3 Responses

  1. Jeff White April 18, 2013 at 3:41 am |

    See also Greg Albo’s essay, The Limits of Eco-localism: Scale, Strategy, Socialism, in The Socialist Register 2007.

    Albo’s essay is available free online in .pdf format HERE.

    Albo writes:

    Eco-localism projects the local as an ideal scale and conceives communitarian eco-utopias in a politics that is individualiz­ing and particularizing. Under neoliberalism, eco-localism has evolved into a practical attempt to alter individual market behaviours, and to disconnect and internalize local ecologies and communities from wider struggles and political ambitions. But there is no reason to support, and every reason to op­pose, any suggestion that the national and the global are on a scale that is any less human and practical than the local. This is not to deny the importance of the local in anti-neoliberal politics; nor the importance of the question of appropriate scale for post-capitalist societies. It is to insist, however, that local socio-ecological struggles cannot be delinked from – and are indeed always potentially representative of – universal projects of transcending capitalism on a world scale. This is the meaning that Marx gave to the Paris Commune: at once a local embryonic society being born behind barricades and yet also ’emphatically international’ in its ambitions and implications…

  2. Systemic Disorder April 3, 2013 at 6:52 pm |

    I think the book author and the reviewer have it summed up well. I am not against the local initiatives discussed in the review — indeed we should patronize local businesses that give back to the community as opposed to multi-national behemoths and we should organize our communities.

    These actions themselves, however, aren’t going to do anything about capitalist relations and dynamics, which are the real problem, not this or that giant corporation or this or that greedy investment banker. The problem with believing that being a better consumer will solve problems is that it completely ignores that we are, first of all, workers.

    Where do we spend a great deal of our weekdays? Working for somebody else and being paid only a small fraction of what we produce. Having our bodies (our “labor power” to use the technical term) reduced to a mere commodity — a commodity easily dismissed as the eternal search for more profits causes more production to be shifted to ever worse low-wage havens.

    Buying organic food, buying at a local mom-and-pop and using mass transit instead of driving (I do all of these things) may make us feel good, but, as the review so ably points out, remains completely within the capitalist system. Until we act on the necessity of replacing a system in which cruel inequalities are the inevitable outcome, that maintains itself through violence and which has inexorably led us to the present financial disaster, our material conditions will continue to get worse, no matter how much “fair trade” coffee we drink.

  3. F White April 2, 2013 at 11:22 am |

    Although I can’t speak generally for “small scale alternatives”, I am somewhat familiar with the worldwide Transition Movement. As far as I know it holds no pretensions of “overwhelming global capitalism”. Each Transition Initiative (TI) works independently, sets its own goals and charts its own path.

    Sherzer, therefore, appears to be holding small scale alternatives to account for never being able to achieve a goal that he alone seems to have set for them.

    Here, for example, is how Transition Guelph defines its modest transition mission:

    “Climate change. Economic instability. Peak oil and resource depletion. Environmental degradation. These are just a few of the most pressing issues of our time. The Transition movement, which is spreading quickly around the world, provides a foundation upon which to build a promising future together that is more fulfilling, creative and sustainable. Transition is a process for strengthening community resilience and building sustainability that is uniquely designed by each community based on their local needs and resources.” http://www.transitionguelph.org/

    No mention here of overwhelming global capitalism.

    The value of TIs, as I see them, is that that they get people off their butts, away from their keyboards, and, working as a team, actually doing something positive. It’s the “doing” — rather than the endless talking — that is so psychologically invigorating and motivating. You’ll never convince me that small scale alternatives are not fulfilling a vital community-building function.

    Will they change the world? Probably not. But show me another movement that will.

    On a not-unrelated note, here are links to two articles that may have some bearing on the future of capitalism —

    “Death of oil, coal and gas industries within 20 years? Former Greenpeace CEO thinks so.” http://snipurl.com/26qv20g

    “Cure for “bads” of capitalism outlined by economist Richard Wolff in 15-minute video” http://snipurl.com/26qv2ds

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