Tuesday, April 24, 2012


By Ulrich Brand
Google translation


Ulrich Brand is a German political scientist and economist who promotes a critical theory to address what he calls the financialization of nature, the devices of global governance and state  transformations. In this interview, presents the fundamentals of vision and examines the crisis of capitalism, the current challenges in the south and exits found in Argentina.

By VerĂ³nica Gago and Diego Sztulwark

How critical is linked to development today and the question of the crisis?

At the 2009 Copenhagen summit on climate change was first made from the social movements and NGOs beyond a very strong criticism by saying just this mode of global management of resources. This is articulated directly with the current crisis, although they are in the nineteenth century debate between Marx and Sismondi referring to what it means growth as a solution to problems. This time, dissent was articulated also among the elites. For example, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz said he had to acknowledge this criticism against what was proposed as an output dominant revitalize growth. Of course, there is some history and some concern about how we got out of the crisis. Is the neoliberal response, which is now dominant in Europe and that is the prescription of austerity. Then, the Keynesian response, which calls for investment and domestic consumption to drive the economy. And at the margins, is the debate about what we do with growth. Some icons are people like about the Englishman Tim Jackson, who proposed a now famous formula: welfare without growth.

What about this position for the decrease?

The position of restricting the growth decrease materialism innocent and very positive, he believes solving environmental problems through less consumption, less production, more efficient use of resources. What is lost in this discussion is that growth is the commodification of social relations and of nature. This means that from the decrease did not think the social forms of growth, since they are not linked to capitalist forms or with everyday people. Another problem is that Europe is still in serious debate about the development because it is still seen as a concept only for the south. That's why from the north has not produced a critique of development.

The position of the decline comes as anti-capitalist?

Those who argue in favor of decreasing speak of a crisis of capitalism, but thinking how to end the capitalist social forms. It is not enough. Twenty years ago that Japan is not growing and is a capitalist society. Argentina in the '80s and '90s did not grow. But the point is to change the form of value, the commodity form, shape state policy. Capitalism does not end without growth. Capitalism is capital accumulation. And if there is economic growth that accumulation is smoother because it can spread. If there is no growth, and now in Europe, the response of capital is the austerity or privatization. The hegemonic nature of capitalism is played best when there is growth. But to say that no growth leads to capitalism is finished for me is nonsense.

Does the term post-development is more comprehensive?

Yes. It is a debate much smaller, but has as its foundation criticize epistemic development as a universal value and the power relations that are involved there. The challenge is to take this debate further, into what I call imperial way of life, ie how certain development is sustained even from the standpoint of daily life.

Does this include a critique of modernity?

'Exactly. Here, in the south, it is possible to speak of crisis of civilization, as something much deeper. In the north, however, is narrower perspective: from the left there is a crisis of capitalism and most analysts simply points out the crisis of neoliberalism as an economic crisis to be resolved with greater state intervention.

How do you describe yourself?

I would say, first, a multiple crisis. This means not only an economic crisis or a financial crisis, as suggested by the Keynesian perspective. From this analysis it is proposed to be regulating financial markets, make more public investment and then hit another growth model. I would, however, you have to think of transforming the mode of production and way of life. If finally this implies growth or not, they will determine the concrete struggles against certain forms of the economy that are mediated by money only.

What other economies challenge the classical notion of growth?

'I want to open the debate on what constitutes an economy of the ordinary, or solidarity, which is not part of a formal growth but is an effective part of a better life. For example, this involves discussing what it would mean in a city like Buenos Aires the possibility of quadrupling public transport with very low prices and not think of it as something against growth, but in terms of increased population mobility. In Europe, community gardens make 20 percent of food is secured in this way, which implies a decline from some pure logic, but is primarily a concrete improvement of life.

It is very difficult, however, break the idea that growth is being ...

The growth can not be a matter of beliefs that are for or against. It's a cumulative effect of a struggle. The question for me is if we can expand the space for the joint production of non-capitalist production.

What is the effective capacity of these other economies?

The state-public economy is commercial, it handles only the price of a more political way. The common economy, however, is not commercial. In 2004, the German statistical made an estimate that said there were 56 billion hours of paid work and 96 billion hours of unpaid work. What does this mean? That the reference when talking about work can not be only paid work. We need to open this idea, as feminists have made, including the hours of care and political activity or community as core activities to keep society. It seems important perspective "4 in 1" Frieda Haug philosopher, proposed by the orientation of living four hours of paid work, four hours of work for ourselves, four hours of care and four hours of community work or of political work as a way to rearticulate the ways of doing and the idea of ​​the ordinary.

You speak from the perspective of political ecology. What does it mean?

Neoclassical economics assumes that society takes advantage of nature and technology solves the problems and limitations that appear. Ecological economics to the boundaries themselves are a problem and is concentrated there. The political ecology, it is my view from the Frankfurt School, goes a step further, maintaining that the material reproduction of society is a process of domination of nature in the sense that relations of domination structured society. We can not think of saving the planet if we do not think social emancipation. I refuse to take the limits of the planet as a starting point.

So ...?

The starting point is the social dominance, which of course means a mode of domination of nature. And this leads to very concrete question of how we reproduce in the context of mobility, cities, housing, field, sexuality, communication, what we eat. Here is a field of materially reproducing forms that are not part of the capitalist market. The question then changes: what are the emancipatory forms of dealing with nature by changing lifestyles in the city, to move, to build housing, produce, etc..? At this point the question of the democratic decision is crucial.

In what sense?

Who decides, for example, ways of ending the crisis in Argentina in 2001? We might say, is soy, a form of commodification of nature. Also mining. That is a way of seeing nature as a resource. Who decides, for example, the materials to be build next-generation cell? They are the core research and development of some companies, not the public inquiry. If we do not put on the table the question of democracy, that is, who decides what the brokers out of the crisis, the output is eventually austerity. You know better in Argentina than we do. In this perspective it is urgent to raise the red and green: if we do not fight today in favor of democratization and we were in a defensive position, as the Keynesians, the next crisis is resolved by the austerity of authoritarian capitalism.

Insists that there is a formal question, how is it done?

Linking this with the everyday experience of people. Because democracy here is not formal, but how I appropriate in life, how I live. The problem is when the environmental issue and the question of democracy are on different paths.

What does what he calls the imperial way of life?

Is the question of how it is universalizing a lifestyle that is imperial to nature and social relations and which has no democratic sense, to the extent it does not challenge any form of domination. In this precise sense, the imperial way of life is not democratic. The imperial way of life is not simply a lifestyle practiced by different social, but imperial patterns of production, distribution and consumption, cultural imaginaries and subjectivities are deeply rooted in the everyday practices of the majority in northern countries but also, increasingly, of an upper and middle classes in emerging countries of the south.

Is it a generalization at different scales?

When it comes to generalization, not suggesting that everyone is living well, but there is a kind of widely accepted logic of development, which is part of coercive structures and devices in action. Although the ecological crisis became politicized in recent times and is also perceived as a problem in the dominant discourse, it appears that production and consumption patterns and underlying cultural patterns and generalizing are consolidating globally with the support of State and the political sphere.

Can not think that to the extent that the South expands their consumption patterns from the north appears a concern for the limits and the ecological crisis on the planet?

From the conservatives, indeed, trying to contain the growth of the south. Neo-liberals, however, say how well the South grows, we need to push the boundaries and increasing substitution of nature by capital from technological advances! The deficit of the debate is given also because certain environmental Left have a catastrophic perspective.

What say?

A central aspect in this context is to overcome the dichotomy between society and nature, widespread also in the progressive social and political forces. Politically, this dichotomy is reflected, among other things, to use the environmental issue as opposed to the social question. The tendency to declare ecology as secondary contradiction expresses itself in the current economic crisis, in which the ecological catastrophism ("We have very little time") and ignorance ("No time for that") are forming a dangerous alliance.

 How do you argue this in Europe?

There is a very important council of the German government each year make a report and now diagnosed that we need a "great transformation". They refer, however, a transition: the perspective is the renewal of a State which is now seen as captured by the neoliberals. This means that a way out of the crisis is putting a price on nature. Not just a neoclassical position is also Keynesian and ecological economics. All share a common argument: nature needs a price. There is a famous report on biodiversity in 2008 which holds that the only way to save biodiversity is to know its price.

The shaft is placed on the role of the state?

The debate is encapsulated in the renewal of the State. Neoliberalism is associated only to the rule of the market and today is supposed to with the state intervening in the economy would be in another phase. But when we talk of transformation talking about something much deeper: the transformation of lifestyles and relations of production, which can not begin with the state. The State ensures the relationships, of course it solves some problems, but always within the capitalist logic. Theoretically speaking, think what the management actors and what is the object of management, what you want to manage.
Back-south axis. How to think an alternative?

There is a fear of China. The south is thematized as industrial competitor, for example India. And as a place of origin of the funds. But do not perceive beyond the international competitiveness within the current global paradigm. We must advance the debate on what would be a global market regulation from social struggles. For example, what if Bolivia exported a third of what it exports today, while maintaining an income that allows a democratic distribution? How to think that the world market should pay much more for a resource that is extracted from the south? This has to do, of course, with power relations. And so the response throughout Latin America can arrange a price cartel, imposing that Europe should pay three times more. And the justification should be pressure imposed on the continent struggles for more equitable distribution of wealth and a moderate extractivism.

States would assume that, under pressure from the struggles, global trading other prices?

'That's what makes the European Union agricultural products, which are three times more expensive than in the rest of the world. Then, each ton of meat coming from Argentina to Europe immediately triples in price. This decision is not pure state, but social pressure.

Why has so much impact the concept of "good living"?

Because it involves taking seriously that there are other forms of social reproduction, material and spiritual, which are not capitalists. Which opens a space to rethink, at the height of modernity, what we call living. Taking seriously of course technological advances, new experiences, international networks, etc.. The risk is petrify the good life as something indigenous, purely indigenous.

No comments:

Post a Comment