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POST-CAPITALISM: LIFE WITHIN ENVIRONMENTAL LIMITS

後資本主義:環境限制下的生活

Capitalism’s limitless growth on a finite planet means the economic system we take for

granted could end soon. If so, transformative and sustainable change must come from grassroots action

在有限的地球上展現資本主義的無限制成長,代表我們認為理所當然的經濟體制可能快要崩盤。如真如此,轉型與可續性的改變必須從草根的行動開始。

By Dr Samuel Alexander and Professor Brendan Gleeson, University of Melbourne

It may seem as though capitalism has always been a part of the Western world, but that’s not true. Although the concept has some roots in the Ancient world, capitalism as a system dates only from the 16th century.

Now, some 500 years later, there’s increasing discussion arguing for, or simply forecasting, a post-capitalist society.

感覺上資本主義一直是西方世界的常態,但是事實並非如此。雖然資本主義的概念早在古老的時期就已萌芽,實際上系統性的資本主義從十六世紀才開始。五百年後的今日,越來越多人開始討論,或者應該說在預測一個後資本主義的社會。

Capitalism is locked into an economics of growth that is undermining the environmental foundations of life on Earth – that is, capitalism is ecocidal. And this has become the defining contradiction of capitalism in the twenty-first century.

As a result, this “growth imperative” alongside our own planet’s limits is likely to bring capitalism to an end in coming decades.

資本主義卡在一個標榜成長的經濟概念,卻影響了環境。也就是說,資本主義是破壞生態的。在二十一世紀,這成為了資本主義最重要的矛盾。當我們面對生態中的限制,資本主義以成長為導向的思維,可能就是讓它最後即將滅絕的一根稻草。

So, if capitalism as we know it is destined to end, it seems now is the time to put our minds to how the transition beyond capitalism could or should transpire. It’s obviously better to plan for this momentous occurrence rather than have capitalism merely grow itself to death, only to leave heightened chaos and suffering in its wake.

所以如果我們所知道的資本主義逃不開滅亡的命運,該是思考如何銜接到後資本主義社會的時候了。如果能未雨綢繆,積極面對這肯定很大的衝擊,絕對比消極的等它殆盡、且帶來更多混亂與痛苦來得好。

Why do we measure everything and value nothing?

This theory of change is something we explore in our new book, Degrowth in the Suburbs. These potential disruptive changes can be in the interests of people and planet, but only if communities get active now, designing their own post-capitalist futures from the grassroots up. Changing societal structures is necessary, but will only happen if grassroots movements demand this.

我們為什麼每件事都要衡量,卻都不重視任何的價值?

在我們的新書《Degrowth in the Suburbs (直譯:郊區的去成長)》中就是探索這變革的理論。這些潛在性的變化可能造福人類、對我們的環境有所助益,前提是社區必須動起來,從草根向上設計自己的後資本主義未來,而且必須是草根的運動如此期盼,才會產生效果。

THE BURDEN OF GROWTH

With respect to the wealthiest nations, including Australia, the unsustainability and injustice of continued economic growth is a bleak picture.

成長的負擔

雖然很尊重富裕的國家,包括澳洲,但是持續成長的無法永續發展、不公平仍然是很悲慘的景象。

The global economy is currently in gross ecological overshoot, by a vast array of indicators, so the richest nations cannot justify taking even more. If the whole world consumed like Australians, we’d need more than four planets to meet our resource demands and absorb our waste streams.

Meanwhile, billions of people around the world remain in destitution, and lifting these people out of poverty will almost certainly place more burdens on already over-burdened ecosystems.

從許多數據來看,全球經濟目前面臨生態的超載,所以富裕的國家已經不能再繼續不斷的攝取。如果全世界都像澳洲人那樣消費,我們需要四個星球才能滿足我們資源的需求,消化我們的廢棄物。

但是世界上還是有上千萬的人貧困飢餓,而讓人們脫離貧困也會讓原本負荷就相當大的生態系統,面臨更多的負擔。

The global population, currently at 7.7 billion, is expected to reach 9.8 billion by mid-century and more than 11 billion by the end of the century. And, despite decades of extraordinary technological advances and efficiency improvements, the global economy is continuing to make ever greater demands on planetary ecosystems.

目前高居77億的全球人口預期在本世紀中就達到98億,也會在世紀結束之前高達110億。而且雖然這幾十年來,科技不斷進步、效率也高度提升,全球經濟對於地球上的生態系統的需求卻又繼續增加。

The end of sustainability

In short, hopes of ‘green growth’ have failed. Ecological economists, such as Professor Tim Jackson, have shown that efficiency gains tend to be reinvested in more growth and consumption, not reduced impacts. In order to resolve these mounting social and ecological crises, the world’s wealthiest nations need to initiate a ‘degrowth’ process of planned economic contraction, in order to leave some ecological room for the poorest to meet their needs. This may not be likely, but it is necessary.

永續成長的結束

簡單來說,「綠色成長」的希望已經破滅。生態經濟學家,像是Tim Jackson教授等人的研究都顯示,在效率上的獲利仍然重新投資在成長與更多的消費,而不是投資在降低環境衝擊上。為了解決這些越漸嚴重的社會與生態危機,全球最富裕的國家必須啟動「去成長」的方式,有計劃的經濟消退,才能讓生態有一些空間,讓最貧困的地方可以滿足需求。這可能不容易發生,但是卻是必要的。

CAPITALISM’S GROWTH IMPERATIVE

資本主意的成長導向思維

Today’s growth paradigm is on an ecocidal collision course with planetary limits. Nevertheless, there are at least five reasons why capitalism is essentially locked into the pursuit of growth - the environment be damned.

當今主流的成長思維,即將與地球的極限出現無可避免的衝撞。即使如此,從至少五項理由上思考,都可以看出為什麼資本主義緊密卡在必須成長的思維,完全不管生態環境的死活。

1. The first is a micro-economic growth imperative. Within capitalism, corporations must endeavour to maximise profits and productivity or risk being pushed out of the market by more ambitious or ruthless market competitors.

首先就是微經濟的必要成長。在資本主義的思維下,企業必須努力強化獲利與生產力,否則就會被更有企圖新、更無情的競爭者取代,從市場出局。

2. The second growth imperative is debt related and has two dimensions. Currently money is loaned into existence as interest-bearing debt, and in order to pay back the debt, plus the interest, this implies an expansion of the monetary supply. Trillions of dollars of debt has been taken on in recent decades, so more than ever, the system needs growth for stability. Otherwise debts stop being repaid and the system collapses, which is almost what happened in 2008.

And so the golden rule of capitalism is: grow or die.

第二項成長的必要性共有兩個層次。目前的金錢都算是附帶利息的債務,要償還這些債務和利息,就必須不斷增加金錢的供應量。近幾十年來累積數千億債務,因此必須要繼續成長,才能維持經濟體系的穩定度。否則大家無法償還債務,系統崩盤,像是2008年幾乎發生的狀況。所以,資本主義的黃金規則就是:成長要不就死去。

3. The third reason capitalism is inherently growth-orientated is because it is in the self-interests of the most powerful actors in the global economy. At least since Marx, there has been a line of critical theory that sees the state as merely a tool for securing and advancing the interests of the richest agents or institutions in society. On those grounds, it can be argued that capitalism is structured to maximise growth because the most powerful actors in society demand as much.

The fourth growth imperative, related to the previous one, concerns the forces of globalisation. Not only are nation-states today constrained by numerous international trade agreements and powerful global institutions, but the free flow of capital around the globe has given new power to transnational corporations with the ability to move their financial resources from country to country with unprecedented ease.

If a government were to create unattractive financial conditions for big businesses, these corporations would threaten ‘capital flight’, and even the threat of this is enough to constrain government policy. So we see governments not daring to step too far out of line.

第三項的必要成長,就是成長導向的思考,因為這就是全球經濟中最強大要角的利益所在。至少在馬克思主義提出之後,就有一系列的批判性理論,認為國家的功能只是確保、推動社會中最富裕人士或機構的利益。也因此,可以說資本主義的結構就是要讓成長最大化,因為社會裡最有權力的各方有這樣的需求。

第四項的必要成長,攸關於資本全球化的力量。現今各國被許多國際貿易協定和強勢的國際化機構所綁定,但是全球的自由資金也讓許多跨國公司有一股新的力量,讓他們能夠更靈活地將財務資源在各國之間調度。

如果政府為大型企業制定的財務條件不夠好,這些企業可能威脅要將資金移走,即使單單是威脅,也足以壓制政府的政策,讓政府不太敢偏離既定政策太多。

4. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, there is the geopolitical incentive to maximise economic growth. A larger economy means more wealth to invest in military forces. Governments will never voluntarily ‘degrow’ an economy because they will never voluntarily weaken their relative power relations.

或許這當中最重要的一項,就是將經濟成長極大化帶來的地緣政治效益。較大的經濟體代表更多財富,可以投資於軍力上。政府是不會主動「削弱」成長,因為他們不會願意主動弱化自己的權力關係。

A GRASSROOTS THEORY OF CHANGE

促進改變的草根理論

Capitalism needs what it cannot have: limitless growth on a finite planet. This is the ecological contradiction that will bring an end to capitalism, probably sooner rather than later.

資本主義需要的是它所匱乏的:在有限的地球上無止盡成長。這就是最後讓資本主義垮台的生態矛盾,而且速度可能比想像的還要早。

Given that governments are both unable and unwilling to transcend the growth economics of capitalism, it follows that any movement for justice and ecological reconciliation with Earth must be driven ‘from below’, by grassroots action that builds a post-capitalist society within the shell of the old.

既然政府沒辦法也不願意改變資本主義下的成長型經濟,任何想要追求公平以及回饋地球的運動就必須「從下而上」,透過草根行動在現有的外殼裡建立後資本主義的社會。

In broad terms it would involve radically downshifting levels of consumption in order maximise freedom and resilience; redirecting energies toward increasing home-based and local production; engaging ‘beyond the market’ in the informal and non-monetary economies, including increased sharing of resources and goods; and organising collectively for distributive equity and collective sufficiency, especially as economic contraction takes hold.

This is not to suggest that the grassroots level of household and community action is necessarily the ideal sphere of societal transformation (an open question); it’s only to acknowledge that if governments will not embrace a post-capitalist economy of degrowth, then the grassroots level is the only remaining sphere of transformative potential.

從較為宏觀的角度來看,這需要極度大幅度降低消費,才能讓自由度與復原力更大;將大家的能量導向家庭為本、當地製造的模式;用穿越市場的思維生活,打造非正式、非金錢的經濟體制,包括更多資源與物品的分享;集體組織,打造分配的公平性以及集體自足性,特別是經濟收縮時更需如此。這並不代表草根階級的住戶與社區活動,就是最理想的社會變革發生的層面(這是一個開放性的問題),只是在說,如果政府無法接納後資本主義經濟的去成長狀態,草根的層級成為唯一具有帶來變革潛能的地方。

There’s also the structural or systemic problems (especially access to land and affordable housing) that must be resolved in any just transition beyond capitalism. But there will never be a politics or macroeconomics beyond growth until there is a culture of sufficiency that demands this. Put otherwise, a post-growth state may only ever be the outcome, not the driving force, of a movement for degrowth.

另外在結構上以及系統上也有問題(特別是擁有土地與可負擔房屋),都是在資本主義之後的轉型期必須解決的問題。但是如果沒有一個自足性的文化感受到這樣的需求,就永遠不會有跳脫成長的政治或大經濟體制。換句話說,後成長的國家只能是去除成長運動的一個結果,不是驅動它的力量。

“Degrowth ‘from below’? The role of urban social movements in a post-capitalist transition”, a research paper by Dr Samuel Alexander and Professor Brendan Gleeson, is available here.

「『從下向上』去成長?後資本主義轉型的都市社會運動所扮演的角色」,由Samuel Alexander與Brendan Gleeson教授合著的研究報告可以從這裡讀取。

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