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Quelo, Greta & the Neoliberal Doctrine of Multiple Truth

The Pedant

January 22, 2020

 

 

 

For public consumption. December 6, 2019. Greta Thunberg arrives at COP25 in Madrid.

 

Inside COP25, Dec 11, 2019. No public consumption required. David Shukman, BBC, Twitter: “As we wait for Greta Thunberg it’s quite striking how many delegates have not turned up for this session.”

 

*Translated from Italian to English via Google Translator.

Introduction by author:

I propose below, slightly edited, a long article by the friend Pier Paolo Dal Monte appeared a few days ago on the blog Frontiere . The analysis – so far unique in its kind, except for my oversights – has the advantage of placing the latest emergence of the “climate” in the broader methodological framework dictated by the productive and social models that today dominate without alternatives, highlighting the contradictions and omissions from the ongoing debate a true mirror of the crisis of those models and the violence destined to ensue.

Except for a few details (for example on the feasibility of relegating the capitalist model to minor activities, or on the function of ” denial ” which I would distinguish more clearly from the gatekeeping activity , while both serving the same purposes) I deeply share the thesis presented and greetings in the work by Pier Paolo a very successful attempt to unravel and document the “red thread” often perceived in the articles and comments of this blog.


Superstructure and underlying

 

“There is a big crisis”, Quelo would say , that sort of parodic crasis of saint and telepreacher that was interpreted by Corrado Guzzanti.

The crisis, is the “disturbing guest” of our times, always accompanies any present, with an up and coming of many crises: The economy, Lecology, Lademography, Lemigrations, Lapoverty, Lepidemias, Inflation, Ladeflazione … a pressing of crisis that it reduces the poor human beings like so many punched boxers who, unable to react, receive all the blows that the media pour on their poor minds.

Obviously, we cannot now speak of all the crises brought to the fore by the inexhaustible cornucopia of the media; we will therefore concentrate on only one of them which, periodically (and now, also, overwhelmingly), is brought to the attention of public opinion, that is what is called “climate crisis” or “global warming” whatever you want .

This time, to create dismay in the victims of media mythology about this “ghost who wanders the world”, a scientist with an icy and slightly abstruse language was not used, not a politician imbued with Al Gore, or a Hollywood actor on a leash (which, you never know, could have been photographed driving a Lamborghini or on board a private jet). No, none of this. This time the screenwriters of the crisis creation units outdid themselves and pulled an ideal person out of the cylinder to excite the infantilized postmodern masses: a poor overdeveloped and autistic (albeit low-grade) girl who claims to perceive (it is not known with as sense organ) the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere (which is calculated in parts per million). In conclusion,

Hats off to the screenwriters: with such scarce ingredients, they managed to create a world-wide media delicacy, which gave rise to a “movement” of equal scope, the so-called Friday for Future (in short, a long weekend), spontaneous as can be the ease shown by those who try to cross a border with a suitcase of cocaine in the trunk. And so a new form of “Hurry up!” Has been created with a global reach, a cosmic “external bond”, a state of planetary exception to which to subordinate the policies of what was once called “the west”.

In truth, this “emergency” is not as emerging as the directors of today’s inclement weather would have us believe, since the phenomenon has been studied since the 1950s, when we began to talk about the impact of increasing CO2 on anthropogenic base [1] . The phenomenon became known to world public opinion in 1988, at a hearing at the United States Congress by James Hansen, climatologist of Columbia University, who raised an alarm about the risk of global warming due, in fact, to the increase in “greenhouse gases”. In the same year the IPCC was established by the UN. This alarm was quickly followed by the “denial” response of the giants of the energy industry (to which various product sectors joined), who created a study center, the Global Climate Coalition (1989-2001), [2] with the task to refute and contrast the conclusions of the IPCC, thus adopting the typical neoliberal strategy (this too will be elucidated later) of putting “science against science”. After the dissolution of the GCC, the baton was passed on to other entities, including the Heartland Institute .

In the second half of the 90s the issue of global warming was the subject of growing attention by the media, which intensified in the early years of the new century, suffering a sudden halt on the occasion of the financial crisis of 2007/2008 and the consequent economic recession. Ubi major, minor cessat and, in the capitalist system, the major is always tied to economic issues; of course this does not mean that the other problems are not considered tout court – after all, despite what Fukuyama’s simpleton asserted, the story is not over – but that should raise some questions as to why such a crucial issue, such as global warming, should only pop up periodically. And, mind you, we do not make it a question of merit, or whether there is a climatic emergency or not, but, always and only, a question of method : an emergency should always be such, i.e. compelling and improachable, whatever are the concurrent economic or political conditions. If, on the other hand, this emergency takes on an “intermittent” character, the suspicion arises that, coeteris paribus (that is, by not questioning its veracity), the main purpose of this periodic appearance is, once again, to direct the attention of the masses towards the direction desired by those who control the system (the famous “powerful of the earth” intimidated by the girl who perceives the increase in CO2).

The existence of serious environmental problems [3] (not only climatic) has been reported since the 1960s , and it has been the beginning of the next decade that economic activity has been colored with an “ecological” nuance, turning it green (color that was fine with everything, before the notorious Paduan populists took it), the so-called “green washing”, which is also defined, with a more elegant phrase, “sustainable development”, an ineffable oxymoron that has the advantage of playing a lot well and not mean anything, since the two terms of the phrase are not characterized by precise definitions. “Development” presupposes a téloslos , an end to turn to, while “sustainable” requires a term of comparison: sustainable for whom? For what? Compared to what? Like? And so on.

In the absence of these clarifications, only an epitomic motto of the politically correct remains which testifies to the wonderful ability of capitalism to transform everything, even apparently negative factors, such as pollution and the crisis of the biosphere, into new market niches: in this incessant mimetic and reifying work has managed to create even a study discipline called “Ecological Economics” (complete with a dedicated magazine) inspired by the studies of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen [4] (and, subsequently by Hermann Daly) who tried to highlight the incompatibility of the thermodynamic parameters with the economic ones. Like all good intentions, these studies have done nothing but pave the ways of hell leading, on the one hand, to the search for a monetary value of the “ecosystem services” (Robert Costanza) and, on the other, as was said , in the creation of new market niches surreptitiously called “bio”, “green”, “eco”, or whatever you want.

All these “washing” operations have the purpose, not only of creating new commercial niches and of transforming the remaining parts of the world into goods and markets; but also that of diverting attention from the real theme, that which inevitably leads to all the particular problems affecting capitalism, that is, the conceptual and unavoidably factual immeasurability between economic parameters and the physical world which, as Marx is well understood, resides in the primacy of the exchange value over the use value (or, before him, Aristotle when he distinguished between oikonomia and crematistics). Since the foundation of capitalism rests on the exponential accumulation of monetary means (capital), which is virtually infinite, but which must manifest itself, necessarily, in an environment that has a quantity of matter that is given, it is easy to understand how this fact may come to cause some problems.

The epistemic cage of neoliberalism

Starting from these premises, we can now talk about how the above issues are inserted in the epistemic framework that characterizes today’s capitalism, whose shape has been shaped by what has been called “neoliberalism”. As Philip Mirowski [5] (and partly also Michel Foucault, though not so explicitly [6] ) has documented, the core of neoliberal thought is not as economic as epistemological and has historically gone to connote it as a real “Collective of thought”, as Dietrich Plehwe asserted [7] (inspired by the writings of Ludwik Fleck which described the scientific enterprise as formed by “a community of people who mutually exchange ideas or maintain an intellectual interaction”). [8] Therefore it does not make much sense to consider (as many do), this phenomenon as an economic orientation or, even less, to explain it with the obsolete categories of political thought of the last century (political right, conservatism, liberalism, etc.).

This misunderstanding largely explains the failure of the movements that criticize and try to contrast the current physiognomy of capitalism (which is called “liberalism” or “neoliberalism”), [9] in which the promises that seemed implicit in the “glorious thirty years” of the post-war period were not kept, when a progressive future of well-being and equality for all seemed inevitable (at least in the countries of the so-called advanced capitalism). Not only did none of this come true, but a sort of stationary state in which previous conquests had consolidated was not maintained either. Conversely, throughout the western world, there has been a progressive decrease in well-being which is leading to the disappearance of the middle class, a reduction in services and an ever greater polarization of wealth.

Most of the criticisms have limited themselves to considering the current state of our world-form as a kind of benign disease in an otherwise healthy organism whose therapy would consist of a sort of restoration of the status quo ante (confusing the means with the end), a sort of irenic rebalancing to be obtained thanks to a restoration of effective market regulations, to an economy that returns under the control of the States, in which the primacy of manufacturing over finance is reaffirmed (the myth of the “real economy”: another chimera made up of immeasurable domains but, above all, that “forgives debtors” (Greece, poor countries, etc.). This lack of analysis has meant that movements mentioned above, were lulled into the illusion that it was enough to stage protests that “arise from below” against the “cruel and distorted state of the world”, [10] to hope to effectively combat the status quo. On the other hand, what has happened in the realm of reality is that almost all these protest movements (from the no global movement to the various colored revolutions) have proved, over time, skilled maskirovka who have kept their discontent and obstacles under control more and more possibility of contrasting the system.

It is difficult for those who are driven by the idea of “changing the world” to believe that the “spontaneity” of such protests is, in reality, the staging of a script written by others, a product ready to be put on the market of ideas. But the world created by the neoliberal collective of thought works just like this: it was able to create an all-encompassing epistemology that permeates contemporary culture with a heap of multiple truths, all equally “true”, which are able to cover all possible alternatives: from conformism to nonconformism, from reaction to revolution, from system to antisystem. A kaleidoscopic and protean regime in which a real and sensible criticism of the status quo has no basis on which to base itself (difficult to fight against something that does not have a defined form, being able to take all forms). When the world is represented, in every aspect, with a distorted image, it is almost impossible to perceive this reversal: as in the Platonic cave, viewers are led to believe that the images projected on the walls correspond to the real world.

We will not address this topic in its entirety, but we will focus only on the problem of global warming, so that it can constitute an exemplary paradigm of the aforementioned manipulation.

The neoliberal utopia and global warming

As we have said, the neo-liberal collective of thought has been able to build an entire paraphernalia of epistemic and political proposals which, in fact, have occupied the whole space of possible alternatives. Of course we are not talking about the banal and false center-right / center-left dialectic, democrats / republicans, conservatives / laborers who, however, invades the whole parliamentary space of liberal democracies. No, we are talking about a much more widespread and pervasive occupation (obliteration, when this is not possible) of all forms of thought and action, even outside the “politicized politics”, which it has managed to pack, with the complicity of the beautiful souls of progressivism of all shapes and all ages, not only, create an all-inclusive catalog of “political” proposals, capable of covering the entire range of demand from the public, with short, medium and long-term objectives .

To fully understand this operation it is good to take a small step back and briefly explain a crucial point of neoliberal epistemology. It has always rejected the false dichotomy of the state- owned laissez faire classics versus the market as antithetical devices. Unlike the latter, the neoliberals do not consider the market a place of allocation of goods (material or immaterial), but an information processor, the most effective and efficient processor known, much better than any human entity (individual or collective). [11]

Secondly – also unlike classical liberal thought and its modern offshoots – neoliberal ideology advocates a strong state which, however, does not have as its main (and not even secondary, in truth) task to control the animal spirits of the market, but that of controlling himself , or, as Marx would say, acting as a “bourgeois business committee” whose purpose is to promote, safeguard and extend the areas of the market. To carry out this supreme task, the state must operate with all its prerogatives (including that of the monopoly of force) to build a sort of market totalitarianism (a telos potentially infinite) through an ever more extensive and widespread commodification of the existing.

Also with regard to global warming (which is ecological / thermodynamic in nature), we can note the difference in approach between neoliberal and classical liberals. For the latter, the problems of the biosphere are symptoms of market malfunction (market failure), the solution of which should lie in attributing a fair price to externalities (pollution, etc.), resources and so-called ecosystem services (approach of the Ecological Economics). For neoliberals, however, this type of problem is bound to arise inevitably due to the inextricable complexity of the interactions between society and the biosphere, to understand which human knowledge is inadequate. In reality, neoliberal thinking adopts this epistemological panoply in an entirely opportunistic way, using the complexity pro domo sua : since we cannot rely on human knowledge to understand and predict this multifaceted and becoming reality, there is a need for a sort of deus ex machina, of a little devil by Maxwell, of a rhetorical fiction passed off as truth: an idealized image of a perfect market, a spontaneous authorizing officer of the spontaneous order and a supreme processor of information, the motionless (but, in fact, mobile) engine to which it is addressed the task of finding solutions to any problem. Since, however, this “spontaneous” order is not given in political systems – and we would miss more! – all the strength of a strong state is needed which, with its empire, can spontaneously spontaneously what is not spontaneous (hence also the fiction of the “free” market).

At this point, the strategy appears somewhat circular: since we cannot rely on political decisions to tackle complex problems (of which climate change is certainly part), given that the cognitive ability of decision makers is fallacious by definition, then it is decision-makers need to take a step backwards, abdicating their task and entrusting to the market [12] with a political decision! – the task of deciding which are the best solutions. But sometimes the problem is rather reluctant to be channeled casually into market mechanisms, and that of global warming is certainly part of this category. In these cases, the strategy will have to follow a more complex plan and be unraveled according to various successive stages. Here we can identify a strategy composed of different stages characterized by different strategies of manipulation of public opinion: from the promotion of scientific “denialism” to the creation of phenomena such as Greta Thunberg or Friday for Future All sides of the same coin: the “neoliberal response” to climate changes. [13]

a) Scientific “denial”

The first stage generally consists of taking time to work out the next stages. In cases like this, the most effective technique is to instill doubt in public opinion that this type of problem is not related to the economic model of today’s society (overconsumption, pollution, overexploitation of the biosphere, etc.), in a nutshell: that the market is never guilty (in this regard it is useful to point out that, for example, in the countries of the Soviet bloc the ecological problems were much more serious, etc.).

The purpose of what has been called scientific “denial”, promoted mainly by the Global Climate Coalition and then by the Heartland Foundation, to which we have already mentioned, was to control public opinion which, alarmed by the problem of global warming could have put pressure on governments to face it with political decisions, or, as we said, to take time to develop appropriate solutions to bring the issue back into the market. The “denialist” solution, albeit of a temporary nature, had the advantage of being quickly deployable and cheap and of diverting the public’s attention from the appropriate arguments.

The strategy of the “neoliberal collective of thought” has it that the first response to a political challenge must always be epistemological: [14] it is necessary to question what constitutes the topic of this challenge, in this case, to deny the problem and delay indefinitely with sterile diatribes regarding merit (that is, whether or not there is global warming on an anthropogenic basis). The “market of ideas” must always be sprayed with doubt so that, as an effective herbicide, it can only develop the desired plants (ideas). This technique, described by the historian Robert Proctor under the name of , [15] has proved very effective over time.

Neoliberal doctrine formally defends anyone’s right to uphold any foolishness with equal right (the “wisdom of the masses”) [16] because, ultimately, the realm in which truth is established is always the market. The latter, however, is never free as he is passed off, but is controlled by those to whom it is convenient that he is passed off as free (and certainly not by that group of experts who represents “official science”). In fact, the neoliberal doctrine coincides perfectly with that of Quelo: “the answer is within you, and yet it is sbajata [unless it coincides with ours]”. [17]

This first stage, however, is far from sufficient to channel the problem into market mechanisms, therefore it is necessary to elaborate the subsequent stages making sure that they unfold through a product offer that is able to cover the entire spectrum of the “question “of” solutions”. It is also necessary that each of these implies the creation of a profit and, possibly, that extends the sphere of the market to areas never touched before.

b) The marketing of CO2 and accumulation by expropriation

After this first agnotological stage, the market has to enter at some point. In this case, market action unfolds along two main lines: the first is constituted by monetization and the consequent financialisation of ecosystem services, that is, by the creation of CO2 emission permits; the second, from what David Harvey called “accumulation by expropriation”.

The establishment of emission permit markets constituted a clever strategy to build a new commodity and financial sector, but also to convince political actors that the answer to the problem of climate change, that is, the decrease in the emission of greenhouse gases were to compete with markets instead of governments: something that should have been political was marketed . Of course, this “solution” did not lead to any result, for what was the stated purpose: in fact it did not prevent the emission of a single CO2 molecule. [18] On the other hand, this was certainly not the real purpose, which vice versa, was to use the excuse of global warming to create a new financial instrument out of thin air, a virtual commodity that commoditizes a physical data, moreover virtualized, a new derivative from enter the great forge of finance by providing operators with an additional speculative tool to be transformed into real currency.

The other arm of the medium-term strategy was that of accumulation by expropriation, which deserves a few words of explanation:

Marx’s description of “primitive accumulation” includes phenomena such as the commodification and privatization of the land and the expulsion from it of the peasant population; the conversion of various forms of collective property into private property; the commodification of the workforce and the elimination of alternatives to it; colonial or neocolonial appropriation processes of natural goods and resources; monetization of trade and taxation of land; slave trade; usury; public debt and the credit system. [19]

One might think that these types of accumulation are a legacy of the past, of the times of nascent capitalism and of those in which it began to assert itself in an ever more extensive and widespread manner.

For this purpose both legal and illegal methods are adopted […] Among the legal means include the privatization of what were once considered common property resources (such as water and education), the use of the power of expropriation for public utility, the widespread use of acquisitions, mergers and so on that lead to the splitting of company activities, or, for example, the evasion of social security and health obligations through bankruptcy procedures. The capital losses suffered by many during the recent crisis can be considered a form of expropriation that could give rise to further accumulation, since speculators today buy undervalued assets with the aim of reselling them when the market improves, making a profit.[20]

One of the most subtle forms of accumulation by expropriation is to surreptitiously drain public money, or directly from the pockets of citizens, to generate a private profit through ad hoc taxation , or to oblige the population to consume through the imposition decreed by the power of the State.

An example of the first type of practice is, without a doubt, that of renewable energy production plants (wind, photovoltaic, hydroelectric etc.) which are cases in which the energy produced is remunerated at a price higher than the market price (otherwise not would be economically viable). In this case, the surcharge is paid by general taxation or by an additional outlay in the electricity supply tariffs. Except for the small production (in terms of MW / h) of the plants for family use, most of the electricity generation from these sources comes from large plants for which the investment is supported by large investors, generally financial companies . [21]This is a case in which the State operates as a perfect market agent: instead of promoting, with direct action, the much-vaunted “energy transition”, it promotes a system in which the profits of financial companies are borne by citizens through an increase in energy costs or through general taxation.

Another example of this type of accumulation, even if a little more indirect, is that of vehicles used for road transport. In this case, the State intervenes by changing the regulations that regulate the emissions of vehicles (especially those of CO2) and by inhibiting circulation for those vehicles that do not respect the imposed parameters. This marketing technique conducted through the force of the law currently forces users to change vehicles through a sort of programmed obsolescence de jure, and opens the way to new market niches (electric vehicles, hybrids, etc.). Obviously, this is another trick to force citizens to pay money in a certain sense forced, without any benefit as regards CO2 emissions as such, if we consider that the production process of a car, is responsible for a production of CO2 that is, on average, higher than that which the same car will produce in its cycle of use (probably, from this point of view, it would be more ecological to keep the same car for a few decades, but this does not help the market). [22]

Of course, to impose this vision on the population without too many accidents (which, for example, has not succeeded in France), [23] it is necessary to prepare public opinion with massive moralizing campaigns, such as the one for which they are using the girl who intimidates those “powerful of the earth” who have everything to gain from the creation of new market niches. However, the inexhaustible cornucopia of ideas of the collective of neoliberal thought does not end here, but is always launched towards new horizons.

c) Geoengineering and other neoliberal dystopias

Given that the emissions permit system and the myriad of renewable energy systems are now outdated solutions, even if they served the purpose very well, which was to extend the dominance of the market or extract money from the pockets of the population and governments , it is time to overcome these relics of the past with the long-term neoliberal solution: geoengineering. Here we come to the very core of the Doctrine, which postulates that entrepreneurial ingenuity, if left free to manifest its drives of “creative destruction”, may be able to find market solutions to solve any problem. Ideas cannot be left unproductive. When there is a possibility, they should be included in the political discourse and pursued by all means. It is therefore time to open incredible new opportunities (!) To transform parts of the globe into goods and markets that no one thought could have had this destiny – and this destination. Geoengineering represents the futuristic and science fiction face of neoliberalism and, together with the delusions of genetic engineering and artificial intelligence, its most dystopian face.

“Geoengineering” is a sort of collective definition that identifies a wide range of large-scale manipulations aimed at modifying the climate of the earth, to “correct” climate change. It includes “solutions” such as the artificial increase of the planet’s albedo through various types of “management” of solar radiation (through the diffusion of reflective particles in the stratosphere, the installation of mirrors in the space orbit or the covering of deserts with reflective material); the increase in the sequestration of CO2 by the oceans through the stimulation of the growth of phytoplankton (fertilization of the oceans with nutrients, mixing of the layers) or of the mainland (burial of plant residues; introduction of genetically modified organisms, or, again, the extraction and confinement of CO2 directly to the point of emission). This sort of delusional ideation has rather close connections with the “collective of neoliberal thought” as several institutions that are its direct emanation, such as the American Enterprise Institute, Ii Cato Institute, the Hoover Institution and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, deal with active in the promotion of geoengineering. The academic temple of neoliberalism itself, the Chicago School of Economics, has publicly supported this delusion the Hoover Institution and the Competititive Enterprise Institute are very active in promoting geoengineering. The academic temple of neoliberalism itself, the Chicago School of Economics, has publicly supported this delusion the Hoover Institution and the Competitive Enterprise Institute are very active in promoting geoengineering. The academic temple of neoliberalism itself, the Chicago School of Economics, has publicly supported this delusion[24] .

Of course, these projects are only lysergic hallucinations brought to an institutionally recognized level : see under the heading: “says Lascienza”. But this amazing science, in these cases, can only assert hypotheses that have no chance of being tested experimentally. There is no way of verifying the hypothesized assumptions ex ante , let alone unwanted effects. Here the laboratory is made up of the whole world and the ex post could be a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions . But evidently these considerations do not have the power to scratch the adamantine determination of our apprentice sorcerers burned by the sacred fire of Prometheus. Ça va sans direthat these amazing proposals would act only on the effects and certainly not on the causes of the problem. On the other hand, acting on the causes would mean questioning the bases on which capitalism itself rests while according to the neoliberal epistème. If capitalism has caused problems, the solution is: more capitalism!

So, geoengineering solutions bring enormous advantages according to neoliberal criteria, because they do not limit consolidated markets (never let less Hallo Kitty or cheeseburgers be produced in the world, or that indoor skiing can no longer be done in Dubai! ), but expands market areas towards new horizons: nothing less than the privatization of the atmosphere and climate. Because, if it was not understood, the purpose is this, as well as putting the planet hostage of some private entities (those that develop patent-protected “solutions”), [25] so that they can profit from something that, magically , it can become a commodity with a few strokes of the pen, with the excuse of a global “hurry up!” because “the next generations ask us”.

***

This closes the circle. In the amazing world of Quelo and Greta, teknè is politicized through yet another circular reasoning, because the problems are too complex to be addressed with solutions that are not technical (the answer is within you, and yet it is sbajata), until completely obliterate the space of politics other than that of a mere “bourgeois business committee”. Because there is no alternative to the truths of a science that has become dogma and of a society that has abandoned any dogma that is not that of the market order, that according to which the “providence that governs the world” acts with an invisible hand so that the mystery of creation can be manifested.

The same science has abandoned any epistemic function to become a mere management paradigm and has no greater meaning, as far as knowledge of the world is concerned, than the rules of the Monopoly have. The order of the market remained the only praxis that guides human actions and the only tealos , autotelic and perpetually progressive, to which the gaze of what we once used to call civilization turns.

 


  1. The most relevant studies were conducted by Hans Suess, Gilbert Plass, Roger Revelle and Charles Keeling.
  2. United States Chamber of Commerce. Source: K. Brill, “Your meeting with members of the Global Climate Coalition”, United States Department of State, 2001.
  3. At least since the release of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring (1962).
  4. In turn influenced by the studies of Frederick Soddy.
  5. In P. Mirowski, Never let a serious crisis go to waste , Verso, London-New York, 2013; P. Mirowski, D. Plehwe, The Road from Monte Pelerin , Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2009.
  6. In M. Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics. Lectures at the Collège de France 1978–79 , Palgrave McMillan, Basingstoke, 2008.
  7. In P. Mirowski, D. Plehwe, cit., P. 4 ff .; 417 ff.
  8. In L. Fleck, The Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact , University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1979.
  9. Linguistic residue of the sterile diatribe between Benedetto Croce and Luigi Einaudi, which dates back to the late 1920s.
  10. In P. Mirowski, Never let a serious crisis go to waste , cit., Cap. 6.
  11. In P. Mirowski, “Naturalizing the market on the road to revisionism: Bruce Caldwell’s Hayek’s challenge and the challenge of Hayek interpretation”, in Journal of Institutional Economics , 2007.
  12. Which also includes the science that has proven its success in the “market of ideas”, which is also spontaneous as the drug dealer at the aforementioned customs.
  13. In P. Mirowski, Never let a serious crisis go to waste , cit.
  14. Ibid.
  15. In RN Proctor, L. Schiebinger, Agnotology. The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance , Stanford University Press, 2008.
  16. See FA Hayek, “The use of knowledge in society”, in American Economic Review , XXXV, No. 4, September 1945, pp. 519-30.
  17. “First and foremost, neoliberalism masquerades as a radically populist philosophy, which begins with a set of philosophical theses about knowledge and its relationship to society. It seems to be a radical leveling philosophy, denigrating expertise and elite pretensions to hard-won knowledge, instead praising the “wisdom of crowds.” It appeals to the vanity of every self-absorbed narcissist, who would be glad to ridicule intellectuals as ” professional secondhand dealers in ideas. “In Hayekian language, it elevates a” cosmos “—a supposed spontaneous order that no one has intentionally designed or structured — over a” taxis “—rationally constructed orders designed to achieve intentional ends. But the second, and linked lesson, is that neoliberals are simultaneously elitists: they do not in fact practice what they preach. When it comes to actually organizing something, almost anything, from a Wiki to the Mont Pèlerin Society, suddenly the cosmos collapses to a taxis. In Wikipedia, what looks like a libertarian paradise is in fact a thinly disguised totalitarian hierarchy “(in P. Mirowski, D. Plehwe,The Road from Monte Pelerin , cit., Pp. 425-426).
  18. The estimate is from the research office of the Swiss bank UBS, in a customer report of November 2011 (see https://www.thegwpf.com/europes-287-billion-carbon-waste-ubs-report).
  19. In D. Harvey, “The ‘new’ imperialism: accumulation by dispossession”, in Socialist Register , No. 40, p. 74.
  20. In D. Harvey, L’enigma del Capitale , Feltrinelli, Milan, 2011, pp. 60-61.
  21. Typically based abroad, if we refer to Italy or even to the so-called developing countries.
  22. See S. Kagawa, K. Hubacek, K. Nansai, M. Kataoka, S. Managi, S. Suh, Y. Kudoh, “Better cars or older cars ?: Assessing CO2 emission reduction potential of passenger vehicle replacement programs”, in Global Environmental Change , Volume 23, Issue 6, December 2013, pp. 1807-1818; M. Messagie, “Life Cycle Analysis of the Climate Impact of Electric Vehicles”, in Transport and environment , 2014; H. Helms, M. Pehnt, U. Lambrecht, A. Liebich, “Electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid energy efficiency and life cycle emissions”, 18th International Symposium Transport and Air Pollution, 2010.
  23. Recall that the factor that triggered the revolt of the Jaunes vests was precisely the tightening of the parameters for vehicle emissions. Of course, these mainly concerned vehicles of a certain age, which are those that guaranteed the mobility of the poorest population (in the presence of concomitant dismantling of public transport networks in the vicinity).
  24. See P. Mirowski, Never let a serious crisis go to waste, cit.
  25. See D. Cressy, “Geoengineering Experiment Canceled Amid Patent Row”, in Nature , No. 15, May 2012; M. Specter, “The Climate Fixers”, in The New Yorker , May, 2012.

 

The Orginal article in Italian can be accessed here.

Greenwashing the Climate Catastrophe

Counterpunch

By Kenn Orphan

 

“With “capitalism in danger of falling apart” (a rare, cryptically honest quote from Al Gore), and years of stagnant global economic growth now in a free fall, the Greta campaign must be understood for what it is. An elaborate distraction that has nothing to do with protecting the natural world, and everything to do with the manufacturing of consent. The required consent of the citizenry that will unlock the treasuries and public monies under the guise of climate protection.” –– Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer, from The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – For Consent: The House is on Fire & the 90 Trillion Dollar Rescue, 2019

 

“One might think that if someone were conscious enough to recognise that global ecology was compromised and that pollutants were destroying fresh water, and the land, and that global warming was quite possibly going to make huge swatches of land non arable — you might think that person would look for solutions in a political frame. After all it was global capital that had brought mankind to this historic precipice. But instead, many if not nearly all the people I speak with, frame things in terms of personal responsibility. Stop driving big diesel SUVs, stop flying to Cabo for vacation, stop eating meat, etc-. But these same people tend to not criticize capitalism. Or, rather, they ask for a small non crony green capitalism. I guess this would mean green exploitation and green wars? For war is the engine of global capitalism today. Cutting across this are the various threads of the overpopulation theme. A convenient ideological adjustment that shifts blame to the poorest inhabitants of the planet.” –– John Steppling, Trust Nothing, 2019

 

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” –– Noam Chomsky, The Common Good, 1998

 

“Modern business must have its finger continuously on the public pulse. It must understand the changes in the public mind and be prepared to interpret itself fairly and eloquently to changing opinion.” –– Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda, 1928

It is hard not to notice a stirring of consciousness regarding humanity’s dire ecological predicament beginning to seep into the mainstream these days. How can it not? Year after year records are shattered. Month after month scientists continue to be shocked and demoralized by more and more evidence of rising seas, a climate careening into a chaotic and terrifying unknown, and countless species succumbing in a biosphere perpetually under siege. Even the corporate media which has been designed as a mouthpiece of capitalist interests cannot completely veil our collective crisis. Unsurprisingly, the ruling class has begun to react, not in a way that meaningfully addresses the death cult of the current socioeconomic order, but to ensure its survival albeit with a greener face. Their cynical approach to what is the biggest existential crisis of our age is using youthful optimism and justified outrage and terror to cloud their machinations.

 

 

One such prominent youth these days is Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish girl who delivered a rousing speech at the UN Climate Change Conference and before the world’s wealthiest at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Indeed, her speech was inspiring and I do not doubt her passion or honest devotion to climate activism for a minute, but to ignore the powerful machine looking to co-opt her message would be a grave mistake. For instance, Thunberg has been given interviews in the corporate press, has been endorsed by a tech start-up company (We Don’t Have Time), and has been lauded by industry for promoting “sustainable development.”

Now certainly Thunberg is not the one manipulating any of these actors, and she should not face any kind of criticism for her part in addressing the greatest existential issue of our times. But it should be clear that most people who get interviews in the corporate media are generally not deemed to be a serious challenger to the status quo political/economic order. Corporate approved dissent is a form of censorship that gives the illusion of a lively debate, but essentially establishes a firm line in the sand when if comes to radically questioning or opposing the capitalist framework itself. And if finance companies are behind something we can be pretty sure that they are primarily in it for the money. In addition to this, the term sustainable development is a meaningless on a planet that is literally on the edge of a cliff, but under the dominant economic dictatorship of money the co-opted mainstream environmental movement has pumped out these tropes making them a form of collective social conditioning.

And this ties into the notion of personal responsibility. Solutions to our environmental crisis have been reduced to “life style changes” which have also become the en vogue activism of the day. It is a line of thinking that is accepted and even endorsed by corporations, banks and neoliberal governments because it poses no real challenge to their power or their ongoing destructive practices. To the mainstream, tweaking one’s lifestyle is all that is needed. Buy an electric vehicle or use a bicycle. Don’t take a plane on your vacation. Buy reusable bags. Choose organic only. Go vegan. Buy reusable straws. While there is nothing wrong with doing these things in general, they must be understood as individual choices that are based on privilege and that have little impact in addressing urgent crisis our biosphere is facing right now.

What they do manage to do is deliver an added punishment on the poor and working class, people who are struggling to make ends meet. It places an unfair level of guilt on ordinary people whose impact on the environment is relatively negligible compared to the enormous destruction caused by the fossil fuel industry, mining companies, plastic and packaging production, shipping and the military industrial complex. Seldom (if ever) questioned are the basic foundations of the current economic order which is driving the decimation of the biosphere for the benefit of the wealthy Davos jet set.

It has in fact become only about “sustainability” despite the contradiction of sustaining a system that is at its core omnicidal. Corporations have been actively branding themselves with empty greenwashing euphemisms like “green” or “earth friendly” in the decades following the first Earth Day. It is as if our species were somehow alien visitors to this planet and being friendly to it was merely a diplomatic concern. Certainly a handful of corporations did in fact change some of their practices under public pressure and for the sake of image. Some of those changes had beneficial effects for certain species and areas. But the primary engine of capitalism that has led us to the brink of devastation is never questioned. It is sacrosanct.

With this in mind political solutions, like the Green New Deal, are being trotted out by democratic socialist and neoliberal politicians that merely cloak the problem, never identifying the root of it all: Capitalism. In fact, many of these policies are weak on protecting nature and are simply designed to keep capitalism afloat. At its core this is a system that is incapable of even beginning  to address climate change or biospheric degeneration. Its principles are based upon the exploitation of the environment for the material gain of the ruling class, kept alive through institutions of repression and corporate state violence. Under this rubric environmental causes may be soothed for some; but the poor and working class are continually battered and raped by industry and the corrupt governments that house and protect them. Indigenous peoples, who face the worst exploitation, continually see their lands desecrated and denuded by state policing factions at the behest of powerful corporations. And militarism, which is of course wedded to capitalism, ensures that all of this exploitation can continue and expand virtually unopposed by bourgeois society.

It may be a hard pill for many to swallow, but there are simply no viable answers to be found in Washington, or the hills of Hollywood, or the board rooms of Wall Street, or even at the United Nations which generally capitulates to the demands of the ruling class. They have molded each of these institutions, media industries and government bodies to fit their censorious narrative in order to suppress dissent against the current economic order, under which they so handsomely profit. And one would be wise to approach whatever they offer with great caution. After all, they have been labouring for years to dismember the commons, grow their inordinate wealth through plunder, and maintain their dominance through corruption, militarism and distraction. The sacredness of the public sphere has been defiled by the inviolable liturgy of free market dogma. And they have manufactured a culture of cruelty, devoid of character and predicated on colonization and the commodification and exploitation of everything and everyone that exists. In this way neoliberalism, the last and most ruthless stage of capitalism, has become the most elaborate and successful form of brainwashing and social control the world has ever known, convincing hundreds of millions of people of the absolute necessity of its economic tyranny and omnicidal madness.

But despite the machinations of the ruling class to obfuscate, infiltrate and co-opt movements, there remains a genuine longing for connection to the ever besieged living planet and solidarity with one another that transcends the indifferent and sadistic brutality of the capitalist order. This is especially true as capitalism begins to implode and the biosphere continues to degrade. Therefore the most coherent response to what we are witnessing will always come from ordinary people in community, especially the poor and especially indigenous peoples who are on the front lines of a war being waged by governments serving the interests of the wealthy ruling class and global capitalism. But we can be assured that anything that emanates from the halls of power will be merely another ploy to maintain their control and fill the coffers of the uber-rich at the expense of the rest of us and the living earth itself. And they have no problem using the innocent passion of a 16 year old girl to hide all of their crimes.

 

[Kenn Orphan is an artist, sociologist, radical nature lover and weary, but committed activist. He can be reached at kennorphan.com.]

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