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A contribution to the ecological critique of political economy

Kumar, M 1993 , 'A contribution to the ecological critique of political economy', Unspecified thesis, University of Tasmania.

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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
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.

Item Type: Thesis - Unspecified
Authors/Creators:Kumar, M
Keywords: Economic development, Nature, Marxian economics
Copyright Holders: The Author
Additional Information:

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

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