transformed into a wilderness

Fukushima is a wasteland, but nuclear fallout isn't the problem ...

The Chicago School – Friedman and his acolyte thugs – recommended we let the market alone decide. Thatcher said there is no such thing as society. Polyani connects the two: he suggests that the implementation of market fundamentalist principles will end in the collapse of society.

Polyani says that to commodify and abuse labor is to diminish the life of the person whose labor is being used. It disposes of our basic natures: physical, psychological and moral! Outrageous. He reconnects what has been alienated: the person with her work.

He says that a market that governs all removes the protections afforded by our shared institutions, which causes social breakdown: crime, starvation, pollution, loss of military and food security – and the dissolution of society itself into a wasteland.

To allow the market mechanism to be sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment, indeed, even of the amount and use of purchasing power, would result in the demolition of society. For the alleged commodity, “labor power” cannot be shoved about, used indiscriminately, or even left unused, without affecting the human individual who happens to be the bearer of this peculiar commodity. In disposing of a man’s labor power the system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity of “man” attached to the tag. Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the the effects of social exposure; they would die as the victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation. Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed.

Karl Polyani, The Great Transformation, 1944

Our thesis is that the idea of a self-adjusting market implied a stark utopia. Such an institution could not exist for any length of time without annihilating the human and natural substance of society; it would have physically destroyed man and transformed his surroundings into a wilderness.

Karl Polyani, The Great Transformation, 1944
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rivers forests hills

Surely she will take her revenge.

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.

The Pricing of Everything, George Monbiot

ceaseless pollulation, perpetual innovation
March 5, 2008, 11:37 pm
Filed under: chronotopes | Tags: , , , , ,

It is a fundamentally hopeful act to challenge the reductive instruments of our established institutions, and their intended roles of measure, management and mastery.  Our instrumental culture routinely exits nature, which is relentlessly innovative, indifferent and changing, to define, master and ultimately neuter its volatile and contingent character.

“But Western Being,” the voices of our institutions will protest, “is time, and has been so since the very dawn of modernity” – since the advent of rationalized accounting practices, the discovery of universal mechanical laws and constants, the application of systematic techniques for governing populations, the rise of humanistic disciplines and experimental method, the birth of the Cartesian or modern ‘self.’  But the forms of time expressed in these seemingly disparate historical developments are not, strictly speaking, ‘real’ at all, but only chimeras of an emerging and very specific instrumental culture; they are, in a word, abstractions – ingenious tools contrived to distribute the senseless procession of events in nature within an external, thinkable space of measure, management, and mastery.

But nature itself is wild, indifferent and accidental; it is a ceaseless pollulation and unfolding, a dense evolutionary plasma of perpetual differentiation and innovation.  Each thing, it may be said, changes and arrives in time, yet the posture of externality that permits precise measure and perfect mastery can be struck and assumed only in space; one must first withdraw oneself from the profuse, organic flux in which things are given, isolate discrete instants as projected frozen sections, and then interpolate abstract laws like so much mortar to rejoin these sections from the new perspective.  But the very gesture that carries thought away from the ‘event’ and toward the ‘thing’ abstracts and spatializes time in the act of instrumentalizing it; it subjugates the contingency and volatility of time by reconstituting it external to phenomena as a finitude and a regularity: it becomes a technique of measurement embodied in economic axioms and algebraic laws.

~Sanford Kwinter, ‘The Complex and the Singular,’ Architectures of Time , The MIT Press