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Taking a broader perspective…

The environment and the neo-liberal doctrine..

By Jane Watkinson

There is an interesting article on Climate and Capitalismaddressing the use of climate change by the right as a way to foster in illiberal and illogical immigration policies – such as the controversial Conservative immigration cap. However, in much the same way, but also in a very different way, the current Conservative line to defend the immigration cap is that if we don’t decrease immigration, public services will be undermined, not that the environment will suffer. That is interesting in itself, but the central argument – that climate change can be used as a way to actually support capitalism, is very insightful.

Capitalism has a very strong link to the environment, the neo liberal policies are key to why the right are often so against policies to rebalance the economy so that it is more sustainable. It is also a major reason for why the climate change agreements decided at Copenhagen have regressed. There were already concerns that the rich countries’ commitments weren’t good enough anyway, but the fact that these discussions have regressed further illustrates the problems that capitalism can pose for environmental policies.

Whilst Immanuel Wallerstein does have some legitimate critiques, he has an interesting neo marxist theory about the nature of the capitalist system in a world-wide form. He has been incorporated by the anti globalisation movement, which I think rather misses the point – as there needs to be an anti neo liberal globalisation movement, one that focuses on theories that aren’t often backed up with evidence, such as the “race to the bottom”, with a more positive pro globalisation movement.

However, Wallerstein can provide some thought into such a movement, as he talks about there being a world system, where there is only one world – so the “Third World” doesn’t exist, for example. Instead, the world system/economy in existence is the capitalist system – and for it to function, there has to be core, semi peripheral and a peripheral zones. The cores are the rich countries, such as the UK and America, whereas the peripheral is what we commonly call the ‘Third World’. Thus, capitalism needs poorer countries in order to construct the hierarchy and for some countries to emerge as power blocs of the world.

In much the same way that the environmental policies have been downgraded, many rich countries, including the UK, rejected (mainly through abstaining) the UN vote on whether water should be a human right. We may say that we provide them with aid, but it isn’t really providing proper access to water. Instead, much more capital investment should go into building proper infrastructure for the poorer countries, much more thought and action into sorting out the environmental policies of the richer countries should occur – if we really want to improve the living standard of poorer countries.

Capitalism and neo liberal doctrines underpin the environmental and world-wide policies. Richer counties rely on poorer countries, they require them to be weak to promote their own dominance. We have so much potential as a nation and as collective forces, such as in Europe, to really restructure and change the lives of so many through proper investment and proper environmental policies. But we are scared by business and capitalist rhetoric that it will somehow undermine our interests, that aid should be cut, as we supposedly have too little money ourselves. Totally illogical.

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Filed under: Economy, The Enviroment, , , , , , ,

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