7 April 2019   Leave a comment

Bill McKibben is one of the most thoughtful analysts of climate change and he has written a book review for the New York Review of Books entitled “A Future Without Fossil Fuels?” The essay starts optimistically, reviewing all the progress that has been made in developing renewable energies. But then McKibben frankly assesses the political and economic power of the fossil fuel industries and acknowledges their extraordinary ability to delay any transition away from fossil fuels. The third part of the essay identifies the forces that will accelerate the transition:

“The bottom line is clear: to the degree that the fossil fuel industry is weakened by some combination of technological change and furious activism, the chances for serious change increase. If energy barons like the Koch Brothers and Exxon remain flush with cash, they can probably delay or undermine initiatives like the Green New Deal. But if their businesses are under strong pressure from a rapidly changing energy economy, polities around the world would be freer to take the steps that scientists insist are necessary with the speed required to prevent global catastrophe. Should these changes happen quickly, they could do more than save us from planetary peril.

McKibben may be more optimistic than warranted, but he does a very good job at outlining the war forward.

The reliably lefty journal Jacobin has published an interview with Niklas Olsen entitled “How Neoliberalism Reinvented Democracy“. It is an interesting take on the relationship between capitalism and democracy, a relationship that remains enigmatic in liberal ideology. Liberals argue that both systems enhance the freedom of the individual and are therefore compatible. But that framework completely disregards how capitalism tries to transform individuals, and their labor, into commodities. The transformation ultimately leads to the destruction of what we consider to be human freedom:

“This belief is strongly rooted in the idea, prevalent not only in neoliberalism, but also in the discipline of economics more generally, that self-interest is a driving force of human activity. According to this idea, people only enter government institutions to maximize their own utility, not because they are dedicated to ideals of the common good. Against this background, economists and politicians want to push political decisions onto the market, which they portray as a site of social interaction that will bring us what the state cannot deliver — efficiency, freedom, entrepreneurship, and democracy.”

It is a dense interview but well worth the effort. It builds upon many of the insights in what I regard as one of the most important books of the 20th century: The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi.

Posted April 7, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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