Sunday, January 04, 2015

Toward Red-Green Socialism: A Basic Reading Guide

“The problem with capital accumulation, then, is not only that it is unbalanced and crisis-ridden, but also that its underlying form of growth [emphasis added] as marked by runaway productivity that neither is controlled by the producers nor functions directly to their benefit. This particular sort of growth is intrinsic to a society based on value; it cannot be explained in terms of misdirected views and false priorities alone. Although the productivist critiques of capitalism have focused only on the possible barriers to economic growth inherent in capital accumulation, it is clear that Marx criticized both the accelerating boundlessness of ‘growth’ under capitalism as well as its crisis-ridden character. Indeed, he demonstrates that these two characteristics should be analyzed as intrinsically related.”—Moishe Postone 

“…[A]ny attempt to respond fundamentally, within the framework of capitalist society, to growing environmental destruction by restraining this society’s mode of expansion would probably be ineffective  on a long-term basis—not only because of the interests of capitalists or state managers, but because failure to expand surplus value would indeed result in severe economic difficulties with great social costs. In Marx’s analysis, the necessary accumulation of capital and the creation of capitalist society’s wealth are intrinsically related. Moreover, …because labor is determined as a necessary means of individual reproduction in capitalist society, wage laborers remain dependent on capital’s ‘growth,’ even when the consequences of their labor, ecological and otherwise, are detrimental to themselves and others. The tension between the exigencies of the commodity form and ecological requirements becomes more severe as productivity increases and, particularly during economic crises and periods of high unemployment, poses a sever dilemma. The dilemma and the tension in which it is rooted are immanent to capitalism; their ultimate resolution will be hindered so long as value remains the determining form of social wealth. [….] The particular relation between increases in productivity and the expansion of surplus value shapes the underlying trajectory of growth in capitalism. This trajectory cannot be explained adequately in terms of the market and private property, which suggests that, even in their absence, economic growth would necessarily assume the form marked by increases in productivity much greater than the increases in social wealth they effect—as long as social wealth ultimately remains a function of labor time expenditure. Planning in such a situation, however successful or unsuccessful, would signify a conscious response to the compulsions exerted by the alienated form of social relations expressed by value and capital; it would not, however, overcome them.”—Moishe Postone

“For me Marxism is a quarry.”—Rudolph Bahro

“There has to be a change in our whole system of production, for technology in the present-day world carries the capitalist mode of production within itself.”—Rudolph Bahro

“More important than the quality or quantity of consumer goods, in my view, is the need for a new consumption pattern geared to the qualitative development of the individual, so that the length of young people’s education, for example, becomes a higher priority than the addition of one more piece of clothing to my wardrobe. [….] [W]e have not yet succeeded in breaking through the horizon of capitalist civilization to reach the vision of a world-wide alternative. It is true that the peoples of the world are at different levels of development, but one has to make use of the concrete possibilities where the civilization is not so overdetermined. [….] The point of the concept of cultural revolution is that man has to rise above the level of capitalist reproduction process for the satisfaction of life’s necessities. We cannot wait until we are sated with material goods. A level of basic needs has to be defined, and a standard of living may be achieved in underdeveloped countries that may be more rational than our own.”—Rudolph Bahro

  • Bahro, Rudolf. From Red to Green. London: Verso Books, 1984. 
  • Benton, Ted. Natural Relations: Ecology, Animal Rights and Social Justice. London: Verso, 1993. 
  • Benton, Ted, ed. The Greening of Marxism. New York: The Guilford Press, 1996. 
  • Burkett, Paul. Marx and Nature: A Red and Green Perspective. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999. 
  • Carter, Alan. A Radical Green Political Theory. London: Routledge, 1999. [More anarchist than Marxist in orientation]  
  • Foster, John Bellamy. Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000. 
  • Foster, John Bellamy. Ecology against Capitalism. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2002. 
  • Foster, John Bellamy. The Ecological Revolution. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2009. 
  • Foster, John Bellamy, Brett Clark, and Richard York. The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010. 
  • Gorz, André. Ecology as Politics. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1980. 
  • Gorz, André (Chris Turner, tr.) Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology. London: Verso, 1994. 
  • O’Connor, James. Natural Causes: Essays in Ecological Marxism. New York: Guilford, 1998. 
  • Pepper, David. Eco-Socialism: From Deep Ecology to Social Justice. London: Routledge, 1993. 
  • Postone, Moishe. Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993. [See in particular, ch.9, ‘The Trajectory of Production,’ 307-384.]
  • Ryle, Martin. Ecology and Socialism. London: Radius, 1988. 


Anonymous Michael Rainbow said...

Thanks for writing this blog. I share your view that the growth factor built into capitalist production pushes us towards the destruction of the environment. I look forward to a discussion with you about solutions. My email is Also, please visit my blog at and post a comment on my blog. I will attempt to create a link here as well.

2/21/2015 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Michael Rainbow said...

Thanks for creating this blog.
I share your view that the growth factor built into capitalism pushes us towards destruction of the environment. Please post a comment on my blog at or send an email to I look forward to the conversation.

2/21/2015 8:01 PM  

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