Sunday, July 23, 2017

Theses towards a left ideology

It's common, on the left, to talk about historical materialism without acknowledging that the primary theories that the left uses have no connection to our contemporary era or its material conditions. Here are my best ideas to correct that.

1. Ecological value

a) The primary constraint on human economics is the production of ecological value: powered primarily through solar energy and processed through biomass.

b) Ecological processes are what create and maintain our air, water, and food. They can not be replaced by human labor. They are not "natural resources" but products of cycles with limited replacement times and limited surpluses.

c) All human value depends, in the end, on ecological value. We can't live without it, and no human labor can take place without it.

d) The primary surplus that capitalism, as well as state capitalism, feeds on and appropriates and changes into human value is ecological surplus.

e) No future left ideology can succeed unless it internalizes the maintenance of ecological value as an ideal and constraint

2. Democracy and scale

a) Representative democracy is the primary reproductive and maintenance mode of late capitalism. It predictably produces the exact results that we see around us now.

b) Large state structures run non-democratically also predictably produce those same results, but with extra misery. Even idealized, democratic left states would make popular decisions that, when averaged over millions of people, are predictably bad. See "ecological value" above, but also racism, xenophobia etc.

c) The best way of making decisions is to limit the decisions to the people closely or strongly affected by them. Large-scale decisions have to be minimized.

d) What scale counts as small? From the beginning of the Western political tradition, we know that even city-states are too large. Probably best is groups of less than 100 people.

e) The anarchist idea of confederalism is an attempt at small-scale democracy with some degree of large-scale coordination. The main element of what needs to be coordinated is built infrastructure, which is the main limit on what people can do.

3. Work and money

a) Human labor is no longer a limiting factor of production. We have more than we need, and there is no particular power in withholding it.

b) All attempts to call on person power as worker power are going to fail, and fail counterproductively, in part because being a prole is now a social identity that puts someone a step up from the class of lumpenproles, and more and more of us are lumpenproles. These two classes have different interests and can no more naturally cooperate than elites and proles do.

c) For this reason a social revolution requires devaluing work. We don't need everyone to do it: most of it is useless or ecologically harmful. Wage labor should be phased out through shortened workweeks until it disappears: people who believe in the value of work can do it, with most necessities provided through automation.

d) In a world where necessities can be provided to everyone, there is no reason to use money. Money only results in ridiculous situations like less than 20 people having half of the world's amount of it. Let's abolish it and educate people not to replace it with a new money system.

e) Without money, there is no real reason to forbid people from doing whatever kind of economic activity they want to do. If they pile up a big pile of some kind of valuable material, someone will eventually take it, and non-violently taking something that someone can't possibly use should not be a crime.

4. Societal values (in progress)


  1. Don't know what ecological value means, because I don't know what value means.

    "It predictably produces the exact results that we see around us now." Inevitability? History only happens one way. Degrees of freedom, zero. Information value, zero.

    Interpretation of the configuration of the world as the latest step on a path with unknown destination is capable of yielding knowledge, but you have to work at it a bit more subtly than "what is, is of necessity". Notice coincidence, messiness. The world as it is, is many things, many of them the consequences of contingent choices made in ignorance of the world as it was.

    Past performance is no prediction, of course, but if what you want is to draw people into an hypnotic trance when you can feed them an ideology, you may need the fatuous more than knowledge. Actually understanding, which comes with a lot of painful doubt, and feeling a common understanding in social communion -- these go in different directions. Millenialism is stupid, but . . .

    "There is no reason to use money" money is not about scarcity. Money is about time. And debt. And loose coordination of scale.

    Money you may need to 're-work, but if you are serious, money and debt are way too useful in the absence of scarcity in loosely coordinating activity to just chuck the challenge. If you really think ecological value is the proper ground, then there is your gold. And if you want to minimize centralization but still scale coordination, you need a central bank to backstop all the local scorekeeping. "Man owes a great debt to nature" may be just the fatuousness you need.

    1. Hi Bruce, I tried to write a reply and some peculiarity of the comment screening (necessary to avoid spam) bounced it off my own blog. So I'll reply with an actual post. If I have the energy.