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An Exploration of Capitalism's Metabolism with Nature and its Current Socio-Ecological Crisis
1  Technical University of Crete

Published: 11 November 2013 by MDPI in The 3rd World Sustainability Forum session Environmental Sustainability
Abstract: Based on a dialectical-materialist methodology transcending the traditional Cartesian dualism, this assay sets out to explore the metabolic relationship between society and nature. Starting from an abstractive level concerning all societies, irrespective of the particular form of production, we proceed to more specifically examine this relationship under capitalism. In this case, the role of technology and the organic composition of capital are further explored. As suggested, technology is non-neutral and socially shaped, essentially constituting a purposive reorganization of nature fused with the imperatives of capitalist production. Analyzing the systemic necessity of a rising organic composition of capital and a secular decline in average profit rates, we explain the long-run and recently exacerbated over-accumulation crisis. As this crisis is inextricably intertwined with a deepening ecological crisis, we suggest a joint treatment within the currently exacerbated socio-ecological crisis. The strategy to face this crisis through capitalization of nature is shown to be counter-productive as it leads to a further ecological degradation, while increasing the organic composition of capital and the cost of production. While this exacerbated crisis implies a rising scarcity, a communist perspective seems to imply an increasing abundance. In this sense, we conclude with a brief exploration of the conditions for a rational reconstitution of the metabolism with nature within a communist perspective.
Keywords: capitalism, nature, metabolism, technology, socio-ecological crisis