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Markets and Technology Won't Solve Climate Crisis. We Must End Capitalism.

Eve Ottenberg and John Bellamy Foster

In the 19th century we produced things that were used and needed, use values. Now under monopoly capitalism, it is a demand-constrained system, because corporations have so much productive capacity, they can’t utilize it, particularly at the prices they set, because they set high monopoly prices. So, there’s always an underutilization of productive capacity. Twenty-five or even 30 percent excess capacity is not unusual, say for the U.S. economy. And in this system, it then becomes oddly rational to produce a lot of junk and a lot of marketing to sell the junk. So, we spend trillions on marketing every year in the U.S. economy, trying to get people to purchase things they neither want nor need. That’s what marketing does. The Marxist economist Paul Baran once encapsulated this irrational situation by saying that we now live in a society in which we neither want what we need nor need what we want.

In our society we produce an enormous amount of material goods that are unnecessary, destructive even, and that are inefficient because they’re designed for a throw-away society, a throw-away economy, so that you go back and buy more. And we deemphasize everything to do with the quality of life, so we try to convince people that if they want love or community, they can get it by buying a Dr. Pepper. But we can actually improve the quality of life by producing differently, by focusing on needs, focusing on genuine efficiency and so on.