Kim Stanley Robinson on capitalism

January 19th, 2004 – 8:55 pm
Tagged as: Uncategorized

An interview at Science Fiction Weekly with the very talented Kim Stanley Robinson includes this excellent quote:

[...] Your career-long critique of capitalism is strongly in play here; in your opinion, why don’t science and capitalism constitute a productive combination?

Robinson: Well, nothing can constitute a productive combination with capitalism. It’s parasitic by definition.

A worker population makes its nutrient goo (surplus value, life force, stuff) and has it extracted by a small minority with superior force at its command. Like ants with aphids. We pretend not to know this and we are very good at pretending. But the old hierarchies were never rooted out, they only liquefied. Things are more fluid now, everything can happen faster, but it’s the same gross inequality. Capitalism is a sort of late feudalism, or ant-and-aphid arrangement, pick your image.

Understand that “capitalism” is not “creation of capital,” which is usually a great thing, but the system of rules distributing and controlling that capital. And the system we live in now is wrong — unjust, unsustainable, against all religions and value systems. Its defenders (always privileged in the system) have to resort to bogus versions of nature “red in tooth and claw,” or grossly distorted religious claims (“God meant us to be rich and you will be in heaven”) to make it look OK, but it’s guns ready for deployment that keep those lame justifications staggering along.

Say then that science is an attempt to move out of all that, a proto-politics or alternative politics in which ostensibly neutral values or methodologies are actually stabs at utopian spaces where justice rules. Rational inquiry into everything, in part to enable the reduction of suffering — it’s a kind of ethics and so naturally capitalism is offended and tries to buy it, tries especially hard since science makes all the new toys. Maybe capitalism will buy science, maybe science will help the other justice movements to engineer capitalism into permaculture, as in some kind of institutional genetic engineering project (history). Anthropogenic mutation. We’re in the middle of the story, part of it.

[via Ken MacLeod’s The Early Days of a Better Nation]

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