More on Green Capitalism

In: Uncategorized

1 Mar 2008

Frank Furedi has written a generally positive but critical review of James Heartfield’s Green Capitalism for the February spiked review of books. On the positive side he praises Heartfield’s critique of green consumerism. Furedi endorses the view that the critics of consumerism are as obsessed with consumption as the most ardent brand junkies:

“Ironically, green protest against consumerism doesn’t represent the rejection of consumption, but rather its moralisation. From a sociological perspective, green consumption can be seen as a new form of conspicuous consumption. This is consumption for effect. Consumption apparently must no longer be an impulsive act of buying – rather it has become a massively over-examined experience, and both a moral statement and an affirmation of status and identity. In the nineteenth century, theories of commodity fetishism noted the growing tendency for people to live through things – commodities appeared to acquire a life of their own through the working of the market. In the world of green consumerism, the fetish of commodities acquires an unprecedented significance. Things are assigned human and ethical significance. Thus we have the stigmatisation of certain foods as ‘evil’ and the rendering of other products as ‘ethical’.”

However, in his criticism of the book, Furedi argues that Heartfield is guilty of reading history backwards. Furedi says that it is wrong to portray the capitalist elite as deliberately setting out to engineer scarcity:

“What Green Capitalism characterises as the ‘engineering of scarcity’ could be more usefully described as the creation of new demands. Indeed, what is most striking today is not simply the rise of the celebration of scarcity, but the growing tendency to marketise every aspect of life. Under the banner of green capitalism, more and more features of economic life are being reorganised and restructured. Everything from the emission of carbon to the air we breathe to the water we drink has been transformed into a commodity. Arguments for protecting nature are really a demand for the gradual securitisation of the environment. Powerful forces insist on transforming every object of possible use into a value, in an attempt to subject them all to the influence of market transactions.”

When I get a chance I will read Green Capitalism and make my own mind up.

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