On climate, transformation and political economy – Croakey Health Media

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Introduction by Croakey: As the Prime Minister continues to dodge effective climate action despite High pressure leaders, a seasoned scholar called for fundamental systemic change to tackle the underlying drivers of the climate crisis.

In addition to nationalization to enable nation building and the “socialization” of essential industries and services, such as finance, housing and manufacturing, Prof. Rob White called for “public, open, cooperative governance”. and democratic ”.

“… You cannot achieve transformation without fundamentally changing the ownership structure of the current political economy,” he writes below.

White is Professor Emeritus in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Tasmania and co-author of the recent press release, The extinction curve (Emerald Edition, 2021).


Rob White writes:

The end of the climate game we face, brought about by an endless pursuit of growth through capitalism and globalization, is the key dilemma of our time. We know from science what the problem is and how to contain global warming. The political challenge is how to get there.

Current trends in global warming are unequivocal. The planet is warming at an unprecedented rate. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, despite scientific warnings and UN political commitments, and the main cause remains fossil fuel emissions from energy use and industry.

We also know that every delay in reducing carbon emissions means that deeper reductions are needed to get us on the path to limiting global warming. Indeed, we are running out of time.

The science-based recommendations for action are clear. These include renewable electricity, the phasing out of coal, and the decarbonization of transport and industry. Thus, we know the answer to the problem of climate change.

Yet capitalism is an authoritarian economic system, a system where privatized control and ownership of socialized production is imposed from above. It does not flow from below.

This authoritarianism is based on private ownership of the means of production (a small number decide what is produced and how, and for whom), and manifests itself in greater inequality (the huge disparities between the top billionaires and the rest among us) and the intensification of the exploitation of nature and of man (paradoxically, because rates of profit are threatened due to low wages and the scarcity of natural resources).

This must change.

Systemic failures

The shortcomings of authoritarian capitalism are illustrated by the limits of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the systemic failures of the fight against climate change.

The design, execution and social objectives of our collective work must be in our hands, as well as those of the young, the elderly, the infirm and disabled who also have a stake in how social needs are to be met. .

This can only truly be achieved through the full socialization of the company and through greater democratization of our social institutions.

In advanced economies, the state has an economic weight comparable to or greater than that of the largest transnational corporations. The enduring centrality of the state is particularly evident in conditions of crisis.

However, in the past and current economic crises induced by COVID-19, the question of who it really is comes to light. Whether it’s bailing out billionaires, cutting corporate taxes, saving worst climate vandals like oil and gas companies, or printing money, neoliberal governments will do “whatever.” it is necessary ”to revive accumulation.

Yet in an ideal economy, production is for social need. For that, we need the state to be “our” state. And for that, we need transformational nationalization. It is about the state taking control of the central levers of the economy – taking the private capital that owns and controls these levers and putting them in the hands of the state.

This form of nationalization incorporates “nation building” (such as infrastructure projects) and the “socialization” of industries and essential services (such as finance, housing and manufacturing).

Support for this type of initiative translates into public support for public measures related to employment and health during COVID-19. This is also reflected in opinion polls which consistently show widespread support for institutions such as public health and national public broadcasters.

Pillars of life

The six pillars of social life – water, air, food, energy, housing and security – are of paramount importance when it comes to addressing structural vulnerability and insecurity of the majority population.

However, existing state responses to the crisis reflect and reinforce existing class divisions. Personal recovery is privatized, jobs disappear, small businesses do not reappear, and communities struggle or fail altogether.

What we need are the six pillars which must be guaranteed as a basic condition of existence for all. Decisions about it are too important to be left in private hands (billionaires) or a secret state (bureaucrats and selfish politicians): governance must be public, open, cooperative and democratic.

At the heart of the transformation is securing the fundamentals of social life, in particular the giants of food distribution and distribution networks, water and energy companies, and financial capital in the housing sector, including large landlords. As environmental activists might say, the four elements – earth, air, water and sun (energy) – constitute “the common good” which must be put back into democratic hands.

It must also include the nationalization of coal and related industries, and the provision of an economically secure and environmentally sustainable transition for workers and communities historically dependent on these industries.

People want change. We have the innovative skills and knowledge to foster this (ie green technologies and techniques) and the desire for a better “home” (we love planet A). The barriers are directly linked to class interests and capitalist domination.

The equation is simple: you cannot achieve transformation without fundamentally changing the ownership structure of the current political economy.

Rob White is Professor Emeritus in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Tasmania and author with John van der Velden of The extinction curve (Emerald Edition, 2021).

Previously on Croakey: Timely New Book Focuses on Carbon Criminals


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