Occupy Nothing

Ecologism approaches a theory of the whole by reducing “the economy,” the only thing that “the people” are said to care about in our exceptional democracy, to a scientific experiment whose implications lethally undermine its own rationale. For that reason, which is a material as well as an ideological reason, the libertarian, conservative, and capitalist paranoia regarding superficially “market-oriented” or market-imitating measures like cap-and-trade is not paranoia at all. Cap-and-trade would be backdoor socialism to the precise (if likely small) extent it succeeded in achieving its higher purpose, a progressively self-totalizing industrial policy in deteriorating free market costume. Even the premonition of its success would have been as problematic for free economism as the system catastrophe the proposal was intended to help avert. By the same logic, the defenders of 18th Century liberty must remain absolutely – politically, professionally, intellectually, philosophically – committed to a refusal of the absolute concept, to the point of being prepared to annihilate the whole rather than submit to it. In advanced capitalism, we have learned, “the whole is false”; the system produces “rationality of the part processes, irrationality of the whole”: To qualify as an ideologue of the system, or true believing patriot of the nation of production, one must refrain from thinking of the whole, which means refrain from thinking ecologically, from understanding how my freedom eventually costs us all our lives: “Give us liberty, and with it death.” Ecologism and economism must negate each other (as one totality meets another in the respective etymons logos and nomos, perhaps as becoming/what-must-become vs being/what-is): Their absolute if not necessarily remainderless contradiction is equivalent to the absolute if not necessarily remainderless danger: nihilism realized as process of annihilation, as realization finally of nothing. In this way ecologism comes as close to dialectical materialism as positive or bourgeois science can while still remaining positive science, somewhat in the same manner as cognitive science and physics at their limits, where they approach each other asymptotically, but on the level of lived history. Nature itself finally envelops human nature. Proletarian Earth, the working world itself, reveals that it has already staked out the revolutionary absence we workers of the world have never quite managed to occupy.


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    […] CK’s recent post on ecologism resounded deeply with me, specifically his claim that pro-market forces are right to be scared of carbon taxes because their rationale seems to logically point to self-totalized industrial policy.  It reminds me a lot of (right-libertarian) Walter Block’s article in which he argues that everything (including the decision to wear socks) can be characterized as an externality, and therefore there’s no inherent limiting principle to externality-based arguments for regulation: There are any number of external economies, neighborhood effects, spill-overs, benefits to third parties, which  flow from the purchase and use  of supposedly private  goods. Take,  for example, the paradigm case of a private good, socks. First, there is a health question.  People who do not wear socks are liable to colds, sore feet, blisters,  and possibly pneumonia. And sickness means lost days of work and lost production; it means possible contagion (as in the diphtheria case); it may result in rising doctor bills and increased health insurance premiums for other policyholders. Increased demand for doctors’  time and energy will result in reduced medical attention for others. There is, in addition, an aesthetic problem: many people take umbrage at socklessness. Restaurants often forbid  bare feet,  presumably in the  interests of retaining their more sensitive customers. Not wearing socks is also interpreted by some as a  disturbing political statement, like flag or draft-card burning. Many mothers — a third party, if ever there was one — rejoice when their “hip”  sons finally don footwear. That benefits of sock-wearing “spill  over”  to these mothers cannot be  denied. […]

  2. […] CK’s recent post on ecologism resounded deeply with me, specifically his claim that pro-market forces are right to be scared of carbon taxes because their rationale seems to logically point to self-totalized industrial policy.  It reminds me a lot of (right-libertarian) Walter Block’s article in which he argues that everything (including the decision to wear socks) can be characterized as an externality, and therefore there’s no inherent limiting principle to externality-based arguments for regulation: There are any number of external economies, neighborhood effects, spill-overs, benefits to third parties, which  flow from the purchase and use  of supposedly private  goods. Take,  for example, the paradigm case of a private good, socks. First, there is a health question.  People who do not wear socks are liable to colds, sore feet, blisters,  and possibly pneumonia. And sickness means lost days of work and lost production; it means possible contagion (as in the diphtheria case); it may result in rising doctor bills and increased health insurance premiums for other policyholders. Increased demand for doctors’  time and energy will result in reduced medical attention for others. There is, in addition, an aesthetic problem: many people take umbrage at socklessness. Restaurants often forbid  bare feet,  presumably in the  interests of retaining their more sensitive customers. Not wearing socks is also interpreted by some as a  disturbing political statement, like flag or draft-card burning. Many mothers — a third party, if ever there was one — rejoice when their “hip”  sons finally don footwear. That benefits of sock-wearing “spill  over”  to these mothers cannot be  denied. […]

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