In the monograph Green Capitalism: The God that Failed, published by the World Economics Association (2016), and in a series of papers in Real-World Economics Review (2015; 2013; 2011; 2010), Richard Smith has set out a stark and unsettling argument. According to Smith, capitalism is systematically incapable of solving the most profound problem it creates. That is, ecological crisis. In making his case, Smith argues that many current analyses recognize the problem but do not go far enough in identifying solutions. For example, he provides a constructive critique of Daly’s steady-state approach to capitalism. Smith advocates a form of eco-socialism. In the following dialogue, adapted from a series of blog posts, he introduces some of his key themes in an informal way and responds to interlocutors. Smith’s papers are amongst the most widely read that Real-World Economics Review has ever published. One need only consider the limitations and problems emerging from the recent Paris COP 21 climate change agreement to realise that Smith’s work deserves careful attention.
We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Monday, October 3, 2016
Capitalism, corporations and ecological crisis: a dialogue concerning Green Capitalism