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On the Ideological Role of Neo-Malthusianism

by International Group of the Communist Left (IGCL


On the Ideological Role of Neo-Malthusianism

In recent years there has been a revival of a neo-Malthusian ideology, which serves the ruling class as weapon against the proletariat. It is being used to justify the imposition of austerity measures on the grounds that the “comfortable” standard of living (i.e. sufficient purchasing power to obtain the necessities of dignified existence such as food and electricity) of sections of the proletariat of the developed world places an unsustainable strain on the biosphere and threatens the long-term survival of the species. A real problem – the destruction of the natural environment upon which the existence of humanity depends – is thus explained in a mystified manner, that the human population as a whole bears equal responsibility. The purpose of this mystification is to hide the fact that it is the obsolescence of capitalism that threatens humanity with war and ecological destruction, and thus to protect the privileges of the capitalist class and its parasitic existence. This whole exercise requires a shameful degree of intellectual dishonesty. It is therefore no surprise that the apologists of the ruling class today so adore that “bought advocate, a pleader on behalf of their [the proletariat’s] enemies, a shameless sycophant of the ruling classes” [1], parson Malthus.

The transition of capitalism from its historically progressive phase, in relation to feudalism, to its current phase of historical obsolescence demanded also an ideological transformation. While in the 19th century bourgeois economists such as Ricardo could to an extent be impartial in their arguments, because this allowed them for example to demonstrate the regressive role played by the landed aristocracy, this is no longer the case today. According to Marx, whereas Ricardo desired production for production’s sake and saw its revolutionizing potential, Malthus used scientifically established premises to come to conclusions that were acceptable either to the aristocracy or to both the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie against the proletariat and only desired capitalist production inasmuch as it could provide a comfortable existence for the most reactionary and parasitic parts of the ruling classes, namely the aristocracy and their lackeys in the Church.

“Ricardo disinterestedly defends bourgeois production insofar as it [stands for] as unbridled a development as possible of the social forces of production. He is unmoved with the fate of the agents of production (...) He maintained the historical validity and necessity of this stage of development (...). Malthus wants bourgeois production insofar as it is not revolutionary, insofar as it is not a historical force, but merely creates a broader and more convenient basis for the “old society” (idem).

Now that the historically revolutionary role of capitalism has been exhausted, apparent impartiality with regard to the historical development of society is no longer admissible. Neither is an attachment to objectivity and materialism. While a consequent materialism is tolerated when its application is narrow, indispensable as it is in science and technology where it allows the production of marketable commodities and increasing labour productivity, its application is avoided when it comes to studying society as a whole because the conclusion that would be drawn would be that capitalist development represents a transient period in history that, while necessary for creating the material means for a society of material abundance, ultimately cannot rationally dispose of these means, i.e. it cannot unleash the full productive potential of humanity to satisfy human needs - which it is technically possible to do in a way that simultaneously protects the natural environment - enslaved as it is to the motive of accumulation of capital. Therefore, while modern society has science it is not truly scientific. Science is completely dominated by capitalism and is tolerated only within narrow limits. Outside of these limits, i.e. when it comes to understanding the material and social relations that are at the basis of society as a whole, bourgeois ideologues have no recourse other than subjectivism and reification.

Reification refers to the tendency on the part of bourgeois economists and ideologues to transform social, institutional, and class relations into universal categories and eternal natural laws. This tendency is typical of intellectual activity under the capitalist mode of production. Bourgeois ideologues work in a way that is directly opposite to actual historical development; they assume capitalist social categories as given, as the premise for historical development, and then deduce historical development from these premises, which are supposed to have existed eternally as natural laws. Thus, Malthus sees widespread poverty, misery, disease, unhealthy working conditions, and argues that these are the result of a natural law that drives all life to reproduce faster than the pace of growth of agricultural output or, in its modern version, beyond the carrying capacity of the ecosystem upon which we depend. follow   http://www.igcl.org/On-the-Ideological-Role-of-Neo

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