Spool Five

The Tragedy of the Worker

#books #Capitalism #philosophy

A book by the Salvage Collective.

Found/available on gemini: gemini://beyondneolithic.life/salvage_collective/tragedy_of_the_worker/index.gmi

Part 1 - M-C-M and the Death Cult

As Andreas Malm has fiercely and beautifully argued, capitalism did not settle for fossil fuels as a solution to energy scarcity. The common assumption that fossil energy is an intrinsically valuable energy resource worth competing over, and fighting wars for is, as geographer Matthew Huber argues, an example of fetishism. At the onset of steam power, water was abundant, and, even with its fixed costs, cheaper to use than coal. The hydraulic mammoths powered by water wheels required far less human labour to convert to energy, and were more energy-efficient. Even today, only a third of the energy in coal is actually converted in the industrial processes dedicated thereto: the only thing that is efficiently produced is carbon dioxide. On such basis, the striving for competitive advantage by capitalists seeking maximum market control ‘should’ have favoured renewable energy.

Capital, however, preferred the spatio-temporal profile of stocks due to the internal politics of competitive accumulation. Water use necessitated communal administration, with its perilously collectivist implications. Coal, and later oil, could be transported to urban centres, where workers were acculturated to the work-time of capitalist industry, and hoarded by individual enterprises. This allowed individual units of capital to compete more effectively with one another, secured the political authority of capital and incorporated workers into atomised systems of reproduction, from transport to heating.

This is the tragedy of the worker. That, as avatar of a class in itself, she was put to work for the accumulation of capital, from capitalism’s youth, amid means of production not of her choosing, and with a telos of ecological catastrophe.

Part 3 - Dead Zones

Mass extinction is punctuated by the production of what the environmentalist Jonathan Lymbery calls ‘dead zones’: the conversion of wild ecosystems into dead monocultures. In Sumatra, these dead zones are made by burning rainforest and, amid the stench of death, planting palm crop.