Futile growth and mounting destruction
Capitalism’s cost–benefit contradiction
in The capitalist mode of destruction
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Building on previous chapters’ discussion of capital’s destructive uses of the surplus, this chapter reformulates the contradiction underlying contemporary capitalism’s operation. This reformulation does not assume that capitalism is becoming an insuperable obstacle to further productive development. Instead, it argues that capitalism’s continuing development of the forces of production runs parallel to an equally rapidly development of its forces of destruction. The thrust of that system’s cost–benefit contradiction then consists in the long-term tendency of the benefits from productive development to decline even as the threats from the simultaneous development of capitalism’s destructive forces escalate. This contradiction creates the potential for a broad anti-capitalist coalition between all the social groups and social movements fighting against both the various manifestations of capitalist destruction and the various forms of injustice that capitalism helps to reproduce. At the same time, however, the social, economic, and geographic divisions that capitalism’s operation imposes on the different segments of the world population obstruct this anti-capitalist convergence. Thus, this chapter does more than just analyze the conditions that make it possible to envisage a democratic classless society capable of overcoming the multidimensional crisis we face. It also illuminates some of the obstacles that an anti-capitalist movement would need to overcome in order to turn such an alternative society into a reality.

The capitalist mode of destruction

Austerity, ecological crisis and the hollowing out of democracy


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