John Bellamy Foster: The crisis of capital: economy, ecology and empire

From pdxjustice Media Productions on Vimeo.

Professor of sociology and editor of Monthly Review, John Bellamy Foster, talks about the triple crises in the economy, the environment, and the imperial wars and occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond..

Excerpt from John Bellamy Foster: "What I'm trying to suggest here is that we're facing something else.  It isn't simply a crisis in capitalism; it's a crisis of capitalism. We're in the midst of a structural crisis of our entire civilisation, which begain, I would say, in the mid-1970s. We are in the middle of it; we are not at the end by any means. But the whole set of problems is getting worse and worse.

"I think that this is crucial to understand. The problems of empire, the problems of ecology and the problems of economy are all related to this crisis of capitalism, the crisis of our civilisation as it exists. The system that we know of as capitalism -- and we are forced back to the term `capitalism', nobody really talks about `the free market' anymore, that metaphor is gone, and we're forced back to the reality of the society in which we live -- is facing both internal and external limits at this point, and we have to try to understand what these are."

This talk was delivered at Econvergence: Northwest Regional Gathering on the Economimc and Ecological Crises on October 2, 2009.

Has capitalism finally started to fail democracy? Was Gandhi right when he called western society a beautiful idea?

Has the advance of technology finally managed to bamboozle and brain wash us to focus on the inconsequential as important things happen? Is information overload just a strategy to divert us from the bigger picture? Why is our focus as a generation constantly being redirected to celebrities and the latest TV series and not to the stories that impact our lives?

At the end of January 2010, the US supreme court ruled that corporations have the same first amendment rights (free speech rights) as individuals thereby overturning a 20-year-old ruling that prohibited corporations from contributing to campaign ads from their own company budgets.

I am a firm supporter of free speech but last I checked politicians were supposed to help the people and do what is right for society not represent corporations.
Most people will say this is an American issue and it proves that capitalism is self destructive etc etc. But I say the global community should care because corporations are global citizens and political ideologies have a strange way of spreading (think about fascism).

What does this mean for all other countries globally given that issues such as environmentalism do not just affect one particular country but the world as a whole? If major oil companies support an elected candidate will the US ever sign the Kyoto protocol? What does this mean for world trade? I shudder to think what would happen if a major steel company sponsored a presidential election – that may be the end of steel imports to the US for a long time and then what happens to Brazil and South Africa?

What does this mean for American politics? Do politicians now represent the agenda of corporations or those of individuals? Are we to assume that the struggles that corporations face are equal in intensity to the struggle that individuals face?

Does this affect the electoral process at all? Does it affect freedom of speech of the average American or the average person on the globe?
I would think so – the candidate with the most money would have the most reach. Of course the court claims that corporations are still not permitted to contribute money to campaigns directly and that political adverts disclose their sponsors. But who are we kidding?

Somehow I tend to agree with President Obama who called this, “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

Out of all these questions the one that keeps me awake at night is: Why are people not protesting against this law? Why did the media not scream bloody murder? I expected the streets to be lined up with activists and newspapers to be inundated with letters but still…calm.

Is this what our generation will be remembered for? What about those that came before us and fought so hard for freedom of speech and the rights of the individual?

The events of the last few weeks have me thinking about the matrix. And wondering if activism died with our generation? Are we missing the bigger picture and taking the blue pill?

I would like to end with a quote by Franz Fannon: “each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission and fulfill it or betray it.”