University of Tasmania
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A contribution to the ecological critique of political economy

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posted on 2023-05-26, 21:10 authored by Kumar, M
Marx's nineteenth century critique of political economy was developed in an era when natural resources were abundant. Nature was not considered a central feature in the production of economic surplus value. To classical political economy, the vital factor contributing to economic development was the way labour was organised in extended production. The main objective of this thesis is to shift the role of nature into a more prominent position in political economy. It is an attempt to integrate biophysical economics into Marx's historical materialism. This allows a fuller account of capitalist development and the ecological crisis inherent in this mode of production. The ecological crisis it is argued is a crisis of production. The biophysical orientation adopted in this thesis implies that the classical political economic notion that labour alone creates surplus value is inadequate to account for the physical basis of production. The thesis argues that labour combines with nature to create surplus value. It follows that the imperatives of growth-oriented production for overcoming poverty in Eastern bloc socialism and the accumulation of private capital in capitalism depend on the generation of surplus value founded on the dual exploitation of labour and nature. From this perspective the ecological crisis is a direct outcome of growth-oriented production. If nature and labour both constitute surplus value then it is inferred that environmental movements and labour movements are different aspects of the capitalist exploitation process, which is inherently growth-oriented and therefore anti-ecological. It is further argued that Marx's failure to account fully for the dynamics of capitalist development lies in his failure to incorporate nature in the \Labour Theory of Value\". The problem for Marx was that he could not foresee the constraints on production from both the physical limits of natural resources and the environmental limits of pollution. The impediment to capitalist growth is no longer the rising power of the proletariat but the looming ecological crisis. Marx also failed to predict capitalist restructuring that led to the diminishing role of labour in the production of surplus value. As a result he could not foresee the diminishing political power of the working class and the mitigation of the class conflict as a consequence of this restructuring process. This thesis concludes that the industrial working class will not be the decisive factor in social development of the future. The broader contradiction of capitalism with nature will be the vital factor determining the future of this mode of production."


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Thesis (M.Env.St.)--University of Tasmania, 1994. Includes bibliographical references (leaves [102]-108)

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