Book Review from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard
‘Green capitalism and the cultural poverty of constructing nature as service provider.’ By Sian Sullivan, in Radical Anthropology, issue 3, 2009/10.
It would be an exaggeration to say that the writers in Radical Anthropology put the case for socialism. But, at least, some of them criticise aspects of capitalism and present evidence for that criticism.
A good example is the article by Sullivan, who discusses green capitalism, also known as market environmentalism and green neo-liberalism. The basic idea is that ‘if we just price the environment correctly—creating new markets for new “environmental products” based on monetised measures of environmental health and degradation—then everyone and the environment will win’.
All that amounts to the economic rationalisation of nature. Stock exchanges, dealing in new environmental ‘products’ have been set up; for example the Climate exchanges in London and Chicago. Carbon credits are the currency representing the emission of carbon. ‘Once these credits enter the international financial system their future value can be speculated on (as with any other currency or commodity, including derivatives) and significant profits can ensue.’
Capitalist culture has ridden roughshod over biological and cultural diversity and has impoverished both people and the environment. Pricing something is not the same as valuing it. As Sullivan observes, ‘We are critically impoverished as human beings if the best we can come up with is money as the mediator of our relationships with the non-human world.”