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CONTEMPORARY BOURGEOIS THOUGHT
What is the point of philosophy in a contemporary capitalist world dominated by destruction and where humanity has been pushed to the edge of the abyss? Ideologues of capitalism create an illusion that the ruling relation to reality is based on a certain way of thinking, that it has a rational nature. Philosophy has become a “rational” echo of destructive capitalist irrationality. It is but one of the humanist masks of an inhumane and destructive civilization and, as such, is advertising for capitalism. It provides and strengthens a way of thinking that, like religion, is deprived of critical self-reflection and prevents man from becoming aware of the tendencies of global development and the objective possibilities of liberation that through subjective practice (political struggle) can turn into real possibilities for freedom. At the same time, “philosophizing” is reduced to the creation of a network of formally and logically consistent concepts that are supposed to mediate between man and the world. Philosophy has become a means for confusing reason and distracting it from the crucial questions. Contemporary bourgeois philosophers disqualify reason as the most authentic and most important human means for ensuring survival and freedom. It is reduced to an instrumentalized ratio and has become the means for mystification of the existing world and for the destruction of a visionary consciousness that offers a possibility for overcoming capitalism and creating a new world. Philosophy has become a technical subject and, as such, is a means for turning concrete existential and essential questions into abstract theoretical questions. Instead of a revolutionary concept, the dominant concept is that of conformism. Instead of a fight to eradicate the causes of non-freedom and destruction, a theoretical discussion about consequences is being imposed. The bourgeois theory offers a critique of capitalism which does not question it and which seeks to “perfect” it. “The essence of capitalism” acquires an idolized dimension and becomes the basis for criticizing capitalist reality. Thus the mythologized past becomes the basis for criticizing the present. Everything that might and should happen has already happened. A struggle for the future becomes a struggle for the past. The bourgeois intelligentsia multiplies the “field of research” by creating numerous “grey areas”, primarily to expand its space as much as possible. It acts like the market: it produces increased quantities of intellectual goods with ever-lower quality, which are sold in the form of books, lectures, studies, and reports.
Max Horkheimer came to the conclusion half a century ago that serious philosophy was nearing its end and that society was becoming an anthill. Philosophers contribute to that state of affairs by not developing a philosophy that is grounded in the emancipatory legacy of civil society and national cultures, they rather adapt to a ruling order that, rather than a wise man, needs an stupified consumer. Philosophy becomes an entertainment skill and, as such, is a part of show-business, while philosophers become the “jesters” of capitalism. The philosophical mind is being integrated into capitalism by the destruction of its emancipatory potential and by turning philosophy into another commodity in the marketplace of consumer society. The amount of the commission fee becomes the “measure” of the quality of the philosophical thought. Even when significant matters are communicated, they are expressed in such a manner as to lose their political dimension and obtain an entertainment or clownish dimension. Philosophers like Slavoj Zizek and Bernard-Henri Lévy are typical examples of “Coca-Cola” intellectuals. Their “reflections” are being tailored to provide “philosophical” legitimacy to the ecocidal and genocidal activities of the stakeholders in the “new world order”. Their thought represents a philosophical merit badge on the chests of the capitalist executioners who obliterate nature and humankind. At the same time, the leftist bourgeois intelligentsia, headed by Jürgen Habermas, Oskar Negt and Oskar Lafontaine, create an illusion that capitalism could be “brought to reason” by means of enlightened thought. It does not address the workers, but an abstract “citizen”, a petty bourgeois who has been degenerated by the consumer way of life and who can not be bothered with radical social changes that might jeopardize his consumer’s standard of living. “Bringing to reason” does not imply the development of combative sociability and the nullification of the capitalist order as it is reduced to the “pacification” of workers and the technical development that implies the obliteration of man as a social being and of nature as life-generating entirety. Even when the ruling political circle (alienated from the citizenry) is being threatened by an insistence on the necessity of the direct participation in political life of the largest possible number of citizens, this is performed in a manner that does not stand for an appeal to the citizens to fight against the ruling order. The “social peace” needs to be preserved at all cost in order to prevent economic crisis and the ensuing social crisis – without which the petty bourgeois consciousness and its “consumer society” cannot be eliminated. At the same time, a critique of capitalism is increasingly present. But it is of an academic nature and is deprived of any political, change-creating dimension. It does not address the destructive nature of capitalism and is not moved toward a vision of the future based upon a radical step away from the capitalist world.
The purposefulness of philosophic thought is determined by whether this thought poses concrete historic questions. Today, in a world that faces an ever more realistic possibility of destruction, that principle means concrete historical questions might be the last questions posed by man. It is this quality that makes a difference between today’s concrete historical questions and all earlier such questions. The development of capitalism as a totalitarian order of destruction imposes the question of survival as the most important concrete historical question. Actually, by bringing humanity to the brink of destruction, capitalism ”has answered” all crucial questions. Bearing in mind the intensity of the capitalist destruction of life, all questions come down to one: what can be done to prevent the destruction of humanity? The only meaningful thought is of an existential character, that is, it creates the possibility for a political (changing) practice that will prevent the world’s destruction. In that context, philosophy is meaningful as a critique of capitalism and a visionary projection of a future world. There is a need for creating an integrating critical and visionary thought with an existential nature, which will contain the emancipatory legacy of civil society and national cultures. Humanity will again appreciate the importance of serious thinking when people return to the basic existential questions. The seriousness of those questions will make people serious: crucial existential issues will eliminate any trivial ways of thinking and direct the mind towards the essential issues. Riding the wave of the French bourgeois revolution, classical German philosophy shaped the self-consciousness of modern man. Today, the humanist intelligentsia should shape a thought that will guide the last revolution in the history of mankind. It is not the hoot of Minerva’s owl in the twilight, but the war cry of a man who has been awakened and who is ready not only to liberate humanity from oppression, but to prevent its destruction. Ultimately, what is philosophy if it is not capable of answering the questions that are of vital importance to human destiny?
DESTRUCTION OF THE BODY
The body is the basic vessel of human existence in the world and man’s basic connection to the world. It is not a natural given or a phenomenon sui generis. It is rather the product of the historical development of society. Each civilization creates a specific body and a specific relation to the body and, thus, a specific man. Even in Ancient Greece, people realized that the production of a particular body also implies the production of a particular type of man (masters and slaves). Class and racial physiognomic is given great importance in bourgeois anthropology and concentrated on particularly by bourgeois Hellenic scholars who idealized Ancient Greece. At the same time, man does not experience his body immediately but through a concrete totality of the epoch in which he lives and the prevailing ideological “model” of the body, as a concrete human (social) being.
The answer to the question of what is the human body in the contemporary world can be reached only in the context of the prevailing tendency of capitalist development. Capitalism produces an individual who is in functional unity with it and who enables its development, above all, by producing an appropriate body. The prevailing relation to the body is mediated by “technical civilization”. In other words, the body is reduced to being a peculiar machine, while bodily movement is reduced to the mechanics of motion. Technical functionality and efficiency become the basic features of the capitalist body. Basically, a dominant instrumental and exploitative relation to nature is fundamental to the relation to the human body. Rather than being a harmonious part of the living environment that, as such, should be respected, the body is reduced to being the object of transformation and an instrument for the attainment of inhuman goals. In “consumer society”, consumption has become the dominant form of bodily activity. The body has become part of the consumer way of life, and it responds to the demands of consumer civilization. The relation to the body has an instrumental character: it ceases to be an integral part of the human being and becomes a tool for the reproduction of the ruling order. The body is completely commercialized as the “greatest” achievement of the capitalist degeneration of man. Putatively, man is the “owner” of his body. In reality, he treats his body in the same way capitalism treats him as a man: by dehumanizing man, capitalism dehumanized man’s relation to his own body. It is a capitalistically created narcissism with an instrumental, destructive and spectacular nature.
The capitalist totalization of the world involves the capitalist totalization of the body, its deformation and the creation of a chronically ill man. The prevailing rhythm is that of capitalist reproduction, which destroys the biological rhythm of life – without which there is no healthy man. Not only is man guided by consumption as his moral challenge, but his body cannot survive without an increasing number of devices and substances, along with an artificial environment. Man’s survival is more and more mediated by artificial means that turn him into an invalid. The body has lost its natural needs: it can no longer process natural food, and it lives on and through medication. Man’s entire life is in “treatment”, meant ultimately to enable him to carry on in the functional harmony with the ruling order. The devolution of the body clearly shows that a developing “standard of consumption” brings on an erosion of the living standard. Labor, livelihood, movement, bio-rhythms, diet, sleep, living space as a modern ghetto (cities), air, water, food, tobacco, drugs, sugary beverages (including alcohol), ways of life that destroy man’s natural being, his night life, forced pace and ways of eating – almost all life-styles lead to man’s degeneration. Cholesterol, cellulite, diabetes, cancer, coronary diseases, neurasthenia, depression, AIDS, etc., are not “modern diseases”, but are rather a capitalist form of man’s physical and mental degeneration. It is about man’s transformation by capitalism, which deprives him of his natural and human life-creating quality and turns him into a plastic and technological “being”. At the same time, rather than being naturally conditioned and having a natural character, an increasing number of potential diseases are the products of laboratories and have a genocidal and for-profit character. Capitalism produces diseases that are then “cured” through man’s transformation into a profit-generating patient, that is, a chronic patient. The propaganda machine and his social position determine the “physical needs” of contemporary man. Man, who constantly devours larger and larger amounts of lower and lower quality food, is the most important strategic target of the food industry. This industry is producing a more and more gravely sick man, who is, of course, “taken in charge” by the medical and pharmaceutical industry. The consumption of larger and larger quantities of food does not reflect a need of the body; it is intended to compensate for a frustrated humanity. The same goes for smoking, drug taking, alcoholism, consumer physical exercise like aerobics, body-building and similar activities. Capitalism turns the consequences of the destruction of man and nature into the sources of profit and invents increasingly dangerous and destructive mechanisms. The human body becomes a universal destructive machine and a universal waste bin meant to swallow the ever-more poisonous products of capitalist civilization. At the same time, existential anxiety, daily humiliations, loneliness and hopelessness affect man’s mental health and further exacerbate his physical degeneration.
As part of the capitalistically degenerated world, man’s body has become the vehicle for the destruction of naturality and humanity and, as such, the enemy of nature and man. Capitalism has transformed man into a destructive labor force and, at the same time, into a consumer set to devour the greatest number of products in the least possible time. The nature of these commodities, the use-value of which continually decreases from the perspective of man as a biological and human being, and the nature of man’s relationship to these goods and services, which is nothing more than to consume them, inevitably result in man’s degeneration as a biological and human being. The consumer way of life produces a denaturalized and dehumanized consumer body and a consumer mentality, and, ultimately, a consumer view of the world and a consumer (destructive) imagination. The constant focusing on devouring food distracts the mind from crucial existential and essential issues and affects visionary consciousness. Dreams about food (just like dreams about luxury cars, swimming pools, houses, yachts… – which constantly feed the capitalist value horizon manifested by an increasingly aggressive entertainment industry) replace dreams about the world of free people. At the same time, the forms of escapism created by the entertainment industry destroy man’s need for intellectual activities. Capitalism mentally mutilates people by destroying their need for science, philosophy, poetry, music, enlightened conversation… There exists but one area of interest: money and the political power it buys, concerns which ultimately serve to rationalize the existing order that enables the accumulation of wealth through the plundering of workers and the destruction of the environment.
“HUMANISM – NATURALISM”
Marx’s idea of “humanism-naturalism” from the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts indicates the possibility of overcoming the antagonism between nature and man through their mutual cooperation resulting in a simultaneous fulfillment of both man’s and nature’s emancipatory potential. Marx: “Communism as the positive transcendence of private property as human self-estrangement and, therefore, as man’s complete atonement as a social (i.e., human) being – a reunion accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development. Thus communism, as fully developed naturalism, is humanism, and as fully developed humanism, is naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the antagonism between man and nature and between man and man – the true resolution of the tension between existence and essence, between objectification and self-affirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of History solved, and it knows itself to be this resolution.”
The idea of “humanism-naturalism”, as a concrete historical concept and not as an ideal that can only be dreamed of, indicates that Marx does not consider a future relative to capitalism as a totalitarian destructive order. Marx’s “humanism-naturalism” does not have a concrete historical dimension, but rather is based on the abstract determination of the essence of nature and man. “Humanism-naturalism” is projected into a future space where man and nature appear on a mythological level and correspond to their idealized concepts. For Marx, man’s liberation from his enslavement to nature and the possibility of nature’s humanization represent the resolution of their antagonistic relation. It is, however, based on the capitalist mode of development of the productive forces, a process that does not promote man’s liberation from nature, but rather makes him more dependent on it. According to Marx, the domination of nature and its exploitation, through technology, is the domination and exploitation of man. Indeed, capitalist technology consists of natural forces turned by capitalism into an anti-natural power. Capitalism “masters” nature by destroying it and thus creates man’s increasingly dangerous enemy. Only relative to the destructive tendencies of capitalist development can Marx’s idea of “humanism-naturalism” take on a concrete historical, critical and visionary meaning.
On man’s relation to nature, Marx writes in Capital: “By acting on the external world and changing it, man at the same time changes his own nature.“ It follows that man’s relation to nature conditions man’s nature. Marx based his thesis on the view that, by transforming nature into useful objects, man conquers natural forces and, thus, develops his own creative powers. The transformation of nature has a libertarian and existential character. Following the same principle, if man transforms nature by destroying it, he simultaneously destroys himself as a natural and human being and becomes a destructive mechanism. Because of capitalistically degenerated labor, man does not develop his universal creative powers but, instead, is crippled as a natural, creative and social being and reduced to being a mechanical part of working processes – to being a destructive specialty-idiot. At the same time, capitalism, through the “consumer” way of life, has turned even non-work time into time for capitalist reproduction, that is, into time for the (self)destruction of man and nature. In capitalism, however, the relation to nature only appears to be mediated by human practice. Since man is instrumentalized, from his earliest youth, by a capitalistically conditioned way of life, human practice is but one of the manifestations of capitalism’s relation to nature and essentially corresponds to capitalism’s destructive character. At the same time, this destructive relation to nature conditions man’s relation to both society and the future, as well as man’s relation to himself as a natural and human being. Only if man, as an emancipated natural being, has a humanizing relation to nature, can he have a humanizing relation to his own body as his immediate nature and to himself as a human being.
As for the glorification of nature, in One-Dimensional Man, Marcuse comes to the following conclusion: “All joy and all happiness derive from the ability to transcend Nature – a transcendence in which the mastery of Nature is itself subordinated to the liberation and pacification of existence. (…) Glorification of the natural is part of the ideology that protects an unnatural society in its struggle against liberation. (…) Civilization produces the means for freeing Nature from its own brutality, its own insufficiency, its own blindness, by virtue of the cognitive and transforming power of Reason. And Reason can fulfill this function only as post-technological rationality, in which technics is itself the instrumentality of pacification, organon of the ‘art of life’. The function of Reason then converges with the function of Art.“ “The brutality” of nature has an existential and life-generating character, unlike capitalist brutality, which has a destructive character and conditions man’s anthropological image: instead of being a “beast”, man has become a “(self)destructive” being. In capitalism, “nature ceases to be merely nature” by being deprived of its life-creating quality and reduced to the object of exploitation and destruction. In sport, which is a mirror of the true image of capitalism, nature does not free itself from its insufficiencies and brutality, but rather becomes the object of exploitation and destruction. In sport, the body, as man’s immediate nature, becomes the opponent who must be conquered and used for the attainment of inhuman ends. Man does not free himself in sport from natural determinism; he rather “frees” himself from life.
Marcuse overlooks the fact that nature itself is humanizing. In Emile, Rousseau writes about the “art of living” learned by the child in nature, which “calls him to a human life”. For the North American Chief, life in nature enables the cultivation of the senses and, thus, the development of man’s aesthetical being, whereas the cutting of man’s organic bond with nature leads to a degeneration of the senses and, consequently, of man, himself. He says that the white man cannot hear the life sounds of nature, smell its scents, discern its colors… This is because the capitalist way of life has degenerated his senses and destroyed the need to enjoy the beauty of both nature and life, a pleasure possible only when man is an organic part of nature. Unlike Goethe and Schiller, Marx did not have a romantic relation to nature (for Klopstock, skates are “wings on the feet”, enabling man to fly to the future) and did not attach a particular importance to the aesthetical dimension of nature. Since capitalism, by destroying nature, abolishes natural brutality, it is necessary to fight for nature’s naturalization, for its liberation from the capitalist exploitation and destruction. Natural forces should be transformed into vehicles for nature’s preservation and humanization. Nature’s liberating potential is contained in its life-creating quality – in the creation of new forms of life. Man is by nature a life-creating being, who can be humanized only if his life-creating quality is recognized as an integral part of nature. Humanization becomes the development (overcoming) of the original naturality, and not its subordination to a rational pattern, to the model of the “humanized” and the like. Only as an emancipated natural being can man truly experience the fullness of his human being. Instead of being a form through which nature can be overcome by the “spirit”, which means to attain a notion of itself and relate to itself, man should overcome his original natural life-creating quality through the development of his creative being, meaning that it should become the basis for the totalization of the world. It is about the transformation of the principle of fecundity into the life-creating principle and the life-creating principle into the universal creative principle.
As far as the relation between reason and nature is concerned, Marcuse writes about this in One-Dimensional Man in the context of his discussion of Hegel’s concept of freedom, with respect to which Marx develops his emancipatory thought. Marcuse: “Hegel’s concept of freedom presupposes consciousness throughout (in Hegel’s terminology: self-consciousness). Consequently, the ‘realization’ of Nature is not, and never can be, Nature’s own work: But inasmuch as Nature is in itself negative (i.e., wanting in its own existence), the historical transformation of Nature by Man is, as the overcoming of this negativity, the liberation of Nature. Or, in Hegel’s words, Nature is in its essence non-natural-‘Geist’.” And he continues: “History is the negation of Nature. What is only natural is overcome and recreated by the power of Reason. The metaphysical notion that Nature comes to itself in history points to the unconquered limits of Reason. It claims them as historical limits – as a task yet to be accomplished or, rather, yet to be undertaken. Nature is in itself a rational, legitimate object of science, thus it is the legitimate object not only of Reason as power, but also of Reason as freedom; not only of domination, but also of liberation. With the emergence of man as the animal rationale – capable of transforming Nature in accordance with the faculties of the mind and the capacities of matter – the merely natural, as the sub-rational, assumes negative status. It becomes a realm to be comprehended and organized by Reason.”
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BOURGEOISIE AND PROLETARIAT
One of the most important ideas from the Manifesto of the Communist Party called into question by contemporary capitalism is that of capitalism’s being a “revolutionary“ order and, consequently, the bourgeoisie’s being is a “revolutionary“ class. According to Marx, the main historical “task“ of the bourgeoisie is to enable man to gain control over natural laws and thereby free himself from his dependency on nature and exhausting physical labor, so as to enable him to develop his universal creative powers. The “revolutionary role“ of the bourgeoisie is to create conditions for a “leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom“ (Engels). This is the main reason why Marx attaches primary importance to the development of productive forces. At the same time, the bourgeoisie is an exploiting class that becomes reactionary when capitalist private ownership starts to hinder the development of the productive forces. That is the right moment for a socialist revolution.
For Marx, the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is dialectical. The bourgeoisie produces the proletariat as its antipode: the nature of the bourgeoisie conditions the nature of the proletariat. According to Marx, the revolutionary character of capitalism, which, above all, strives for the abolishment of man’s dependency on nature through the capitalist development of productive forces, offers workers the possibility of a revolutionary transformation of society. The conquered natural elements open the possibility of establishing a form of labor that will enable man to realize his creative powers and a social order that will put an end to man’s exploitation by others. For Marx, the most important task of the working class is to liberate humankind from inhuman living conditions and the class order. It is clearly stated in Marx’s “categorical imperative”: “To overthrow all those conditions in which man is an abased, enslaved, abandoned, contemptible being…” In The Holy Family, Marx writes: “When socialist writers ascribe this historic role to the proletariat, it is not, as critical criticism would have one think, because they consider the proletarians to be gods. Quite the contrary. Since the abstraction of all humanity, even of the semblance of humanity, is practically complete in the fully-formed proletariat; since the conditions of life of the proletariat sum up all the conditions of life of society today in their most inhuman and acute form; since man has lost himself in the proletariat, yet at the same time has not only gained theoretical consciousness of that loss, but through the no longer removable, no longer disguisable, absolutely imperative need—the practical expression of necessity—is driven directly to revolt against that inhumanity: it follows that the proletariat can and must free itself. But it cannot free itself without abolishing the conditions of its own life. It cannot abolish the conditions of its own life without abolishing all the inhuman conditions of life of society today which are summed up in its own situation.”
Marx points out “social” and “historical” causes that provoke workers to initiate the struggle against capitalism. Paramount among these are the immediate existential (economic) threat, the ruthless exploitation, the inhuman working and living conditions that jeopardize workers’ health, the humiliation to which they are regularly subjected… Ecological conditions do not count as the proletariat’s “living conditions”. The proletariat will not be “historically compelled” to stop the destruction of life on the planet and save humankind from obliteration. If Marx had regarded capitalism as an order that threatens nature and man as a human and natural being, then the awareness of the need to preserve life on the planet would have been the basis for shaping the workers’ class consciousness and a signpost in the struggle against capitalism. Marx does not mention capitalism’s destructive relation to nature as a possible precondition for a socialist revolution. His view of capitalism as a “revolutionary order” that marks the end of the “pre-history“ of humankind and the creation of the “material conditions” for a new society (just like Engels’ view that capitalism creates the possibilities for a “leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom”) indicates his relation to capitalism. Marx’s “categorical imperative”, which is the basis for the formation of workers’ class(self)-consciousness and as such is the supreme political principle, does not imply the ecocidal nature of capitalism and does not seek to develop in workers an emancipated (belligerent) ecological consciousness. Marx withheld the most important aspect of the workers’ class-consciousness: the concept that capitalism is a destructive order and that capitalist class domination has an ecocidal character. According to Marx, capitalism reaches its end primarily by causing the economic crisis that occurs because of the productive relations (private ownership) becoming an obstacle to further growth of the productive forces, and not by the development of any processes that are detrimental to nature and man. The starting point in the struggle against capitalism is not its (potentially) destructive character, because the only force that will bring man to struggle is an immediate threat to his survival. These Marxian views are imbued with political realism. However, Marx’s indication that capitalism exhausts the soil and thus jeopardizes the survival of future generations (humankind) leads to the conclusion that, instead of “waiting” for the productive forces to come into conflict with the productive (proprietary) relations, workers should be moved to start a decisive fight against capitalism by the increasingly dramatic destruction of nature.
The capitalism’s development as an ecocidal order leads to society’s increasing fragmentation, not only along the lines of wealth but also as to the accessibility to protection against more and more lethal climate changes, the pollution of food, water, air… Class divisions within a society have long been defined by natural living conditions and the possibilities for protection against the consequences of environmental degradation. Those most affected are on the lowest rung of the social ladder and on the margins of “globalization”. Workers and their children are more directly impacted by both the economic crises of capitalism and global ecological degradation. Indeed, in his Early Writings, Marx indicates that contaminated water and air have become the workers’ way of life, but he has in mind the daily existence of workers in factories and mines, as well as in the apartment blocks built in the immediate vicinity of industrial and mining sites, and not the planet-wide ecological pauperism brought about by the obliteration of nature as a life-generating whole and the production of a technical world.
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CAPITALIST EXPLOITATION OF SOIL
Marx’s analysis in Capital of the capitalist exploitation of the soil indicates his understanding of the relationship of capitalism to nature. Marx: “Capitalist production, by collecting the population in great centers, and causing an ever-increasing preponderance of urban population, on the one hand, concentrates the historical driving force of society; on the other hand, it disturbs the circulation of matter between man and the soil, i.e., it prevents the return to the soil of those of its elements consumed by man in the form of food and fabric; it therefore violates the conditions necessary to the continued fertility of the soil. By so doing, it at once destroys the health of the urban laborer and the intellectual life of the rural laborer… In modern agriculture, as in the manufacturing industries, the increased productivity and output of labor are bought at the cost of pathologically laying waste to labor-power, itself. Moreover, all progress in capitalistic agriculture is a progress in the art not only of robbing the laborer, but of robbing the soil, as well; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a period of time is progress towards ruining the lasting sources of that fertility. The more a country bases its development on the foundation of modern industry, as does the United States, for example, the more rapid is this process of destruction.”
Marx does not relate to nature in terms of its possible obliteration as a life-generating whole, but as an object of labor, and he criticizes capitalism for its excessive exhaustion of the soil, which deprives it of fertility. The same critique can be applied to previous historical periods: exhaustion of the soil and the working people is typical of both slavery and feudalism. What is the specificity of capitalist exploitation of nature and man? Departing from Marx’s critique of capitalism, the key difference between capitalism and previous social-economic formations is that production under capitalism is aimed at making profit and not at meeting human needs. Rather than the “ever-increasing preponderance of urban populations”, itself, it is the intensified process of agricultural production aimed at profit that results in the increased exhaustion of the soil, regardless of its potential for fertility and people’s real needs. In addition, capitalism increases the fertility of the soil by ruining the soil as the “lasting source of that fertility”. Marx realized that the problem is not primarily in the limited potential of the soil, but in the capitalist method of soil cultivation, which deprives it of its most important quality – natural fertility. However, Marx does not understand that the specificity of the capitalist method of soil exploitation is that it ruins the natural fertility of the soil through artificial fertilization, which means by turning the soil into a technical space and man into a technical vehicle for ruining nature. Moreover, contemporary food production indicates that capitalism does not even need the soil. In the food industry, raw material is obtained artificially and the whole process of production is carried out in technical conditions, by technical means and in a technical manner. The ultimate result of capitalism’s ecocidal barbarism is that capitalism obviates not only the soil, but also the very planet on which we live, as well as man as a natural and human being. Capitalistically degenerated scientists and their “sponsors” from the world of capital and politics have discarded the Earth as man’s cosmic home, along with “traditional humanity”.
Marx’s critique of the capitalist exploitation of nature is presented within the context of the critique of hyper-production. For Marx, capitalism is not an ecocidal, but an exploitative order. The issues are taken at the level of production and consumption. Marx overlooks the fact that capitalist production implies not only the consumption of raw materials, energy and human labor, but also the destruction of nature as a life-generating force and man as a natural and human being. For Marx, rather than implying the ecocidal nature of capitalism, and, in that context, the endangered survival of humanity, ruining the soil is one of the harmful effects of industrialization. At the same time, Marx overlooks the fact that the exhaustion of natural resources does not only have a mechanical and quantitative character, but also a qualitative character, which means that it conditions the concrete nature of capitalist progress, the nature of the bourgeoisie and the working class, the nature of the class struggle and socialist revolution, the relationship to the future and even the possibility of a future… As far as the working process is concerned, by developing technical means intensively to cultivate of the soil, capitalism magnifies the productivity of labor and reduced the amount of physical labor and, thus, the physical exhaustion of workers.
According to Marx, capitalism transforms nature by turning it into useful objects and thus increases the certainty of human survival and expands the borders of human freedom through material goods and the development of man’s creative powers. At the same time, Marx indicates the danger in exploiting the soil to such an extent that it is robbed of its natural fertility and the survival of future generations is threatened, because a future society should be based on a rational cultivation of nature that involves its regeneration. Marx relativizes the importance of the truth that capitalism threatens the survival of future generations. He criticizes capitalism for its exhaustion of the soil, but the consequences are projected into the future, which acquires an abstract dimension. Given the fact that capitalism creates possibilities for artificial fertilization of the soil and manages increasingly to penetrate the Earth and thus provide new raw materials and energy resources, and their more efficient exploitation, the question of the soil’s exhaustion is being relativized. Indeed, capitalism has been threatening the survival of future generations by increasingly ruining nature ever since its beginning. What was perceived by Marx as a possible existential danger, unless in the meantime the working class abolishes capitalism and establishes a qualitatively different relation to the soil, has actually been in place since the emergence of capitalism (which was indicated by Fourier in early 19th century and, half a century later, by the chief of the Seattle tribe), reaching its peak in the “consumer society“. What appears in Marx as a potential existential threat to future generations, in the form of excessive exhaustion of the soil, has turned today into a real threat to the survival of humankind, in the form of the destruction of nature as a life-generating whole. At the same time, capitalism threatens humankind’s survival not only by robbing the soil, but also by robbing man of his own fertility. As a totalitarian destructive order, capitalism will make future generations face in an increasingly dramatic way not only a fatal ecological crisis, but also their own biological degeneration. The capitalist mode of developing the productive forces has doomed man to biological demise not only by cutting the organic link between man and nature, but also by robbing nature of its natural qualities and man of his human qualities. This comes about by the de-naturalizing of nature and the de-humanizing and de-naturalizing of man, turning nature into a technical space and man into a technical object.
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