Authors such as Burkett, Foster, O’Connor or Altvater have great merit for establishing that capitalist development is structurally bound up with tensions between the logics and the needs of the economic and of the ecological system. Elaborating on Marx’s original critique of political economy they all highlight the economic system’s orientation towards unlimited and short-term valorisation, quantitative and geographic expansion, circularity and reversibility, while the principles that guide the ecological system involve stable and sustainable matter and energy transformations and throughputs — as well as irreversibility. Any long-term economic strategy that pays respects to the ecological system’s guiding principles would further need to take seriously the fact that the earth’s stocks of natural resources and their ability to serve as sources and sinks for waste from human production and consumption processes are limited. Though capitalist development cannot and does not get rid of the use-value element and of the material and energy side altogether, it nevertheless tends to negate and dispel them as much as possible. From the standpoint of individual capital, costs arising from the degradation of the environment are faux frais of production, which are, whenever possible, carried over to the general public — the taxpayer. The focus of the above-mentioned authors has, therefore, been on the paradox that capitalist production relations and productive forces tend to undermine and sometimes destroy their own social and ecological conditions of reproduction and, with them, the conditions for human life as such.
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- The Regulation of Nature and Society in Different Capitalist Growth Strategies
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