Mission: Capitalism Breaking Down

Summary: This working document provides build notes on Part II of the Capitalism Breaking Down Project: Invert and Shrink Capitalism.


In the last decade of my 44-year career at Ramapo College, my curricular role and, in effect, job title turned toward world sustainability. I had focused previously on public policy within a fine Environmental Studies program and led the founding of a novel master's degree in Sustainability. I had just completed ten years as President of Local #2274, American Federation of Teachers, at Ramapo. Before that, I served as an academic affairs officer.

The two comprehensive courses that this website continues, World Sustainability and Ecology, Economics and Ethics, were both unresolved to me. Both implicitly begged a critical question: Can capitalism become sustainable? Can a benign capitalism --- just and sustainable --- forestall the gathering storm of climate catastrophe? This website addresses that challenge as my legacy commitment since my retirement in 2015. I continue as a citizen concerned about the human inhabitation of the Earth. As I write in late May, 2019, my answer is "No." I stated my concern in 2017, changed hardly a word since then, and stand by my legacy Statement of Concern.

However, even though global warming was loosely integrated into the syllabus of both of my main courses, science colleagues handled global warming in the related academic programs. For this project, I clearly had work to do on understanding global warming, its impacts, and the responses to this threat --- still on it. Further, a dear friend invited me to participate in a parish-based initiative on the profound encyclical by Pope Francis, Laudato Si'. I enjoyed the foray but the foot dragging at the archdiocesan level discouraged me, among other flaws within the Catholic Church. Still, I carry the transcendency of Pope Francis and Saint Francis into this project as Creation Care, rendering our planet and the very gift of life as sacred.

Why capitalism? This historic political economic system dominates our age, which many now call the Anthropocene --- which originated as industrial capitalism. So, I will explain these big-picture concepts soon enough. However, anything less would be partial, incomplete. More, the urgency that motivates me suggests that this challenge must be examined directly, despite the opprobrium doing so will generate. As the atomic bombs detonated over Nagasaki and Hiroshima, that very week in August, 1945, I was born at Margaret Hague Hospital in Jersey City, NJ. By luck and some effort, I managed to get to the point that this project has become a fulfillment of my long story. At 73, in retirement, I retreat to my den, with the blessings of my beloved wife, to declare my urgent concern for the world my children and yours will inhabit.

So, 2050, roughly a century after World War II and the initiation of the Age of Acceleration of the Anthropocene, becomes my deadline for a strategic forecast of a potentially catastrophic future for precious Earth and all its life forms, including humanity. Few will (or can) tackle this daunting task, but here it is before me --- and you, if you choose to.

I am emphatically not a disciple of Marxism nor will I advocate a socialist or big government agenda --- let me get that out of the way promptly. Rather, regard me as a citizen-patriot of my nation, the USA, and my species pleading for a human-scale, federated, decentralized, democratic, prosperous, verdant alternative within which capitalism has a service role, hierarchally inverted and subsidiary to a vibrant society.

At this stage, I can tip my hand a bit to reveal two provisional web pages that indicate the story that I hope to tell:

  1. Capitalism Breaking Down: an articulation of some of the dysfunctional forces inherent within capitalism;
  2. Livelihood = Home + Community + Earth Care: localized living communities resembling the best of our diverse cultures, nurturing each own's bio-regions. The vision derives from a rich tradition of capitalism in history as contributed by Fernand Braudel.

Further, I maintain a blog, World Sustainability 2050, that contains a bulletin board, related topics, particularly items illustrating aspects of the website themes in what I dub The Passing Parade.

Style and tone

Like you, I lead a full life. The breadth of this project exceeds my grasp, a reach that I seek. Much of this work in progress remains incomplete. The website provides the opportunity to reach interested readers. Some aspects:

  • Much of the site remains partial but hopefully appears coherent and consistent. Having retired from an academic career, I do not seek to return to classroom duty but rather advance some of the themes revealed in my courses. Ill health and age increasingly takes their toll.
  • Political economy, social ecology, globalization provide some of the foundation from which to proceed. My hobby of philosophical study will occasionally intrude to enrich the ontology (worlding)underneath the parlance of the fields involved.
  • The reader can already access voluminous material on the topics discussed here. I will not attempt to explain the background to, say, global warming, economic growth, environmental justice, and so forth. Based on my college teaching preperation, I intend to elevate the discourse to reveal what might be out of sight, even distorted as propaganda or hidden within ideology.
  • I will drop some of the stuffy academic tone, adopting the style familar to blogs. However, I will staunchly avoid dumbing down.
  • The boundaries of the theme of economic growth (capitalism seeking profit through expansion) encountering climate catastrophe provides the main goal of this project. The criticism may offend many, so let me know in my blog or my email.
  • You will not find much optimism here. Others do that around wishful thinking. My approach, in the spirit of Weitzman, exposes the risk of a global melt-down of civilization, overall degradation of all life on earth, the use of state authority and militarism to shield the perpetrators from the wrath of their destruction, and never before seen inequality of the benefits and costs of maintaining capitalism by all means necessary. I will not live to see the inevitable die off, but I see it coming. Tell me how I am mistaken.
  • Despite the misgivings of effective solutions, I will point out bright spots, movements, coherent themes, actions, practices, etc. that might restore and reinhabit the Earth by humanity.
  • I will use the semantics of philosophy and thought to expand the ontology of reinhabitation, explaining such terms as logos, chremetasics, aporia, endgame, noosphere, anthropocene, etc. The unexamined underpinnings of modernism, the culture resting on capitalism, must give way to a more potent language of restoration. Soon. Likewise metrics, particularly GDP
Capitalism Breaking Down 2050 Project Web Site |
© Wayne Hayes, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Sustainability, Ramapo College | ™ ProfWork wkhayes@gmail.com
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