IPCC.

— Tivemos uma conversa extensa há cinco anos, mas, olhando para trás, talvez os líderes mundiais não estivessem tão preparados para discutir o clima — admite o secretário-geral da ONU, Ban ki-Moon. — Eles precisam agir. O tempo não está ao nosso lado.

Não é tão simples assim. O combate às mudanças climáticas é marcado por desentendimentos. Países em desenvolvimento se recusam a aceitar metas para reduzir emissões de CO2 — exigência imposta pelas nações desenvolvidas.

Em setembro, Ban ki-Moon organizou uma Cúpula do Clima na ONU, em uma tentativa de antecipar as discussões previstas para os fóruns ambientais. No encontro foi apresentada a Declaração de Nova York, um documento que propunha a redução pela metade do corte de florestas até 2020 e zerá-lo na década seguinte. Com esta medida, entre 4,5 bilhões e 8,8 bilhões de toneladas de CO2 deixariam de ser liberadas para a atmosfera — o equivalente à remoção de um bilhão de carros das ruas até 2030. Brasil, Índia e China, que estão entre os maiores desmatadores do mundo, recusaram-se a assinar o acordo.

A China, maior poluidora do planeta, comprometeu-se apenas a divulgar quando atingirá o pico de suas emissões — o que deve ocorrer antes de 2030. Os EUA limitam-se a cobrar projetos da potência asiática. A União Europeia e o Brasil estabeleceram metas voluntárias — ou seja, sem valor legal. A Índia, que será a nação mais populosa do mundo daqui a menos de 20 anos, luta para ser definida como país em desenvolvimento, um sinal de que não pretende assumir objetivos.

DISCUSSÕES MADRUGADA ADENTRO

Pachauri, porém, acredita que o novo relatório pode virar o jogo. De acordo com ele, o documento apresentado ontem é “o mais forte e robusto” já produzido pelo IPCC. Para especialistas, o maior objetivo foi cumprido: enfatizar como a ação humana interfere na temperatura do planeta, tese muito contestada poucos anos atrás.

Vice-presidente do IPCC, Suzana Kahn avalia que o relatório final foi mais “claro e objetivo” do que os documentos escritos nos últimos meses pelos grupos de trabalho. Suzana, porém, acredita que os números do IPCC não mudarão facilmente o posicionamento dos governos nas negociações internacionais.

— Os países permanecem com suas posições históricas já consolidadas — afirma Suzana, uma das responsáveis por resumir o relatório original, que tinha 175 páginas, no divulgado ontem, com 40 páginas. — Para fazer isso, foi uma dificuldade. Imagine, então, na negociação propriamente dita. Tanto que, em vez de encerrarmos as discussões na sexta-feira, às 18h, elas só foram fechadas no sábado, às 16h, e precisamos debater todas as madrugadas. Ou seja, tudo foi marcado por pouca disposição de cooperação.

Os climatologistas ressaltam que, mesmo se todas as medidas de mitigação e adaptação forem tomadas, os estragos provocados pelo homem no clima serão visíveis no próximo século, já que as alterações feitas em biomas, geleiras e o acúmulo de carbono nos oceanos não serão remediadas imediatamente. O meio ambiente tem seu próprio tempo. E, para assegurá-lo, o ser humano corre contra o relógio.

Fonte: GVces / O Globo.

A bolha global de carbono (Eco21)

06/11/2014 – 12h25

por Ricardo Abramovay*

carbono1 A bolha global de carbonoOs combustíveis fósseis são fortes candidatos a ocupar o epicentro de uma nova crise financeira global. A avaliação do jornalista Ambrose Evans-Pritchard está baseada em uma série de entrevistas com influentes protagonistas do setor de energia e em dois relatórios recentes sobre os impactos das negociações climáticas sobre estes mercados. Tendo em vista que, do trilhão de reais que, segundo o BNDES, devem ser investidos em infraestrutura no Brasil até 2017, quase metade vai para o setor de óleo e gás, o tema é de interesse estratégico para o País.

O primeiro relatório é o da Carbon Track Initiative, um grupo de trabalho dirigido pelo empresário, pesquisador e ativista Jeremy Leggett e que ganhou imenso prestígio internacional mostrando a existência de uma bolha de carbono (carbon bubble) no mercado global de energia. A expressão tem um duplo sentido, físico e financeiro. A bolha física está relacionada, evidentemente, à mudança climática. Para cumprir o objetivo de limitar a elevação da temperatura global média a, no máximo, 2°C, até o final do Século 21, a quantidade de fósseis a ser queimada pelo sistema econômico não pode ultrapassar o que corresponde à emissão de algo entre 900 e 1.000 gigatoneladas de Gases de Efeito Estufa entre 2010 e 2050. Ocorre que o patrimônio fóssil em mãos das empresas (em petróleo, carvão e gás) é quase três vezes superior a esse limite.

É nesse sentido que há uma bolha de carbono: este patrimônio só se converterá em riqueza se destruir o sistema climático. Em tese, seria possível capturar e armazenar o carbono lançado na atmosfera: mas, até hoje, os custos dessas operações são exorbitantes e não há indicações de que estejam prestes a se tornar economicamente viáveis. Portanto, não há terceiro caminho: ou se deixa sob o solo dois terços das reservas fósseis em poder dos gigantes da energia ou a elevação da temperatura global média chegará a um patamar em que consequências como a seca atual na Califórnia e os furacões Katrina e Sandy são apenas pálidas expressões.

É aí que ganha importância a dimensão financeira da bolha de carbono: apesar das evidências crescentes reunidas pelos cientistas e do acordo internacional (aprovado em 2010, em Cancún, México) de manter a elevação da temperatura aquém de 2°C, grandes empresas e seus financiadores continuam enxergando nos fósseis uma extraordinária fonte potencial de ganhos.

A Agência Internacional de Energia mostra que, globalmente, os investimentos em combustíveis fósseis dobraram entre 2000 e 2008, quando se estabilizaram em um patamar de US$ 950 bilhões por ano. Isso representa, segundo recente relatório da organização Ceres, 3,3 vezes mais do que os investimentos em renováveis realizados em 2012. Nos últimos seis anos, os gastos globais na busca de fósseis foram de US$ 5,4 trilhões. Praticamente todo esse investimento é feito em fontes não convencionais: areias betuminosas (sobretudo no Canadá), exploração no Ártico, gás de xisto e busca em águas profundas no Brasil e no Golfo do México. Essas fontes não convencionais exigem um esforço (e, portanto, têm um custo) muito maior que as convencionais. Elas só se viabilizam se o preço global do petróleo superar um patamar em torno de US$ 75 o barril.

Mas, se houver um acordo internacional para impedir a ruptura do sistema climático, a consequência será a queda na demanda e, portanto, nos preços dos fósseis. O crescimento exponencial das energias renováveis (a China dobrou sua geração solar nos primeiros seis meses de 2014, relativamente ao mesmo período do ano anterior) também deve resultar em menor demanda por fósseis. Portanto, o risco financeiro em torno dessa corrida à produção de fósseis é imenso.

O segundo relatório citado por Ambrose Evans-Pritchard e no qual se apoia a hipótese de crise financeira global, vem da consultoria Kepler Cheuvreux. Ele calcula as perdas financeiras dos gigantes da energia, caso um acordo para preservar o sistema climático seja alcançado. Nos próximos 20 anos, o prejuízo seria de US$ 28 trilhões, dos quais US$ 19,3 trilhões no setor de petróleo.

Os segmentos mais suscetíveis são justamente os não convencionais: Ártico, areias betuminosas e águas profundas. De que maneira esses números se relacionam com nosso pré-sal é um tema cuja discussão não pode ficar apenas entre especialistas.

* Ricardo Abramovay é professor Titular do Departamento de Economia da FEA/USP.

** Publicado originalmente no site Eco21.

(Eco21)

The IPCC is stern on climate change – but it still underestimates the situation (The Guardian)

UN body’s warning on carbon emissions is hard to ignore, but breaking the power of the fossil fuel industry won’t be easy

The Guardian, Sunday 2 November 2014 10.59 GMT

Bangkok's skyline blanketed in a hazeBangkok’s skyline blanketed in a haze. The IPCC report says climate change has increased the risk of severe heatwaves and other extreme weather. Photograph: Adrees Latif/Reuters

At this point, the scientists who run the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change must feel like it’s time to trade their satellites, their carefully calibrated thermometers and spectrometers, their finely tuned computer models – all of them for a thesaurus. Surely, somewhere, there must be words that will prompt the world’s leaders to act.

This week, with the release of their new synthesis report, they are trying the words “severe, widespread, and irreversible” to describe the effects of climate change – which for scientists, conservative by nature, falls just short of announcing that climate change will produce a zombie apocalypse plus random beheadings plus Ebola. It’s hard to imagine how they will up the language in time for the next big global confab in Paris.

But even with all that, this new document – actually a synthesis of three big working group reports released over the last year – almost certainly underestimates the actual severity of the situation. As the Washington Post pointed out this week, past reports have always tried to err on the side of understatement; it’s a particular problem with sea level rise, since the current IPCC document does not even include the finding in May that the great Antarctic ice sheets have begun to melt. (The studies were published after the IPCC’s cutoff date.)

But when you get right down to it, who cares? The scientists have done their job; no sentient person, including Republican Senate candidates, can any longer believe in their heart of hearts that there’s not a problem here. The scientific method has triumphed: over a quarter of a century, researchers have reached astonishing consensus on a basic problem in chemistry and physics.

And the engineers have done just as well. The price of a solar panel has dropped by more than 90% over the last 25 years, and continues to plummet. In the few places they have actually been deployed at scale, the results are astonishing: there were days this summer when Germany generated 75% of its power from the wind and the sun.

That, of course, is not because Germany is so richly endowed with sunlight (it’s a rare person who books a North Sea beach holiday). It’s because the Germans have produced a remarkable quantity of political will, and put it to good use.

As opposed to the rest of the world, where the fossil fuel industry has produced an enormous amount of fear in the political class, and kept things from changing. Their vast piles of money have so far weighed more in the political balance than the vast piles of data accumulated by the scientists. In fact, the IPCC can calculate the size of the gap with great exactness. To get on the right track, they estimate, the world would have to cut fossil fuel investments annually between now and 2029, and use the money instead to push the pace of renewables.

That is a hard task, but not an impossible one. Indeed, the people’s movement symbolised by September’s mammoth climate march in New York, has begun to make an impact in dollars and cents. A new report this week shows that by delaying the Keystone pipeline in North America protesters have prevented at least $17bn (£10.6bn) in new investments in the tar sands of Canada – investments that would have produced carbon equivalent to 735 coal-fired power plants. That’s pretty good work.

Our political leaders could do much more, of course. If they put a serious price on carbon, we would move quickly out of the fossil fuel age and into the renewable future. But that won’t happen until we break the power of the fossil fuel industry. That’s why it’s very good news that divestment campaigners have been winning victories on one continent after another, as universities from Stanford to Sydney to Glasgow start selling their fossil fuel stocks in protest – hey, even the Rockefeller Brothers fund, heir to the greatest oil fortune ever, have joined in the fight.

Breaking the power of the fossil fuel industry won’t be easy, especially since it has to happen fast. It has to happen, in fact, before the carbon we’ve unleashed into the atmosphere breaks the planet. I’m not certain we’ll win this fight – but, thanks to the IPCC, no one will ever be able to say they weren’t warned.

Projeto da biodiversidade vai à comissão geral com polêmicas em aberto (Agência Câmara)

JC 5061, 7 de novembro de 2014

Agronegócio não aceita fiscalização pelo Ibama. Agricultura familiar quer receber pelo cultivo de sementes crioulas. Cientistas criticam regras sobre royalties

A comissão geral que vai discutir na próxima terça-feira as novas regras para exploração do patrimônio genético da biodiversidade brasileira (PL 7735/14) terá o desafio de buscar uma solução para vários impasses que ainda persistem na negociação do texto. Deputados ambientalistas, ligados ao agronegócio e à pesquisa científica continuarão em rodadas de negociação até a terça-feira na busca do projeto mais consensual.

Parte das polêmicas são demandas dos deputados ligados ao agronegócio, que conseguiram incluir as pesquisas da agropecuária no texto substitutivo. A proposta enviada pelo governo excluía a agricultura, que continuaria sendo regulamentada pela Medida Provisória 2.186-16/01. Agora, o texto em discussão já inclui a pesquisa com produção de sementes e melhoramento de raças e revoga de vez a MP de 2001.

O governo já realizou várias reuniões entre parlamentares e técnicos do governo. Até o momento, foram apresentadas três versões diferentes de relatórios.

Fiscalização
O deputado Alceu Moreira (PMDB-RS), que está à frente das negociações, defende que o Ministério da Agricultura seja o responsável pela fiscalização das pesquisas para produção de novas sementes e novas raças. Já o governo quer repassar essa atribuição ao Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Ibama). Esse item deverá ser decidido no voto.

“Não vamos permitir que o Ibama, que tem um distanciamento longo da cadeia produtiva, seja o responsável pela fiscalização das pesquisas com agricultura, pecuária e florestas. Terá de ser o Ministério da Agricultura”, afirmou o deputado.

Royalties
O agronegócio também conseguiu incluir no texto tratamento diferenciado para pesquisas com sementes e raças. O pagamento de repartição de benefícios – uma espécie de cobrança deroyalties – só será aplicado para espécies nativas brasileiras. Ficam de fora da cobrança pesquisa com espécies de outros países que são o foco do agronegócio: soja, cana-de açúcar, café.

E quando houver cobrança de royalties, isso incidirá apenas sobre o material reprodutivo – sementes, talos, animais reprodutores ou sêmen – excluindo a cobrança sobre o produto final. “Não pode ter cobrança na origem, que é a semente, e depois outra cobrança no produto final. Se vai ter no produto final, não pode ter na pesquisa”, disse Alceu.

A limitação do pagamento de royalties na agricultura desagradou integrantes da agricultura familiar, que cobram acesso e remuneração pelo cultivo de sementes crioulas, aquelas em que não há alteração genética.

Conselho paritário
Outra demanda do agronegócio é uma composição paritária do Conselho de Gestão do Patrimônio Genético (Cgen) entre representantes do governo federal, da indústria, da academia e da sociedade civil. A intenção é dar mais voz ao agronegócio nesse conselho, que hoje tem apenas representantes do Ministério da Agricultura e da Embrapa.

Cientistas
Já a comunidade científica, segundo a deputada Luciana Santos (PCdoB-PE), que também tem conduzido as negociações, critica o percentual baixo de royalties que será cobrado do fabricante de produto final oriundo de pesquisa com biodiversidade.

O texto prevê o pagamento de 1% da receita líquida anual com o produto, mas esse valor poderá ser reduzido até 0,1%. Também prevê isenção para microempresas, empresas de pequeno porte e microempreendedores individuais.

Os cientistas discordam, ainda, do fato de o projeto escolher apenas a última etapa da cadeia para a cobrança da repartição de benefícios. “Eles acham que é injusto e precisa ser considerado a repartição de benefícios de etapas do processo porque, às vezes, ao final não se comercializa apenas um produto acabado, mas um intermediário”, disse.

Ambientalistas
Os ambientalistas também não decidiram se apoiarão ou não o texto. A decisão será tomada na semana que vem, mas o líder do partido, deputado Sarney Filho (MA), saiu da reunião da última terça-feira (4) insatisfeito com o texto apresentado.

O líder do governo, deputado Henrique Fontana (PT-RS), disse que a intenção é chegar a um texto de consenso após a comissão geral e colocar o tema em votação na quarta-feira (12). Luciana Santos admitiu que, por mais que os deputados tentem chegar a um acordo, vários dispositivos só serão decididos no voto.

Íntegra da proposta:

(Agência Câmara) 

http://www2.camara.leg.br/camaranoticias/noticias/POLITICA/477144-PROJETO-DA-BIODIVERSIDADE-VAI-A-COMISSAO-GERAL-COM-VARIAS-POLEMICAS-EM-ABERTO.html

Crash and burn: debating accelerationism (3:AM Magazine)

Alexander Galloway in conversation with Benjamin Noys.

Cover image of Malign Velocities, courtesy of Dean Kenning

Accelerationism emerged as the latest theoretical trend with the publication of Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’ #Accelerate Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics in 2013. The book was quickly translated into at least seventeen languages, including German, French, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish and Korean. In 2014 came the publication of #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader, edited by Robin Mackay and Arman Avanessian, and during this period a series of public events, seminars and discussions on accelerationism took place, including in Paris, New York, Berlin and London. This appropriately accelerated discussion has often taken place in relation to the art world, including a special issue of the journal e-flux, and has been characterized by heated polemic.

This interview brings together one of the leading critics of accelerationism, Benjamin Noys, who coined the concept as an object of criticism and has just published his critique Malign Velocities (Zero, 2014), with Alexander R. Galloway, an author and programmer working on media theory and contemporary French philosophy. In the discussion they explore the battles over the definition of accelerationism, the role of the negative, questions of abstraction, and the appeal and perils of fantasies of acceleration. The interview was conducted by email and in person between 23 October 2014 and 3 November 2014.

AG: You have a new book titled Malign Velocities: Accelerationism & Capitalism. This is an occasion to celebrate, in any event. And I wonder, even in the spirit of recapitulation, if you might simply define “accelerationism” for us and explain why you decided to return to this concept from your previous book, only now as an “enemy”?

BN: One of the difficult issues in discussing “accelerationism” is that so much of the debate has turned on what exactly that term means. I would say in light of the most recent articulations a simple one-line definition might be: “Accelerationism is the engagement and reworking of forces of abstraction and reason to punch through the limits of an inertial and stagnant capitalism.” Whereas previously much of what I called “accelerationism”, especially in the early 1970s work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Jean-François Lyotard, and Jean Baudrillard, involved a qualified playing with the “accelerated” forces of capitalist production, the current forms stress the need to find new forces that can act against a capitalism that no longer seems to deliver on the “promise” of acceleration. The key figure here is Nick Land, once an academic at the University of Warwick and now a journalist in China. Land’s work in the 1990s provided the most extreme statement of an endorsement of capitalism, or tendencies in capitalism, as mechanisms of acceleration and disintegration. In many ways contemporary accelerationism defines itself against Land, although he still exerts a certain fascination. His recent interest in neo-reactionary thoughtmakes this fascination problematic, to put it mildly.

In terms of my new book I should say I have always been highly skeptical about “accelerationist” strategies, of whatever variety. It was the fact that what I had coined as a term of criticism – although I later found the word occurs in Roger Zelazny’s 1967 novelLord of Light, which I had read – was now being celebrated that was one of the drivers for the new book. The return of interest in strategies of acceleration at a time of capitalist crisis is not surprising, especially when that crisis is taking a long-drawn out and often highly uneven form. In the face of calls for austerity, which almost always fall on the victims of the crisis, signaled in the popularity of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” meme in the UK, a counter-reaction is obvious. While I share the hostility to demands for sacrifice and austerity I think that accelerationist strategies too often feedback into a desire for a return to a, supposedly, productive capitalism. This is what I have called “capitalist Ostalgie.” If “Ostalgie” was nostalgia for the lived experience of “actually-existing socialism”, capitalist Ostalgie is a nostalgia for the images of capitalist dynamism, especially that of the new technologies during the 1990s.

AG: Today’s intellectual current seems to be forking in two distinct directions. The dominant fork is, as you suggest, a kind of technophilic, network affirmationism. But there is an alternative path evident in some of your writings, a path that leads through the negative. Curiously, that erstwhile paragon of progressive theory, Gilles Deleuze, appears now as something of a villain. I recall you use the term “Deleuzian Thatcherism” at a certain point. Can you describe your interest in the negative? Why are you calling for a return to the negative? And what might it offer for the future?

BN: I used “Deleuzian Thatcherism” in the ’90s to describe Nick Land’s work and what I saw as the convergence between his work and certain hyper-Thatcherite currents, which someone referred to at the time as “Thatcherism in its Maoist Phase”. I think, now, a more accurate but inelegant characterization would have been “Lyotardian Thatcherism”, as Land seems to take a lot more from Lyotard’s 1974 book Libidinal Economy, with its argument that there is only one libidinal economy and that this is capitalist. While it’s true that the work of Deleuze, and especially that of Deleuze and Guattari, has never been to my taste, when I wrote on him for my book The Persistence of the Negative I found more appreciation for his work. There is, if we like, a “negative Deleuze”. Also, I think the debate about accelerationism has sharpened positions and I’ve had interesting and supportive responses to my critique from those who are sympathetic both to Deleuze and to Guattari.

In terms of the negative my interest really emerged out of noticing how easily it was being dismissed and how much of contemporary thought defined itself as affirmative or positive, which is what I called, borrowing from Badiou, “Affirmationism”. Obviously we could include accelerationism, with its positive attitude to technology, reason and abstraction, within this broad category. At the same time, despite misunderstandings, this turn to the negative was not simply a matter of miserabilism or “negativity”, in the common use of the word, on my part. I’m not sure whether I qualify as a “happy person”, but my aim wasn’t to celebrate the virtues of depression. Instead, negativity interests me as a way to define a practice of contestation and rupture, and not least to disrupt all the calls to embrace the positive, to embrace “things as they are”, as William Godwin put it. So, a return to the negative is a return to rethinking the negative, not as a “pure” state, but as intertwined with affirmative moments and as a means of thinking change. It is actually the case that “affirmative” thinking is often accompanied by a celebration of hyperbolic and extreme negativity, by a stress on suffering and misery, but only as moment subordinate to a sudden transformation.

Accelerationism stakes a lot on its ability to imagine the future, especially with the acid test of accepting the future need for space travel (with moon gulags, in the joke, for dissidents). Within the provocation and technological utopianism I think there is something to the accelerationists’ stress on not imagining a future communist society as merely ameliorating capitalist barbarism with what Marx called a “barracks communism”. What concerns me, which is another reason I turn to negativity, is not the difficulty in imagining the future, but the difficulty imagining how we might get there. For this reason I have stressed negativity as a form of struggle that operates within a horizon of past struggles, which must be affirmed, in the attempt to decommodify the world, as well as to break with other forms of state power and other forms of oppression and violence.

AG: Along those lines, what is the connection, if any, between negation and nihilism, a philosophical tendency that has rebounded in recent years? I’m thinking of the “wider field” of speculative realism stretching from Ray Brassier to Eugene Thacker. We seem to be in the middle of a kind of Existentialist Revival.

BN: What’s interesting in the recent articulations of nihilism is that they tend to evacuate or even annihilate the subject, unlike classical existentialism. While I have some interest in nihilist thinking, dating back to readings of Re/Search as a teenager and then through my work on Bataille, I think this hyperbolic nihilism often ends up circling back to affirmation – in this case the affirmation of a universe which has no need of subjects. In my terms, thinking of negation, I would like to distinguish negativity from any hyperbolic negativity or nihilism, by stressing that negativity is a practice that engages with points of contradiction and violence. My view of negation is a deflationary one, trying to shift out of the desire to contemplate or even wallow in some collapse of all values, to consider the tensions of negation.

In terms of accelerationism nihilism carries different values. It was obviously crucial to Nick Land, who deployed a nihilism developed from Bataille and Schopenhauer to annihilate the ego. In this vision, we embrace what Nietzsche called “European nihilism”, embodied in the nihilist drive of capital to reduce everything to value, as the means to overcome humanism and to become fully disenchanted. Contemporary accelerationism sometimes tries to weaponize nihilism as almost a therapeutic device, while other currents stress the need to reinvent norms out of an “inhumanism” that can recreate and take the human beyond itself. I’m skeptical of the invocation of a “hard-edged” nihilism, which seems to me to abandon a lot of crucial questions by invoking a “levelling” of values that is, at best, highly uneven. It may even be, ironically, that a radical nihilism is consolatory – giving us a weird sense of security by reaffirming our pointlessness. In this there is a risk of the return of the subject as the one who is able to proclaim the nihilist “bad news” and so remain somehow superior or immune – a kind of cult of non-personality.

AG: One of the classic debates in leftist theory is that of orthodoxy. Lukács famously asked: What is orthodox Marxism? And his unorthodox answer ironically helped solidify a new kind of cultural Marxist orthodoxy in the decades since. Reza Negarestani has labeled this a form of “kitsch” Marxism, suggesting the need for a renewed critique of orthodoxy. How best can we square the necessarily dialectical movement of history with certain foundational categories like justice, democracy, or the people?

BN: I would almost certainly fail any test of Marxist orthodoxy, or even unorthodoxy. This is not because I regard myself as original or dissident, but due to my lack of thorough knowledge of Marx and Marxism and my own formation, which owes something to anarchism, a lot to the Situationists, and more than a little to my maternal grandfather’s straightforward socialism and his stories of his life as a union representative while working on the railways in London (I perhaps also owe something to my paternal grandfather’s ad hoc practice of the “refusal of work”). The result is that my “Marxism” is probably more suspicious of a belief in the productive forces than some of the classical forms and more geared to a suspicion of the category of labor.

In terms of Reza’s characterization there is a truth to the claim that certain forms of postwar Marxism tended to an extreme pessimism, as every undergraduate who does cultural studies usually learns. I have more sympathy for this trend – I think Adorno’s Minima Moralia is a brilliant book. But, of course, a characterization of capitalism as completely dominant, a characterization of all life and culture as completely determined by capital, leaves little to do (and I think very few actually said this). On the other hand, the accelerationists’ critique seems to me to bend the stick too far in the other direction, implying too much acceptance of contemporary technological and cultural forms that does not really consider how they are shaped by capitalism. Presenting capitalism as a parasite (I always think of Futurama’s brain slugs) implies that we simply shrug off the parasite to get back to a neutral technological or cultural possibility. I think capitalism shapes our context and existence in subtler ways than that, although it is always a contradictory social formation. While I would say there is no simple “outside” to capitalism, I don’t think this is a counsel of despair because I’d attend to the contradictions and struggle that always and everywhere exist within this social relation.

AG: Let’s talk in particular about abstraction. Abstraction has always presented something of a problem within critical theory. Yet today many on the left are taking up the question of abstraction again with renewed energy. How do you understand the role of abstraction today? Do you think of abstraction in philosophical terms or in, shall we say, strictly material terms?

BN: I think the crucial category here is Marx’s “real abstraction”, or more precisely Alfred Sohn-Rethel’s formalization of Marx’s comments to define this concept. The paradox of “Real Abstraction” is crucial, in that abstractions, notably “abstract labor”, are very real and very abstract at the same time. In this way abstraction is brutally material in the way, for example, it violently homogenizes all forms of labor into the category of abstract labor, which is geared to value production. Keston Sutherland (pdf here) has written very nicely on how Marx’s German word “Gallerte”, usually translated as “congealed”, refers to boiled down animal products (blood, bone, connective tissue, etc.). When our labor is congealed into abstract labor we become mere “ingredients” and, as Sutherland says, we are processed into abstract “stuff”. I think this usefully expresses how the usual oppositions of abstract and concrete or abstract and material don’t quite capture this process. The abstract is concrete or pseudo-concrete.

This is why, in what’s becoming a theme of this conversation, I think accelerationists are right, but for the wrong reasons. They are right to draw attention to abstraction as a crucial process, but they disengage it too rapidly from this horizon. This is why I think there is a tendency in their work to fetishize abstraction by choosing its most extreme forms to focus on, such as High-Frequency Trading. While this form of algorithmic trading expresses, almost too perfectly, a kind of terminal point of commodity fetishism, in which all we have are ghostly circulations of value, it too requires a brutal series of interventions into “material” forms (as Alberto Toscano has explained). I’d add that this attention to the extreme forms of abstraction also risks missing the more prevalent global forms of real abstraction that, as with abstract labor, dominate and pervade our experience.

It’s for this reason that I also suggest we need to traverse abstraction and can’t simply leap out of abstraction into some “good” alternative. The very search for such alternatives, such as the valorization of the concept of “life” as an excessive force, seems to me to create another abstraction. My problem with accelerationism is that it embraces and then abandons this ground of abstraction. Certainly it does not seek an outside point, a cozy “warm abstraction”, but in its embrace of “cold abstraction” as a global force it neglects these effects of “processing” and the material becomes disembodied in the fantasy of full integration with the abstract.

AG: From abstraction to culture: you also have a keen interest in art and culture. But culture is so unfashionable today! The Linguistic Turn, with its focus on culture and ideology, has been targeted by a number of new schools of thought, including speculative realism and new materialism. Hermeneutics and other interpretive methods, once so dominant, are suffering in the academy at the hands of “distant reading” and other positivistic approaches. What is your relationship to those once stalwart critical methods? I’m thinking of allegory in particular, which you also deploy.

BN: I think this is also a question about the abstract and the material. It seems to me that the general “turn” in the humanities to the material – and my day job is teaching literature – is part of a longer historicist turn that goes back to the 1980s. While everyone tends to think of the humanities as dominated by a “linguistic” post-structuralism (a false image, in fact), the reality I find is a common historicism that constantly invokes the density of “materiality”. This I call a “pop Burkeanism”, as it repeats Edmund Burke’s counter-revolutionary stress on the social as a “dense medium”, but now translated into the form of material artefacts – everything from book covers to letters, from publisher’s offices to architecture, to “material culture”.

This drift is not only politically problematic, but also the general invocation of the “material” often seems fatally abstract. It seems to me that the new materialisms and the various forms of “distant reading” share a paradoxical structure in which the attention to material specificity is coupled with the capacity to skim over or pick and choose between “objects” treated as equal. In what is perhaps a crass allegory I see this as symptomatic of the omission of the commodity-form, which is a form that at once equalizes all commodities as measurable by value and insists on their specific value within this frame. That’s why I have generally tried to explore the continuing possibilities of critique and question this turn to a “post-critical” way of thinking. Critique, I hope, can attend better to the constant processes of transformation of the material to the abstract and vice versa.

In terms of accelerationism I think culture is a central element, which can’t simply be wished away. I often say I think we should have all debates about accelerationism in terms of dance music, and this isn’t a (probably bad) joke. The role of dance music and electronic music in shaping accelerationism goes back to the work of Nick Land and the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU) at Warwick, which drew heavily on jungle and drum and bass. These forms of post-rave dance music, which deployed sped-up breakbeats, were taken as aesthetic examples of the power of accelerationism. I was also an avid follower of this music, combined with my ongoing interest in Techno. I belong to the same generation as many of the original accelerationists and so we share, to some degree, a common cultural formation. The crucial role of music in the formation of accelerationism, along with a related visual culture, means that the “aesthetic” reception of accelerationism isn’t simply a category error. In my work, while I don’t deny the energy and acceleration of these forms I’m also interested in how they reflect on elements of friction, both to generate this sense of acceleration and in the way this friction incarnates attempts to transcend or leave behind the body and its labors. The body on the dance floor is both detached from labor, but also experiences a new form of labor, or the repetitions that at once mimic and take to an extreme the repetitions of work.

The logo of the “Metalheads” music label

To treat accelerationism aesthetically is often seen as dismissive, but I think it has to be placed in the context of various avant-garde attempts to instantiate what Badiou calls “the passion for the real”: this is the attempt to not only represent social forms, but to intervene or create something by cutting into those forms. The modernist impulses of accelerationism make it heir to this task. The problem I find, again!, is this misplacing of this problem and a collapsing of the difficulty of representation. This is why I also think the psychoanalytic category of fantasy is crucial, as a social or ideological fantasy, to grasping the accelerationist desire. In terms of accelerationism this is a fantasy we could have done with fantasy, which I think is the final fantasy.

Accelerationism turns on fantasies of integration and immersion, with capitalism, with the machinic, and with the abstract. While these fantasies register our experience of the pains of labor and the threats of unemployment, they also transform them into the dream of ecstatic enjoyment – jouissance. I think the task today is to resist this sort of pleasure, which also involves pain, in a kind of masochism, but not through the dismissal of enjoyment. Instead of a new asceticism I think the task is to articulate and politicize pleasures that resist and interrupt our immersion in contemporary capitalism. This requires neither the appeal to a “pure” outside nor the demand for complete immersion, but a practice that engages with the contradictions and violence we confront.

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWEE
Benjamin Noys teaches at the University of Chichester and his recent publications includeThe Persistence of the Negative: A Critique of Contemporary Theory (Edinburgh, 2010) and Malign Velocities: Accelerationism & Capitalism (Zero Books, 2014). He is currently writing a critique of vitalism in contemporary theory.

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Alexander R. Galloway teaches at New York University. His latest book is Laruelle: Against the Digital (Minnesota, 2014).

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, November 4th, 2014.

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JC 5060, 6 de novembro de 2014

Acelerar inovação é urgente, afirma CNI (Valor Econômico)

Fórum sobre o tema reuniu 250 empresários, representantes do setor público e pesquisadores ontem em Porto Alegre

Acelerar o passo da inovação é uma necessidade urgente, caso contrário o Brasil ficará para trás no contexto internacional. O alerta é da diretora de Inovação da Confederação Nacional da Indústria (CNI), Gianna Sagazio, uma das palestrantes do Fórum Inovação Social, Eficiência e Produtividade Empresarial, realizado ontem pelo Valor na capital gaúcha.

Leia a matéria na íntegra em: http://www.valor.com.br/empresas/3768914/acelerar-inovacao-e-urgente-afirma-cni

(Dauro Veras / Valor Econômico)

Metade da riqueza mundial pertence a 1% da população, diz relatório (Portal do Meio Ambiente)

PUBLICADO 27 OUTUBRO 2014

9586

O 1% mais rico da população detém mais de 48% da riqueza mundial, que cresceu 8,3% de meados do ano passado a meados deste ano.

De acordo com relatório do Credit Suisse sobre o assunto, em 2014 o total da riqueza no mundo bateu um novo recorde, alcançando US$ 263 trilhões.

No documento, o banco diz que o valor já é o dobro do registrado em 2000, “apesar do ambiente econômico desafiador”, marcado pela crise econômica e pela lenta recuperação dos países.

A criação de recursos foi particularmente forte na América do Norte, com um crescimento de 11,4% entre meados de 2013 e meados de 2014, e na Europa, onde a alta foi de 10,6%. Nas duas regiões, o mercado de capitais foi o principal impulsionador.

Nos mercados emergentes, a Ásia –com destaque para a China– foi a principal responsável pelo aumento de riquezas, assim como no ano passado.

“No entanto, achamos que o crescimento das riquezas no mercados emergentes não foi capaz de manter o seu momento pré-crise, entre 2000 e 2008. Isso não deve nos distrair do fato de que a riqueza pessoal na Índia e na China cresceu pelo fator de 3,1 e 4,6 desde 2000.”

DESIGUALDADE

Segundo o relatório, uma pessoa precisa de US$ 3.650 para estar na metade mais rica do mundo. Para ser membro dos 10% mais ricos são necessários US$ 77 mil. Já para fazer parte do 1% mais rico é preciso ter US$ 798 mil.

O mínimo de recursos para pertencer ao 1% mais rico cresceu desde a crise de 2008. Naquele ano, eram necessários US$ 635 mil, contra US$ 798 mil hoje.
Por sua vez, a riqueza média global tem diminuído desde 2010.

“Esses achados indicam um aumento da desigualdade global nos anos recentes. No entanto, nossos resultados sugerem que a tendência inversa ocorreu no período que antecedeu à crise financeira.”

Coping with water scarcity: Effectiveness of water policies aimed at reducing consumption evaluated (Science Daily)

Date: October 23, 2014

Source: University of California, Riverside

Summary: Southern California water agencies have turned to new pricing structures, expanded rebate programs and implemented other means to encourage their customers to reduce consumption. Some of those policies have greatly reduced per capita consumption, while others have produced mixed results.


As California enters its fourth year of severe drought, Southern California water agencies have turned to new pricing structures, expanded rebate programs and implemented other means to encourage their customers to reduce consumption.

Some of those policies have greatly reduced per capita consumption, while others have produced mixed results, according to a report published in the UC Riverside School of Public Policy journal Policy Matters. The journal is published quarterly by the School of Public Policy, and provides timely research and guidance on issues that are of concern to policymakers at the local, state, and national levels.

Water policy experts Kurt Schwabe, Ken Baerenklau and Ariel Dinar reviewed some of their recent research that was presented at a UCR workshop on urban water management in June 2014. Schwabe and Baerenklau are associate professors and Dinar is professor of environmental economics and policy. The workshop highlighted efforts by Southern California water agencies to promote water conservation, relevant research findings by UC faculty, and challenges that remain to further reduce water demand.

“California is a water-scarce state and needs to have policy tools to deal with scarcity whether in drought years or otherwise,” Dinar said. Water policy research in the School of Public Policy focuses on strategies that agencies and California can take to help reduce vulnerability to drought.

Water utilities throughout California are working to satisfy a 2010 state mandate to reduce per capita urban water demand 20 percent by 2020. Reducing residential water demand is an appealing response to water scarcity as approaches such as building more storage and conveyance systems have become increasingly expensive, the authors wrote in “Coping with Water Scarcity: The Effectiveness of Allocation-Based Pricing and Conservation Rebate Programs in California’s Urban Sector.”

“Reducing residential water demand is also attractive given it is a local solution to relieving water stress with seemingly much recent success,” they wrote.

Efforts to reduce water demand by changing behavior fall into two categories: price and non-price, the researchers said. Price-based approaches focus on adjusting the price of water while non-price approaches include other demand-management strategies such as the use of water-conserving technologies and conversion of lawns to drought-tolerant landscape, often promoted with rebates, and mandatory restrictions.

“Price-based instruments for water management … have proven to be very effective when compared to non-price instruments,” the researchers found.

One such instrument is the “water budget,” which has been adopted by more than 25 Southern California water agencies in recent years. Water budgets typically are defined as an indoor allocation based on the number of people in the house and an outdoor allocation based on the amount of irrigable land, special needs, and local weather conditions, according to the report. The sum of the indoor and outdoor allocations is a household’s water budget. Staying within that budget is deemed efficient use. Water use that exceeds a household’s budget is considered inefficient, and is priced at a higher rate to encourage conservation.

“Recent empirical evidence within southern California suggests that this sort of pricing structure can be very effective for reducing residential water demand while securing the financial cash-flow of the water utility,” the researchers reported.

Non-price efforts to reduce water consumption have not been as effective, however. For example, the researchers refer to a study of 13 groundwater-dependent California cities in which modest water price increases were more effective and more cost-effective than promoting technology standards to curb water consumption.

Some studies have found that rebate programs, in particular, have shown smaller-than-expected water savings, the researchers said in the report. For example, studies show that low-flow showerheads tend to result in longer showers and frontloading washing machines result in more cycles.

“This does not mean that such measures should be abandoned, but rather suggests that achieving real water savings in a cost-effective manner requires more research and partnerships between agencies and the research community to find an optimal mix between these two approaches,” the researchers said.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kurt Schwabe, Ben Baerenklau, and Ariel Dinar. Coping With Water Scarcity: The Effectiveness of Allocation-Based Pricing and Conservation Rebate Program in California’s Urban Sector.. Policy Matters, Volume 6, Issue 1, 2014 [link]

What were they thinking? Study examines federal reserve prior to 2008 financial crisis (Science Daily)

Date: September 15, 2014

Source: Swarthmore College

Summary: A new study illustrates how the Federal Reserve was aware of potential problems in the financial markets prior to 2008, but did not take the threats seriously.


Six years after the start of the Great Recession, a new study from three Swarthmore College professors illustrates how the Federal Reserve was aware of potential problems in the financial markets, but did not take the threats seriously.

Published in the Review of International Political Economy, the study is the result of a collaboration between Swarthmore College economist Stephen Golub, political scientist Ayse Kaya, and sociologist Michael Reay.

The team looked at pre-crisis Federal Reserve documents to come to its conclusion, focusing particularly on the transcripts of meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee. The meeting transcripts indicate that policymakers and staff were aware of troubling developments but remained largely unconcerned.

Drawing on literatures in economics, political science and sociology, the study demonstrates that the Federal Reserve’s intellectual paradigm in the years before the crisis focused on ‘post hoc interventionism’ — the institution’s ability to limit the fallout should a problem arise. Additionally, the study argues that institutional routines and a “silo mentality” contributed to the Federal Reserve’s lack of attention to the serious warning signals in the pre-crisis period.

To speak with Professors Golub, Kaya, or Reay, please contact Mark Anskis (manskis1@swarthmore.edu / 570-274-0471) in the Swarthmore College communications office.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stephen Golub, Ayse Kaya, Michael Reay. What were they thinking? The Federal Reserve in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis. Review of International Political Economy, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1080/09692290.2014.932829

Once a Symbol of Power, Farming Now an Economic Drag in China (New York Times)

 

Li Haiwen, 47, grows medicinal plants, rather than grain, on the plot of land he rents from the local government in Yangling. “The more grain you plant,” he said, “the poorer you get.” Credit Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times

YANGLING, China — For about 4,000 years, farming in this region has been a touchstone of Chinese civilization. It was here that the mythic hero Hou Ji is said to have taught Chinese how to grow grain, and the area’s rich harvests underpinned China’s first dynasties, feeding officials and soldiers in the nearby imperial capital.

But nowadays, Yangling’s fields are in disarray. Frustrated by how little they earn, the ablest farmers have migrated to cities, hollowing out this rural district in the Chinese heartland. Left behind are people like Hui Zongchang, 74, who grows wheat and corn on a half-acre plot while his son works as a day laborer in the metropolis of Xi’an to the east.

Mr. Hui, still vigorous despite a stoop, said he makes next to no money from farming. He tills the earth as a kind of insurance. “What land will they farm if I don’t keep this going?” he said of his children. “Not everyone makes it in the city.”

Farm output remains high. But rural living standards have stagnated compared with the cities, and few in the countryside see their future there.The most recent figures show a threefold gap between urban and rural incomes, fueling discontent and helping to make China one of the most unequal societies in the world.

The nation’s Communist leaders have declared that fixing the countryside is crucial to maintaining social stability. Last year, they unveiled a new blueprint for economic reform with agricultural policy as a centerpiece. But the challenge confronting them resembles a tangled knot.

It begins with the fact that farms in China are too small to generate large profits, about 1.6 acres on average, compared with 400 acres in the United States. Yet it is difficult to consolidate these farms into larger, more efficient operations because Chinese farmers do not own their plots — they lease them from the government.

Privatizing farmland would allow market forces to create bigger farms. But that would be a political minefield for the Communist Party. It would also risk exacerbating inequality, by concentrating land ownership in the hands of a few while leaving many rural families without farms to fall back on if they hit hard times in the cities.

“All of these issues are interlocked and require a series of reforms to be solved,” said Luo Jianchao, a professor at Northwest A & F University in Yangling, and a government adviser. “There’s no magic bullet.”

In late September, President Xi Jinping endorsed an experiment underway in Yangling and other parts of China to untangle this knot. The measure, called liuzhuan, stops short of privatization but gives farmers land-use rights that they can transfer to others in exchange for a rental fee.

The goal is to simulate a private land market and allow China’s family-run, labor-intensive farms to change hands and be amalgamated into large-scale, industrialized businesses. In theory, liuzhuan allows this to happen without cutting ties between rural families and the land, because they collect rental fees as a safety net.

Mr. Xi has presented the policy as critical to China’s next phase of economic reform. Skeptics, however, say it shows the government remains unwilling to consider a bold measure that has worked in many countries: giving farmers full ownership of their land.

“Privatization of land is a key issue but it’s completely taboo,” said Tao Ran, an agricultural expert at Renmin University in Beijing. The party leadership, he said, “cannot countenance it.”

More is at stake than the socialist credentials of the Communist Party, which came to power in a peasant revolution in 1949 and immediately collectivized farmland. State ownership of land is also a major source of government revenue. In areas near cities, local officials often rezone agricultural land and flip it to developers at a huge premium, sometimes setting off violent protests by residents who are left out.

Others see the system of political control of the countryside at stake. “The rural system they’ve had since the 1950s is based on the state ownership of land,” said Fred Gale, who writes an influential blog on China’s agricultural sector called Dim Sums. “If this unravels, then the bureaucrats would be at a loss as to how to manage the countryside.”

In Yangling, a district of 155,000 people that has been a center for agricultural sciences since the 1930s, several problems with the government’s attempt to sidestep privatization are apparent.

Because farmers do not own their land, they cannot sell it and get a large, lump sum payment that could be used to make a new start. Nor can they mortgage land for funds that could be reinvested in their farms or in other businesses.

Yang Tewang, a branch manager of the state-run Yangling Rural Commercial Bank, said he has made about $3 million in mortgage-style loans since the liuzhuan experiment began. But he said they were not true mortgages since the banks cannot repossess land if the farmer defaults — the state owns the land, not the farmer. As a result, Mr. Yang said he minimizes risk by lending only to large-scale vegetable and fruit farmers.

“The rest don’t pay,” he said. A grain farmer, for example, could never get a loan, he said.

Another problem has been figuring out how to set the rental fees that rural families collect if they transfer their land-use rights.

Yangling set up a land bank that took over land-use rights in an area of 36 square miles, then set an annual rental fee of at least $750 per acre of land. Farmers could choose between giving up their land and collecting that rent, or leasing their land back from the state and continuing to farm.

But the fees can distort the market. For example, they have discouraged production of grain, which does not sell for enough of a margin over the cost of renting the land. Grain pays only about $1,250 per acre, for an annual profit of about $500, said one resident, Li Haiwen.

“The more grain you plant,” he said, “the poorer you get.”

Mr. Li grows magnolia bushes used in traditional Chinese medicine instead. But he said farming is just a sideline for him. His main source of income is in professional landscaping. “I think our minds are opening up and we realize there are other ways to make money,” he said.

Exactly why rental prices are so high is open to debate. In some parts of China, rents are even higher than in Yangling, topping $1,200 per acre. By contrast, the average acre of farmland in the United States rented for $136 in 2013, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Some experts say the rental fees have been driven up by the same sort of speculation that has made apartments so exorbitantly expensive in Chinese cities. Even in a remote area like Yangling, an apartment of 1,000 square feet sells for $50,000, and in cities like Beijing the price can easily be 10 times that.

In recent months, banks like the China International Trust and Investment Corporation have been buying rural land-use rights at high prices. Li Ping, an agricultural expert at Landesa, a nongovernmental organization focused on rural issues, said he believed the purchases have been made with an eye toward rezoning land for housing or industrial use.

“It’s like the housing prices here being higher than in most parts of the U.S.,” Mr. Li said. “It’s not sustainable.”

One of the success stories in Yangling has been the case of Zhang Hongli, who took over 197 acres once farmed by three villages and pays about $150,000 per year in rental fees.

Mr. Yang, the banker, described it as a win-win exchange. Mr. Zhang uses the land to grow watermelons, which sell for a nice profit in Xi’an. Meanwhile, the families who gave up their land are collecting about $500 per year on average, and almost all received free apartments from the government as well.

Government planners hope that more farmers will be moved to the cities so the countryside gradually depopulates and ever-larger-scale farming takes over. For farmers with a job already lined up in the city, this system is attractive. But for people still wanting to work the land, like Zhou Yuansheng, 66, it is an example of how little say he has.

“The big decisions are made by the government,” he said. “No one asked me what I wanted to do with my land.”

Diálogos sobre o fim do mundo (El País)

Do Antropoceno à Idade da Terra, de Dilma Rousseff a Marina Silva, o antropólogo Eduardo Viveiros de Castro e a filósofa Déborah Danowski pensam o planeta e o Brasil a partir da degradação da vida causada pela mudança climática 

29 SEP 2014 – 11:18 BRT

Se alguns, entre os milhares que passaram pela calçada da Casa de Rui Barbosa, na semana de 15 a 19 de setembro, por um momento tivessem o ímpeto de entrar, talvez levassem um susto. Ou até se desesperassem. Durante cinco dias, debateu-se ali, no bairro de Botafogo, no Rio de Janeiro, algo que, apesar dos sinais cada vez mais evidentes, ainda parece distante das preocupações da maioria: a progressiva e cada vez mais rápida degradação da vida a partir da mudança climática. Pensadores de diversas áreas e de diferentes regiões do mundo discutiram o conceito de Antropoceno – o momento em que o homem deixa de ser agente biológico para se tornar uma força geológica, capaz de alterar a paisagem do planeta e comprometer sua própria sobrevivência como espécie e a dos outros seres vivos. Ou, dito de outro modo, o ponto de virada em que os humanos deixam de apenas temer a catástrofe para se tornar a catástrofe.

Com o título “Os mil nomes de Gaia – do Antropoceno à Idade da Terra”, o encontro foi concebido pelo francês Bruno Latour, uma das estrelas internacionais desse debate, e dois dos pensadores mais originais do Brasil atual, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro e Déborah Danowski. Na mesma semana, Eduardo e Déborah lançaram o livro que escreveram juntos: Há mundo por vir? – ensaio sobre os medos e os fins (Editora Cultura e Barbárie).

Na obra, abordam as várias teorias, assim como as incursões da literatura e do cinema, sobre esse momento em que a arrogância e o otimismo da modernidade encontram uma barreira. O homem é então lançado no incontrolável e até na desesperança, no território de Gaia, o planeta ao mesmo tempo exíguo e implacável. Como escrevem logo no início do livro, com deliciosa ironia: “O fim do mundo é um tema aparentemente interminável – pelo menos, é claro, até que ele aconteça”.

Déborah é filósofa, professora da pós-graduação da PUC do Rio de Janeiro. Pesquisa a metafísica moderna e, ultimamente, o pensamento ecológico. Eduardo é etnólogo, professor do Museu Nacional da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. É autor do “perspectivismo ameríndio”, contribuição que impactou a antropologia e o colocou entre os maiores antropólogos do mundo. Como disse Latour, Déborah é uma “filósofa meio ecologista”, Eduardo um “antropólogo meio filósofo”.

Eduardo e Déborah são marido e mulher e pais de Irene, a quem o livro é dedicado. Além da casa, os dois compartilham a capacidade bastante rara de dialogar com os vários campos de conhecimento e da cultura sem escapar de refletir também sobre a política – para muito além de partidos e eleições, mas também sobre partidos e eleições. Ambos têm uma ação bastante ativa nas redes sociais. Como diz Eduardo, o Twitter é onde ele pensa.

A entrevista a seguir contém alguns dos momentos mais interessantes de cinco horas de conversa – três horas e meia no apartamento deles, em Botafogo, no sábado após o colóquio, e uma hora e meia por Skype, dias depois. Entre os dois encontros, 400.000 pessoas, segundo os organizadores, participaram da Marcha dos Povos pelo Clima, em Nova York, e 4.000 no Rio de Janeiro; Barack Obama afirmou que “o clima está mudando mais rápido do que as ações para lidar com a questão” e que nenhum país ficará imune; e o Brasil recusou-se a assinar o compromisso de desmatamento zero até 2030.

Ainda que tenham sido dias intensos, é possível afirmar que para muitos parece mais fácil aderir a ameaças de fim de mundo, como a suposta profecia maia, de 21 de dezembro de 2012, do que acreditar que a deterioração da vida que sentem (e como sentem!), objetiva e subjetivamente, no seu cotidiano – e que em São Paulo chega a níveis inéditos com a seca e a ameaça de faltar água para milhões – é resultado da ação do homem sobre o planeta. É mais fácil crer na ficção, que ao final se revela como ficção, salvando a todos, do que enfrentar o abismo da realidade, em que nosso primeiro pé já encontrou o nada.

É sobre isso que se fala nesta entrevista. Mas também sobre pobres e sobre índios, e sobre índios convertidos em pobres; sobre esquerda e sobre direita; sobre capitalismo e sobre o fim do capitalismo; sobre Lula, Dilma Rousseff e Marina Silva. Sobre como nos tornamos “drones”, ao dissociar ação e consequência. E como todos estes são temas da mudança climática – e não estão distantes, mas perto, bem perto de nós. Mais próximos do que a mesa de cabeceira onde desligamos o despertador que nos acorda para uma vida que nos escapa. O problema é que o que nos acorda nem sempre nos desperta. Talvez seja hora de aprender, como fazem diferentes povos indígenas, a dançar para que o céu não caia sobre a nossa cabeça.

A antropóloga sul-africana Lesley Green referiu-se, em sua exposição no colóquio, ao momento de países como África do Sul e Brasil, países em que uma parcela da população que historicamente estava fora do mundo do consumo passa a ter acesso ao mundo do consumo. No Brasil, estamos falando da chamada Classe C ou “nova classe média”. Me parece que esse é quase um dogma no Brasil de hoje, algo que poucos têm a coragem de confrontar. Como dar essa má notícia, a de que agora que podem consumir, de fato não podem, porque as elites exauriram o planeta nos últimos séculos? E como dizer isso no Brasil, em que todo o processo de inclusão passa pelo consumo?

“O capitalismo está fundado no princípio da produção de riqueza, mas a questão num planeta finito é redistribuir a riqueza”

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro – Essa é uma grande questão em países como o Brasil. E totalmente legítima. O que está em jogo aí é a questão da igualdade. Até certo ponto é muito mais fácil você dar um carro para o pobre do que tirar o carro do rico. E talvez fosse muito mais fácil para o pobre aceitar que ele não pode ter um carro se o rico parasse de ter carro também. Dizendo, de fato: “Olha, lamento, você não pode mais usar, mas eu também não”. É claro que enquanto você ficar dizendo para o pobre – “Você não pode ter e eu tenho” – não dá. Ele vai dizer: “Por que vocês podem continuar a consumir seis planetas Terra e eu não posso comprar o meu carrinho?”. É preciso dissociar crescimento de igualdade, como afirma o Rodrigo Nunes (professor do Departamento de Filosofia da PUC-Rio). E sobretudo você tem que parar de superdesenvolver os países superdesenvolvidos. E a palavra tem que ser “superdesenvolvido”. Porque a gente fala muito em sociedades desenvolvidas e subdesenvolvidas, como antigamente – países subdesenvolvidos, países em vias de desenvolvimento, países desenvolvidos. Nunca ninguém falou que existem países superdesenvolvidos, isto é, excessivamente desenvolvidos. É o caso dos Estados Unidos, onde um cidadão americano médio gasta o equivalente a 32 cidadãos do Quênia ou da Etiópia. A relação que sempre se faz é que, para tirar as populações da pobreza, é preciso crescer economicamente. E aí você tem um dilema: se você cresce economicamente, com uso crescente de energia fortemente poluente, como petróleo e carvão, nós vamos destruir o planeta. Assim, a luta pela igualdade não pode depender do nosso modelo de crescimento econômico mundial, do qual o Brasil, Índia e China são só as pontas mais histéricas, porque querem crescer muito rápido. O jeito como o mundo está andando não pode continuar porque se baseia numa ideia de que o crescimento pode ser infinito, quando a gente sabe que mora num mundo finito, com recursos finitos. Entretanto, eu nunca vi ninguém falar: “O crescimento vai ter que parar aqui”. Você vai ser preso se você disser isso em qualquer lugar do mundo. Eu não acho que o Brasil tenha que parar de crescer, no sentido de crescimento zero. O que o Brasil precisa, como o mundo precisa, é de uma redistribuição radical da riqueza. Quanto mais você redistribui, menos precisa crescer, no sentido de aumentar a produção. A economia capitalista está fundada no princípio de que viver economicamente é produzir riqueza, quando a questão realmente crítica é redistribuir a riqueza existente.

Mas aí você toca na parte mais difícil, os privilégios… E a mudança parece ainda mais distante, quase impossível.

Eduardo – É verdade. Os grandes produtores de petróleo têm todo interesse em tirar até a última gota de petróleo do chão, mas eles também não são completamente imbecis. E estão se preparando para monopolizar outras riquezas no futuro que possam vir a ser a mercadoria realmente importante. Por exemplo, água. Eu não tenho a menor dúvida de que existem planos estratégicos das grandes companhias petrolíferas para a passagem de produtoras de petróleo a produtoras de água, que será a mercadoria escassa. Você pode viver sem petróleo, você pode viver sem luz, inclusive, mas você não pode sobreviver sem água. A minha impressão é que, assim que passar a eleição, São Paulo vai entrar numa vida de science fiction. O que é uma megalópole sem água?

Acho que saberemos em breve…

“São Paulo é uma espécie de laboratório do mundo. Tudo está acontecendo de maneira acelerada”

Eduardo – É mais fácil você dizer que a culpa é do (Geraldo) Alckmin (governador de São Paulo, pelo PSDB), que não tomou as medidas necessárias. É mais fácil do que dizer: isso aí é o efeito de São Paulo ter cimentado todo o seu território, se transformado num captor térmico gigantesco, só com cimento, asfalto e carro jogando gás carbônico. Desapareceu a garoa, não existe mais a garoa em São Paulo. A Amazônia foi e está sendo desmatada por empresários paulistas. São Paulo é uma metáfora, mas não é só uma metáfora. São Paulo está destruindo a Amazônia e está sofrendo as consequências disso. Acho que São Paulo é um laboratório espetacular, no sentido não positivo da palavra. É como se estivesse passando em fast forward, acelerado, tudo o que está acontecendo no mundo. Explodiu a quantidade de carros, explodiu a poluição, explodiu a falta de água, explodiu a violência, explodiu a desigualdade. Em suma, São Paulo é uma espécie de laboratório do mundo, neste sentido. Não só São Paulo, há outras cidades iguais, mas São Paulo é a mais próxima de nós, e estamos vendo o que está acontecendo.

E por que as pessoas não conseguem fazer a conexão, por exemplo, entre a seca em São Paulo e o desmatamento na Amazônia?

Eduardo – Porque é muito grande a coisa. Há um pensador alemão, o Günther Anders, que foi o primeiro marido da Hannah Arendt. Ele fugiu do nazismo e virou um militante antinuclear, especialmente entre o fim da década de 40 e os anos 70. Ele diz que a arma nuclear é uma prova de que aconteceu alguma coisa com a humanidade, na medida em que ela se tornou incapaz de imaginar o que é capaz de fazer. É uma situação antiutópica. O que é um utopista? Um utopista é uma pessoa que consegue imaginar um mundo melhor, mas não consegue fazer, não conhece os meios nem sabe como. E nós estamos virando o contrário. Nós somos capazes tecnicamente de fazer coisas que não somos nem capazes de imaginar. A gente sabe fazer a bomba atômica, mas não sabe pensar a bomba atômica. O Günther Anders usa uma imagem interessante, a de que existe essa ideia em biologia da percepção de fenômenos subliminares, abaixo da linha de percepção. Tem aquela coisa que é tão baixinha, que você ouve mas não sabe que ouviu; você vê, mas não sabe que viu; como pequenas distinções de cores. São fenômenos literalmente subliminares, abaixo do limite da sua percepção. Nós, segundo ele, estamos criando uma outra coisa agora que não existia, o supraliminar. Ou seja, é tão grande, que você não consegue ver nem imaginar. A crise climática é uma dessas coisas. Como é que você vai imaginar um troço que depende de milhares de parâmetros, que é um transatlântico que está andando e tem uma massa inercial gigantesca? As pessoas ficam paralisadas. Dá uma espécie de paralisia cognitiva. Então as pessoas falam: “Não posso pensar nisso. Se eu pensar nisso, como é que eu vou dar conta? Você está dizendo que o mundo vai aquecer quatro graus… E o que vai acontecer? Então é melhor não pensar”. Bem, a gente acha que tem que pensar.

Déborah Danowski – Os indígenas, os pequenos agricultores, eles estão percebendo no contato com as plantas, com os animais, que algo está acontecendo. Eles têm uma percepção muito mais apurada do que a gente.

Eduardo – Como eles veem que o clima está mudando? No calendário agrícola de uma tribo indígena você sabe que está na hora de plantar porque há vários sinais da natureza. Por exemplo, o rio chegou até tal nível, o passarinho tal começou a cantar, a árvore tal começou a dar flor. E a formiga tal começou a fazer não-sei-o-quê. O que eles estão dizendo agora é que esses sinais dessincronizaram. O rio está chegando a um nível antes de o passarinho começar a cantar. E o passarinho está cantando muito antes de aquela árvore dar flor. É como se a natureza tivesse saído de eixo. E isso todos eles estão dizendo. As espécies estão se extinguindo, e a humanidade parece que continua andando para um abismo. O mundo vai, de fato, piorar para muita gente, para todo mundo. Só o que vai melhorar é a taxa de lucro de algumas empresas, e mesmo os acionistas delas vão ter que talvez tirar a casa de luxo que eles têm na Califórnia e jogar para outro lugar, porque ali vai ter pegado fogo. Se houver uma epidemia, um vírus, uma pandemia letal, violenta, tipo ebola, pode pegar todo mundo. Enquanto os sujeitos têm corpo de carne e osso, ninguém está realmente livre, por mais rico que seja, do que vai acontecer. Mas é evidente que quem vai primeiro soçobrar serão os pobres, os danados da Terra, os condenados da Terra. Algumas pessoas estão começando a se preocupar, mas não conseguem fazer parar, porque todas as outras estão empurrando. E você diz: “para, para, para!”. E você não consegue. Mas há muitas iniciativas pelo mundo de gente que percebeu que os estados nacionais, ou que as grandes tecnologias gigantescas, heroicas e épicas, não vão nos salvar. E que está nas nossas mãos nos salvarmos. Não está nas mãos dos nossos responsáveis. Não temos responsáveis. A ideia de que o governo é responsável por nós, a gente já viu que não é. Ele é irresponsável. Ele toma decisões irresponsáveis, destrói riquezas que ele não pode substituir, e, portanto, há um descrédito fortíssimo nas formas de representação.

Como os protestos de junho de 2013…

Eduardo – As crises de junho são crises de “não nos representa”. Isso não é só no Brasil. É como se tivesse havido uma espécie de fissura. É uma outra geração. Não deixa de ser parecido com 68, de certa maneira. Só que agora não é em torno de novas lutas, como gênero, sexualidade, etnia. Tudo isso continua, mas há uma outra coisa muito maior por cima: o que estamos fazendo com a Terra onde a gente vive? Vamos continuar comendo transgênico? Vamos continuar nos envenenando? Vamos continuar destruindo o planeta? Vamos continuar mudando a temperatura?

Pegando como gancho a nossa situação aqui no Brasil, com um governo desenvolvimentista, com grandes obras na Amazônia, transposição do rio São Francisco etc, gostaria que vocês falassem sobre a questão do pobre. Você afirma, de uma maneira muito original, Eduardo, que o pobre é um “nós” de segunda classe. A grande promessa seria tirá-lo da pobreza para ficar mais parecido com a única forma desejável de ser, a nossa. E o índio problematiza isso e, portanto, se torna um problema. O índio não se interessa em ser “nós”. Então eu queria que vocês explicassem melhor essa ideia e a situassem na política do atual governo para os pobres e para os índios.

“A história do Brasil é um processo de conversão do índio em pobre. É o que está acontecendo na Amazônia agora”

Eduardo – O capitalismo é uma máquina de fazer pobres. Inclusive na Europa. Os pobres não estão aqui, só. O pobre é parte integrante do sistema de crescimento. As pessoas acham que o crescimento diminui a pobreza. O crescimento, na verdade, produz e reproduz a pobreza. Na medida em que ele tira gente da pobreza, ele tem que criar outros pobres no lugar. O capitalismo conseguiu melhorar a condição de vida do operariado europeu porque jogou para o Terceiro Mundo as condições miseráveis. Então, era o operário daqui sendo explorado para que os pobres operários de lá fossem menos explorados. Essa oposição que eu fiz entre índio e pobre é, na verdade, uma crítica direta, explícita, a uma boa parte da esquerda, a esquerda tradicional, a velha esquerda que está no poder, que divide o poder por concessão da direita, dos militares e tal, e é muito voltada para a ideia de desenvolvimento. Uma coisa era o desenvolvimentismo do Celso Furtado, naquela época. Acho, inclusive, um insulto à memória dele. O Celso Furtado estava vivendo uma outra época, um outro mundo, um outro modelo. E as pessoas hoje continuam a falar essas palavras de ordem que têm 40, 50, 60 anos, como se fosse a mesma coisa. Mas, qual é o problema? O problema é que a esquerda de classe média, o intelectual de esquerda, vê o seu Outro essencialmente como um pobre. Pobre é uma categoria negativa, né? Pobre é alguém que se define pelo que não tem. Não tem dinheiro, não tem educação, não tem oportunidade. Então, a atitude natural em relação ao pobre, e isso não é uma crítica, é o ver natural, é que o pobre tem que deixar de ser aquilo. Para ele poder ser alguma coisa, ele tem que deixar de ser pobre. Então a atitude natural é você libertar o pobre, emancipar o pobre das suas condições. Tirá-lo do trabalho escravo, dar a ele educação, moradia digna. Mas, invariavelmente, esse movimento tem você mesmo como padrão. Você não se modifica, você modifica o pobre. Você traz o pobre para a sua altura, o que já sugere que você está por cima do pobre. Ao mesmo tempo, você torna o pobre homogêneo. Sim, porque se o pobre é definido por alguém que não tem algo, então é todo mundo igual.

E o que é um índio?

Eduardo – O índio, ao contrário, é uma palavra que acho que só existe no plural. Índio, para mim, é índios. É justamente o contrário do pobre. Eles se definem pelo que têm de diferente, uns dos outros e eles todos de nós, e por alguém cuja razão de ser é continuar sendo o que é. Mesmo que adotando coisas da gente, mesmo que querendo também a sua motocicleta, o seu rádio, o seu Ipad, seja o que for, ele quer isso sem que lhe tirem o que ele já tem e sempre teve. E alguns não querem isso, não estão interessados. Não é todo mundo que quer ser igual ao branco. O que aconteceu com a história do Brasil é que foi um processo circular de transformação de índio em pobre. Tira a terra, tira a língua, tira a religião. Aí o cara fica com o quê? Com a força de trabalho. Virou pobre. Qual foi sempre o truque da mestiçagem brasileira? Tiravam tudo, convertiam e diziam: agora, se vocês se comportarem bem, daqui a 200, 300, 400 anos, vocês vão virar brancos. Eles deixam de ser índios, mas não conseguem chegar a ser brancos. Pessoal, vocês precisam misturar para virar branco. Se vocês se esforçarem, melhorarem a raça, melhorarem o sangue, vai virar branco. O que chamam de mestiçagem é uma fraude. O nome é branqueamento. E é o que estão fazendo na Amazônia. É re-colonização. O Brasil está sendo recolonizado por ele mesmo com esse modelo sulista/europeu/americano. Essa cultura country que está invadindo a Amazônia junto com a soja, junto com o boi. E ao mesmo tempo transformando quem mora ali em pobre. E produzindo a pobreza. O ribeirinho vira pobre, o quilombola vira pobre, o índio vai virando pobre. Atrás da colheitadeira, atrás do boi, vem o programa de governo, vem o Bolsa Família, vem tudo para ir reciclando esse lixo humano que vai sendo pisoteado pela boiada. Reciclando ele em “pobre bom cidadão”. E aí a Amazônica fica liberada…

Como enfrentar isso?

“Qual foi a grande carta de alforria que o governo Dilma deu ao pobre? O cartão de crédito”

Eduardo – Se você olhar a composição étnica, cultural, da pobreza brasileira, você vai ver quem é o pobre. Basicamente índios, negros. O que eu chamo de índios inclui africanos. Inclui os imigrantes que não deram certo. Esse pessoal é essa mistura: é índio, é negro, é imigrante pobre, é brasileiro livre, é o caboclo, é o mestiço, é o filho da empregada com o patrão, filho da escrava com o patrão. O inconsciente cultural destes pobres brasileiros é índio, em larga medida. Tem um componente não branco. É aquela frase que eu inventei: no Brasil todo mundo é índio, exceto quem não é. Então, em vez de fazer o pobre ficar mais parecido com você, você tem que ajudar o pobre a ficar mais parecido com ele mesmo. O que é o pobre positivado? Não mais transformado em algo parecido comigo, mas transformado em algo que ele sempre foi, mas que impedem ele de ser ao torná-lo pobre. O quê? Índio. Temos de ajudá-los a lutar para que eles mesmos definam seu próprio rumo, em vez de nos colocarmos na posição governamental de: “Olha, eu vou tirar vocês da pobreza”. E fazendo o quê? Dando para eles consumo, consumo, consumo.

Déborah – Fora a dívida, né.

Eduardo – Endividando, no cartão de crédito. Qual foi a grande carta de alforria que o governo Dilma deu ao pobre? O cartão de crédito. Hoje pobre tem cartão de crédito. Legal? Muito legal, sobretudo para as firmas que vendem as mercadorias que os pobres compram no cartão de crédito. Porque a Brastemp está adorando o cartão de crédito para pobre. As Casas Bahia estão nas nuvens. Porque o pobre agora pode se endividar.

E aí vêm os elogios à honestidade do pobre…

Eduardo – Eles, sim, pagam as dívidas, porque rico não paga. Eike Batista não paga dívida, mas a empregada morre de trabalhar para pagar o cartão de crédito. Eu provocava a esquerda, dizendo: “O que vocês não estão entendendo é o seguinte. Enquanto vocês tratarem o Outro como pobre, e portanto como alguém que tem que ser melhorado, educado, civilizado – porque no fundo é isso, civilizar o pobre! –, vocês vão estar sendo cúmplices de todo esse sistema de destruição do planeta que permitiu aos ricos serem ricos”.

Vocês afirmam que os índios são especialistas em fim do mundo. E que vamos precisar aprender com eles. No livro, há até uma analogia com o filme de Lars Von Trier, no qual um planeta chamado Melancolia atinge a Terra. Vocês dizem que, em 1492, o Velho Mundo atingiu o Novo Mundo, como um planeta que vocês chamam ironicamente de Mercadoria. O que os índios podem nos ensinar sobre sobreviver ao fim do mundo?

Eduardo – Eles podem nos ensinar a viver num mundo que foi invadido, saqueado, devastado pelos homens. Isto é, ironicamente, num mundo destruído por nós mesmos, cidadãos do mundo globalizado, padronizado, saturado de objetos inúteis, alimentado à custa de pesticidas e agrotóxicos e da miséria alheia. Nós, cidadãos obesos de tanto consumir lixo e sufocados de tanto produzir lixo. A gente invadiu a nós mesmos como se tivéssemos nos travestidos de alienígenas que trataram todo o planeta como nós, europeus, tratamos o Novo Mundo a partir de 1492. Digo “nós”, porque eu acho que a classe média brasileira, os brancos, no sentido social da palavra, não são europeus para os europeus, mas são europeus para dentro do Brasil. Nós, então, nos vemos como alienígenas em relação ao mundo. Como se a gente tivesse uma relação com o mundo diferente da relação dos outros seres vivos, como se os humanos fossem especiais. Não deixa de ser uma coisa importante na tradição do catolicismo e do cristianismo. O homem tem um lado que não é mundano, um destino fora do mundo. Isso faz com que ele trate o mundo como se fosse feito para ser pilhado, saqueado, apropriado. E a gente acaba tratando a nós mesmos como nós tratamos os povos que habitavam aqui no Novo Mundo. Ou seja, como gente a explorar, a escravizar, a catequizar e a reduzir. Esta é a primeira coisa que eu acho que os índios podem nos ensinar: a viver num mundo que foi de alguma maneira roubado por nós mesmos de nós.

E a segunda?

“Os índios são especialistas em fim do mundo, eles podem nos ensinar a viver melhor num mundo pior”

Eduardo – Acho que os índios podem nos ensinar a repensar a relação com o mundo material, uma relação que seja menos fortemente mediada por um sistema econômico baseado na obsolescência planejada e, portanto, na acumulação de lixo como principal produto. Eles podem nos ensinar a voltar à Terra como lugar do qual depende toda a autonomia política, econômica e existencial. Em outras palavras: os índios podem nos ensinar a viver melhor em um mundo pior. Porque o mundo vai piorar. E os índios podem nos ensinar a viver com pouco, a viver portátil, e a ser tecnologicamente polivalente e flexível, em vez de depender de megamáquinas de produção de energia e de consumo de energia como nós. Quando eu falo índio é índio aqui, na Austrália, o pessoal da Nova Guiné, esquimó… Para mim, índio são todas as grandes minorias que estão fora, de alguma maneira, dessa megamáquina do capitalismo, do consumo, da produção, do trabalho 24 horas por dia, sete dias por semana. Esses índios planetários nos ensinam a dispensar a existência das gigantescas máquinas de transcendência que são o Estado, de um lado, e o sistema do espetáculo do outro, o mercado transformado em imagem. Eu acho que os índios podem também nos ensinar a aceitar os imponderáveis, os imprevistos e os desastres da vida com o “pessimismo alegre” (expressão usada originalmente pelo filósofo francês François Zourabichvili, com relação a Deleuze, mas que aqui ganha outros sentidos). O pessimismo alegre caracteriza a atitude vital dos índios e demais povos que vivem à margem da civilização bipolar que é a nossa, que está sempre oscilando entre um otimismo maníaco e um desespero melancólico. Os índios aceitam que nós somos mortais e que do mundo nada se leva. Em muitos povos indígenas do Brasil, e em outras partes do mundo, os bens do defunto são inclusive queimados, são destruídos no funeral. A pessoa morre e tudo o que ela tem é destruído para que a memória dela não cause dor aos sobreviventes. Acho que essas são as coisas que os índios poderiam nos ensinar, mas que eu resumiria nesta frase: os índios podem nos ensinar a viver melhor num mundo pior.

Como é um “pessimismo alegre”?

Eduardo – Acho que o pessimismo alegre é o que você encontra na favela carioca. É o que você encontra no meio das populações que vivem no semiárido brasileiro. É a mesma coisa que você encontra, em geral, nas camadas mais pobres da população. O fato de que você vive em condições que qualquer um de nós, da classe média para cima, consideraria materialmente intoleráveis. Mas isso não os torna seres desesperados, tristes, melancólicos, etc. Muito pelo contrário. É claro que eu não estou falando de situações dramáticas, de gente morrendo de fome. Isso aí não há ninguém que aguente. Mas, se você perguntar para o índio, ele vai dizer: estamos todos fritos, um dia o mundo vai acabar caindo na nossa cabeça, mas isso não impede que você se distraia, que se divirta, que ria um pouco dessa condição meio patética que é a de todo ser humano, em que ele vive como se fosse imortal e ao mesmo tempo sabe que vai morrer. Os índios não acham que o futuro vai ser melhor do que o presente, como nós, e portanto não se desesperam porque o futuro não vai ser melhor do que o presente, como a gente está descobrindo. Eles acham que o futuro vai ser ou igual ou pior do que agora, mas isso não impede que eles considerem isso com pessimismo alegre, que é o contrário do otimismo desencantado, que é um pouco o nosso. Do tipo estamos mal, mas vai dar tudo certo, a tecnologia vai nos salvar, ou o homem vai finalmente chegar ao socialismo. Os índios acham que tudo vai para as cucuias, mesmo. Mas isso não lhes tira o sono, porque viver é uma coisa que você tem que fazer de minuto a minuto, tem que viver o presente. E nós temos um problema, que é a dificuldade imensa em viver o presente. Os índios são pessoas que de fato vivem no presente no melhor sentido possível. Vamos tratar de viver o presente tal como ele é, enfrentando as dificuldades que ele apresenta, mas sem imaginar que a gente tem poderes messiânicos, demiúrgicos de salvar o planeta. Essa é um pouco a minha sensação. O pessimismo alegre é uma atitude que eu sinto como característica de quem tem que viver, e não simplesmente gente que acha que é a palmatória do mundo, que tem que pensar pelo mundo todo.

“Como é que a Dilma Rousseff pode dar Bolsa Família e ao mesmo tempo tornar a vida da Kátia Abreu cada vez mais fácil? Porque o dinheiro não sai do bolso dos ricos, mas da natureza”

Déborah – Acho que sobretudo depende da criação de relações com as outras pessoas. Em vez de você confiar na acumulação, que nos torna sempre tristes, porque está sempre faltando alguma coisa, precisamos sempre obter mais, acumular mais, etc, nós criamos relações com as pessoas que estão à nossa volta, com os outros seres, no meio dos quais nós vivemos.

Parece que há uma cegueira de parte do que se denomina esquerda, hoje, para compreender outras formas de estar no mundo, assim como para compreender desafios como os impostos pela mudança climática, como vemos no Brasil, mas não só no Brasil. Aqui, estamos num momento bem sensível do país, com Belo Monte e as grandes barragens previstas para o Tapajós. Supostamente, teríamos hoje duas candidatas de esquerda (Dilma Rousseff e Marina Silva) nos primeiros lugares da disputa eleitoral para a presidência, mas as questões socioambientais pouco são tocadas. Qual é a dificuldade?

Eduardo – Você tem pelo menos duas esquerdas, como se vê até pelas candidaturas. Só que, infelizmente, uma esquerda muito bem caracterizada, que é a da Dilma, e outra esquerda, representada pela Marina, em que falta capacidade para formular com clareza o que diferencia ela da outra. Essas duas esquerdas, de certa maneira, sempre existiram. Lá no início, na Primeira Internacional, essa fratura correspondeu à distinção entre os anarquistas e os comunistas. Mas hoje eu diria que você tem duas posições dentro da esquerda. Uma posição que a gente poderia chamar de “crescimentista”, centralista, que acha que a solução é tomar o controle do aparelho do Estado para implementar uma política de despauperização do povo brasileiro, dentro da qual a questão do meio ambiente não tem nenhuma importância. A Dilma chegou a cometer aquele famoso ato falho lá em Copenhagen (em 12/2009, quando era ministra-chefe da Casa Civil do governo Lula), ao dizer: “O meio ambiente é, sem dúvida nenhuma, uma ameaça ao desenvolvimento sustentável”. Ato falho. Não era isso o que ela queria dizer, mas disse. Essa esquerda tem zero de sensibilidade ambiental. Ela poderia perceber que uma outra maneira de falar “ambiente” é falar “condições materiais de existência”. Falta de esgoto na favela é problema ambiental do mesmo jeito que desmatamento na Amazônia é problema ambiental. Não é de outro jeito, é do mesmo jeito. Mas, para essa esquerda, ar, água, planta, bicho não faz parte do mundo. São pessoas completamente antropocêntricas, que veem o mundo à disposição dos homens, para ser dominado, controlado e escravizado. Essa esquerda, que é a esquerda da Dilma, é uma esquerda velha, no sentido de que é uma esquerda que, na verdade, pensa como se 1968 não tivesse acontecido. É alguém com uma espécie de nostalgia da União Soviética…

Déborah – Com nostalgia do que nunca aconteceu.

Eduardo – Soviet mais eletricidade, a famosa fórmula do Lenin. O que é o comunismo? O comunismo são os soviets, que são os conselhos operários, mais eletricidade, isto é, mais tecnologia. Aí eu brincava, quando a Dilma tomou o poder: “A Dilma é isso, só que sem o soviet”. É só eletricidade… Ou seja, capitalismo. O que distinguia o socialismo comunista do Lenin era a tecnologia moderna mais a organização social comunista. Se você tira a organização comunista só sobra o capitalismo. Então essa esquerda é uma esquerda sócia do capitalismo. Acha que é preciso levar o capitalismo até o fim, para que ele se complete, para que a industrialização se complete, para que a transformação de todos os índios do mundo em pobres se complete. Para que você então transforme o pobre em proletário, o proletário em classe revolucionária, ou seja, é uma historinha de fadas. Como se pudesse separar a parte boa da parte ruim do capitalismo. Como se fosse possível: isso aqui eu quero, isso aqui eu não quero. Outra coisa, essa esquerda fez um pacto satânico com a direita, que é o seguinte: a gente gosta dos pobres, quer melhorar a vida deles, quer melhorar o nível de renda deles, mas não vai tocar no bolso de vocês, fiquem tranquilos. É o que está dito na Carta ao Povo Brasileiro (documento escrito por Lula na campanha eleitoral de 2002). Pode deixar, que a gente não vai fazer a revolução, não vai ser Robin Hood, ao contrário. E foi exatamente isso o que aconteceu. Ou seja, os bancos nunca lucraram tanto. O Brasil optou por se transformar num exportador de commodities e virar uma verdadeira plantation, como ele era desde o começo. Era exportador de matéria-prima para o centro do império, agora para a China. Mas o pacto foi esse: a gente governa se, primeiro, não prender os militares, não acertar as contas com a ditadura; e, segundo, não mexer no bolso dos ricos, não tocar na estrutura do capital. Veja o tamanho das algemas que a esquerda se pôs. De onde é que vai vir, então, a grana para melhorar a vida dos pobres? Só tem um lugar. Da natureza. Então você superexplora, você queima os móveis da casa. Aumentou o dinheiro disponível para dar umas migalhas para os pobres, o bolo cresceu. Não é por acaso que o Delfim Netto (ministro da Fazenda no período do chamado “Milagre Econômico Brasileiro”, na ditadura civil-militar) é um grande conselheiro do Lula. Primeiro é preciso crescer para depois distribuir. Está crescendo, está dando renda para os pobres, mas esse dinheiro não está saindo do bolso dos ricos. Está saindo da natureza, da floresta destruída. É da água que a gente está exportando para a China sob a forma de boi, de carne e de soja. Estamos comendo o principal para não tocar no bolso dos ricos. E assim a Dilma sai passeando com a Kátia Abreu (senadora pelo PMDB, representante do agronegócio e a principal líder da bancada ruralista do Congresso) e dá Bolsa Família. Como é que a Dilma consegue ao mesmo tempo dar Bolsa Família e tornar a vida da Kátia Abreu cada vez mais fácil? O dinheiro tem que sair de algum lugar. Não está saindo de empréstimo internacional, mas está saindo de empréstimo natural. Esse empréstimo não dá para pagar. Quando a natureza vier cobrar, estaremos fritos. E a natureza está cobrando de que forma? Seca, tufão, furacão, enchente… E no Brasil ainda não chegou a barra pesada. Outro problema desta esquerda é que ela não tem nenhuma noção de mundo, de planeta. Ela pensa o Brasil. Ela é nacionalista em todos os sentidos. Vê curto. Ela vê o Brasil no mundo quando se trata do mercado. Agora, quando se trata do planeta, enquanto casa das espécies, lugar onde nós moramos, ela não está nem aí. O fato de que o Ártico está derretendo não é um problema para o Brasil. Pré-Sal ser um problema para o planeta? Não queremos saber. É uma esquerda xenófoba, neste sentido. Ela não percebe que o Brasil é grande, mas o mundo é pequeno. A Dilma, para mim, é um fóssil. Tem pensamento fossilizado. Ela não está nem no século 20, ela está no século 19.

E a esquerda que a Marina representaria?

“A Marina Silva representaria uma esquerda pós-68, mais democrática e menos vertical, mas ela perdeu o rumo”

Eduardo – Essa é uma esquerda pós-68, que incorporou aquilo que apareceu em 1968, de que dentro da luta de classes há muitas outras lutas. Há a luta das mulheres, a luta dos índios, a luta dos homossexuais… Enfim, todas essas outras formas de pensar as diferenças sociais que não se reduz à questão dos ricos e dos pobres. A pobreza não é uma categoria econômica, mas uma categoria existencial que envolve justiça. E a justiça não é só dar dinheiro para o pobre, mas reconhecer todas essas diferenças que são ignoradas e que explodiram em 1968. A política mudou porque, primeiro, em 68 o socialismo começou a se desacreditar. Não esqueçamos que o Partido Comunista Francês foi contra 1968. Apoiou a repressão policial exatamente como a esquerda oficial apoiou baixar a porrada nos manifestantes de junho de 2013. Ela apoiou a repressão policial à revolta de 68, que não foi francesa, foi mundial. Em 1968 foi a Marcha dos 100.000 aqui, foi a revolta contra a guerra do Vietnã nos Estados Unidos, foi a revolta propriamente dita na França, na Itália e em outros países. Ou seja, foi uma revolução mundial. E nós estamos vivendo, de lá até hoje, a contrarrevolução mundial. A direita retomou o poder e falou: “Temos que impedir que isso aconteça de novo”.

E como a Marina representaria essa esquerda pós-68?

Eduardo – É uma esquerda em que o pobre urbano operário não é mais o personagem típico. Mas é quem? É o índio, o seringueiro, é a mulher, é o negro. A Marina acumula várias identidades…

Déborah – Como você escreveu, Eliane, no seu artigo sobre as diferenças entre os Silvas

Eduardo – Isso. O Lula é o representante do sonho brasileiro de ser como o norte do planeta, os Estados Unidos. Como diz o (antropólogo) Beto Ricardo (um dos fundadores do Instituto Socioambiental), o Brasil é como se fosse dividido entre uma grande São Bernardo e uma grande Barretos. Quer dizer, a zona rural vai ser como Barretos (cidade do interior paulista onde se faz a maior festa country do país): gado, rodeio, bota, chapéu e 4X4. E a parte urbana vai ser uma grande São Bernardo (cidade do chamado ABC Paulista, onde Lula se tornou líder sindical metalúrgico nas grandes greves da virada dos anos 70 para os 80): fábricas, metalurgia, motores, carros. A Marina representaria o outro lado. Essa outra esquerda, muito mais democrática, que aposta menos na organização vertical, autoritária, centralista, clássica dos partidos de esquerda comunista. Embora o PT não seja um partido comunista, nem de longe, é um partido que incorporou vários ex-comunistas, várias pessoas que têm a concepção de que é preciso tomar o Estado, o poder central, para instalar o socialismo, digamos.

E a Marina consegue representar essa outra esquerda?

“O centro do Brasil não é São Paulo, mas a Amazônia”

Eduardo – A Marina está numa posição equívoca, porque ela representa um tipo de pensamento que deveria estar nas ruas, e não no Estado. Deveria estar mobilizando a população, a chamada sociedade civil, e não disputando a presidência num sistema político corrupto, que é praticamente impossível de mexer. Acho que estamos num sistema político com um nó cego e só sairíamos disso aí, literalmente, com uma insurreição popular que forçasse o poder a se auto-reformar. Nestas condições, o governo da Marina é um governo impossível, sob certo ponto de vista. Na minha opinião, depois que ela saiu daquela primeira eleição em 2010 com 20 milhões de votos, tinha que ter saído da lógica da política partidária e se transformado numa líder de movimento social. Uma pessoa capaz de exprimir todo esse jogo de diferenças que tem no Brasil. Ela era líder seringueira, do povo da floresta. Estava lutando pelo ambiente. Essas questões foram sumindo e, quando houve a tentativa de pendurar na campanha dela essas outras lutas para as quais ela pessoalmente não estava preparada – aborto, direitos da mulher, direitos dos LGBT (Lésbicas, Gays, Bissexuais, Transexuais, Travestis e Transgêneros) –, aí ela ficou travada por toda a outra composição dela, que é com o eleitorado evangélico. Então ela também tem o seu problema por ali. Mas o problema principal não é esse. Eu acho que a Marina representa a outra esquerda, a esquerda horizontalista, localista, ambientalista, que entende que é de baixo para cima que as coisas se organizam, mas ela está envolvida num processo eleitoral que é todo o contrário disso. Eleição é um momento de lazer, no sentido de que a população pensa que tem poder, porque pode escolher seus governantes, e depois da eleição volta à posição passiva. Se você tenta sair da posição passiva fora do período eleitoral, a polícia vem e bate em você. Você só pode se manifestar durante as eleições, o povo só pode ser político durante as eleições. Hoje só há dois tipos de cidadão no Brasil: o eleitor e o vândalo. O eleitor só tem uma vez a cada dois, quatro anos, e o resto do tempo você tem que ser vândalo. Ou ficar quietinho em casa, pegando propaganda, sonhando com seu carro e juntando dinheiro para ir para Miami. Acho que a Marina perdeu o rumo. Tenho uma admiração imensa por ela, pessoal, coisa que eu não tenho por nenhum outro. Tenho uma admiração pelo Lula, em outro sentido. Esse cara é incrível, tem um carisma político, mas não o conheço pessoalmente. A Marina, que eu conheço pessoalmente, é uma pessoa fantástica. Inteligentíssima. E é uma pessoa de enorme elegância, no amplo sentido da palavra. Mas ela tem que agradar todo mundo, o que é impossível. Se ela for presidente, espero que ela tenha contado a mentira certa. Isto é, que ela engane, que ela traia, quem merece ser traído. E não, como fez a Dilma, trair quem não merecia ser traído. A Marina não aproveitou a oportunidade para se colocar como uma candidata realmente alternativa. Eu não entendi ainda o que ela está dizendo que seja diferente da Dilma. Não entendi.

Déborah, em sua exposição no colóquio, você falou sobre a esquerda e a direita, a partir de (Gilles) Deleuze (filósofo francês), de uma forma muito interessante….

Déborah – Na verdade, isso é uma definição dele num vídeo que se chama Abecedário. Ele tem outras definições de esquerda, como, por exemplo, que o papel da esquerda é pensar; e que a esquerda coloca questões que a direita quer a todo custo esconder. Essa da percepção é uma que gosto especialmente porque me ajuda a reconhecer posições de direita ou de esquerda. Ser de esquerda é até mais uma questão de percepção do que de conceito. O ser de direita é sempre perceber as coisas a partir de si mesmo, como num endereço postal. Assim: eu, aqui, neste lugar, na minha casa, na rua tal, na praia de Botafogo, Flamengo, Rio de Janeiro, América do Sul. E você pensa o mundo, ali, como uma extensão de si mesmo. E cada vez que você se afasta, vai perdendo interesse, a coisa vai decaindo de valor. E ser de esquerda é o contrário: vai do horizonte até a casa.

Eduardo – Esse pensar a partir de si mesmo significa: como é que eu posso me manter onde estou e não perder nada? Como é que eu posso preservar os meus privilégios, mexer no mundo sem mexer em mim?

Déborah – Acho que a Dilma, o PT, têm sido de direita nesse sentido. O que importa é estender seus próprios privilégios aos outros, trazer os outros para si mesmo, mas pensando a partir de si mesmo. O que eu sou é o que eles devem ser também. Eu continuo a ser o que eu era e dou aos outros um pouco do que eu sou, e no melhor dos mundos eles vão acabar sendo iguais a mim. E a Marina é – ou seria – essa outra maneira de pensar, a partir da floresta, a partir desses outros povos, seria pensar nas outras possibilidades de ser diferente.

“Para imaginar o não fim do mundo é preciso imaginar o fim do capitalismo”

Eduardo – É pensar que o centro do Brasil é a Amazônia, e não São Paulo. No sentido de que é lá que está se decidindo o futuro do Brasil, não em São Paulo. É o que a gente fizer lá, com as pessoas de lá, que vai definir o que o Brasil vai ser. O Brasil vai ser todo São Paulo? Igual a São Paulo? É isso o que a gente quer? Uma grande São Paulo? Ou a gente quer, ao contrário, que o Brasil se “amazonize”, que o que resta de Amazônia no Brasil possa contaminar o Brasil que se “desamazonizou”. A Mata Atlântica sumiu. A gente não quer voltar tudo, mas a gente quer que a Amazônia nos ensine a voltar a ser Mata Atlântica. A gente quer que a Amazônia nos ensine como os pobres da cidade podem voltar a ser um pouco índios. E a gente sabe que, do ponto de vista geopolítico, histórico, a Amazônia é o centro do Brasil. É lá que está rolando tudo. E o pessoal fica discutindo a eleição em São Paulo. É bom que discuta. Tem que discutir a água de São Paulo, é claro. Mas como é que se discute a água de São Paulo? É por causa da Amazônia que está faltando água em São Paulo. É por causa do que estamos fazendo na Amazônia que estamos sofrendo falta de água aqui. Ah, mas a ligação não é direta. Claro que não é direta. Mas existe, e é por ela que a coisa passa. A plataforma da Dilma, no fundo, é isso. Você olha a partir de São Paulo, Brasília, Rio… Você olha a Amazônia a partir de onde você está e vê a Amazônia lá no fundo. Ou então você pode olhar o Brasil a partir da Amazônia e se perguntar o que isso significa. Isso é sair de onde eu estou, é mudar minha posição.

Acho que foi a Isabelle Stengers (filósofa belga) que disse que “o capitalismo pode não se preocupar com a atmosfera, mas é muito mais grave que a atmosfera não se preocupe com o capitalismo”. Você, Eduardo, afirma que é mais fácil imaginar o fim do capitalismo do que o fim do mundo, mas que teremos de imaginar os dois. Mas quem fala no fim do capitalismo é visto como alguém que está viajando, que está fora da realidade. Se essa é também uma crise de imaginação, como fazer isso, na medida em que seria imaginação contra poder?

Eduardo – O ambiente, o clima, a atmosfera estão mudando mais depressa do que o capitalismo, do que a sociedade. O Obama falou isso agora. A gente sempre imaginou a sociedade mudando num ritmo muito mais rápido do que a natureza, que era um pano de fundo imóvel para a história do homem. O fato de que o capitalismo não acaba é a razão pela qual o mundo está acabando, vamos dizer assim. O capitalismo – esse sistema socioeconômico e técnico, instalado desde o começo da modernidade, com a invasão da América, alterações no sistema de propriedade, mudanças técnicas que sobrevieram na Europa ali no começo do século 16, acentuando-se de maneira dramática com a industrialização e o uso de combustíveis fósseis no século 18 – é o responsável pelo estado presente do mundo. Ou seja, para imaginar o não fim do mundo, nós temos que imaginar o fim do capitalismo. E isso é extremamente difícil. Porque a questão do capitalismo nunca foi substituir, mas somar, sobrepor. Então nós temos hoje o quê? Nunca se consumiu tanto carvão quanto se consome agora. Então essa coisa de que o petróleo iria substituir o carvão, porque o petróleo é menos poluente do que o carvão, não é verdade. Está se consumindo mais carvão do que petróleo. Agora está se usando energia nuclear, energia eólica, energia solar. Isso não baixou o consumo de petróleo. O que está acontecendo é que nós estamos acrescentando fontes de energia, ou seja, não para nunca. Quanto mais melhor.

E como se imaginaria o fim do capitalismo?

Eduardo – O fim do capitalismo, provavelmente, não virá do esgotamento das fontes energéticas. Ele virá de outro lugar. Ele virá, provavelmente, de catástrofes climáticas, sociais, políticas. Aí já me permito sonhar um pouco. Com uma certa capacidade de a população planetária pouco a pouco ir criando pequenos bolsões alternativos de deserção. Enfim, uma certa “indianização” da população, na tentativa de se tornar independente das fontes globais de mercadoria, dos sistemas globais de transporte e de energia e lutar pelo mínimo de autossuficiência local, como já vem acontecendo em muitos lugares do planeta. Com ênfase no município, na comunidade, nos governos locais, nos arranjos locais, no transporte de curta distância, no consumo de produtos produzidos não muito longe de casa. Acho que vai haver uma certa contração da economia, porque é muito possível que essas crises afetem os sistemas mundiais de distribuição de energia. Veja essa seca de São Paulo. O que é isso? Isso significa que, enfim, essas cidades gigantescas que dependem de redes gigantescas de aprovisionamento de energia, de água, de eletricidade, etc, vão se tornar inviáveis. Acho que nós tendemos a um mundo de bairros, mais do que a um mundo de megalópoles. A tendência vai ser você criar um mundo onde as relações de vizinhança, a usina solar local, as hortas comunitárias, os governos de vereança local vão se tornar cada vez mais importantes. Acho que vai haver uma inversão da política, cada vez mais de baixo para cima do que de cima para baixo. Ou, pelo menos, a pressão de baixo para cima vai tender a contrabalançar a pressão de cima para baixo exercida pelas grandes companhias de petróleo, pelos governos nacionais, pelos grandes tomadores de decisão do mundo. Eles vão começar a se defrontar com uma multiplicação de ações locais, uma multiplicação de iniciativas cidadãs, se você quiser, que vão se parecer mais com o índio do que com o turista globetrotter que atravessa o planeta como se tivesse sempre no mesmo lugar em toda a parte. Acho que essa é uma maneira de imaginar o fim do capitalismo.

Déborah – Mas acho que isso não basta, porque será necessário um enfrentamento. Senão fica parecendo que cada um saindo para por em prática sua ação local seria o suficiente…

Eduardo – Vai haver sangue, como se diz. Lembremos que a Primavera Árabe teve como um dos fatores fundamentais uma crise brutal de abastecimento alimentar. De pão, particularmente. De trigo. O governo chinês tem tomado medidas dramáticas de redução da poluição e de tentativa de baixar um pouco a bola, porque está havendo uma grande quantidade de revoltas populares, de motins, dessas coisas que a gente não sabe, porque a Muralha na China é altíssima em termos de censura. Mas está havendo uma reação das populações locais, que estão brigando com os governos e pressionando para que ele tome medidas. O futuro nos reserva grandes acontecimentos ruins em termos de catástrofes climáticas, de fome, de seca…

Para vocês, qualquer saída, se há saída, passa pela recusa do excepcionalismo humano. Apareceu várias vezes no colóquio esse mundo de humanos e não humanos horizontalizados. Como seria esse mundo e como mudar uma forma de funcionar, na qual a visão de si mesmo como centro está confundida com a própria identidade do que é ser um humano?

“O símbolo de nossa relação com o mundo é o drone. Somos todosdrones

Eduardo – Tem uma frase que o Lévi-Strauss escreveu certa vez, que é muito bonita. Ele diz que nós começamos por nos considerarmos especiais em relação aos outros seres vivos. Isso foi só o primeiro passo para, em seguida, alguns de nós começar a se achar melhores do que os outros seres humanos. E nisso começou uma história maldita em que você vai cada vez excluindo mais. Você começou por excluir os outros seres vivos da esfera do mundo moral, tornando-os seres em relação aos quais você pode fazer qualquer coisa, porque eles não teriam alma. Esse é o primeiro passo para você achar que alguns seres humanos não eram tão humanos assim. O excepcionalismo humano é um processo de monopolização do valor. É o excepcionalismo humano, depois o excepcionalismo dos brancos, dos cristãos, dos ocidentais… Você vai excluindo, excluindo, excluindo… Até acabar sozinho, se olhando no espelho da sua casa. O verdadeiro humanismo, para Lévi-Strauss, seria aquele no qual você estende a toda a esfera do vivente um valor intrínseco. Não quer dizer que são todos iguais a você. São todos diferentes, como você. Restituir o valor significa restituir a capacidade de diferir, de ser diferente, sem ser desigual. É não confundir nunca diferença e desigualdade. Não é por acaso que todas as minorias exigem respeito. Respeitar significa reconhecer a distância, aceitar a diferença, e não simplesmente ir lá, tirar os pobrezinhos daquela miséria em que eles estão. Respeitar quer dizer: aceite que nem todo mundo quer viver como você vive.

O atual governo, por exemplo, assim como setores da sociedade brasileira, parecem ter dificuldade de reconhecer os índios, os ribeirinhos e os quilombolas no caminho das grandes obras como gente. Se isso é difícil quando se trata de humanos, é imensamente mais difícil respeitar as diferenças dos animais ou das árvores, que, nesse conceito de excepcionalidade que atravessa a nossa forma de enxergar o mundo – e nós no mundo – estão a serviço dos humanos…

Eduardo – Uma coisa é você dizer que os animais são humanos, no sentido de direitos humanos. Outra coisa é dizer que os animais são pessoas, isto é, são seres que têm valor intrínseco. É isso o que significa ser pessoa. Reconhecer direitos aos demais viventes não é reconhecer direitos humanos aos demais viventes. É reconhecer direitos característicos e próprios daquelas diferentes formas de vida. Os direitos de uma árvore não são os mesmos direitos de um cidadão brasileiro da espécie homo sapiens. O que não quer dizer, entretanto, que ela não tenha direitos. Por exemplo, o direito à existência, que só pode ser negado sob condições que exigem reflexão. Os índios não acham que as árvores são iguais a eles. O que eles acham simplesmente é que você não faz nada impunemente. Todo ser vivo, com exceção dos vegetais, tem que tirar a vida de um outro ser vivo para sobreviver. A diferença está no fato de que os índios sabem disso. E sabem que isso é algo sério. Nós estamos acostumados a fazer a nossa caça nos supermercados, não somos mais capazes de olhar de frente uma galinha antes de matá-la para comer. Assim, perdemos a consciência de que nós vivemos num mundo em que viver é perigoso e traz consequências. E que comer tem consequências. Os animais seriam pessoas no sentido de que eles possuem valor intrínseco, eles têm direito à vida, e só podemos tirar a vida deles quando a nossa vida depende disso. Isso é uma coisa que, para os índios, é absolutamente claro. Se você matar à toa, você vai ter problemas. Eles não estão dizendo que é tudo igual. Eles estão dizendo que tudo possui um valor intrínseco e que mexer com isso envolve você mesmo. Acho que o símbolo da nossa relação com o mundo, hoje, é o tipo de guerra que os Estados Unidos fazem com os drones, aqueles aviões não tripulados, ou apertando um botão. Ou seja, você nem vê a desgraça que você está produzindo. Nós todos, hoje, estamos numa relação com o mundo cujo símbolo seria o drone. A pessoa está lá nos Estados Unidos apertando um botão num computador, aquilo vai lá para o Paquistão, joga uma bomba em cima de uma escola, e a pessoa que apertou o botão não está nem sabendo o que está acontecendo. Ou seja, nós estamos distantes. As consequências de nossas ações estão cada vez mais separadas das nossas ações.

Perderam-se os sentidos e as conexões entre morrer e matar…

Eduardo – Exatamente. Ou seja, o índio que vai para o mato e tem que flechar o inimigo, ele tem que arcar com as consequências psicológicas, morais, simbólicas disso. Aquele soldadinho americano que está num quartel nos Estados Unidos, apertando um botão, ele nem sabe o que está fazendo. Porque ele está longe. Você cada vez mais distancia os efeitos das suas ações de você mesmo. Então nós somos todos dronesnesse sentido. A gente compra carne no supermercado quadradinha, bem embaladinha, refrigeradinha, sem cara de bicho. E você está o mais longe possível daquela coisa horrorosa que é o matadouro. Daquela coisa horrorosa que são as fazendas em que as galinhas estão enfiadas em gaiolas apertadas. Se o pessoal lembrar que 50% das galinhas que nascem são galos e que esses 50% que nascem são triturados ao nascer para virar ração animal porque não colocam ovos, talvez não conseguissem comer galinhas. Se você mostrasse que metade dos pintinhos vão todos vivos para uma máquina que tritura, talvez melhorasse um pouco. Mas as pessoas não querem saber disso. Nisso, nós somos iguaizinhos ao soldado americano que aperta o botão para matar inocentes no Paquistão. Nós fazemos a mesma coisa com as galinhas. Nós somos todos drones. Temos uma relação com o mundo igual à que os Estados Unidos tem com suas máquinas de guerra. Somos como os pilotos da bomba atômica que não sabiam bem o que estavam fazendo quando soltaram a bomba atômica em cima de Hiroshima. Dissociação mental. Essa coisa de não se dar conta do que a gente está fazendo, por um lado está aumentando. Mas, por outro lado, com a mudança climática, as pessoas estão começado a perceber que o que elas estão fazendo está influenciando o mundo. Estamos num momento crucial: por um lado o aumento brutal do modelo drone, com tudo cada vez mais distante, e, por outro, as catástrofes batendo na sua porta. O mar está subindo, o furacão está chegando, a seca está vindo.

Eu queria terminar perguntando o seguinte: vocês escrevem que tudo o que pode ser dito sobre a mudança climática se torna anacrônico e tudo o que se pode fazer a respeito é necessariamente pouco e tarde demais. Então, o que fazer? Como sonhar outros sonhos, como diz Isabelle Stengers? Ou como dançar para que o céu não caia na nossa cabeça, como fazem os índios?

Déborah – É tarde demais para algumas coisas, mas não para outras. Disso a gente não pode esquecer nunca. Por exemplo: nós não podemos fazer sumir em curto, médio ou longo prazo com esses gases de efeito estufa. E nem com o forte desequilíbrio energético que nós já causamos, já imprimimos ao sistema climático da Terra. E como as emissões continuam aumentando, acho que não seria razoável esperar, politicamente, que essas emissões sejam estancadas de uma hora para outra.

Eduardo – O mundo está esquentando e não vai parar de esquentar mesmo se a gente parar agora. Já começou um processo que é irreversível, até certo ponto.

Déborah – Então, uma parte do que vai acontecer não depende mais das nossas decisões e ações presentes. Já é passado. Mas existe uma diferença enorme entre um aquecimento de dois graus e um aquecimento de, sei lá, quatro e seis graus. Essa diferença é a diferença entre um mundo difícil e um mundo hostil à espécie humana e a várias outras espécies. Quer dizer, a diferença se traduz entre milhares de mortes por ano em virtude de eventos extremos e milhões de flagelados do clima, de vítimas fatais, talvez centenas de milhões, até, como alguns chegam a dizer. Isso sem contar as outras espécies. Então, não podemos nos dar ao luxo de nos desesperarmos, eu acho.

O desespero é um luxo?

Déborah – É, o desespero seria um luxo. Se a gente pensa em nós mesmos, nos nossos filhos, e nos outros viventes que existem e que vão existir, se desesperar não é uma opção. Então, por um lado a gente tem que fazer o que puder para mitigar essas emissões, para criar também condições de adaptação das diferentes populações, dos ecossistemas, aos efeitos do aquecimento global. Isso em relação ao que já foi e ao que ainda vai ser, que não poderemos evitar. E, por outro lado, nós temos que fazer, como diz Donna Haraway (filósofa americana), numa expressão que é muito boa, mas que não dá muito para traduzir em português: stay with the trouble. Ficar, viver com o problema. Aguentar. Não é só aguentar o tranco. É: sim, temos esse mundo empobrecido, mas nós vamos viver com ele. O que significa viver como a grande maioria das pessoas já vive. Pessoas que não podem se proteger desse mundo que a gente criou, ou acha que criou. Há uma porção de populações que stay with the trouble há muito tempo, e a gente vai ter que aprender com elas.

Eduardo – A gente vai ter que aprender a ter sociedades com capacidade de mudar de escala. Imagina uma aldeia indígena, numa ilha, em que o mar sobe um metro. Será necessário mudar a aldeia de lugar porque o mar subiu um metro. Vai ter que entrar mais para dentro da costa. É chato, tal, mas ela muda de lugar. Agora, imagina Nova York. Os caras não vão conseguir tirar o Empire State do lugar. Ou seja, tem modos de vida em que é muito mais fácil se adaptar ao que vem por aí. Por um lado, a gente fala: quem vai se dar mal primeiro? Quem vai se dar mal primeiro com as mudanças climáticas vão ser os pobres. Eles é que vão ser os primeiros a sofrer. É verdade. Por outro lado, eu desconfio que eles vão ser os primeiros a sofrer e os primeiros a se virar.

Eliane Brum é escritora, repórter e documentarista. Autora dos livros de não ficçãoColuna Prestes – o Avesso da Lenda, A Vida Que Ninguém vê, O Olho da Rua, A Menina Quebrada, Meus Desacontecimentos e do romance Uma Duas. Site: elianebrum.com Email: elianebrum.coluna@gmail.com Twitter: @brumelianebrum

Naomi Klein on Cause of Climate Crisis: “Capitalism Is Stupid” (Truthout)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014 09:46

By Sarah Jaffe

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Naomi Klein (Photo: Ed Kashi). Naomi Klein, author of the groundbreaking books, No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, is back with a new groundbreaking work, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. The book resets the debate over global warming by focusing on how it is integrally related to the current economic system that spans the globe. Contribute to Truthout and receive this vitally important work. Click here now.

Naomi Klein is out to change hearts and minds around climate change.

Her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate out now from Simon & Schuster, is a broad challenge to those who want a livable planet: We need to come up with a livable economic system too. Deeply researched and personally reported, Klein’s third book takes us from the tar sands in Alberta (“Earth, skinned alive”) to the oil-soaked waters of the Gulf of Mexico (“a miscarriage”), from climate denier conferences to a meeting of would-be geoengineers, as she traces the path of destruction that capitalism and a mindset she terms “extractivism” – that is perhaps even older – have left on the Earth.

At one point, Klein concedes, it might have been possible to stop the climate crisis with a few regulations here, a carbon tax there. But we’re too far gone for that, and nothing but a full-on change in how humans relate to the Earth and to each other will save us now.

The good news is that Klein has written an immensely hopeful book, a book about people who believe they can make change and who are doing it in the face of a political and economic system that would seem to doom them to failure. She doesn’t define what comes after capitalism, leaving that to the social movements she describes being born all over the world, but sketches its broad outlines, letting us know what this new climate justice movement is against – but also what it is for – and making a case for a broad redistributive justice movement that would include already-existing movements for racial justice, feminism and decolonization.

The problem is, capitalism is stupid … in that it doesn’t actually think.

Truthout’s Sarah Jaffe caught up with Klein on the eve of the People’s Climate March and of the United Nations Climate Summit in New York to talk about why liberalism is not enough, why billionaires can’t save us, and what we need to do to save ourselves.

Sarah Jaffe for Truthout: You’ve written two other books, No Logo andThe Shock Doctrine, that helped to name and understand a particular historic moment. How was this book a direct outgrowth of your previous work, and how has your worldview changed in the years since those other books?

Naomi Klein: In many ways this is a direct continuation of The Shock Doctrine, in that that book begins and ends with Hurricane Katrina and a glimpse of a future in which our world becomes more and more disaster-prone, with an unstable climate and an unstable economy, and each shock pushes us further apart. It’s the vision of the future that I think we actually take so for granted that we just keep repeating that same vision in every sci-fi apocalyptic movie that gets produced. It’s a small group of winners and hordes of locked-out losers.

The Shock Doctrine was about the worst of humanity in crisis. A lot of people asked me, after it was published, whether or not there could be a progressive response. I remember the first event I did for The Shock Doctrine, before it actually came out, in New Orleans and Saket Soni, a fantastic organizer [with the National Guestworker Alliance and the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice], stood up and he said, “OK, they have disaster capitalism, we need disaster collectivism!” I used to quote him all the time. I end that book talking about how there are progressive precedents for crisis being moments of tremendous progressive victory and indeed this is why the right learned how to get in there fast before that could happen, that’s what the Shock Doctrine is.

Going back to No Logo, which was more about tracking the rise of the global production chain, part of what [This Changes Everything] is saying is, we knew that they were combing the world for the cheapest possible labor, and we know the effects of that. I think what was less clear at the time is that there was a direct connection between cheap labor and dirty energy, because if you’re a corporation and all you care about is cutting your production costs, that’s all that matters, it’s going to be cheap, abused labor that doesn’t have the freedom to organize, and it’s going to be coal, the cheapest and dirtiest of the fossil fuels.

So the explosion of the so-called global economy has coincided with an emissions explosion, and why would we be surprised by that, in retrospect? But I think when we were fighting those free-trade deals, a lot of us didn’t understand the climate dimension of that battle. It’s all one long story.

In this book, you say what people just aren’t supposed to say: that fixing the climate is incompatible with capitalism. In particular, you point out the ways that the profit motive has proved corrupting, in some cases to green groups themselves, in other cases to the supposedly beneficent pledges made by the superrich. Can you talk a little bit about how profit hasn’t been able to, and won’t be able to, solve the crisis?

There’s a chapter in the book on why the billionaires won’t save us, and the point of that chapter is not to play gotcha with Michael Bloomberg and Richard Branson. It’s actually to say OK, let’s say that these are the most enlightened billionaires on the planet. And let’s say that they at various points have had the shit scared out of them about climate change. But locked within the imperatives of their model, it’s possible for Michael Bloomberg to simultaneously understand the medium-term risk of fossil fuels and to back reports like “Risky Business” that are all about warnings about the billions of dollars in costs that come with a destabilized climate, and Michael Bloomberg, as an investor, to choose, in a very short-term way, to put his billions in oil and gas, which is what he does.

There was this idea that it was just a process of convincing very wealthy people that this really was a problem, and that there really were costs down the road and that in the long term it would be better to prevent it from happening.

The problem is, capitalism is stupid. You know that cover of Bloomberg Businessweek, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid,” well, it is global warming, but capitalism is stupid in that it doesn’t actually think. It seeks the maximum short-term profit. I think people are mistaking the fact that there are billionaires out there that do get the extent of the problem and really do talk a good game about carbon bubbles and the economic risk, for the idea that that’s going to translate into action. Where that becomes really dangerous is that the UN believes this too. I keep getting press releases from the UN about how the best part of the summit is that it has unprecedented participation from multinationals and CEOs from Bank of America and Walmart and McDonald’s and Amoco. It’s still this same idea that getting people around the table with the right information and the right incentives in place will solve this from the top, and there won’t need to be any friction.

I think the real difference is that now there’s a movement on the outside that says no, that understands that the imperatives for the fossil fuel industry are fundamentally incompatible with a livable climate. That’s the point of the carbon tracker research that kicked off the fossil fuel divestment movement because students look at those numbers and go OK, my university is investing in companies that have made a bet against my future. You can debate fossil fuel divestment as a tactic, but I think that it’s important to understand what you’re up against, and I think there’s much more clarity in the movement now than there has been in decades.

You write about the elite background of the environmental movement, the people who would go hunting with Teddy Roosevelt to convince him to conserve something. Green groups have often seemed to forget the people and focus on saving animals, land, and, as you note in the book, are often taking money from polluters even as they profess to fight them. Do you think these problems are connected?

Yes. I think the environmental movement is not a social movement like we normally think of social movements. It’s not a movement of outsiders, and it never really was, except for the environmental justice movement, which has always from its birth been in a relationship of tension with the green NGOs.

I think it follows seamlessly from those early hunting trips to having BP on your board of directors. The real issue is that at earlier stages of capitalism I think it was easier to reconcile saving a river or saving a mountain with the overall imperatives of expansion and growth, but we’re now at a point where that’s not the case, we need to cut too much and too quickly.

Their model used to be “Sue the Bastards” and it became, . . . “Make Markets for the Bastards.”

The other real turning point, as I say in the book, was what happened in the 1980s. It was Nixon who introduced some of the best top-down environmental regulations. There is a Republican tradition in this country of regulating polluters. But that tradition long ago died. Nobody gets regulated anymore, including polluters. What happened in the ’80s is that it became clear that in order to hang on to that insider status that these green groups needed to change. Some groups decided forget it, we’re going to go on the outside, and there were breakaways and new groups formed that were more militant. And other groups changed with the times.

The Environmental Defense Fund is a really interesting example because they were inspired by Rachel Carson; they are the group that deserves a huge amount of the credit for why DDT was banned. Their model used to be “Sue the Bastards,” and it became, in Eric Pooley’s words, “Make Markets for the Bastards.” That’s the model that continues to this day, and that’s the model that we’re going to see at the UN [this] week.

Large parts of the environmental movement have always been part of the inside game, and when the inside changed, and neoliberalism took over, the movement changed along with it. That left it uniquely ill-equipped to deal with a crisis like climate change. So we wasted a lot of time with carbon trading and carbon offsetting and touting natural gas as a bridge fuel and basically doing anything but getting off fossil fuels.

There’s a growing movement to push foundations and universities to divest from fossil fuels, though critics have argued that this won’t change the behavior of fossil fuel companies. In the book, you argue for the value of this movement and also talk about the move to “reinvest” that money in cleaner technologies. Can you explain why you support the divestment movement and what is happening with reinvestment?

One of the things that has been most pronounced in the resurgence and emergence of these anti-extractive fights, anti-pipeline fights, is that more and more people are coming to the same conclusion, which is that we can’t just say no – we also have to be providing people with real economic alternatives.  We’re just going to be fighting against the worst possible ideas unless we can show people that there’s actually another economic model that will bring them jobs and a better way of life. I hear this again and again, see it again and again: frontline activists going, “We need to build an economic alternative right here.” Communities in England that are fighting fracking have decided to launch their own renewable energy co-ops. First Nations communities in Canada where they’re fighting the Tar Sands are simultaneously launching renewable energy projects because the extractive industries right now are the only ones offering jobs. It’s critical to show that there are these alternatives if we aren’t just going to be scrambling all the time.

I think renewable energy is threatening precisely because it lends itself to decentralization.

The problem is always funding. There’s no shortage of great alternatives out there that are justice-based. In building these alternatives, you’re also strengthening the resistance to fossil fuels. What we’re hearing from frontline communities is that this is what’s most important to embolden communities to fight back. I highlight something like the Black Mesa Water Coalition: They have shut down a coal power plant and are successfully fighting coal, but there’s limits to how much they can win, they say, unless they can show that there’s another way to bring resources to the communities. They have this great proposal to have a utility-scale solar project on Navajo land, land that used to be a coal mine, it’s been decommissioned. It’s a beautiful elegant plan. This is the kind of thing that needs to be funded. And it isn’t being funded by government.

So if we think about the capital that is being moved from fossil fuels right now – and it is being moved: A lot of schools are saying no, but a few have said yes; a lot of cities have said yes; a whole bunch of foundations are now on board. I’m really excited by the prospect of that capital going into investing in a just transition; that can really show how possible and inspiring this transition is.

But we can’t mistake that for the scale of action. We need the scale of action like we’re seeing in Germany, where you have a national feed-in tariff that is shifting that country with incredible speed to renewable energy. In the meantime, until we get there, we also need some really good examples of this working.

There are so many brilliant technologies that do exist to challenge the crisis, you note – just this week we heard that Burlington, Vermont is now getting all of its power from renewable sources. Yet the people who propose to save the earth with technology are more interested in terrifying types of geoengineering. Why do you think solar energy isn’t exciting enough for them?

I think renewable energy is threatening precisely because it lends itself to decentralization. It’s not that money can’t be made, but it lends itself to more people making less money. Some people have talked about fossil fuels as technologies of the 1%, or the 1% of the 1%, because as soon as you have an extractive-based technology – I’d include nuclear in that – the resource itself is concentrated in specific locations; it’s not available everywhere; it takes a lot of money to get it out; it takes a lot of money to refine it; it takes a lot of money to transport it. That means you’re only going to have a few big players who are going to profit a lot.

What we can have is more deliberate growth and that does mean valuing work that we currently don’t value at all.

So it’s not that you can’t have all kinds of economic opportunities in a renewables-based economy. But it is going to be a more level economy because you have so many players. That’s what’s worked best in Germany, the multiplication of these small-scale projects. You’ve got some big projects as well, but you have 900 new energy co-ops, hundreds of municipal-scale renewable energy utilities popping up. It’s not about whether you can make money off this. It’s about whether a few people are going to continue to make the kind of stupid money that is actually the barrier to progress. I think the answer is no, and that’s why they’re fighting tooth and nail to protect that model and are willing to entertain dimming the sun and fertilizing the seas before they entertain putting up solar panels on a mass scale.

Your subtitle is Capitalism vs. the Climate, but you actually go beyond capitalism and challenge the whole mindset of what you call “extractivism.” I kept finding myself thinking, at various times, that the book was also about “patriarchy vs. the climate” and “colonialism vs. the climate.” There’s a theme that runs through the book where you talk about the need to revalue caring work, women’s reproductive labor, even mention the Wages for Housework movement. I would love to hear you talk about what kind of work we need to value, what kinds of values we need to have in order to create a new system beyond capitalism.

It’s a great question. It is beyond – that’s why I talk about extractivism as a mindset. Some people talk about it as instrumentalism, which is really just about “I’m going to take from you and get whatever I can out of you.” That’s how we relate to each other, and that’s how we relate to the earth. It’s not a reciprocal relationship, it isn’t a regenerative relationship. We need to get at the core of how we got here in the first place, which was this mentality of this intense hierarchy between people who supposedly mattered and people who didn’t matter, places that supposedly mattered and places that didn’t matter and could therefore be sacrificed.

It is important to understand the clash between the kind of economic growth that we have and the constraints presented to us by atmospheric science. We can’t just keep growing our economy. But that said, there are low-carbon parts of our economy that we want to expand and can expand. What we can’t have is stupid growth in the same way that we can’t have stupid profits. What we can have is more deliberate growth, and that does mean valuing work that we currently don’t value at all.

When we do that work of valuing work that is now being belittled and mistreated, what we start doing is creating more economic options for people and for communities, and that in turn makes it less likely for people to make those impossible decisions that so many communities are being asked to make right now; whether to have water or whether to have a mine; or whether to have a refinery in their backyard.

That’s why I talk about basic income as well, that there has to be a stronger social safety net because when people don’t have options, they’re going to make bad choices. Let’s have better choices on the table.

You write about the hope that has come since you started work on this book, the new movements, the new attention. What more hopeful signs have you seen since you finished the book?

I’m excited about the energy of this moment where I see a lot of people engaging in climate change that I know weren’t engaged just a year ago. It’s really exciting to see a lot of people who were involved in Occupy Wall Street getting involved in Flood Wall Street. I think those connections are being made really fast by some really smart people who’ve already shown that they can change the debate.

Having spent a few weeks talking mostly to journalists about the book, a lot of mainstream journalists outside of the US, I think that the moment we’re in is essentially about whether or not we believe in social movements. It’s really striking to me. If somebody, a progressive person who has experience with social movements and believes in social movements reads the book, they tell me that they feel inspired and hopeful and excited. But a lot of the liberal journalists who I’ve been speaking to tell me that they read the book, and it just fills them with despair because they don’t believe in activism. I expected to be having arguments about the science; I expected to be having arguments about the policy: I’ve had basically none of those. I’m having arguments about whether or not there’s a reason to have any hope at all. That’s a hard thing to do all day!

I think there’s something about climate change – I’m realizing this more and more since finishing the book – that really demarcates the difference between liberals and radicals, liberals and leftists in the sense that if you are really committed to that sort of reasonable centrist reformist model, top-down model of change, and you also are willing to look at the science and look at the, be honest about the kind of economy we’re in, then you’re filled with despair. Look at Ezra Klein writing “7 reasons America will fail on climate change.” If you believe that the only way the world changes is through a combination of policy wonks and enlightened leaders, then you will be in despair because you will look at the aligned, entrenched interests in a dysfunctional democracy, and you will say “we’re cooked.”

If, however, you believe that social movements have grabbed the wheel of history before and might just do it again, if you’ve caught glimpses of that in your life, the moments when suddenly it seems that everything’s changing, then you still hold out that hope.

I’m looking forward to being around activists for a few days!

Heirs to Rockefeller oil fortune divest from fossil fuels over climate change (The Guardian)

Heirs to Standard Oil fortune join campaign that will withdraw a total of $50bn from fossil fuels, including from tar sands funds

US will not commit to climate change aid for poor nations

in New York

The Guardian, Monday 22 September 2014 17.19 BST

Peter O'Neill, head of the Rockefeller family and great-great-grandson of John D Rockefeller, along with Neva Rockefeller Goodwin (second from the right_, great-granddaughter of of John D. Rockefeller, and Stephen B Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Peter O’Neill, head of the Rockefeller family and great-great-grandson of John D Rockefeller, along with Neva Rockefeller Goodwin (second from the right_, great-granddaughter of of John D. Rockefeller, and Stephen B Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

The heirs to the fabled Rockefeller oil fortune withdrew their funds from fossil fuel investments on Monday, lending a symbolic boost to a $50bn divestment campaign ahead of a United Nations summit on climate change.

The former vice-president, Al Gore, will present the divestment commitments to world leaders, making the case that investments in oil and coal have an uncertain future.

With Monday’s announcement, more than 800 global investors – including foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers, religious groups, healthcare organisations, cities and universities – have pledged to withdraw a total of $50bn from fossil fuel investments over the next five years.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund controls about $860m in assets, said Beth Dorsey, the chief executive of the Wallace Global Fund and the Divest-Invest movement, which has led the divestment campaign. About 7% are invested in fossil fuels.

But the Rockefellers’ decision to cut their ties with oil lends the divestment campaign huge symbolic importance because of their family history. The divestment move also helps bring a campaign launched by scrappy activists on college campuses into the financial mainstream.

But for oil, there may not have been a Rockefeller fortune. John and William Rockefeller were the co-founders of the Standard Oil Company, which at the time operated the world’s biggest refineries, and overtime spawned Exxon, Amoco and Chevron.

Now, after a year of deliberations, the descendants of those original Rockefellers had decided the time had come to move away from oil.

“John D Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, moved America out of whale oil and into petroleum,” Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, said in a statement. “We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy.”

In addition to the Rockefellers, the World Council of Churches, which represents some 590 million people in 150 countries – also pulled its investments from fossil fuels on Monday. The move represented a turning point for a movement which began by demanding that universities purge their financial holdings of ties to the fossil fuel industry.

About 30 cities have also chosen to divest, including Santa Monica and Seattle.

“When you have the Rockefellers and the World Council of Churches and institutions with global reach coming together and divesting, then this movement which began just three short years ago has really reached a significant turning point,” Dorsey said.

In that time, supporters such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu have framed divestment from fossil fuels as a moral imperative – like the anti-apartheid movement of a generation ago.

“Climate change is the human rights challenge of our time. We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there is no tomorrow, for there will be no tomorrow,” Tutu said in a video address.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund over the years has been a big supporter of environmental causes, including to campaign groups opposed to fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline, which made for an awkward fit at times with its continued investment in oil and gas. The family plans to first divest from tar sands commitments.

A number of universities have also started to cut their ties with fossil fuel – with Stanford University dropping coal holdings from its $18bn endowment.

But divestment remains a hard sell. The University of California system said last week it would continue to hold on to fossil fuels. Harvard University has also resisted pressure from faculty and students to divest – although Yale has said it will look into whether renewable energy offers a better bet in the long run.

“In the last great divestment campaign, Harvard said no before it said yes. I think it’s just a matter of time,” Dorsey said. “Unlike with the anti-apartheid movement, this is not just an ethical issue. There is a powerful financial reason as well.”

Working Undercover in a Slaughterhouse: an interview with Timothy Pachirat (Medium)

Timothy Pachirat, is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the author of Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight, an ethnographic account of his undercover job in a cattle slaughterhouse. Pachirat’s book reveals the timeless human pattern of hidden violence and reluctance to awaken to unpleasant realities that we are all implicated in by the very fact of living together in society. I interviewed him in 2012 as part of my MetaHack interview series .

 

Avi Solomon: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Timothy Pachirat: I was born and raised in northeastern Thailand in a Thai-American family. In high school, I spent a year in the high desert of rural Oregon as an exchange student where I worked on a cattle ranch, farmed alfalfa, and—improbably—became a running back for the school’s football team. Since then, I’ve lived in Illinois, Indiana, Connecticut, Alabama, Nebraska, and New York City working as a builder of housing trusses, a pizza deliverer, a behavioral therapist for children diagnosed with autism, a stay-at-home-dad, a graduate student, a slaughterhouse worker, and as an assistant professor of politics.

 

Timothy Pachirat

Avi: What alerted you to the importance of doing ethnographic fieldwork?

Timothy: Like many mixed-race, mixed-culture, and mixed-language kids, I developed something of an innate ethnographic sensibility by virtue of the complex cultural terrain I grew up in. Long before I’d ever heard the word ‘ethnography,’ for example, I spent my undergraduate fall and spring breaks sleeping alongside and getting to know unhoused men and women on Lower Wacker Drive in Chicago as a way of making some sense of the vast inequalities I perceived in American society and in the world. While pursuing a Ph.D. in political science at Yale University, it seemed natural to gravitate to a research orientation that would allow me to engage bodily—as participant and as observer—with the lived experiences of people I might not otherwise ever come into contact with. I was learning a lot of fancy theories that were thrilling on paper, and I was learning some powerful techniques of statistical analysis, but only ethnography allowed me to weigh those made-in-the-academy concepts and techniques against the situated, specific, and beautifully complex lived experiences of the actual social worlds those concepts and techniques purported to describe and explain.

 

Avi: Why did you choose to go undercover in a slaughterhouse?

Timothy: I wanted to understand how massive processes of violence become normalized in modern society, and I wanted to do so from the perspective of those who work in the slaughterhouse. My hunch was that close attention to how the work of industrialized killing is performed might illuminate not only how the realities of industrialized animal slaughter are made tolerable, but also the way distance and concealment operate in analogous social processes: war executed by volunteer armies; the subcontracting of organized terror to mercenaries; and the violence underlying the manufacturing of thousands of items and components we make contact with in our everyday lives. Like its more self-evidently political analogues—the prison, the hospital, the nursing home, the psychiatric ward, the refugee camp, the detention center, the interrogation room, and the execution chamber—the modern industrialized slaughterhouse is ‘zone of confinement,’ a ‘segregated and isolated territory,’ in the words of sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, ‘Invisible,’ and ‘on the whole inaccessible to ordinary members of society.’ I worked as an entry level worker on the kill floor of an industrialized slaughterhouse in order to understand, from the perspective of those who participate directly in them, how these zones of confinement operate.

Avi: Can you tell us about the slaughterhouse you worked in?

Timothy: Because my goal was not to write an expose of a particular place, I do not name the Nebraska slaughterhouse I worked in or use real names for the people I encountered there. The slaughterhouse employs nearly eight hundred nonunionized workers, the vast majority being immigrants from Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and East Africa. It generates over $820 million annually in sales to distributors within and outside of the United States and ranks among the top handful of cattle-slaughtering facilities worldwide in volume of production. The line speed on the kill floor is approximately three hundred cattle per hour, or one every twelve seconds. In a typical workday, between twenty-two and twenty-five hundred cattle are killed there, adding up to well over ten thousand cattle killed per five-day week, or more than half a million cattle slaughtered each year.

Avi: What jobs did you end up doing there?

Timothy: My first job was as a liver hanger in the cooler. For ten hours each day, I stood in 34 degrees cold and took freshly eviscerated livers off an overhead line and hung them on carts to be chilled for packing. I was then moved to the chutes, where I drove live cattle into the knocking box where they were shot in the head with a captive bolt gun. Finally, I was promoted to a quality-control position, a job that gave me access to every part of the kill floor and made me an intermediary between the USDA federal meat inspectors and the kill floor managers.

Avi: How did you acclimatize to the work?

Timothy: Slowly and painfully. Each job came with its own set of physical, psychological, and emotional challenges. Although it was physically demanding, my main battle hanging livers in the cooler was with the unbearable monotony. Pranks, jokes, and even physical pain became ways of negotiating that monotony. Working in the chutes took me out of the sterilized environment of the cooler and forced a confrontation with the pain and fear of each individual animal as they were driven up the serpentine line into the knocking box. Working as a quality control worker forced me to master a set of technical and bureaucratic requirements even as it made me complicit in surveillance and disciplining my former coworkers on the line. Although it’s been over seven years since I left the kill floor, I am still struck by the continued emotional and psychological impacts that come from direct participation in the routinized taking of life.

Avi: How did your coworkers treat you?

Timothy: I would never have lasted more than a few days in the slaughterhouse were it not for the kindness, acceptance, and, in some cases, friendship of my fellow line workers. They showed me how to do the work, bailed me out when I screwed up, and, more importantly, taught me how to survive the work. Still, there were divisions and tensions amongst the workers based on race, gender, and job responsibilities. In addition to showing the forms of solidarity amongst the workers, my book also details these tensions and how I navigated them.

 

“Knocking” Box

Avi: Who is a “knocker”?

Timothy: The knocker is the worker who stands at the knocking box and shoots each individual animal in the head with a captive bolt steel gun. Of 121 distinct kill floor jobs that I map and describe in the book, only the knocker both sees the cattle while sentient and delivers the blow that is supposed to render them insensible. On an average day, this lone worker shoots 2,500 individual animals at a rate of one every twelve seconds.

Avi: Who else is directly involved in killing each cow?

Timothy: After the knocker shoots the cattle, they fall onto a conveyor belt where they are shackled and hoisted onto an overhead line. Hanging upside down by their hind legs, they travel through a series of ninety degree turns that take them out of the knocker’s line of sight. There, a presticker and sticker sever the carotid arteries and jugular veins. The animals then bleed out as they travel further down the overhead chain to the tail ripper, who begins the process of removing their body parts and hides. Of over 800 workers on the kill floor, only four are directly involved in the killing of the cattle and less than 20 have a line of sight to the killing.

Avi: Were you able to interview any knockers?

Timothy: I was not able to directly interview the knocker, but I spoke with many other workers about their perceptions of the knocker. There is a kind of collective mythology built up around this particular worker, a mythology that allows for an implicit moral exchange in which the knocker alone performs the work of killing, while the work of the other 800 slaughterhouse workers is morally unrelated to that killing. It is a fiction, but a convincing one: of all the workers in the slaughterhouse, only the knocker delivers the blow that begins the irreversible process of transforming the live creatures into dead ones. If you listen carefully enough to the hundreds of workers performing the 120 other jobs on the kill floor, this might be the refrain you hear: ‘Only the knocker.’ It is simple moral math: the kill floor operates with 120+1 jobs. And as long as the 1 exists, as long as there is some plausible narrative that concentrates the heaviest weight of the dirtiest work on this 1, then the other 120 kill floor workers can say, and believe it, ‘I’m not going to take part in this.’

Avi: What are the main strategies used to hide violence in the slaughterhouse?

Timothy: The first and most obvious is that the violence of industrialized killing is hidden from society at large. Over 8.5 billion animals are killed for food each year in the United States, but this killing is carried out by a small minority of largely immigrant workers who labor behind opaque walls, most often in rural, isolated locations far from urban centers. Furthermore, laws supported by the meat and livestock industries are currently under consideration in six states that criminalize the publicizing of what happens in slaughterhouses and other animal facilities without the consent of the slaughterhouse owners. Iowa’s House of Representatives, for example, forwarded a bill to the Iowa Senate last year that would make it a felony to distribute or possess video, audio, or printed material gleaned through unauthorized access to a slaughterhouse or animal facility.

Second, the slaughterhouse as a whole is divided into compartmentalized departments. The front office is isolated from the fabrication department, which is in turn isolated from the cooler, which is in turn isolated from the kill floor. It is entirely possible to spend years working in the front office, fabrication department, or cooler of an industrialized slaughterhouse that slaughters over half a million cattle per year without ever once encountering a live animal much less witnessing one being killed.

 

Cattle Kill Floor Plan

But third and most importantly, the work of killing is hidden even at the site where one might expect it to be most visible: the kill floor itself. The complex division of labor and space acts to compartmentalize and neutralize the experience of “killing work” for each of the workers on the kill floor. I’ve already mentioned the division of labor in which only a handful of workers, out of a total workforce of over 800, are directly involved in or even have a line of sight to the killing of the animals. To give another example, the kill floor is divided spatially into a clean side and a dirty side. The dirty side refers to everything that happens while the cattle’s hides are still on them and the clean side to everything that happens after the hides have been removed. Workers from the clean side are segregated from workers on the dirty side, even during food and bathroom breaks. This translates into a kind of phenomenological compartmentalization where the minority of workers who deal with the “animals” while their hides are still on are kept separate from the majority of workers who deal with the *carcasses* after their hides have been removed. In this way, the violence of turning animal into carcass is quarantined amongst the dirty side workers, and even there it is further confined by finer divisions of labor and space.

In addition to spatial and labor divisions, the use of language is another way of concealing the violence of killing. From the moment cattle are unloaded from transport trucks into the slaughterhouse’s holding pens, managers and kill floor supervisors refer to them as ‘beef.’ Although they are living, breathing, sentient beings, they have already linguistically been reduced to inanimate flesh, to use-objects. Similarly, there is a slew of acronyms and technical language around the food safety inspection system that reduces the quality control worker’s job to a bureaucratic, technical regime rather than one that is forced to confront the truly massive taking of life. Although the quality control worker has full physical movement throughout the kill floor and sees every aspect of the killing, her interpretive frame is interdicted by the technical and bureaucratic requirements of the job. Temperatures, hydraulic pressures, acid concentrations, bacterial counts, and knife sanitization become the primary focus, rather than the massive, unceasing taking of life.

Avi: Is anyone working in the slaughterhouse consciously aware of these strategies?

Timothy: I don’t think anyone sat down and said, ‘Let’s design a slaughtering process that creates a maximal distance between each worker and the violence of killing and allows each worker to contribute without having to confront the violence directly.’ The division between clean and dirty side on the kill floor mentioned earlier, for example, is overtly motivated by a food-safety logic. The cattle come into the slaughterhouse caked in feces and vomit, and from a food-safety perspective the challenge is to remove the hides while minimizing the transfer of these contaminants to the flesh underneath. But what’s fascinating is that the effects of these organizations of space and labor are not just increased ‘efficiency’ or increased ‘food-safety’ but also the distancing and concealment of violent processes even from those participating directly in them. From a political point of view, from a point of view interested in understanding how relations of violent domination and exploitation are reproduced, it is precisely these effects that matter most.

 

Auschwitz Death Factory Plan by Sonderkommando survivor David Olere

Avi: Did the death factories of Auschwitz have the same mechanisms at work?

Timothy: I recommend Zygmunt Bauman’s superb book, Modernity and the Holocaust, for those interested in how parallel mechanisms of distance, concealment, and surveillance worked to neutralize the killing work taking place in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. The lesson here, of course, is not that slaughterhouses and genocides are morally or functionally equivalent, but rather that large-scale, routinized, and systematic violence is entirely consistent with the kinds of bureaucratic structures and mechanisms we typically associate with modern civilization. The French sociologist Norbert Elias argues—convincingly, in my view—that it is the “concealment” and “displacement” of violence, rather than its elimination or reduction, that is the hallmark of civilization. In my view, the contemporary industrialized slaughterhouse provides an exemplary case that highlights some of the most salient features of this phenomenon.

Avi: Violence is found hidden in even the most “normal” of lives. How can we spot this pervading presence in our daily life?

Timothy: We—the ‘we’ of the relatively affluent and powerful—live in a time and a spatial order in which the ‘normalcy’ of our lives requires our active complicity in forms of exploitation and violence that we would decry and disavow were the physical, social, and linguistic distances that separate us from them ever to be collapsed. This is true of the brutal and entirely unnecessary confinement and killing of billions of animals each year for food, of the exploitation and suffering of workers in Shenzhen, China who produce our iPads and cell phones, of the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ deployed in the name of our security, and of the ‘collateral damage’ created by the unmanned-aerial-vehicles that our taxes fund. Our complicity lies not in a direct infliction of violence but rather in our tacit agreement to look away and not to ask some very, very simple questions: Where does this meat come from and how did it get here? Who assembled the latest gadget that just arrived in the mail? What does it mean to create categories of torturable human beings? The mechanisms of distancing and concealment inherent in our divisions of space and labor and in our unthinking use of euphemistic language make it seductively easy to avoid pursuing the complex answers to these simple questions with any sort of determination.

Months after I left the slaughterhouse, I got in an argument with a brilliant friend over who was more morally responsible for the killing of the animals: those who ate meat or the 121 workers who did the killing. She maintained, passionately and with conviction, that the people who did the killing were more responsible because they were the ones performing the physical actions that took the animal’s lives. Meat eaters, she claimed, were only indirectly responsible. At the time, I took the opposite position, holding that those who benefited at a distance, delegating this terrible work to others while disclaiming responsibility for it, bore more moral responsibility, particularly in contexts like the slaughterhouse, where those with the fewest opportunities in society performed the dirty work.

I am now more inclined to think that it is the preoccupation with moral responsibility itself that serves as a deflection. In the words of philosopher John Lachs, ‘The responsibility for an act can be passed on, but its experience cannot.’ I’m keenly interested in asking what it might mean for those who benefit from physically and morally dirty work not only to assume some share of responsibility for it but also to directly experience it. What might it mean, in other words, to collapse some of the mechanisms of physical, social, and linguistic distances that separate our ‘normal’ lives from the violence and exploitation required to sustain and reproduce them? I explore some of these questions at greater length in the final chapter of my book.

 

Avi: Who was Cinci Freedom? What mythologizing purpose does she serve?

Timothy: I open the book with the story of a cow that escaped from a slaughterhouse up the street from the one I was working in. Omaha police chased the cow and cornered it in an alleyway that bordered my slaughterhouse. It happened to be during our ten minute afternoon break and many of the slaughterhouse workers witnessed the police opening fire on the animal with shotguns. The next day in the lunchroom, the anger, disgust, and horror at the police killing of the animal was palpable, as was the strong sense of identification with the animal’s treatment at the hands of the police. And yet, at the end of lunch break, workers returned to work on a kill floor that killed 2,500 animals each day.

Cinci Freedom was another Charolais cow that escaped from a Cincinnati slaughterhouse in 2002. She was recaptured after several days only with the help of thermal imaging equipment deployed from a police helicopter. Unlike the anoymous Omaha cow that was gunned down by the police, Cinci Freedom became an instant celebrity. The mayor gave her a key to the city and she was provided passage to The Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY, where she lived until 2008.

Although at first glance the fates of the Omaha cow and of Cinci Freedom are very different, I think both responses are equally effective ways of neutralizing the threat posed by these animals. Their escapes from the slaughterhouse were not just physical escapes but also conceptual escapes, moments of rupture in an otherwise routine and normalized system of industrialized killing. Extermination and elevation to celebrity status (not unlike the ritual presidential pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey) are both ways of containing the dangers posed by these moments of conceptual rupture. They also point to the promises and limitations of rupture as a political tactic, for example the digital ruptures that occur with the release of shocking undercover footage from slaughterhouses and other zones of confinement where the work of violence is routinely carried out on our behalf.

Money talks when it comes to acceptability of ‘sin’ companies, study reveals (Science Daily)

Date: July 30, 2014

Source: University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

Summary: Companies who make their money in the ‘sin’ industries such as the tobacco, alcohol and gaming industries typically receive less attention from institutional investors and financial analysts. But new research shows social norms and attitudes towards these types of businesses are subject to compromise when their share price looks to be on the rise.


Companies who make their money in the “sin” industries such as the tobacco, alcohol and gaming industries typically receive less attention from institutional investors and financial analysts.

But new research shows social norms and attitudes towards these types of businesses are subject to compromise when their share price looks to be on the rise. A paper from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management found that institutional shareholdings and analysts’ coverage of sin firms were low when firm performance was low but went up with rising performance expectations.

That suggests that market participants may ignore social norms and standards with the right financial reward.

“This is a way to test the trade-off between people’s non-financial and financial incentives. The boundary of people’s social norms is not a constant,” said researcher Hai Lu, an associate professor of accounting at the Rotman School. Prof. Lu co-wrote the paper with two former Rotman PhD students, McMaster University’s Kevin Veenstra and Yanju Liu, now with Singapore Management University.

The paper sheds light on why there can be a disconnect between the investment behaviour of Wall St. and the ethical expectations of ordinary people. It also suggests a worrisome implication that compromising one’s ethical values in the face of high financial rewards can become a social norm in itself.

On the brighter side, the paper also finds that strong social norms still have an influence over people’s behaviour. If social norms are strong enough and the price of ignoring them is high, this may act as a disincentive to disregard them in favour of other benefits.

This is the first study to examine whether the social acceptability of sin stocks can vary with financial performance. The researchers compared consumption and attitudinal data with information on sin firm stocks, analysts’ coverage and levels of institutional investment.

Journal Reference:

  1. Liu, Yanju and Lu, Hai and Veenstra, Kevin J. Is Sin Always a Sin? The Interaction Effect of Social Norms and Financial Incentives on Market Participants’ Behavior. Accounting, Organizations and Society, March 31, 2014 [link]

Luxury cruise line accused of offering ‘environmental disaster tourism’ with high-carbon footprint Arctic voyage (The Independent)

Cruise passengers will pay upwards of £12,000 to see polar bears and humpback whales in their natural habitat – before it disappears

ADAM WITHNALL
Tuesday 29 July 2014

A luxury cruise operator in the US has announced it will offer a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip to experience the environmental devastation of the Arctic – using a mode of transport that emits three times more CO2 per passenger per mile than a jumbo jet.

It will be the first ever leisure cruise through the Northwest Passage, only accessible now because of the melting of polar ice, and is being marketed at those with an interest in witnessing the effects of climate change first-hand.

Tickets for the trip, scheduled for 16 August 2016 and organised by Crystal Cruises, will cost between $20,000 (£12,000) and $44,000.

Yet there is no mention on Crystal Cruises’ promotion or FAQ for the journey of the boat’s own carbon footprint.

Up to 1,070 passengers will be taken on the 32-day expedition to see seals, walruses, humpback whales and musk-ox – though the company admits there is “no guarantee” of catching a glimpse of a polar bear.

The bulk of the voyage will take place on the Crystal Serenity, a 68,000-ton, 13-deck ship, though it will also be accompanied by an escort vessel and a helicopter.

Popular Science described the trip as “environmental disaster tourism”, and quoted research which suggests that the carbon footprint of a cruise ship, per passenger per mile covered, is triple that of a Boeing 747 flight.

The company said passengers may be able to see endangered polar bears while on the cruise

The company said passengers may be able to see endangered polar bears while on the cruise

The cruise promotion was criticised by social media users for giving people the opportunity to “see/help ruin the environment”, “watch the ravages of global warming in person and become a human vulture” and take a “high-carbon-footprint cruise to watch polar bears drown”.

World Ocean Observatory wrote: “Is no place safe from our intrusion, waste, and consumption?”

In an FAQ on its website, Crystal Cruises said 14 experts would be accompanying guests on the cruise to give lectures about the impacts on the environment around them of climate change, as well as the “historic” nature of their inaugural journey down the Northern Passage.

Company executive Thomas Mazloum told the website GCaptain: “During this voyage, speakers will enlighten guests on information regarding climate change, and how it has impacted this passage.

“With the recent retreat of polar ice, the time is right for us to lead the way within the travel industry, as Crystal has done throughout our 25-year history.”

Under the heading of “Environmental” on its FAQ, Crystal Cruises said both the main ship and escort vessel would “voluntarily use Marine Gas Oil, a low-sulphur fuel… well in excess of the existing environmental regulations”.

The Pricing of Everything (The Guardian)

The Natural Capital Agenda looks like an answer to the environmental crisis. But it’s a delusion.

By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website, 24th July 2014

This is the transcript of George Monbiot’s SPERI Annual Lecture, hosted by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. The lecture was delivered without notes, and transcribed afterwards, so a few small changes have been made for readability, but it’s more or less as given. You can watch the video here.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing the death of both the theory and the practice of neoliberal capitalism. This is the doctrine which holds that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. It holds that people are best served, and their prosperity is best advanced, by the minimum of intervention and spending by the state. It contends that we can maximise the general social interest through the pursuit of self-interest.

To illustrate the spectacular crashing and burning of that doctrine, let me tell you the sad tale of a man called Matt Ridley. He was a columnist on the Daily Telegraph until he became – and I think this tells us something about the meritocratic pretensions of neoliberalism – the hereditary Chair of Northern Rock: a building society that became a bank. His father had been Chair of Northern Rock before him, which appears to have been his sole qualification.

While he was a columnist on the Telegraph he wrote the following:

The government “is a self-seeking flea on the backs of the more productive people of this world. … governments do not run countries, they parasitize them.”(1) He argued that taxes, bail-outs, regulations, subsidies, interventions of any kind are an unwarranted restraint on market freedom. When he became Chairman of Northern Rock, Mr Ridley was able to put some of these ideas into practice. You can see the results today on your bank statements.

In 2007 Matt Ridley had to go cap in hand to the self-seeking flea and beg it for what became £27 billion. This was rapidly followed by the first run on a British bank since 1878. The government had to guarantee all the deposits of the investors in the bank. Eventually it had to nationalise the bank, being the kind of parasitic self-seeking flea that it is, in order to prevent more or less the complete collapse of the banking system(2).

By comparison to Mr Ridley, the likes of Paul Flowers, our poor old crystal Methodist, were pretty half-hearted. In fact about the only things which distinguish Mr Flowers from the rest of the banking fraternity were that a) he allegedly bought his own cocaine and b) he singularly failed to bring the entire banking system to its knees.

Where’s Mr Ridley now? Oh, we don’t call him Mr Ridley any more. He sits in the House of Lords as a Conservative peer. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how our system works.

It is not just that neoliberalism has failed spectacularly in that this creed – which was supposed to prevent state spending and persuade us that we didn’t need state spending – has required the greatest and most wasteful state spending in history to bail out the deregulated banks. But also that it has singularly failed to create the great society of innovators and entrepreneurs that we were promised by the originators of this doctrine, by people like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who insisted that it would create a society of entrepreneurs.

As Thomas Piketty, a name which is on everybody’s lips at the moment, so adeptly demonstrates in his new book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, what has happened over the past thirty years or so has been a great resurgence of patrimonial capitalism, of a rentier economy, in which you make far more money either by owning capital or by positioning yourself as a true self-serving flea upon the backs of productive people, a member of an executive class whose rewards are out of all kilter with its performance or the value it delivers(3). You make far more money in either of those positions than you possibly can through entrepreneurial activity. If wealth under this system were the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.

So just at this moment, this perfect moment of the total moral and ideological collapse of the neoliberal capitalist system, some environmentalists stumble across it and say, “This is the answer to saving the natural world.” And they devise a series of ideas and theories and mechanisms which are supposed to do what we’ve been unable to do by other means: to protect the world from the despoilation and degradation which have done it so much harm.

I’m talking about the development of what could be called the Natural Capital Agenda: the pricing, valuation, monetisation, financialisation of nature in the name of saving it.

Sorry, did I say nature? We don’t call it that any more. It is now called natural capital. Ecological processes are called ecosystem services because, of course, they exist only to serve us. Hills, forests, rivers: these are terribly out-dated terms. They are now called green infrastructure. Biodiversity and habitats? Not at all à la mode my dear. We now call them asset classes in an ecosystems market. I am not making any of this up. These are the names we now give to the natural world.

Those who support this agenda say, “Look, we are failing spectacularly to protect the natural world – and we are failing because people aren’t valuing it enough. Companies will create a road scheme or a supermarket – or a motorway service station in an ancient woodland on the edge of Sheffield – and they see the value of what is going to be destroyed as effectively zero. They weigh that against the money to be made from the development with which they want to replace it. So if we were to price the natural world, and to point out that it is really worth something because it delivers ecosystems services to us in the form of green infrastructure and asset classes within an ecosystems market (i.e. water, air, soil, pollination and the rest of it), then perhaps we will be able to persuade people who are otherwise unpersuadable that this is really worth preserving.”

They also point out that through this agenda you can raise a lot of money, which isn’t otherwise available for conservation projects. These are plausible and respectable arguments. But I think they are the road to ruin – to an even greater ruin than we have at the moment.

Let me try to explain why with an escalating series of arguments. I say escalating because they rise in significance, starting with the relatively trivial and becoming more serious as we go.

Perhaps the most trivial argument against the Natural Capital Agenda is that, in the majority of cases, efforts to price the natural world are complete and utter gobbledygook. And the reason why they are complete and utter gobbledygook is that they are dealing with values which are non-commensurable.

They are trying to compare things which cannot be directly compared. The result is the kind of nonsense to be found in the Natural Capital Committee’s latest report, published a couple of weeks ago(4). The Natural Capital Committee was set up by this Government, supposedly in pursuit of better means of protecting the natural world.

It claimed, for example, that if fresh water ecosystems in this country were better protected, the additional aesthetic value arising from that protection would be £700 million. That’s the aesthetic value: in other words, what it looks like. We will value the increment in what it looks like at £700 million. It said that if grassland and sites of special scientific interest were better protected, their wildlife value would increase by £40 million. The value of their wildlife – like the chalk hill blues and the dog violets that live on protected grasslands – would be enhanced by £40 million.

These figures, ladies and gentlemen, are marmalade. They are finely shredded, boiled to a pulp, heavily sweetened … and still indigestible. In other words they are total gibberish.

But they are not the worst I’ve come across. Under the last Government, the Department for Transport claimed to have discovered “the real value of time.” Let me read you the surreal sentence in which this bombshell was dropped. “Forecast growth in the real value of time is shown in Table 3.”(5) There it was, the real value of time – rising on a graph.

The Department for Environment, when it launched the National Ecosystem Assessment in 2011, came out with something equally interesting. It said it had established “the true value of nature for the very first time”(6). Unfortunately it wasn’t yet able to give us a figure for “the true value of nature”, but it did manage to provide figures for particular components of that value of nature. Let me give you just one of these. It said that if we looked after our parks and greens well they would enhance our well-being to the tune of £290 per household per year in 2060.

What does it mean? It maintained that the increment in well-being is composed of “recreation, health and solace”; natural spaces in which “our culture finds its roots and sense of place”; “shared social value” arising from developing “a sense of purpose” and being “able to achieve important personal goals and participate in society” enhanced by “supportive personal relationships” and “strong and inclusive communities”(7). So you put solace and sense of place and social value and personal goals and supportive personal relationships and strong and inclusive communities all together into one figure and you come out with £290 per household per year.

All we require now is for the Cabinet Office to give us a price for love and a true value for society and we will have a single figure for the meaning of life.

I know what you’re thinking: it’s 42(8). But Deep Thought failed to anticipate the advent of Strictly Come Dancing, which has depreciated the will to live to the extent that it’s now been downgraded to 41.

It is complete rubbish, and surely anyone can see it’s complete rubbish. Not only is it complete rubbish, it is unimprovable rubbish. It’s just not possible to have meaningful figures for benefits which cannot in any sensible way be measured in financial terms.

Now there are some things that you can do. They are pretty limited, but there are some genuinely commensurable pay-offs that can be assessed. So, for instance, a friend of mine asked me the other day, “What’s the most lucrative investment a land owner can make?”. I didn’t know. “An osprey! Look at Bassenthwaite in the Lake District where there’s a pair of ospreys breeding and the owners of the land have 300,000 people visiting them every year. They charge them for car parking and they probably make a million pounds a year.”

You can look at that and compare it to what you were doing before, such as rearing sheep, which is only viable because of farm subsidies: you actually lose money by keeping sheep on the land. So you can make a direct comparison because you’ve got two land uses which are both generating revenue (or losing revenue) that is already directly costed in pounds. I’ve got no problem with that. You can come out and say there is a powerful economic argument for having ospreys rather than sheep.

There are a few others I can think of. You can, for instance, look at watersheds. There is an insurance company which costed Pumlumon, the highest mountain in the Cambrian mountains, and worked out that it would be cheaper to buy Pumlumon and reforest it in order to slow down the flow of water into the lowlands than to keep paying out every year for carpets in Gloucester.

There were quite a few assumptions in there, as we don’t yet have all the hydrological data we need, but in principle you can unearth some directly commensurable values – the cost of insurance pay-outs, in pounds, versus the cost of buying the land, in pounds – and produce a rough ballpark comparison. But in the majority of cases you are not looking at anything remotely resembling financial commensurability.

So that is Problem One, and that is the most trivial of the problems.

Problem Two is that you are effectively pushing the natural world even further into the system that is eating it alive. Dieter Helm, the Chairman of the Natural Capital Committee, said the following in the same report I quoted from just a moment ago. “The environment is part of the economy and needs to be properly integrated into it so that growth opportunities will not be missed.”(9)

There, ladies and gentlemen, you have what seems to me the Government’s real agenda. This is not to protect the natural world from the depredations of the economy. It is to harness the natural world to the economic growth that has been destroying it. All the things which have been so damaging to the living planet are now being sold to us as its salvation; commodification, economic growth, financialisation, abstraction. Now, we are told, these devastating processes will protect it.

(Sorry, did I say the living planet? I keep getting confused about this. I meant asset classes within an ecosystem market.)

It gets worse still when you look at the way in which this is being done. Look at the government’s Ecosystems Markets Task Force, which was another of these exotic vehicles for chopping up nature and turning it into money. From the beginning it was pushing nature towards financialisation. It talked of “harnessing City financial expertise to assess the ways that these blended revenue streams and securitisations enhance the return on investment of an environmental bond.”(10) That gives you an idea of what the agenda is – as well as the amount of gobbledygook it is already generating.

What we are talking about is giving the natural world to the City of London, the financial centre, to look after. What could possibly go wrong? Here we have a sector whose wealth is built on the creation of debt. That’s how it works, on stacking up future liabilities. Shafting the future in order to serve the present: that is the model. And then that debt is sliced up into collateralised debt obligations and all the other marvellous devices that worked so well last time round.

Now nature is to be captured and placed in the care of the financial sector, as that quote suggests. In order for the City to extract any value from it, the same Task Force says we need to “unbundle” ecosystem services so they can be individually traded(11).

That’s the only way in which it can work – this financialisation and securitisation and bond issuing and everything else they are talking about. Nature has to be unbundled. If there is one thing we know about ecosystems, and we know it more the more we discover about them, it’s that you cannot safely disaggregate their functions without destroying the whole thing. Ecosystems function as coherent holistic systems, in which the different elements depend upon each other. The moment you start to unbundle them and to trade them separately you create a formula for disaster.

Problem Three involves what appears to be a very rude word, because hardly anyone uses it, certainly not in polite society. It begins with a ‘p’ and it’s five letters long and most people seem unable to utter it. It is, of course, power.

Power is the issue which seems to get left out of the Natural Capital Agenda. And because it gets left out, because it it is, I think, deliberately overlooked, what we are effectively seeing is the invocation of money as a kind of fairy dust, that you sprinkle over all the unresolved problems of power in the hope that they will magically resolve themselves. But because they are unresolved, because they are unaddressed, because they aren’t even acknowledged; the natural capital agenda cannot possibly work.

Let me give you an example of a system which doesn’t work because of this problem, despite high commensurability, simple and straightforward outputs and a simple and straightforward monitoring system. That is the European Emissions Trading System, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions by creating a carbon price.

I am not inherently opposed to it. I can see it is potentially as good a mechanism as any other for trying gradually to decarbonise society. But it has failed. An effective price for carbon begins at about £30 a ton. That is the point at which you begin to see serious industrial change and the disinvestment in fossil fuels we so desperately need to see.

Almost throughout the history of the European Emissions Trading System, the price of carbon has hovered around five Euros. That is where it is today. The reason is an old-fashioned one. The heavily polluting industries, the carbon-intensive industries, which were being asked to change their practices, lobbied the European Union to ensure that they received an over-allocation of carbon permits. Far too many permits were issued. When the European Parliament started talking about withdrawing some of those permits, it too was lobbied and it caved in and failed to withdraw them. So the price has stayed very low.

What we see here is the age-old problem of power. Governments and the Commission are failing to assert political will. They are failing to stand up for themselves and say, “This is how the market is going to function. It is not going to function without a dirigiste and interventionist approach.” Without that dirigiste and interventionist approach we end up with something which is almost entirely useless. In fact worse than useless because I don’t think there has been a single coal-burning power station, motorway or airport in the European Union approved since the ETS came along, which has not been justified with reference to the market created by the trading system.

You haven’t changed anything by sprinkling money over the problem, you have merely called it something new. You have called it a market as opposed to a political system. But you still need the regulatory involvement of the state to make that market work. Because we persuade ourselves that we don’t need it any more because we have a shiny new market mechanism, we end up fudging the issue of power and not addressing those underlying problems.

Let me give you another example: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity project, overseen by Pavan Sukhdev from Deutsche Bank. This huge exercise came up with plenty of figures, most of which I see as nonsense. But one or two appeared to be more more plausible. Among the most famous of these was its valuation of mangrove forests. It maintained that if a businessman or businesswoman cuts down a mangrove forest and replaces it with a shrimp farm, that will be worth around $1,200 per hectare per year to that person. If we leave the mangrove forest standing, because it protects the communities who live on the coastline and because it is a wonderful breeding ground for fish and crustaceans, it will be worth $12,000 per hectare per year(12). So when people see the figures they will conclude that it makes sense to save the mangrove forests, and hey presto, we have solved the problem. My left foot!

People have known for centuries the tremendous benefits that mangrove forests deliver. But has that protected them from being turned into shrimp farms or beach resorts? No, it hasn’t. And the reason it hasn’t is that it might be worth $12,000 to the local impoverished community of fisher folk, but if it’s worth $1,200 to a powerful local politician who wants to turn it into shrimp farms, that counts for far more. Putting a price on the forest doesn’t in any way change that relationship.

You do not solve the problem this way. You do not solve the problem without confronting power. But what we are doing here is reinforcing power, is strengthening the power of the people with the money, the power of the economic system as a whole against the power of nature.

Let me give you one or two examples of that. Let’s start on the outskirts of Sheffield with Smithy Wood. This is an ancient woodland, which eight hundred years ago was recorded as providing charcoal for the monks who were making iron there. It is an important part of Sheffield’s history and culture. It is full of stories and a sense of place and a sense of being able to lose yourself in something different. Someone wants to turn centre of Smithy Wood into a motorway service station(13).

This might have been unthinkable until recently. But it is thinkable now because the government is introducing something called biodiversity offsets. If you trash a piece of land here you can replace its value by creating some habitat elsewhere. This is another outcome of the idea that nature is fungible and tradeable, that it can be turned into something else: swapped either for money or for another place, which is said to have similar value.

What they’ve said is, “We’re going to plant 60,000 saplings, with rabbit guards around them, in some other place, and this will make up for trashing Smithy Wood.” It seems to me unlikely that anyone would have proposed trashing this ancient woodland to build a service station in the middle of it, were it not for the possibility of biodiversity offsets. Something the Government has tried to sell to us as protecting nature greatly threatens nature.

Let me give you another example. Say we decide that we’re going to value nature in terms of pounds or dollars or euros and that this is going to be our primary metric for deciding what should be saved and what should not be saved. This, we are told, is an empowering tool to protect the natural world from destruction and degradation. Well you go to the public enquiry and you find that, miraculously, while the wood you are trying to save has been valued at £x, the road, which they want to build through the wood, has been valued at £x+1. And let me tell you, it will always be valued at £x+1 because cost benefit analyses for such issues are always rigged.

The barrister will then be able to say, “Well there you are, it is x+1 for the road and x for the wood. End of argument.” All those knotty issues to do with values and love and desire and wonder and delight and enchantment, all the issues which are actually at the centre of democratic politics, are suddenly ruled out. They are outside the box, they are outside the envelope of discussion, they no longer count. We’ve been totally disempowered by that process.

So that was Problem Three. But the real problem, and this comes to the nub of the argument for me, is over the issues which I will describe as values and framing. Am I allowed to mention Sheffield Hallam? Too late. In response to an article I wrote that was vaguely about this issue last week, Professor Lynn Crowe from Sheffield Hallam University wrote what I thought was a very thoughtful piece(14). She asked this question: “How else can we address the challenge of convincing those who do not share the same values as ourselves of our case?”.

In other words, we are trying to make a case to people who just don’t care about the natural world. How do we convince them, when they don’t share those values, to change their minds? To me the answer is simple. We don’t.

We never have and we never will. That is not how politics works. Picture a situation where Ed Miliband stands up in the House of Commons and makes such a persuasive speech that David Cameron says, “You know, you’ve completely won me over. I’m crossing the floor and joining the Labour benches.”

That’s not how it works. That is not how politics has ever proceeded, except in one or two extremely rare cases. You do not win your opponents over. What you do to be effective in politics is first, to empower and mobilise people on your own side and secondly, to win over the undecided people in the middle. You are not going to win over the hard core of your opponents who are fiercely opposed to your values.

This is the horrendous mistake that New Labour here and the Democratic Party in the United States have made. “We’ve got to win the next election so we’ve got to appease people who don’t share our values, so we’re going to become like them. Instead of trying to assert our own values, we are going to go over to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not really red; we’re not scary at all. We are actually conservatives.’” That was Tony Blair’s message. That was Bill Clinton’s message. That, I’m afraid, is Barack Obama’s message.

Triangulation possibly won elections – though in 1997 a bucket on a stick would have won – but it greatly eroded the Labour vote across the intervening years. We’ve ended up with a situation where there are effectively no political alternatives to the neoliberalism being advanced by the coalition government. In which the opposition is, in almost every case, failing to oppose. It is in this position because it has progressively neutralised itself by trying to appease people who do not share its values.

As George Lakoff, the cognitive linguist who has done so much to explain why progressive parties keep losing the elections that they should win and keep losing support even in the midst of a multiple crisis caused by their political opponents, points out, you can never win by adopting the values of your opponents(15).

You have to leave them where they are and project your own values to people who might be persuaded to come over to your side. That is what conservatives have done on both sides of the Atlantic. They have been extremely good at it, especially in the United States, where they have basically crossed their arms and said, “We’re over here and we don’t give a damn about where you are. We don’t care about what you stand for, you hippies on the Left. This is what we stand for and we are going to project it, project it, project it, until the electoral arithmetic our stance creates means that you have to come to us.”

So what we’ve got there is a Democratic Party that is indistinguishable from where the Republicans were ten years ago. It has gone so far to the right that it has lost its core values. I think you could say the same about the Labour Party in this country.

This, in effect, is what we are being asked to do through the natural capital agenda. We are saying “because our opponents don’t share our values and they are the people wrecking the environment, we have to go over to them and insist that we’re really in their camp. All we care about is money. We don’t really care about nature for its own sake. We don’t really believe in any of this intrinsic stuff. We don’t believe in wonder and delight and enchantment. We just want to show that it’s going to make money.”

In doing so, we destroy our own moral authority and legitimacy. In a recent interview George Lakoff singled out what he considered to be the perfect example of the utter incompetence of progressives hoping to defend the issues they care about. What was it? The Natural Capital Agenda(16).

As Lakoff has pointed out, these people are trying to do the right thing but they are completely failing to apply a frames analysis. A frame is a mental structure through which you understand an issue. Instead of framing the issue with our own values and describing and projecting our values – which is the only thing in the medium- to long-term that ever works – we are abandoning them and adopting instead the values of the people who are wrecking the environment. How could there be any long-term outcome other than more destruction?

There’s another way of looking at this, which says the same thing in a different ways. All of us are somewhere along a spectrum between intrinsic values and extrinsic values. Extrinsic values are about reputation and image and money. They’re about driving down the street in your Ferrari and showing it to everyone. They are about requiring other people’s approbation for your own sense of well-being.

Intrinsic values are about being more comfortable with yourself and who you are. About being embedded in your family, your community, among your friends, and not needing to display to other people in order to demonstrate to yourself that you are worth something(17).

Research in seventy countries produces remarkably consistent results: these values are highly clustered(18). So, for instance, people who greatly value financial success tend to have much lower empathy than those with a strong sense of intrinsic values. They have much less concern about the natural world, they have a stronger attraction towards hierarchy and authority. These associations are very strongly clustered.

But we are not born with these values. They are mostly the product of our social and political environment. What the research also shows is that if you change that environment, people’s values shift en masse with that change. For instance, if you have a good, functioning public health system where no one is left untreated, that embeds and imbues among the population a strong set of intrinsic values. The subliminal message is “I live in a society where everyone is looked after. That must be a good thing because that is the society I live in.” You absorb and internalise those values.

If on the other hand you live in a devil-take-the-hindmost society where people, as they do in the United States, die of treatable conditions because they cannot afford medical care, that will reinforce extrinsic values and push you further towards that end of the spectrum. The more that spectrum shifts, the more people’s values shift with it.

People on the right understand this very well. Mrs Thatcher famously said, “Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.”(19) She understood the political need to change people’s values – something the left has seldom grasped.

If we surrender to the financial agenda and say, “This market-led neoliberalism thing is the way forward,” then we shift social values. Environmentalists are among the last lines of defence against the gradual societal shift towards extrinsic values. If we don’t stand up and say, “We do not share those values, our values are intrinsic values. We care about people. We care about the natural world. We are embedded in our communities and the people around us and we want to protect them, not just ourselves. We are not going to be selfish. This isn’t about money”, who else is going to do it?

So you say to me, “Well what do we do instead? You produce these arguments against trying to save nature by pricing it, by financialisation, by monetisation. What do you do instead?”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is no mystery. It is the same answer that it has always been. The same answer that it always will be. The one thing we just cannot be bothered to get off our bottoms to do, which is the only thing that works. Mobilisation.

It is the only thing that has worked, the only thing that can work. Everything else is a fudge and a substitute and an excuse for not doing that thing that works. And that applies to attempts to monetise and financialise nature as much as it does to all the other issues we are failing to tackle. Thank you.”

http://www.monbiot.com

References:

1. Matt Ridley, 22nd July 1996. Power to the people: we can’t do any worse than government. The Daily Telegraph.

2. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/may/31/state-market-nothern-rock-ridley

3. http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674430006

4. http://nebula.wsimg.com/d512efca930f81a0ebddb54353d9c446?AccessKeyId=68F83A8E994328D64D3D&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

5. http://www.persona.uk.com/bexhill/HA_DOCS/HA-05.pdf

6. http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2011/06/02/hidden-value-of-nature-revealed/

7. http://uknea.unep-wcmc.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=ryEodO1KG3k%3d&tabid=82

8. http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/answer.shtml

9. http://nebula.wsimg.com/d512efca930f81a0ebddb54353d9c446?AccessKeyId=68F83A8E994328D64D3D&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

10. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130822084033/http://www.defra.gov.uk/ecosystem-markets/files/EMTF-VNN-STUDY-FINAL-REPORT-REV1-14.06.12.pdf

11. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130822084033/http://www.defra.gov.uk/ecosystem-markets/files/EMTF-VNN-STUDY-FINAL-REPORT-REV1-14.06.12.pdf

12. http://www.unep.org/documents.multilingual/default.asp?DocumentID=602&ArticleID=6371&l=en&t=long

13. http://www.sheffieldmotorwayservices.co.uk/

14. http://lynncroweblog.wordpress.com/category/valuing-nature/

15. George Lakoff, 2004. Don’t think of an elephant!: know your values and frame the debate. Chelsea Green, White River Junction, VT, USA.

16. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/01/george-lakoff-interview

17. http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/common_cause_report.pdf

18. http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/common_cause_report.pdf

19. http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/104475

The Compelling Conclusion About Capitalism That Piketty Resists (Truthout)

Thursday, 26 June 2014 00:00

By Fred GuerinTruthout | Op-Ed

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Temporary, like sadness. Temporary, like capitalism. Temporary, like life. (Photo: Dominic Alves / Flickr)

The excesses of capitalism are not simply a question of bad management and a political unwillingness to properly regulate it by imposing the right sort of checks and balances, but symptoms of a fundamentally and irretrievably flawed system that tends toward destruction of human and other life.

The idea of capitalism as an expression of economic freedom that also secures moral and political freedom of thought, or the notion that “free-market” economies are guided by an impartial mechanism of supply and demand – an “invisible hand” to use Adam Smith’s metaphor – are both powerful indoctrinating notions. As such, they bear little resemblance to actual reality. Smith himself never used the word “capitalism,” preferring to call his economics a “system of natural liberty.” In fact, the inner logic of capitalism can be difficult to get hold of simply because there have been different configurations of capitalism throughout history. In its classic form, before the advent of corporations (when there was still an implicit sense of social responsibility, and insatiable greed was considered a vice), capitalism might have appeared less virulent. Additionally, there is reason to believe that capitalism unfolded differently in different countries with distinct political and legal frameworks.

“There is “capitalism” and then there is “really existing capitalism.” What then is ‘really existing capitalism?'”

All of these contingent factors are worthy of consideration in any assessment of capitalism. However, it is also reasonably clear that once we actually look at history, it is difficult not to conclude that pretty muchevery embodiment of capitalism – classical capitalism, oligarchic or corporate capitalism, casino capitalism, entrepreneurial capitalism – presuppose similar elements: private property, ownership of the means of production, notions of unlimited growth, the maximization of profit, using wealth to create wealth. They also all embody a form of instrumental rationality, the kind of rationality concerned with maximizing profits and minimizing costs. In its globalized corporate form, capitalism has been able to relentlessly realize this form of instrumental reasoning on a large scale – and thereby show itself as one of the most destructive and undemocratic economic system humans have ever come up with.

Unfortunately, neither propaganda nor abstract economic theory can help us to grasp this fact. The reason is primarily that the latter do not really speak to the false theories of human nature capitalism presupposes. Nor do many of them elaborate capitalism’s legitimating normative-moral or political origins. Most crucially, they are often silent regarding the devastating impact that it has had on the environment since it first emerged during the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As Chomsky insightfully puts it, “There is “capitalism” and then there is “really existing capitalism.” What then is “really existing capitalism’?

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century gives us a few clues, though not by any means, the whole picture. Replete with startling empirical evidence in the form of charts, graphs, informative statistics, mathematical-logical expressions and astute critical-historical analyses, Piketty’s work draws a number of sobering conclusions about the present dynamics of wealth and income distribution that exposes not merely the dark underside of capitalism but a central contradiction within it. Thus, Piketty concludes “. . . wealth accumulated in the past grows more rapidly than output and wages. This inequality expresses a fundamental logical contradiction. The entrepreneur inevitably tends to become a rentier, more and more dominant over those who own nothing but their labor. Once constituted, capital reproduces itself faster than output increases. The past devours the future.”

The past devours the future. But, what if the bizarre inverted logic of capitalism has always been its real point? What if, under the rubric of capitalism, the powerful elite are given permission to act as if it simply doesn’t matter whether their ever-expanding wealth might actually devour the future, or “wear the world out faster” to borrow a phrase from Orwell? Do they not often appear to live in an all-consuming present – get what you can for yourself right now, and don’t worry about others, or even about tomorrow? Moreover, is not such an attitude, sanctioned by capitalism, the reason why this particular economic system requires endless cycles of economic crisis?

Perhaps Piketty’s point is that if it doesn’t matter to the elite, it should at least matter to us. But if it does matter, then it is up to the rest of us – including experts like Piketty who grasp the reality of capitalism better than anyone else – to imagine real alternatives to such an economic system, to think outside of the present paradigm of endless development, profit maximization and disastrous austerity measures imposed on whole populations. Despite the apparently glaring “logical” contradiction within capitalism, Piketty still holds to the idea that it can be properly disciplined through a progressive annual tax on wealth. It is not the conclusion he should have reached given his thorough and prescient analysis.

Looking at the history of capitalism, it is difficult not to conclude that growing inequality expresses a fundamental property of and not a contradiction within capitalism.

Of course, Piketty is by no means alone in wanting to save capitalism from itself. Capitalism – no matter what its excesses, or how destructive it is for life or democracy – is invariably held as our default economic system, grudgingly acceded to even by popular left-oriented economists such as Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini or Joseph Stiglitz. As Chrystia Freeland unabashedly concludes in Plutocrats, The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, despite all its faults, we continue to need capitalism because, “very much like democracy,” it is “the best system we’ve figured out so far.” [1] Thus, if capitalism appears to go wrong, this is not because it is grounded on a misreading of history, internal contradictions, false theories about nature or human nature, or misguided moral and political presuppositions. Rather, the excesses of capitalism are simply a question of “bad management’ and a political unwillingness to properly regulate it by imposing the right sort of checks and balances.

In fact, Piketty’s proposed wealth tax solution may do more to obscure than resolve the really existing contradictions of capitalism. Looking at the history of capitalism, it is difficult not to conclude that growing inequality expresses a fundamental property of  and not a contradiction within capitalism. Inequality is built into capitalism. If there is a contradiction here it is a material not a logical one. In other words, it is the contradiction between an economic system that is radically indifferent to the health and well-being of the planet as a whole versus the economic, moral and environmental obligation to preserve and sustain such health and well-being.

If I am right that the inner logic of capitalism inevitably leads to a hegemonic, macro-structural world-system of unequal human social, political and economic relations guided by elite greed that does not reflect the best interests of the majority of people, the common good or indeed the good of the planet itself, then Piketty’s assumption that we could ever regain control over an “endless inegalitarian spiral’ by imposing a progressive tax on capital seems, is at best, rather fanciful. A more fitting conclusion in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and the efforts of the elite to profit from the latter would be to ask the question whether we should continue advocating for a capitalist system that glorifies profit over people or start thinking about how to reorganize our economy around common goods such as the health and well-being of our present world.

Instead, many contemporary economists repeatedly tell us that our only tenable alternative is to tame capitalist excess through regulative initiatives. This has been done before and it can be done again, the argument goes. Thus, it is claimed that we can and did rein-in or mitigate the severity of capitalist exploitation, and the massive wealth and income disparities that followed from it. However, it should now be abundantly clear that the internal and structural logic of exploitation, wealth-income disparities and the profit-oriented colonization of social and political relations can only be regulated for short periods. It can never be fundamentally altered. Indeed, as Piketty has persuasively argued, relentless exploitation, colonization and massive inequality were only temporarily pre-empted by a war economy and FDR’s regulatory initiatives. By the late 1970’s, the internal logic of capitalism had re-established its hegemonic status and all of the built-in excesses of the capitalist economic system once again became normalized and necessary.

What if . . . we are all conditioned to see the world in terms of individual economic self-interest rather than in terms of common human good or planetary limits, health and equilibrium?

What this tells us is that regulatory reform of capitalism will only be allowed for a brief period. In other words, to the extent that it can obscure or prevent us from perceiving the inner logic of a system of structured inequality, or distract us from the most deleterious effects of capitalism on the environment and on human health and well-being, minimal regulation may be deemed necessary by the elite for a short period of time. However, as Naomi Kleinhas convincingly argued, the “collective vertigo’ caused by wars, economic upheaval, environmental or political crisis, environmental disasters can also be exploited as the perfect means through which a capitalist system of greed takes over markets, amasses fabulous fortunes and bankrupts the wealth of the commons.

Perhaps the refusal to ask critical questions about the viability of capitalism might be explained by the fact that even today many economists still hold onto the mythic assumption that the “impartial” self-regulating market is no more than a theoretical expression of the “order of human nature” itself and not, after all, a product of powerful political and moneyed interests. This belief has distant origins in Thomas Hobbes fear-inspired mechanistic account of human beings who in their natural state are war-like and driven by self-interest. Not only does the latter perspective resonate in many manifestations of capitalist theory, it also underscores a desire to replicate in economic theory what nature apparently prescribes – a war-like disposition disciplined through competitive markets based on innate selfishness. But what if the incapacity to imagine alternatives is not because we are naturally selfish, but simply a function of the reality that in capitalist societies we are all conditioned to see the world in terms of individual economic self-interest rather than in terms of common human good or planetary limits, health and equilibrium?

This perfectly predictable inversion, where government becomes a handmaid to moneyed interest, is precisely the “logic of a capitalist system.”

Over time, the promotion of selfishness as a virtue not only changes the way we look at ourselves, it influences the way we relate to each other and to the planet itself. Instead of citizens who define themselves in relation to common goods, we are reduced, under the selfish orientation of capitalism, to aggregates of self-interested atomistic individuals encouraged to believe that we can continue a lifetime of limitless consumption. Those who are entirely left out of the consumer game – the increasing numbers of homeless, stateless refugees, destitute and imprisoned whose day-to-day life is taken up by the fight for mere survival – are the necessary residue of a global capitalist system.

From its inception, capitalist economic theory has pushed the idea that the market would only be able to regulate itself if it were not subject to external and coercive government interference or regulation. However, the reality is that capitalist accumulation was never actually severed from politics or government, but invariably parasitic upon it. It has always been intimately tied to publicly funded government tax-breaks and subsidies, to war, colonial-imperial expansion, and industrial ambitions. What happened is simply that massive capitalist accumulation was allowed to entirely invert the power relation between moneyed interests and government. Thus, an elite class of bankers, financiers and industrialists (eventually expressing itself through corporate ownership) have become so powerful, they are able to coerce governments and states to go along with whatever is in their minority interest. This perfectly predictable inversion, where government becomes a handmaid to moneyed interest, is precisely the “logic of a capitalist system,” which renders any suggestion of government imposed progressive taxation rather fantastical.

Related to this, faith in the promise of capitalism might also have to do with a kind of wilful blindness about the actual origins of capital. As Karl Polyanyi reminds us, many scholars and economists tenaciously hold to Adam Smith’s idea that the division of labor has always been based upon markets of some kind because our “propensity to barter, truck and exchange one thing for another” is simply ingrainedin the natural order of things. But, clearly we do not need capitalism – the privatizing of wealth and the socializing of costs – to show us how to barter, truck or trade goods. Indeed, capitalism is actually inimical to bartering or trading, precisely because it is driven by individual profit and monopolization, not by the fair exchange of goods. The FTA (Free Trade Agreements), NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) are the awful modern exemplars here.

There is nothing impartial about early capitalism’s inextricable relation to colonialism, slavery or plunder for private gain.

Polyani quickly dispels Smith’s historical misreading of the division of labor as structured by capitalism by reminding us that up to Smith’s time such a propensity toward the individual pursuit of unfettered profit based on wage labor “had hardly shown up on a considerable scale in the life of any observed community and had remained, at best, a subordinate feature of economic life . . . “[2]. The historical and anthropological evidence clearly suggests that it was not until the industrial age that the capitalist-inspired “wealth of nations” was realized by a hegemonic economic system guided by self-interested priorities and the exploitation of material goods and human beings in a relentless pursuit of profit for the few. Before this period, our economics were oriented by social, community, tribal and familial concerns that were considered far more important than the private possession and accumulation of goods based wholly on economic self-interest.

A more precise and broad-based historical study would conclude that, in point of fact, there isn’t anything in nature, the human condition, morality or history that necessitates the adoption of capitalism. It would also disclose that there is nothingimpartial about early capitalism’s inextricable relation to colonialism, slavery or plunder for private gain. In point of fact, the historical reality is that market capitalism is intimately tied to a colonial-imperialist political agenda. This imperialist history clearly demonstrates that there is also very little that is “free” about a “free-market” that derives its freedom to accumulate wealth by way of slave labor, slave wages, debt bondage, unjust land confiscation and the expropriation of common lands and resources into private hands. In America, the so-called “free market” wedded private self-interested exploitation of labor with imperialist state interest on a scale that dramatically dwarfed the brutality of old-world Europe. It should not be in the least surprising then that the slave plantation might capture the essence of our modern global capitalist system, insofar as it is built on the premise of extracting maximum labor at minimal cost.

Of course when one looks at history, it is not immediately apparent that the “founding fathers’ of capitalism – John Locke, Adam Smith, David Ricardo – wanted to intentionally construct a system that would entrench massive inequality. The latter figures were highly articulate, systematic, future-oriented thinkers who believed that private property, free trade, competition and laissez-faire capitalism were inherently good, and had an unlimited potential to raise the general welfare of society. However, even here, those who enjoyed the fruits of a capitalist political economy were relatively few – certainly not the working class or slaves. Each of these illustrious thinkers exemplifies in his writings the material contradictions that capitalism represents.

To be fair, from the perspective of the 18th and 19th centuries, the planet did appear to have unlimited potential for growth, not to mention individual and social enrichment.

Moreover, the science of pollution and toxicity of industrial chemicals 200 years ago was nowhere near the advanced state it is now. However, the material contradictions of capitalism are starkly illustrated even in its earliest philosophical foundations. Thus, on the one hand, John Locke’s (1632-1704) political philosophy begins (as against Hobbes’) with the idea that in our “original state of nature,” we are not in a state of war, but in a state of ” ‘perfect freedom’ to order our action, and dispose of our possessions and persons, as we think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.” This state of nature, Locke believed, is also a state “. . . of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another.” [3]

However, on the other hand, not all people were heir to such “perfect freedom” in their “natural state” or otherwise; nor did they have possessions or reciprocal power. In fact, a good many of them were not even treated as “persons” or individuals, but as mere “savages.” There is nothing fair or equal about the fact that Locke’s tremendous wealth was directly the result of investments in the silk and slave trade. Indeed, he believed that important, moneyed land barons should form “a government of slave-owners” and suggested that children over 3 years of age who were from families on relief should attend “working schools” so they would be “from infancy . . . inured to work” [4]. Appearances notwithstanding, the “sacred and inviolable right to property” that Locke espouses is not something either slaves or the laboring classes were granted. The “perfect freedom” was indeed “perfect servitude” of those who were not white Europeans.

Behind the wonderful talk of liberal values, “increasing the common stock of man through money” and individual rights, Locke put forward an absolutist theory of property that would provide legitimacy to the imperialist ambitions of England and wealthy English landowners in America. The problem is that Locke’s morally grounded theory of the right to private property presupposes the expropriation of ancestral native lands, the existence of slavery and the impoverishment of laboring classes. As Ronald Wright has astutely noted, quoting from Senator Dawes in his Allotment Act, the problem with “Indians” is that they lacked “selfishness, which is the bottom of civilization”![5] What we are compelled to conclude here is that these historical facts are not unpredictable events or anomalies of capitalism, but perspectives and practices intrinsic to the expansion of a capitalist economy.

The unavoidable question is why Smith advocated a “capitalist economic system” that glorified unbridled competition – a practice he intuited would inevitably corrupt our “natural sentiments” and deepen a proclivity toward selfish behaviour?

The Scottish Enlightenment thinker Adam Smith (1723-1790) believed that not only did competition mitigate the ruthlessness of self-interest, but the providential “invisible hand of the market” would ensure that in promoting our self-interest we would be simultaneously promoting the interests of society, whether we intended to do so or not. But, the rational or enlightened self-interest of Smith’s economic man breaks down fairly quickly within the logic of monopolistic capitalism. Smith, like Piketty, is prescient enough to caution about the monopolistic trajectory of capitalism and the potential that industry and business had for influencing politics in their favour over the good of consumers and society as a whole. Moreover, against the logic of unfettered capitalist accumulation, he also thought laborers should be well paid and the rich and indolent taxed for the benefit of the poor.

At the same time, Smith’s “merchant” is not much different than the modern corporate CEO. A merchant he explains “. . . is not necessarily a citizen of any particular country. It is in a great measure indifferent to him from what place he carries on his trade; and a very trifling disgust will make him remove his capital, and together with it all the industry which it supports, from one country to another.” [6]It is not hard to imagine that the “trifling disgust” classical merchants or modern CEOs experience is a consequence of having unions or governments interfere with their profits by demanding workers receive a living wage.

In the end, the unavoidable question is why Smith advocated a “capitalist economic system” that glorified unbridled competition – a practice he intuited would inevitably corrupt our “natural sentiments” and deepen a proclivity toward selfish behaviour? If the answer is that it is the self-correcting, providential “invisible hand” that reconciles selfishness and the general welfare of society, then Smith’s entire economic system rests on a fiction: There just is no such thing as an “invisible hand,” nor has there ever been any such providential or moral self-correcting mechanism within capitalist economics. Given this, it is difficult not to conclude that Smith (again, like Piketty) did, in fact, fully grasp the adverse effects and inherent material contradictions of capitalism. Nevertheless, he held steadfastly to the idea that a phantasmal occult force (the invisible hand) would enable our natural sympathy with the plight of others and our natural self-interested expression of individual freedom to live peacefully together.

What is startling is not how different, but how similar the speculative capitalist mindset has always been. The early 19th century economist, broker and speculator David Ricardo “. . . made the bulk of his fortune as a result of speculation on the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo, using methods that today would result in prosecution for insider trading and market manipulation.”[7] It is not a great leap from insider trading (which Milton Friedman, much later, enthusiastically endorsed) to securities fraud, negligent subprime mortgage lending, unregulated credit default swaps and so on. But it is also evidently true that wealth is  power – power cashed out at the political level. Ricardo, who was able to use his largesse to buy a seat in the UK Parliament, would probably not have had any problem with the Supreme CourtCitizens United decision to remove limits on corporate political donations. Perhaps we have here one of the earliest exemplars of how moneyed interest, power and political ambition are easily woven together in a capitalist political economy. At any rate, it is clear that the very visible hand of the elite class inevitably renders government “by and for the people’ pretty much irrelevant – or better, invisible.

As for economic theory, Ricardo’s assumption that with social progress, the price of labor is “dear when it is scarce and cheap when it is plentiful” might explain why today the superrich have “stopped worrying and learned to love unemployment and under-employment.” As the rich have become even richer since the 2007 financial crisis, the global unemployment rate has steadily increased such that by 2015, 205 million people will be out of work – and this doesn’t even touch those who have given up looking for a job. Of course, Ricardo, like Marx after him, was clever enough to recognize that the interests of wealthy landowners were often in direct opposition to the good of society and would inevitably create tension and upheaval. This did not, however, prevent him from advocating for the abolition of the Poor Law which, he believed, encouraged people to be lazy and irresponsible – “are there no prisons? . . . are there no workhouses?”

Despite some indications to the contrary, Hobbes’ theory of human nature is unambiguously presupposed in Locke, Smith and Ricardo’s elaboration of capitalist political economy. All are essentially in agreement with the idea that we are “by nature” selfish creatures. Perhaps it is only in this sense we can be said to be “equals” – we are all equally selfish. However, such a presupposition, by any objective measure, is simply false. We know today, from abundant empirical, sociological, psychological, genetic, archaeological and anthropological evidence, that Hobbes’ theory of human nature as intrinsically “selfish” is deeply flawed. We are not “naturally” selfish – though we can, indeed, learn to be so. In other words, within a capitalist system it can become trueover over the course of time that an elite few will be chiefly oriented by greed, narcissism or selfishness – and some of the latter not so very far from the “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinners!” Dickens describes Mr. “Scrooge” as in A Christmas Carol. Of course, today the latter are no longer viewed as “sinners.” The real problem is that in our present world they are the “glorified masters” of our economies and governments. They are continuously praised, deferred to, considered “above the laws of the land” and allowed to live in a world of unabashed opulence entirely walled off from the rabble of mankind. Succinctly put, in capitalism, the greedy of the world have discovered their ideal legitimating cover: the promotion of a self-serving economics that turns the vice of selfishness into the highest virtue human beings can realize! [8]

History aside, from our own contemporary perspective, we can get a sense of “really existing capitalism’ by virtue of the following thought-experiment, which reveals the latter in its unadorned state. Imagine that we were able, right now, to ask the 7 or so billion people living on the planet whether they would choose an economic system that would inevitably lead to massive wealth and income inequalities, that would severely limit equal opportunity, that would force whole populations to live under perpetual economic austerity, that would erode any possibility of meaningful and democratic political participation, that would devastate the health of the planet and the human body while externalizing the costs of such destruction onto everyone, with the exception of a very privileged few.

Now . . . how many people do you think would actually opt for such an arrangement? Honest answer: Almost no one! The only people who would agree to such a set of conditions would be an infinitesimally small group whose present privileged economic status would be protected and furthered by maintaining the status quo. The fact is that though there are many manifestations of the capitalist system, the intentional logic of capitalism always was, and still is, the same: to protect and perpetuate the power, status and privilege of the few, while impoverishing everyone else.

Given this, you might think that we would seriously question anyone who asserts that capitalism best captures or reflects the essential capabilities, wants, desires or needs of human beings – or that it, in any way, helps to preserve or sustain the resources of the planet for future generations. If anything, capitalism has become the medium where what is worst in us is magnified and given legitimacy – materialism, greed, indifference to the suffering of others, deceitfulness and hubris – while diminishing the importance of justice, benevolence and environmental stewardship. Hopefully, Piketty’s book will be a wake-up call – not a call to fix capitalism, but to overcome it. The fact is that even if a tax on wealth could somehow reconcile the logical contradiction within capitalism, it will do nothing to prevent corporations from their “race to exploit what is left” [9]; it will not stop them from moving us closer to ecological disaster by extracting oil from bituminous sands or minerals from impoverished third world countries; it will not deter the Wall Street mega banks like Goldman Sachs, the “vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity” (to borrow Matt Taibbi’s startling and vivid description) from sucking the life out of national economies; it will not impede the chemical industry from polluting the environment and using whole populations as unwitting research objects for profit; it will not avert the continuing dissolution of democracy by the superrich Koch brothers . . . and on and on.

Notwithstanding all that has been said, it is still conceivable that we could reverse our present “conditioning” by thinking and acting in different ways – by recognizing that, progressively, with the help of others, we could cultivate radically different perspectives and practices (economic and otherwise). But any such effort must assume that we are also acutely aware of the ubiquity and the powerful force of capitalist propaganda. As Henry Giroux reminds us “dominant power works relentlessly through its major cultural apparatuses to hide, mischaracterize or lampoon resistance, dissent and critically engaged social movements. This is done, in part, by sanitizing public memory and erasing critical knowledge and oppositional struggles from newspapers, radio, television, film and all those cultural institutions that engage in systemic forms of education and memory work.”[10]

Above all, the possibility of alternative economic visions, perspectives and practices have to be grounded in the reality that we share a limited world, and that we are and have always been capable of creating an economic system and public policies that preserve the health and well-being of the planet and all of the creatures that inhabit it.

NOTES:

1. Chrystia Freeland, Plutocrats, The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. Anchor Canada 2012. p. xvi. Freeland is likely drawing from Churchill’s oft-quoted conclusion that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

2. Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, Beacon Press 1957 pp. 45-58

3. John Locke, “The Second Treatise of Government”, in Princeton Readings in Political Thought, edited by Mitchell Cohen and Nicole Fermon. Princeton University Press, 1996. pp. 243-4

4. See Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, Harper Perennial Modern Classics 2005. pp. 73-75

5. Ronald Wright, What is America: A Short History of the New World Order, Vintage Canada, 2009. p. 116

6. To really understand the tension within Smith’s thought it is helpful to read both An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

7. Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations Book III, Chapter IV.

8. You can find Ayn Rand’s and Nathaniel Branden’s The virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism.

9. See Michael Klare’s The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, Picador, 2012

10. Henry Giroux, “Hope in the Age of Looming Authoritarianism,” Truthout.

David Harvey: “As contradições do capitalismo” (Rede Castor Photo)

11/4/2014, [*] David Harvey entrevistado por Jonathan Derbyshire, Prospect Magazine, UK

The contradictions of capitalism: an interview with David Harvey

Traduzido pelo pessoal da Vila Vudu

David Harvey é professor de antropologia e geografia do Centro de Graduação da City University of New York (CUNY). Dá aulas sobre “O Capital” de Karl Marx há mais de 40 anos e é autor de um “guia de leitura”, em dois volumes, para ler a grande obra de Marx. Essa leitura microscópica de “O Capital” é fruto de uma série de 13 conferências, cujos vídeos Harvey distribuiu online.

Seu livro mais recente é 17 Contradições e o Fim do Capitalismo. O livro começa com uminsight de Marx – que crises periódicas são endêmicas nas economias capitalistas – e oferece uma análise da atual conjuntura histórica. Conversei com o professor Harvey em Londres, semana passada.

Prospect Magazine: No início do livro, o senhor observa, como outros também observaram, que há algo de diferente na mais recente crise do capitalismo, a crise financeira global de 2008:

Seria de esperar que todos – o senhor escreveu lá – tivessem diagnósticos concorrentes a oferecer sobre o que está errado, e que houvesse uma proliferação de propostas de o que fazer para corrigir tudo. O que mais surpreende hoje é a miséria de pensamento novo e de novas políticas.

Por que não há nem diagnósticos nem propostas nem ideias novas?

David Harvey: Uma hipótese é que a concentração de poder de classe que se vê hoje é de tal modo gigantesca, que não há por que a classe capitalista precise ou queira ver qualquer tipo de pensamento novo. A situação, por mais que seja disruptiva para a economia, não é necessariamente disruptiva para a capacidade de os ricos acumularem mais riqueza e mais poder. Assim sendo, há bem claro interesse em manter as coisas como estão. O que é curioso é que havia também, é claro, muito interesse em manter as coisas como estavam nos anos 1930s, mas aquele interesse foi atropelado por Roosevelt, pelo pensamento Keynesiano etc..

O problema da demanda agregada, que era o centro do pensamento nos anos 1930s, é problema de realização, em termos marxistas. As pessoas respondiam a pergunta e, na sequência, entraram num problema de produção, que foi respondido pelo monetarismo e pela economia de oferta. E exatamente hoje, o mundo está dividido entre os que se põem do lado da oferta e querem mais austeridade, e outros – China, Turquia e quase todas as economias em desenvolvimento – que assumem a linha keynesiana.

Mas parece que só há duas respostas – não há “terceira via”. No âmbito do capitalismo, as possibilidades são limitadas. O único modo pelo qual você pode encontrar outra resposta é pôr-se fora do capitalismo, mas ninguém quer nem ouvir falar disso!

Prospect MagazineIsso posto, o senhor aceita, no livro, que há elementos na classe capitalista, na classe intelectual, que reconhecem a ameaça que o senhor identifica e chama de “contradições” do capitalismo. Exemplo notável aí é a discussão do problema da desigualdade.

David Harvey: Credito ao movimento Occupy ter lançado e posto em circulação essa nova conversa. O fato de que temos em New York um prefeito completamente diferente do que havia antes e que disse que vai fazer tudo que puder para reduzir a desigualdade, toda a possibilidade dessa discussão é coisa que brotou diretamente do movimento Occupy. É interessante que todos sabem do que você está falando, sempre que se fala do “1%”. A questão do 1% foi afinal posta na agenda e se tornou objeto de estudos em profundidade, como, por exemplo, o livro de Thomas Piketty, O Capital no século 21 (fr. [1]). Joseph Stiglitz também tem um livro sobre desigualdade e vários outros economistas estão falando do assunto. Até o FMI já está dizendo que há um perigo específico que surge quando a desigualdade alcança determinado nível.

Prospect Magazine: Até Obama já anda dizendo isso!

David Harvey: Mas Obama nada diria sobre isso se o movimento Occupy não tivesse aberto a trilha. Mas quem está fazendo alguma coisa sobre o problema e de que modo alguma coisa estaria sendo realmente mudada? Se se consideram as políticas reais, vê-se que as desigualdades continuam a aprofundar-se. Há reconhecimento apenas retórico do problema, mas não há reconhecimento político, em termos de políticas ativas e redistribuição ativa.

Prospect MagazineO senhor falou de Occupy. No livro, o senhor critica muito duramente o que o senhor chama de “restos da esquerda radical” – a qual hoje, para o senhor, é predominantemente liberal, libertarista e anti-estado.

David Harvey: Tenho uma regra que por definição nunca falha: o modo de produção dominante, seja qual for, e sua articulação política, criam a forma de oposição contra eles. Assim, as grandes fábricas e grandes corporações – General Motors, Ford etc. – criaram uma oposição baseada no movimento trabalhista e nos partidos da social-democracia; o rompimento dessa ordem – e vivemos hoje precisamente o momento desse rompimento – criou esse tipo de oposição dispersa e dispersiva que só sabe usar algumas específicas linguagens para suas reivindicações.

A esquerda não dá sinais de estar percebendo que muito do que diz é consistente com a ética neoliberal, em vez de lhe fazer oposição… Parte do anti-estatismo que se encontra hoje na esquerda casa-se perfeitamente com o anti-estatismo do capital empresarial corporativista.

Preocupa-me muito que não se ouça pensamento da esquerda que diga “Vamos nos afastar dessas conversas e observar o quadro completo”. Espero que meu livro contribua para que tenhamos essa nova conversa.

Prospect MagazineO livro conclui num lugar interessante – com algo como um programa, 17 “ideias para a prática política”. Mas não aparece a pergunta, embora, sim, possa estar implícita no que o senhor acabou de dizer, sobre qual é o veículo apropriado para realizar aquele programa. Não se sabe onde encontrá-lo. Não é óbvio que o encontraremos.

David Harvey: Uma das coisas que temos de aceitar é que está emergindo um  novo modo de fazer política. No presente, ainda é muito espontaneísta, efêmero, voluntarista, com alguma relutância a deixar-se institucionalizar. Como poderá ser institucionalizado é, creio eu, questão aberta. E não tenho resposta para isso. Mas é claro que, de algum modo, terá de institucionalizar-se ou ser institucionalizado. Há novos partidos começando a emergir – o Syrizana Grécia, por exemplo. O que me preocupa é o que comento no livro como um estado de alienação em massa, que está sendo capitalizado amplamente pela direita. Há portanto, sim, alguma urgência em a esquerda tratar da questão de como nós nos institucionalizaremos como força política, para resistir contra uma virada de direita e capturar parte significativa do descontentamento que está nas ruas e empurrá-lo numa direção progressista, não em direção neofascista.

Prospect MagazineO senhor descreve seu livro como tentativa para expor as contradições, não do “capitalismo”, mas do “capital”. O senhor pode explicar essa diferença?

David Harvey: Essa diferença vem de minha leitura de Marx. Pensa-se quase sempre que Marx teria criado alguma espécie de compreensão totalista do capitalismo, mas Marx não fez nada disso. Marx não arredou pé da economia política e manteve seus argumentos sempre na linha de como opera o motor econômico de uma economia capitalista. Se você isola o motor econômico, você consegue ver quais serão os problemas daquela economia.

Não implica dizer que não haverá outros tipos de problemas numa sociedade capitalista – é claro que há racismo, discriminação por gênero, problemas geopolíticos. Mas a questão que me preocupava ao escrever esse livro era outra, mais limitada: como funciona o motor da acumulação de capital?

Já estava bem claro desde o estouro de 2007/8 que havia alguma coisa errada com o próprio motor. E dissecar o que esteja errado com o motor já será um passo na direção de política mais ampla. Esse motor econômico é muito complicado. E Marx criou um meio para compreender o motor econômico, servindo-se de ideias como “contradição” e “formação-de-crises”.

Prospect MagazineMais uma questão de definição: o que é capital?

David Harvey: Capital é o processo pelo qual o dinheiro é posto em ação para que se obtenha mais dinheiro. Mas é preciso muito cuidado, se só se fala de dinheiro, porque em Marx há uma relação muito complexa, como aponto no livro, entre “valor” e “dinheiro”. O processo é de busca de valor para criar e apropriar-se de mais valor. Mas esse processo assume diferentes formas – a forma dinheiro, de bens e mercadorias, processos de produção, terra… Ele tem manifestações físicas, forma-de-coisa, mas, no fundamento, não é coisa: é um processo.

Prospect MagazineVoltemos à noção de “contradição”, que é a categoria analítica central no livro. O senhor fez uma distinção entre os choques externos pelos quais pode passar uma economia capitalista (guerras, por exemplo) e contradições, no seu sentido da palavra. Assim, por definição, contradições são internas ao sistema capitalista?

David Harvey: Sim. Se você quiser redesenhar o modo de produção, é preciso, então, responder as questões postas pelas contradições internas.

Prospect MagazineO senhor identifica três classes de contradições, que o senhor chama de “fundacionais”, as “mutantes” e as “perigosas”. Comecemos pela primeira categoria: o que faz as contradições fundacionais serem fundacionais?

David Harvey: Não importa onde esteja o capitalismo e o modo de produção capitalista, você sempre encontrará essas contradições em operação. Em qualquer economia – seja a China contemporânea, o Chile ou os EUA – a questão do valor de uso e do valor de troca, por exemplo, lá estará, sempre. Há algumas contradições que são traços permanentes de como o motor econômico está montado. E há outras que mudam constantemente ao longo do tempo. Então, eu quis distinguir as que são relativamente permanentes e as outras, que são muito mais dinâmicas.

Prospect MagazineAlgumas contradições fundacionais são mais fundacionais que outras? Um dos traços que mais chamam a atenção no livro é que tudo, no seu modelo analítico, parece derivar, no fundo, da diferença entre valor de troca e valor de uso.

David Harvey: Ora… esse é o ponto inicial da análise. Sempre me chamou a atenção que Marx dedicou muito tempo para demarcar o ponto no qual sua análise começaria; e decidiu começar por aí, porque é o ponto de partida mais universal. Mas o que mais me impressiona – e trabalho com Marx há muito, muito tempo – é o quanto as suas contradições são intimamente interligadas. Você percebe que essa distinção entre valor de uso e valor de troca pressupõe alguma coisa sobre propriedade privada e o Estado, por exemplo.

Prospect MagazineOutra das suas contradições fundacionais é entre “propriedade privada e o Estado capitalista”. Quer dizer: a tensão ou a contradição entre os direitos individuais de propriedade e o poder coercivo do Estado. Agora, imaginemos alguém como Robert Nozick, criado na tradição liberal, Lockeana, que chega e diz que não há aí qualquer contradição. Ao contrário: o papel do estado “mínimo” é proteger a propriedade privada.

David Harvey: Uma das coisas que digo sobre contradições é que elas estão sempre latentes. Por isso, a existência de uma contradição não gera, necessariamente, uma crise. Gerará, sob algumas dadas circunstâncias. Portanto, é possível construir teoricamente a ideia de que tudo que um estado “guarda-noturno” faz é proteger a propriedade privada. Mas nos sabemos que esse estado “guarda-noturno” tem muito mais a fazer, além disso. Há externalidades no mercado que têm de ser controladas; já bens públicos que têm de ser fornecidos – e assim, muito rapidamente, o estado acaba por se envolver em todos os tipos de atividades, muito além de apenas cuidar do quadro legal dos contratos e dos direitos à propriedade privada.

Prospect MagazineO senhor nega que haja qualquer conexão necessária entre capitalismo e democracia. Pode explicar por quê?

David Harvey: A questão da democracia depende muito de definições. Supostamente haveria democracia nos EUA, mas é claro que não há, é uma espécie de farsa, de engodo – é a democracia do poder do dinheiro, não do poder do povo. E minha avaliação, desde os anos 1970s, a Suprema Corte legalizou o processo pelo qual o poder do dinheiro corrompe o processo político.

Prospect MagazineHá um aspecto do poder do estado que avançou para o centro do palco na crise recente e imediatamente depois, sobretudo durante a crise da dívida na Eurozona: falo do poder dos bancos centrais. O senhor acha que a função dos bancos centrais mudou de modo significativo durante a era dos “resgates”?

David Harvey: Evidentemente mudou. A história dos bancos centrais é, ela própria, terrivelmente interessante. Não tenho certeza de que o que o Federal Reserve fez durante a crise tenha tido qualquer base legal. O Banco Central Europeu, por sua vez, é caso clássico do que Marx disse, quando comentou a Lei dos Bancos de 1844, a qual, para ele, teve o efeito de estender e aprofundar a crise de 1847-8 na Grã-Bretanha. Mas nos dois casos, do Fed e do Banco Central Europeu, o que vimos é uma espécie de ajuste no traseiro – como alfaiates fazem com calças apertadas – de grandes instituições e a emergência de políticas que só seriam justificáveis depois do fato. Quero dizer: não há dúvida alguma de que, sim, houve mudanças no front do banco central.

Prospect MagazineHá um conceito ao qual o senhor volta várias vezes no livro: o conceito de “conversão em mercadoria” [também “mercadorização”, ing. commodification (NTs)].

David Harvey: O capital trata, sempre, da produção de mercadorias. Se há terreno não-mercadorizado, ali o capital não entra nem circula. Um dos meios mais fáceis para o capital conseguir penetrar aquele espaço é o estado impor ali um sistema de privatização – ainda que privatize algo que é só ficcional. Os créditos de carbono, por exemplo – trocar direitos de poluir é excelente exemplo de mercadoria criada por processo ficcional, que tem efeitos muito reais sobre o volume de dióxido de carbono na atmosfera, e assim por diante. Criar mercados onde antes não havia mercados é um dos meios pelos quais, historicamente, o capital expandiu-se.

Prospect MagazineO senhor foi pesadamente influenciado pelo trabalho de Karl Polanyi nessa área, não? Especificamente a obra prima dele, A Grande Transformação.

David Harvey: Polanyi não era marxista, mas compreendia, como Marx também compreendeu, que as ideias de terra, trabalho e capital não são mercadorias no sentido ordinário, mas que assumem uma forma de mercadoria.

Prospect Magazine: Um dos aspectos mais impressionantes do livro, pode-se dizer, mesmo, mobilizadores, emocionantes, é o relato que o senhor faz dos custos humanos da conversão em mercadoria – especificamente a conversão em mercadoria daquelas áreas da experiência humana que antes não eram parte do “nexo dinheiro”[orig. cash nexus, exp. de Marx]. Há aí uma conexão com o que o senhor chama de “alienação universal”. O que é isso?

David Harvey: Vivemos há tempos num mundo no qual o capital lutou sem parar para diminuir o trabalho, o poder do trabalho, aumentando a produtividade, removendo o aspecto mental dos serviços e empregos. Quando você vive em sociedade desse tipo, surge a questão de como alguém pode encontrar algum significado na própria vida, dado o que se faz como trabalho, no local de trabalho. Por exemplo, 70% da população dos EUA ou odeia trabalhar ou é totalmente indiferente ao trabalho que faz. Em mundo desse tipo, as pessoas têm de encontrar alguma identidade para elas mesmas que não seja baseada na experiência do trabalho.

Sendo assim, surge a questão do tipo de identidade que as pessoas podem assumir. Uma das respostas é o consumo. E temos um tipo de consumismo irrefletido que tenta compensar a falta de significação de um mundo no qual há bem poucos trabalhos com algum significado. Irrita-me muito ouvir políticos dizer que “vamos criar mais empregos”… Mas que tipo de empregos?

A alienação brota, entendo eu, de um sentimento de que temos capacidade e poder para ser alguém muito diferente do que é definido por nossas possibilidades. Daí surge a questão de até que ponto o poder político é sensível à criação de outras possibilidades? As pessoas olham os partidos políticos e dizem “Aqui, não há nada que preste”. Há, pois, a alienação para longe do processo político, que se manifesta em comparecimento declinante nas eleições; há a alienação para longe da cultura da mercadoria, também, que cria uma carência e o correspondente desejo por um outro tipo de liberdade. As irrupções periódicas que foram vistas pelo mundo – Parque Gezi em Istambul, “manifestações” no Brasil, quebra-quebra em Londres em 2011 – obrigam a perguntar se a alienação pode vir a ser uma força política positiva. E a resposta é sim, pode, mas não se vê nada parecido nos partidos ou movimentos políticos. Viram-se alguns elementos disso no modo como o movimento Occupy ou os Indignados na Espanha tentaram mobilizar pessoas, mas foi coisa efêmera e não amadureceu em ação mais substancial. Mesmo assim, há muito fermento nos campos da dissidência cultural; há algo em movimento, e é fonte de alguma esperança.

Prospect MagazineQuando o senhor discute as contradições “perigosas”, o senhor oferece o que me parece ser uma versão do materialismo histórico de Marx. Quero dizer: o senhor pensa, como Marx, que o presente está grávido de futuro, embora o senhor não pense de modo inevitabilista… Acho também que o senhor não vê nada de inevitabilismo, tampouco, no próprio Marx. Estou certo?

David Harvey: Não vejo, não, nada de inevitabilismo em Marx. Há quem diga que Marx teria dito que o capital desabará sob o peso de suas próprias contradições, e que Marx teria uma teoria mecanicista das crises das crises capitalistas. Mas jamais encontrei uma linha em que Marx tenha escrito coisa semelhante! O que Marx, sim, disse é que as contradições estão no coração das crises e que crises são momentos de oportunidade.

Marx também disse que os seres humanos podem criar a própria história, mas que não escolhem as condições sob as quais criarão a própria história. Para mim, portanto, há um Marx que, se não é libertarista, diz que os seres humanos são capazes de decidir coletivamente, de empurrar as coisas mais para uma direção, que para outra. Marx criticou o socialismo utópico, porque entendia que o socialismo utópico não lidava com o onde estamos. Marx disse que é preciso analisar onde se está, ver o que é viável para nós e, na sequência, tentar construir algo radicalmente diferente.

______________________

Nota dos tradutores

[1] “A Editora Intrínseca comprou os direitos de tradução para o português do Brasil de O Capital no Século XXI, do francês Thomas Piketty. Está em tradução, esperado nas livrarias no segundo semestre de 2014” (deve ser tudo mentira, mas é o que escreveu o Lauro Jardim).

_________________________

[*] David Harvey (Gillingham, Kent, 7 de dezembro de 1935) é um geógrafo britânico, formado na Universidade de Cambridge. É professor daCity University of New York e trabalha com diversas questões ligadas à geografia urbana. Seu primeiro livro, Explanation in Geography, publicado em 1969, versa sobre a epistemologia da geografia, ainda no paradigma da chamada geografia quantitativa. Posteriormente, Harvey muda o foco de sua atenção para a problemática urbana, a partir de uma perspectiva materialista-dialética. Publica então Social Justice and the City no início da década de 1970, onde confronta o paradigma liberal e o paradigma marxista na análise dos problemas urbanos.

Prominent Anthropologist Welcomes Football Team Name Trademark Cancellation (American Anthropological Association)

by Damon

June 18, 2014 at 4:31 pm

In a move that was hailed by the anthropological community, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced on Wednesday morning that it had canceled six federal trademark registrations for the name “Washington Redskins” citing testimony and evidence that the Washington, DC- based football team’s name is “disparaging to Native Americans” and thus in violation of federal trademark laws banning offensive terms and language.

While the decision today means that the team can continue to use the term, the phrase is no longer owned by the organization, meaning it will be difficult to stop others from using the term, and thus limiting its financial benefit to the club.

Dr. Bernard C. Perley, a Native American and anthropologist, released the following statement in the wake of the government’s decision:

Today, I am celebrating the US Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to cancel the six trademark registrations of the NFL Washington professional football team. The Patent and Trademark Office made their decision based on evidence and concluded that the trademark (the “r word”) is “disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered”.

This decision represents the best values of the American people as established in the founding documents of the United States. It also echoes the work of generations of anthropologists who have worked and continue to work with Native American communities to promote social justice for the first peoples of the Americas.

Unfortunately, there are many Americans who will make any excuse to support the NFL and the Washington team in their defense of the disrespectful name. The ruling does not prevent the team from continuing to use the derogatory term and it is likely the team will appeal the decision.

The US Patent and Trademark decision is good news but there is still much work to be done. The public debate over the “r word” has contributed to the growing awareness of the American public regarding the derogatory aspect of the term to many Native Americans. Anthropology can support and enhance that awareness by making public the ongoing work of anthropologists and Native American community leaders in promoting respect and understanding. We can accomplish this by disseminating the inspiring stories of Native American resilience and their contributions to the American experience.”

Dr. Perley is also a member of the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association

Um estádio sem cantos (Globo Esporte)

Quarta-feira, 18/06/2014 às 11:57 por David Butter

Quem diria: o pior da Copa é a torcida da seleção brasileira. Não falo da torcida dos bares, das casas e das ruas, de fora dos estádios por falta de condição, gosto ou oportunidade, mas da torcida das arquibancadas. – digo “torcida” por falta de outro termo.

Não, não andamos vendo a vergonha e o banzo circulando de cabeça baixa por aeroportos ou estradas, como imaginavam antes da competição os profetas da catástrofe, e sim pelas cadeiras das arenas “padrão Fifa”. Há algo de triste em quem passa por essas cadeiras: uma modorra atravessada de impaciência e melancolia.

Pois a torcida brasileira desta Copa é, até agora, uma torcida reativa. Até no seu canto mais efusivo (“Sou brasileiro/Com muito orgulho/Com muito amor”), a torcida de estádio parece estar respondendo a alguma ofensa não-enunciada.  É como se o brasileiro entrasse xingado e cuspido nas arenas, e não extraísse disso mais do que a força para dizer: “Eu gosto do que eu sou”.

A torcida brasileira desta Copa não tem canções: tem musiquinhas que caberiam melhor numa festa de firma: expressões vagas de solidariedade e espírito coletivo – praticamente um convite às vaias e aos muxoxos. “Está ruim o salgado”, “que banda horrível é esta”, “aqueles pães-duros economizaram no uísque”: enxergo no torcedor desta Copa o “Mauro da Contabilidade”, um Jekyll chatíssimo que, nas confraternizações de fim de ano, converte-se num Hyde mais chato ainda.

E os Mauros todos converteram nisto a atual “experiência”  de ser ver um jogo da seleção: um investimento individual de tempo (e dinheiro) em troca de algum retorno. A seleção “presta serviços” aos torcedores-consumidores; é uma seleção-bufê, um atração para eventeiros. Cantar qualquer coisa além do cânone santificado pela imprensa e pela publicidade não está no “briefing”.

(Ao fato: a torcida do México berrou por cima da torcida brasileira em Fortaleza. A ponto de me parecer que, para um jogo em Guadalajara, a seleção mexicana deveria encarar o empate como um tropeço.)

O hino se esgota antes da bola rolar. Não há tempo para concursos, nem festivais. Não existe, tampouco, era de ouro de cantoria para se espelhar. O que pode entoar de novo e de firme a torcida brasileira? Funk, sertanejo, paródia obscena, qualquer coisa mais viva, e menos encaixável num anúncio de banco ou sobe-som de telejornal – jogo as opções ao alto, por desespero de causa.

Surpreenda o Brasil, Mauro. Rasgue o abadá. Seja menos convencional uma vez na vida. Tenha algo a contar para seus filhos, algo diferente de “Os mexicanos/chilenos/argentinos me calaram”.

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro: El consumo no evita la queja (Clarín)

16/06/14

Tensión. Para el pueblo brasileño, “el gobierno se vendió a la FIFA”, sostiene el antropólogo Viveiros de Castro.

El antropólogo carioca Eduardo Viveiros de Castro estuvo recientemente –y por primera vez– en Buenos Aires. Participó del seminario “La bolsa o la vida. Modelos de desarrollo, nuevas conflictividades sociales y derechos humanos”, organizado por la Biblioteca Nacional y presentó el libro La mirada del jaguar. Una introducción al perspectivismo amerindio (Tinta Limón), que compila una serie de entrevistas donde cuenta su trayectoria como investigador. O mejor dicho, su experiencia fugitiva: cómo se conectó con los indios para huir de Brasil. “Fui a estudiar a los indios porque los indios justamente no eran brasileños. Me interesaba su total incompetencia ciudadana. La pregunta era ¿cómo salir de Brasil?, en el sentido de evitar esa problemática teórica de la nacionalidad, el destino de Brasil como nación, el carácter nacional”. La incorrección política que planteaba esa posición en los años 70 no deja de ser actual y sigue generando polémica. En esta conversación Viveiros de Castro cuenta cómo se vivieron las recientes movilizaciones callejeras y lo que se espera para este 2014 que luego del Mundial, afronta las elecciones presidenciales.

–La consigna que circuló en estos meses era sintética pero directa “No habrá copa” ¿Qué concentra esa frase?
–Para el pueblo la imagen es que el gobierno se vendió a la FIFA. La sensación es que la FIFA ha logrado que se instale un micro-estado de excepción que entrará en vigor incluso antes del campeonato. Hay una indignación patriótica por el modo en que Brasil se ha sometido a esa mega máquina de explotación capitalista que es la FIFA en tanto reduce el fútbol a un puro negocio. En Río, muchas favelas fueron removidas para hacer obras para el mundial, también por cuestiones de “seguridad”. Todo eso sucede al mismo tiempo de la propaganda de que Brasil es la nueva potencia económica mundial, con obras de infraestructura enormes, que incluye el desmonte de la Amazonía, hechas por las cinco constructoras más grandes del país que son las que contribuyen históricamente a financiar las campañas de todos los partidos, sean de derecha o de izquierda.

–¿Cómo caracterizaría esas manifestaciones?
–Son bastante inéditas. Hubo partidos de izquierda pero sin ningún control sobre la movilización. Los partidos de derecha no van. Y toda vez que un periodista de la red O Globo se acerca es expulsado, por eso estas manifestaciones son fuertemente atacadas por la prensa. Han producido su propia prensa, que se llama Midia Ninja. No hay además un solo tema. Aunque podría decirse que existen dos cuestiones fundamentales. El problema de la movilidad urbana de la población obrera de San Pablo que vive en las periferias de la ciudad y tiene que viajar horas, lo cual supone un reclamo por el tiempo que lleva ir de las casas al trabajo, una reivindicación del tiempo libre. La segunda es contra la reacción represiva de la policía frente a las marchas, ante lo cual muchos jóvenes se indignaron.

–¿Esto está en el origen de la formación de los black bloc (grupos de protesta)?
–La práctica del black bloc, especialmente en Río, tiene que ver con la respuesta al accionar de la policía militar con la que cuenta cada Estado provincial, que es como un ejército privado y una herencia del imperio. Es una policía que usa armas pesadas y entrenada para la guerra. El gobierno es acusado de complicidad con esta violencia de los Estados provinciales. Dilma ha dicho por tv que está en contra de toda manifestación que ponga en peligro el orden público. Estas palabras, viniendo de una mujer que estuvo en la guerrilla, que dijo haber sido revolucionaria, orientan el discurso del PT hacia una retórica de orden propia de una derecha más clásica.

–Las movilizaciones en Brasil, a diferencia de las últimas en Europa o EE.UU., no se dan en un momento de crisis o ajuste. Más bien lo contrario: es claramente un momento de desarrollo en términos de inclusión masiva al consumo. ¿Cómo lo interpreta?
–Hay algo muy complejo vinculado al llamado crecimiento. Una gran parte de este aumento de los ingresos por medio de beneficios sociales como el de “Bolsa Familia” ha sido utilizado como método de endeudamiento para los jóvenes pobres. El prototipo podríamos describirlo como un joven de 22 años, sin educación formal, que trabaja de cadete, cuya familia recibe ahora estos subsidios, además de las posibilidades de acceso al microcrédito que el gobierno implementó. ¿Y qué es lo primero que hace este joven? Compra una moto y se endeuda por muchísimos años de su vida con un préstamo muy oneroso con los bancos. Parte fundamental del crecimiento es por este endeudamiento general de las clases populares, especialmente con electrodomésticos. Y no está mal que alguien que no tenía heladera pase a tenerla, todo lo contrario. El problema es que no pasan a tener la heladera sino a ser tenidos por ella, es decir, por la deuda a la que quedan obligados, casi siempre por medio de tarjetas de crédito. En la medida en que ciertos gobiernos de la región se diferencian de las políticas neoliberales tal como se dieron durante los años 90 y promueven un aumento general del consumo, se genera un consenso sobre la legitimidad de estos modelos y cualquier crítica se la clasifica como proveniente de la derecha. En Brasil los que argumentan así son los que llamamos “gobernistas”, es decir, la gente de la antigua izquierda que apoya al gobierno más allá de la medida que se trate porque siempre dicen “otro gobierno sería mucho peor”. Comparado con la Argentina, en Brasil resulta más complicado porque la dictadura no terminó, los militares no han sido juzgados y siguen diciendo públicamente que salvaron al país del comunismo. Y esto, me parece, funciona en acuerdo con el PT: los militares “toleran” que el actual gobierno “de izquierda” gobierne y el gobierno “tolera” que los militares sigan diciendo lo que dicen y no se los juzgue.

–Volviendo a la cuestión del consumo, ¿no cree que cierta crítica al consumo debería plantearse el desafío de deshacerse de toda carga moral?
–Me parece que la democratización en América Latina no llega por el consumo sino por la ampliación de servicios del Estado: salud, transporte, educación. Lo que pasa en Brasil es que el consumo ha sustituido esa provisión de servicios para las clases populares. Entonces, las clases populares en vez de tener más y mejores servicios tienen su crédito para comprar bienes producidos por el gran capital, sea su motocicleta o su heladera. La cuestión es qué resulta más importante: ¿que el gobierno invierta en cloacas, puestos de salud y escuelas o que invierta en liberar de impuestos la compra de autos baratos para que los pobres puedan tener un auto? Se podría responder “las dos cosas” y es una buena cuestión. El hecho a subrayar es que el gobierno brasileño ha invertido masivamente en el consumo mediante el crédito. Y el pedido de mejoramiento de servicios públicos es justamente uno de los reclamos del Movimiento de Passe Livre que inició la ola de manifestaciones. La verdadera inclusión pasa por la inclusión en el acceso a servicios que el Estado tiene la obligación de proveer a todos. Además creo que hay dos tipos diferentes de consumo que hay que distinguir.

–¿Cuáles?
–Por un lado, el consumo de quienes no tenían nada y ahora pueden comprar su tv o su heladera. Nadie puede oponerse. De todas maneras, eso no los convierte en clase media, como dice el gobierno. Pasan de ser pobres a un poco menos pobres. Y después está el consumo inmenso de una clase media-media que pasa a ser una clase media-alta y protagoniza un ascenso de clase verdaderamente consumista: es la gente que va a Miami o a Buenos Aires para llenar valijas con productos importados de marcas de lujo. Esta gente se multiplicó tanto o más que los pobres que acceden a un crédito.

More Corporations Using Tag And Release Programs To Study American Consumers (Onion)

ISSUE 50•23 • Jun 13, 2014

A Procter & Gamble marketing team attaches a tracking collar to an incapacitated head-of-household specimen.

NEW YORK—In an effort to more closely observe the group’s buying habits and personal behaviors, a growing number of corporations are turning to tag and release programs to study American consumers, sources confirmed Friday.

According to reports, multinationals such as Kraft, General Electric, Goodyear, and Apple have embraced the technique of tracking down potential customers in their natural habitats of department stores and supermarkets, forcibly tranquilizing them as they shop, and then fitting them with electronic tracking devices that allow marketing departments to keep a detailed record of individuals’ every movement and purchasing decision.

“In recent weeks, we have employed our tag and release initiative to sedate and earmark consumers in several Costco parking lots and Best Buy television aisles, which has already yielded valuable data from numerous middle-class family units,” said Sony market researcher Nathan McElroy, whose team gathers data on the consumer population by attaching radio-transponder collars to specimens across all age groups and income levels. “Today we subdued and chipped a beautiful white male earning $60,000 annually whose subsequent actions—where he eats, where he works, whether he purchases extended warranties on electronic devices—will give us important insights into his demographic.”

“We’re really starting to get a clear idea of just what sales promotions and big-ticket expenditures make these fascinating creatures tick,” he continued.

Representatives from several Fortune 500 companies described to reporters a delicate process in which marketing associates journey to such varied field sites as Marshalls, OfficeMax, and Bed Bath & Beyond, where they lie in wait behind a row of shopping carts or a promotional cardboard cutout. Once a desirable target moves into view, a member of the marketing team reportedly attempts to immobilize it by firing a tranquilizer dart into its neck or haunches before it can panic and skitter off into another aisle. The unconscious consumer is then fitted with a small, subdermal acoustic tag that is synced to the subject’s credit cards, allowing marketers to both physically and financially track their quarries.

Claiming that every effort is taken to employ humane handling procedures and inflict minimal trauma, marketing associates stressed that consumers always wake up in the same clothing department or mini mall in which they were found, and most obliviously resume their browsing of store shelves within 30 minutes of being sedated.

Researchers affirmed they have become increasingly interested in valuable targets such as college graduates who allot more than $500 per month to discretionary purchases, saying they have become fascinated by the group’s herd-like movements to Panera Bread and IKEA as well as their ritual use of products such as Swiffers and tablets. By monitoring these consumers as they feed, groom, use their rewards cards, and mate, marketers acknowledged they have amassed a tremendous amount of useful knowledge.

“Just last month we collar-tagged a prime specimen of a variety we’d been attempting to capture for a very long time,” said BMW marketing executive Samantha Barlow, referring to a suburban mother in her late 40s who was found gathering bunches of watercress and beet greens at a Whole Foods, where her precise weekly route through the aisles has now been recorded and analyzed. “And we finally have geolocators implanted in several dozen young professionals aged 25 to 35, whose consumption of products such as Stella Artois, Hugo Boss apparel, and designer colognes suggest they’ll provide us with fruitful data for years to come.”

“It’s important that we tag them early in the development of their buying habits,” Barlow added. “Obviously, once they reach 65, they become useless for our purposes and we remove their tags, or just let them chew them off.”

Despite the success of their tracking programs, researchers admitted their work has been hindered by limits in their methodology, noting that they are unable to observe any quantifiable activity from as many as a quarter of their tagged targets who remain sedentary almost around the clock and rarely leave their dens. Marketers noted these larger, slower specimens must often be hit with two or three darts before they can be safely approached.

“A large portion of our targets are fast food consumers, and you’ll lose 10 or 12 percent of those each year, usually to heart disease,” said Jonathan Lockhart, an independent marketing consultant. “You hate to see that, but the upside is that we get useful data we can then turn around and sell to pharmaceutical companies.”

“What’s bad news for Burger King is great news for Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer,” he added.

Brazil’s World Cup Is An Expensive, Exploitative Nightmare (The Daily Beast)

Andre Penner/AP

 05.30.14

Brazilians angry at their government and FIFA could turn this giant soccer tournament into a tipping point. Are these corrupt, elitist spectacles worth it?

The world’s “beautiful game” is about to stage its biggest tournament in the country that is its spiritual home. The realities on the ground in Brazil, however, are far different from how its ringmasters had envisioned. Stadiums haven’t been completed; roads and airports not built. Ten thousand visiting journalists may find themselves unable to make deadlines due to poor Internet and mobile service.

More ominously, there is a rising tide of discontent that threatens to turn the streets into war zones. History may well record the World Cup in Brazil as the tipping point where the costs meant the party just wasn’t worth it anymore.Nao Vai Ter Copa has become a national rallying cry. There Will Be No World Cup. People want bread, not circuses. It’s OK to love the game, but hate the event. The governing body of the game, FIFA, is not amused.

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Events like World Cup and the Olympics have become obscenely expensive, with few trickle-down rewards to the citizens who bear the brunt of the costs for the benefit of the few. The people of South America’s largest country were promised the dawn of a new age of prosperity that these mega-events heralded. In a country where corruption is insidious, all-encompassing, and a virus that suffocates all semblance of progress, it is bricks, steel, and mortar that the people see, not new hospitals, schools, or public transport. Even then, Itaquerao stadium, as an example, won’t be ready in time for the opening kickoff in São Paulo on June 12. “Is this what we get for $11 billion?” the people are asking. It is a fair question.

A new type of democracy has sprung up as a result; a unity of thought and expression that is uniquely Brazilian. Citizen collectives with names like Direitos Urbanos (Urban Rights) and the Landless Workers Movement (MTST) were formed to create avenues of options for people who have had to make way forordem e progressothe national motto of Brazil inscribed on the flag. Order and Progress.

U.S. journalist Dave Zirin, in his recent book Brazils Dance With the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics and Brazils Fight for Democracy, says the three Ds—displacement, debt, and defense—are at the heart of the other Ds—such as discontent and disgust.

“The calls for protest aim to highlight the pain as well as show the world who is behind the curtain, pulling the strings,” he said. “There is a highly sophisticated plan that just as the government’s World Cup plans for Brazil are designed for international consumption, there is also an unprecedented global spotlight. The great journalist Eduardo Galeano once wrote, ‘There are visible and invisible dictators. The power structure of world football is monarchical. It’s the most secret kingdom in the world. Protesters aim to drag FIFA from the shadows and into the light. If they are successful, it will leave a legacy that will last longer than the spectacle itself.’”

During a congressional hearing by Brazil’s tourism and sports commission this year, former FIFA World Player of the Year and 1994 World Cup winner Romario, now a popular politician and member of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, was quoted as saying, “We can’t expect anything from FIFA, where we have a blackmailer called [General Secretary Jerome] Valcke and a corrupt thief and son-of-a-bitch called [President Sepp] Blatter.”

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Yan Boechat writes for the top news magazine in Brazil, Revista Istoe. Among his previous assignments were stints in war zones like Afghanistan and the Congo. He will be covering the action on the streets during the World Cup.

“A lot of money was spent on construction of things we don’t really need,” Boechat said. “There’s a big stadium in Manaus, a place without a football culture and not even a team in the first or second division. The government removed hundreds of thousands of poor people from their houses to make space for stadiums, roads to lead to them, and other construction projects. Most of these people were sent to places far away from the city centers.”

Photojournalist Ana Lira is from the northeastern city of Recife and a founding member of Urban Rights. She has meticulously documented the bulldozing and burning of poor neighborhoods and the infamous favelas, the shantytowns that dot the hills of Rio and streets of São Paulo.

“So far 27 people have died in the protests, with more than 300 wounded since last year,” she said. “In this number, there are two professional photographers and a journalist who was blinded after being hit in the eye deliberately by the police. They used rubber bullets. Some other professionals were hit or arrested in areas near the protests just because the police wanted someone to pay for the protests.”

“If Brazil does well on the field, then perhaps people will be happy and not protest as much. But if Brazil fails, they will be much larger. There will be violence.”

“We are now seeing a new wave of protesters coming to the streets,” Boechat added. “Teachers, street cleaners, police officers, unions, a movement for affordable housing—all those people are going to be on the streets during the World Cup. They see this as the right moment to fight for their interests. Those groups do not traditionally mix with the anarchists and anti-capitalists.”

This week that number included about 3,000 indigenous peoples in tribal dress, gathering in front of the new stadium in the nation’s capital, Brasilia.

“For whom does our government work?” one of the indigenous leaders, Lindomar Terena, asked the crowd. “Instead of the government standing for the federal constitution and finally ending the demarcation of indigenous lands, it is investing billions in an event that lasts for a month, prioritizing big businesses over ancestral peoples’ rights.”

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A new anti-terror law has been rushed through the Brazilian congress to deal with the protesters. It has been nicknamed Bill A1-5, a takeoff on the 1968 AI-5 Act, which gave extraordinary powers to the military junta and suspended key civil and constitutional guarantees for more than 20 years. The implementation of such a law opened old wounds. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was a member of a Marxist revolutionary group after the 1964 military coup d’état in Brazil. She was captured, imprisoned for two years, and reportedly tortured. It is a very important narrative for Brazilians. Her complicity in allowing the World Cup to proceed at the expense of the Brazilian poor is seen as a sellout of the poor to the rich.

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At the vanguard of the protests has been the galvanizing effect of social media. Websites like Portal Popular da Copa e das Olympiadas, and by citizen-journalist movements like Midia Ninja,  a Portuguese acronym for “independent narratives, journalism and action,” created to spark disparate movements across the country.

“We’ll be on the streets, covering all political and cultural movements, the passion for football and this new moment of political unrest,” says Rafael Vilela, a founder of the Midia Ninja collective. Their hub is an aggregate of photographs and eyewitness reports taken by hundreds of collectives. The portal will have a system of simultaneous translation in three languages including English.

Midia Ninja and Fora do Eixo (Outside the Axis), a music and cultural collective, have created a community called Cinelandia in downtown Rio, where people can come in, play music, debate, write their blogs, and edit cellphone videos and post them online. There are edit suites mounted on shopping carts, and portable generators to power them. The protests can be seen live on the Internet via Twittercast.

“We’ve managed to do a lot with very few resources except our creativity and collaboration,” says Felipe Altenfelder, a founder of the FDE collective. “Never before has our generation been more prepared in terms of social technology and social knowledge. What we are doing is totally new in Latin America. The various collectives across Brazil have a structure of sharing food, money, even clothes, so even the poorest people can work within our groups and not just survive—but participate in actions against social injustices 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Director Spike Lee has been in Brazil working on a documentary, Go Brazil Go, in which Felipe, Rafael and other members of Midia Ninja figure prominently.

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There are 170,000 or more security troops assigned to the World Cup—not to protect the thousands of tourists who will be coming to Brazil to watch the matches, but to quell dissent. Among them are a group of 40 FBI agents, part of an “anti-terror” unit. In January, French riot police were brought in to train their Brazilian counterparts. There are several Israeli drones, the ones used to chase down suspects in the West Bank, as well as 50 robotic bomb-disposal units most recently used by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. There are also facial-recognition goggles that police can use to spot 400 faces a second and match them against a database of 13 million. But there won’t be that many tourists, so exactly whom, people want to know, are the police checking? At a cost of nearly $1 billion, the international composition of the security measures is not only a contentious issue among Brazilians, but a cruel irony given FIFA’s mandate of bringing the world together through football.

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“If Brazil does well on the field, then perhaps people will be happy and not protest as much,” said Boechat. “But if Brazil loses, there will be big problems and civil unrest. I think the way we play the World Cup will define a lot of things that will happen outside the stadia. We’re going to have protests; that’s for sure. But if Brazil fails, they will be much larger. There will be violence.”

As the Roman emperors knew during the staging of the gladiator games at the Coliseum, so FIFA knows now: The mob must be appeased. Remember when South Korea beat Italy in the 2002 World Cup and the Ecuadorian referee later admitted taking money from South Korean officials? Or the most dubious of all: Argentina’s win over Peru by six goals in the 1978 World Cup, the exact margin required to proceed in the tournament. The chiefs of the military junta had gathered in Buenos Aires to watch and a Peruvian goalkeeper of Argentinian extraction duly had a nightmare evening. Corrupt to the core.

FIFA wants a show, not protests. They know Brazil has to win to keep people quiet. President Rousseff knows that with an election coming up later in the year, her chances of winning would be a lot better with a sixth Brazilian World Cup win.

In the end, there is always the financial aspect of the biggest show on earth. Goldman Sachs strategist Peter Oppenheimer said the company’s analysts have found that, according to past history, the winning country’s equity markets outperform global stocks by 3.5 percent on average in the first month after winning, “although the outperformance fades significantly after three months.”

Brazil will beat Argentina 3-1 in the final after they see off Germany and Spain in their respective semifinals, Goldman analysts including Jan Hatzius and Sven Jari Stehn said in a report. The host nation has a 48.5 percent probability of winning the FIFA tournament, followed by Argentina at 14.1 percent and Germany at 11.4 percent.

These are bankers, not bookies.

A report like this can lead the mind to extreme cynicism about how and why games are determined.

* *

Unlike in the U.S., where soccer is a game of the middle classes, the roots offootball are firmly entrenched in the working-class neighborhoods and slums of places like Buenos Aires, Lagos, Rio, and, at its birth, in the towns and cities of Industrial Revolution-era Britain. The qualities of energy, zest, improvisation and enterprise needed to survive in such environments created a cauldron of bubbling passion for the game. It’s only soccer, but it is also about liberation. Former Manchester United star Eric Cantona was in Rio filming his seventh documentary, which will be screened at the first-ever Amnesty Football Film Festival in the U.K. In an interview with Amnesty in Paris, the always-outspoken Frenchman lamented the possibility of Brazilian football losing its greatest legacy of all.

“I have been in Maracanã [in Rio, site of the final] before, and I loved Maracanã. But now it is just a stadium like the Emirates Stadium [in London] or Stade de France. And they say, ‘It’s a revolution for us, we have to educate the people to sit.’ But they don’t want to sit, they just want to stand up and sing and dance.” Those who want to sing and dance can’t afford to go anymore, he says. But it is a shame because it’s these kinds of fans who created football and it’s these kind of fans who have a child who will play football,” said Cantona. “Because most of the people, most of the players come from poor areas. To be a footballer, you need to train every day when you are a kid, you need to go in the street and play in the street every day.”

So as the clock winds down to the opening kickoff on June 12 when Brazil will play Croatia, there is a profound melancholy that permeates the emotions of soccer fans. We love the game. We love the World Cup. We love the way it was.

I love its drama,” wrote the great Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby, “its smooth playing skills, its carelessly laid rhythms, and the added flavor of contrasting styles. Its great occasions are, for me at any rate, unequalled in the world of sport. I feel a sense of romance, wonder, and mystery, a sense of beauty and a sense of poetry. On such occasions, the game has the timeless, magical qualities of legend.”

Some of my greatest life memories come from the World Cup, but there also comes a time when the massive show, fueled by corporate might, is overshadowed by the engine of social and political change. Brazil was under a military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985. Democracy is relatively new. What is beginning to emerge is Brazil at an adolescent stage as part of a national rite of passage. The World Cup may yet precipitate the maturing of a nation. In spite of FIFA’s best efforts to act as a shadow government.

World Bank Revamping Is Rattling Employees (New York Times)

By ANNIE LOWREY

MAY 27, 2014

WASHINGTON — The World Bank, a famously bureaucratic institution, is undergoing its first restructuring in nearly two decades. The overhaul is intended to keep it relevant at a time when even the poorest countries can easily tap the global capital markets, but with just weeks to go, the process has turned into what several staff members described as a nightmare, stalling their work and sapping morale.

In an interview, Jim Yong Kim, the American doctor and former president of Dartmouth College who took over leadership of the bank two years ago, strongly defended his plan. The overarching goal is to break down the bank’s regional “silos,” he explained, which discourage, for instance, experts who are working on mobile banking in sub-Saharan Africa from sharing best practices with experts handling the same issue in Central America.

To tackle that problem, Dr. Kim has created more than a dozen new global practices — on subjects like trade, health and infrastructure. Technical staff based in Washington will be organized into those practice groups as of July 1. “We had to make this change in order to really force the information to flow,” Dr. Kim said.

“We had to make this change in order to really force the information to flow,” said Jim Yong Kim. Credit Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Along with that restructuring of 15,000 bank employees, Dr. Kim has also undertaken a sweeping financial review, to squeeze out inefficiencies and cut $400 million from the bank’s operating budget.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to say: Here’s where the revenue’s coming from” and where the spending is going, Dr. Kim said. “For the first time, we’re going to be able to compare expenditures.”

Current and former staff members said they agreed that change needed to come to the World Bank. “The bank is losing its relevance in middle-income countries,” said Uri Dadush, the director of the international economics program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, referring to countries like India, China and Brazil.

“These countries don’t need a $1 billion or $2 billion loan from the bank,” Mr. Dadush said. “And many of the countries now have a lot of indigenous capacity to analyze and make technical decisions” without assistance from World Bank experts, he added.

Dr. Kim pointed out that the bank had recently doubled its lending capacity for middle-income countries.

The complaints from the bank’s core staff in Washington, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation, started piling up almost as soon as Dr. Kim initiated the reorganization. And over time, more and more of those complaints have been directed at Dr. Kim personally.

“This is not the way you run a change program,” said Paul Cadario, who worked at the bank for more than three decades. “No vision. No communications mechanism. No indication when it’s all going to be over.”

That turmoil has created what some people inside the World Bank described as a toxic environment. In not-for-attribution interviews, midlevel officials voiced concerns about such moves as restrictions on travel expenses even as hordes of highly paid McKinsey and Booz Allen consultants roamed the halls — and Dr. Kim was accused of hypocrisy for his own expenditures.

“The staff are clearly unhappy,” said Nancy Birdsall, the president of the Center for Global Development, a Washington-based research group. “There’s been a loss of confidence, not necessarily in the idea of the reorganization, but in the process.”

Yet even some World Bank staff members said that employees’ own sense of entitlement, and the fact that the bank had not undergone such a major internal review in nearly two decades, also explained some of the negative reaction.

In part, employees said they were concerned about personnel decisions. Four dozen executives have had to apply for new jobs. Last year, three highly regarded female executives were also unceremoniously pushed from their positions, which angered many other women at the bank.

Others said they were unimpressed with the executives named to lead the global-practices teams. “They’re good people, they might be great people,” said one bank official. “But they’re not top-quality people. These aren’t big names.”

Moreover, the global-practices leaders did not include any people from Africa or East Asia, arguably the bank’s two most important client regions. When African governors of the bank objected, Dr. Kim sent a letter to reply, if not to apologize.

“Thank you for our meeting yesterday,” it said. “I apologize for having had to leave so quickly; I had a meeting scheduled immediately after our session. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate to you my personal commitment to diversity and specifically the inclusion of Africans among all ranks of staff at the World Bank Group.”

Another central concern is that the restructuring has taken up too much time, distracting the bank’s workers, rattling relations with clients and leading to risk aversion. “People are desperately trying to justify themselves and veering away from projects that might raise questions,” a staff member said.

But Dr. Kim pointed out that the bank was on track to do more business this year than it did last year; during earlier restructurings, parts of the bank’s business shrank. High-level bank employees also stressed that Dr. Kim had instituted regular review processes that would reduce the need for such stark reorganizations in the future.

Pettier concerns have abounded, too. As part of the $400 million cost-cutting exercise, the bank issued new guidelines on travel, limiting business-class flights and even adjusting breakfast allowances. “Leadership needs to reflect: Are ‘breakfast savings’ worth the ‘expense’ of staff morale?” said one letter in a popular alumni newsletter.

Perhaps no change caused more outrage than the elimination of parking subsidies for the crowded and expensive downtown garages where many officials park. Yet “to subsidize parking is a little weird for an organization like us,” countered Bertrand Badré, the bank’s chief financial officer, pointing out that the bank is committed to combating climate change.

Many complaints, serious and frivolous, have also questioned Dr. Kim’s management — especially concerns about his lack of communication with rank-and-file employees and perceptions of his overspending when asking the rest of the bank to cut back.

A much-discussed Financial Times editorial rebuked him for his use of private planes. One other popular rumor had Dr. Kim purchasing a tuxedo and charging the World Bank for it.

A press officer responded that Dr. Kim had taken chartered planes only to otherwise inaccessible destinations, and that he had used them less frequently than past presidents. (More than 90 percent of his travel is commercial, the spokesman said.) And the tuxedo story is just a story, he said: Dr. Kim had purchased white-tie wear for a Nobel Prize event, but he paid for the clothes himself.

Dr. Kim said that he did think he could have communicated about the restructuring process more clearly, and sooner. “I’ve been told this a million times by people who have gone through this,” he said. “It’s this notion that you can never communicate enough.” He added: “If I were to give anyone else advice, it would be to overcommunicate from the beginning.”

For all the complaints, many others involved with the bank and its lending policies said they supported the reorganization. “Let’s keep the mission of the bank in mind,” said Ian Solomon, a former World Bank executive director. “This is not about whether people in Washington are comfortable, or whether the process is simple. Development is hard. There’s a lot more we don’t know about getting it right than we do know.”

He added: “I applaud Jim for taking this one on.”

The Obama administration, which effectively named Dr. Kim to his post, also threw its weight behind the reorganization. “The United States is confident that the World Bank’s restructuring addresses the changing development challenges of the 21st century and will better equip the bank to meet its global mission,” said Marisa Lago, the assistant Treasury secretary for international markets and development. “Implementation and execution are key to this process.”

And Dr. Kim himself said that he believed the bank’s staff would see dividends after July 1. “I think it’s going better than I could have imagined two years ago,” he said.