Growing through Sabotage

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Growing through Sabotage

Postby Jonathan Nitzan » Fri Jul 14, 2017 7:27 pm

Growing through Sabotage: Energizing Hierarchical Power
Shimshon Bichler & Jonathan Nitzan [1]

Working Papers on Capital as Power, July 2017 (No. 2017/02)

Abstract

According to the theory of capital as power, capitalism, like any other mode of power, is born through sabotage and lives in chains – and yet everywhere we look we see it grow and expand. What explains this apparent puzzle of 'growth in the midst of sabotage'? The answer, we argue, begins with the very meaning of ‘growth’. Whereas conventional political economy equates the growth with a rising standard of living, we posit that much of this growth has nothing to do with livelihood as such: it represents not the improvement of wellbeing, but the expansion of sabotage itself. Building on this premise, the article historicizes, theorizes and models the relationship between changes in hierarchical power and sabotage on the one hand and the growth of energy capture on the other. It claims that hierarchical power is sought for its own sake; that building and sustaining this power demands strategic sabotage; and that sabotage absorbs a significant proportion of the energy captured by society. From this standpoint, capitalism grows, at least in part, not despite or because of sabotage, but through sabotage.

1. Introduction

The theory of capital as power, or CasP, argues that capitalism, like other historic societies, is best examined not as a mode of production and consumption, but as a mode of power. [2] To think of society as a mode of power is to focus, first and foremost, on the institutions and processes that articulate and determine social power. Production and consumption are of course important to this articulation and determination – but not exclusively and often inversely.

The key CasP question is what creorders – or creates the order of – a mode of power. Power and resistance to power, we have argued in our work, are dialectically intertwined: without power there could be no opposition to power, and without opposition to power, whether blatant or latent, there would be nothing to exert power over in the first place. The two forces imply, negate and generate each other in an infinite regress. Now, when we speak of society as a mode of power, we describe a social order in which power is able to suppress and prevail over resistance to power, and this ability, we maintain, implies and requires what Thorstein Veblen called strategic sabotage. In order for power to successfully harness, contain and, if necessary, crush resistance, the powerful must constantly restrict, limit and inhibit the autonomy of those with less or no power. Moreover, they must do so strategically: applying too little sabotage might be insufficient to sustain their power, while inflicting too much can trigger revolt or, worse still, decimate the very fabric of society they seek to control. [3]

Now, although the nature and impact of strategic sabotage varies significantly from one mode of power to another, there are also broad similarities. In all pre-capitalist modes of power, strategic sabotage tended to be associated with a fairly rigid societal structure, a relatively stable culture and little or no growth in production and consumption. Compared with this record, the capitalist mode of power marks an epochal novelty: it represents not only the first historic society that is both dynamic and growing, but also the first whose dynamism and growth seem inherent to its very logic.

1.1 Energy Capture

The historical record on this matter is unambiguous: over the past three centuries, the structure of capitalism has been constantly transformed, its population count gone vertical and its per capita energy soared to unprecedented levels. The uniqueness of capitalism in this regard is illustrated in Figure 1 and Table 1.

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The figure plots the evolution of the world’s overall energy capture and its components from 10000 BCE to the present. The term ‘energy capture’ here denotes the entire range of energy types converted by human society. The energy sources inputted into – or ‘captured’ by – this conversion include biomass, various fuels and different raw materials, while the outputs comprise human and animal feed, heating and cooling, material and immaterial objects, physical and virtual transportation – and, last but not least, the energy lost to the conversion process itself (Cook 1971; Morris 2013: 53).

Analytically, we can conceive of overall energy capture as the product of two components: the breadth of energy capture, measured by the size of the population, and the depth of energy capture, measured by energy capture per person. [4]

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The figure shows the evolution of these three energy-capture series – depth, breadth and overall – between 10000 BCE and 2000 CE. The series are rebased with 10000 BCE = 1.0 for easier visualization. They are also plotted against a logarithmic scale, so their relative slopes are proportionate to their respective growth rates. Now, although the underlying data are only rough approximations, the overall picture they portray is clear enough.

Most generally, they show three distinct periods: (1) prehistory (till 5000 BCE), (2) history before capitalism (5000 BCE–1700 CE), and (3) capitalism (1700–2000 CE). [5] During the prehistoric period, the breadth and depth of energy capture – and therefore its overall volume – changed by very little, if at all (remember through that the data here are very sketchy). The initial acceleration came roughly around 5000 BCE, with the emergence of the early historical modes of power. For the first time in the history of their species, human beings found themselves buckled by hierarchical state structures, and as these structures spread, the depth and breadth of energy capture – and hence its overall volume – started to increase.

But the increase was almost imperceptible. Between 5000 BCE and 1700 CE, the depth of energy capture expanded at an annual average rate of only 0.03 per cent. At that rate, it took depth more than two millennia to double in size (see Table 1). The average annual growth rate of breadth, at 0.08 per cent, was nearly three times faster, while the growth of overall energy was pitched even higher, at 0.11 per cent. But even at those faster rates, doubling time was still half a millennium or more.

All of this changed, and rather dramatically, with the rise of capitalism. During the 1700-2000 period, the depth of energy capture grew at an average annual rate of 0.55 per cent – more than 18 times faster than during the previous 6,700 years. The social impact of this change was enormous. In the period between 5000 BCE and 1700 CE, it took the depth of energy capture 2,311 years to double; in capitalism, this doubling period was cut down to 126 years (Table 1). A 75-year-old person living during the historical period prior to capitalism would have witnessed energy capture per capita expand by a mere 2.3 per cent over her entire lifetime; in capitalism, a similar person would see this capture rise by as much as 51 per cent! The capitalist acceleration of breadth and overall energy capture were equally dramatic: the former grew at an average rate of 0.78 per cent annually (nearly 10 times faster than during the historical period before capitalism), while the later rose by an average of 1.33 per cent per year (12 times faster).

1.2 The CasP Puzzle

All in all, then, it is clear that, in terms of energy capture, historical modes of power were fairly stationary up until the rise of capitalism and explosive thereafter. And here arises a CasP puzzle. Rousseau famously observed that ‘Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains’, and the same observation can be made about capitalism – only in reverse. According to CasP, capitalism, like any other mode of power, is born through sabotage and lives in chains – and yet everywhere we look we see it grow and expand.

How can we explain this apparent contradiction? If capitalism is indeed crisscrossed with various forms of strategic sabotage, why is it that, unlike other modes of power, it remains dynamic and growing? Maybe the notion of ‘capitalist sabotage’ is a misnomer to begin with? Indeed, according to many writers, the very growth of capitalist societies attests to their democracy and autonomy – just as the very stagnation of traditional societies demonstrates their authoritarianism and subjugation (Huntington 1968). And if that is indeed the case, should we not conclude that capitalist sabotage – assuming there is any – is simply too limited to arrest the system’s inherent growth drive? Or maybe we are misinterpreting the very nature of capitalist growth and change? Is capitalism indeed unable to exert power – or can it be that, in capitalism, growth itself is a lever of power?

Our purpose in this paper is to examine this apparent puzzle of ‘growth in the midst of sabotage’, and our tentative conclusion is that there is in fact no puzzle at all. The conventional view, both mainstream and heterodox, is that capitalism is a system driven by the growth of production and consumption, and that, short-term crises and the ups and downs of redistribution aside, this growth is ultimately about wellbeing. The very vocabulary of economics determines this conclusion: since the economy is said to produce and consume ‘goods’ and ‘services’, its growth is equivalent to a rising ‘standard of living’, by definition.

But as we shall show, this habit of thinking might be deeply misleading. And why? Because a significant proportion of these so-called goods and services have nothing to do with livelihood: their growth represents not the improvement of wellbeing, but the expansion of sabotage itself. And if that is in fact the case, it follows that capitalism grows, at least in part, not despite or because of sabotage, but through sabotage.

The paper comprises twelve sections. The two sections following this introduction set the stage. Section 2 outlines the CasP claim that capitalized power is augmented by undermining efficiency and growth, while Section 3 presents the opposite notion – namely, that hierarchical power is in fact the best way of boosting them. The remainder of the article tries to sort out this apparent contradiction. Section 4 begins by examining the connection between power and hierarchy more closely, Section 5 continues by contrasting hierarchy and power on the one hand with cooperation and symbiosis on the other and Section 6 assesses how their interaction might have affected the evolution of society. Section 7 considers the respective capacities of hierarchical power and autonomous cooperation to ‘capture energy’ and the difficulty of measuring these capacities in practice, while Section 8 explores why hierarchy requires energy at all. Using and extending these analyses, Sections 9 to 11 outline an alternative hierarchy-energy model, delineating and exploring the four hierarchy-energy trajectories a mode of power can follow: expansion, crisis and decline on the one hand, and democratization on the other. Section 12 offers a summary, reflections and extensions.

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Endnotes

[1] The impetus for writing this paper came from reading Blair Fix’s path-breaking work on hierarchy, energy and growth (2015a, 2015b, 2017). We are indebted to Blair Fix and Daniel Moure for commenting on the first draft of the article – though responsibility for the final cut is of course ours alone. Shimshon Bichler teaches political economy at colleges and universities in Israel. Jonathan Nitzan teaches political economy at York University in Canada. All of their publications are available for free on The Bichler & Nitzan Archives. Research for this paper was partly supported by the SSHRC. The article is licenced under Creative Commons (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International).

[2] The fullest account of CasP is offered in Nitzan and Bichler (2009). Shorter overviews and interviews can be found in Bichler and Nitzan (2012a), Bichler, Nitzan and Di Muzio (2012) and Bichler, Nitzan and Dutkiewicz (2013). Bichler and Nitzan (2015b) survey the past, present and future of CasP research, while Debailleul, Bichler and Nitzan (2016) articulate some implications.

[3] Note that our notion of strategic sabotage here is broader and somewhat different than Veblen’s. Writing at the turn of the twentieth century, Veblen’s main focus was the pecuniary institutions of ‘business’ and the ways in which these institutions undermined the universal efficiency of ‘industry’ for redistributional ends. In this sense, his conception of sabotage was largely confined to the ‘economic’ sphere of production and consumption, investment and waste, credit and finance. The CasP approach, although partly influenced by Veblen, transcends the politics-economics duality from the beginning and is therefore able to conceive of sabotage not as an economic tool, but as a lever of power more generally.

This broader viewpoint reveals significant historical changes in the nature and application of strategic sabotage. In the ancient states (as well as in prehistoric societies), power was usually exerted openly, directly and violently, and often in ways that seemed arbitrary and random. In later, more complex polities, however – and particularly in modern capitalism – this exertion became much more opaque and roundabout, far less violent and significantly more systematic. In this latter constellation, sabotage is less open and more stealthy: instead of acting positively to affirm and assert the will of the powerful, it operates mostly negatively, by preventing, restricting and undermining the actions of those polities’ subjects. It also grows less violent: instead of using brute force, it often resorts to temptation, manipulation, mental pressure and inbuilt guilt. Finally and crucially, it becomes more methodical: instead of yielding to whim and caprice, it progresses deliberately and calculatedly.

[4] Our notions of energy breadth and depth draw on and in some sense overlap with our analysis of capitalized power. In this analysis, breadth, measured by the organization’s head count, represents the organization’s size, while depth, measured by earnings or capitalization per capita, denote its power per ‘unit of organization’ (Nitzan 1992; Nitzan and Bichler 2009).

[5] Our choice of 1700 as the ‘beginning’ of capitalism is practical rather than theoretical: regardless of its precise birthday, until 1700 capitalism was simply too limited in scope to have a significant impact on the world’s average rate of growth.

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Re: Growing through Sabotage

Postby rorourke » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:14 pm

The influence of Ayres work thankfully continues. I invited him to Dublin in 2011, along with Michael Kumhof, who had used his work in his IMF modelling of the influence of high oil prices on the global economy. He’s also influenced Keen’s recent work incorporating energy.

On section 1.1 on energy capture, and figure 1 in particular, three points I’d like to raise, one related to energy, another to history, and the final one to capitalism:

  1. I’d like to know if you consciously decided not to bring a discussion of physical power into your work for fear of it causing confusion, and thus used the term ‘energy capture’.
    As Fix notes, energy (E) is defined as the capacity to do work. Power, in the physical sciences, is defined as the rate at which work is done (dE/dt). The FT recently ran an article on the perils of GDP which included the quote: Michal Kalecki, the Polish economist, is said to have described economics as “the science of confusing stocks with flows” (people regularly mix up kWh, a unit of electricity and stock of energy, with kW, a unit of power measuring the flow of energy).
    Your figure 1 shows the energy ‘captured’ per year, and so is a chart of physical power (energy converted per unit time). Thus, the economy can be conceived as an engine that takes in low entropy energy and in the process of converting it to high entropy energy extracts work. The Sankey diagram below from the IEA states ‘Annual global flow of energy in 2005’ is 475 EJ of primary energy. That’s 475 EJ/year, a measure of physical power. Converting that to the standard units of power, the watt (W = J/s), it’s 15.1 TW (assumes constant average power output throughout the year) – apparently equivalent to an Hiroshima bomb going off every 4 seconds. A human requires about 100W to survive (2000 Cals/day), so it’s equivalent to 150bn people (energy slaves).
    It is important to distinguish between stocks of energy (oil/gas/coal fields, forests, tides/dams, etc), and the technologies that harness them to put them to work (Note Table 1 in Fix’s PLOS paper, in particular note that the Electric Power Plant and Internal Combustion Engine are special cases, as the ‘engines’ that power the other technologies). While intrinsically linked in the social hologram, strategies for sabotage are inherently different (e.g. oil embargo vs patents).

    https://www.iea.org/Sankey/

    Image
  2. The dates of your periodisation of history, and in particular to that of capitalism, beginning in 1700 (‘Our choice of 1700 as the ‘beginning’ of capitalism is practical rather than theoretical: regardless of its precise birthday, until 1700 capitalism was simply too limited in scope to have a significant impact on the world’s average rate of growth.’):
    I note that Graeber, in his book on debt, devotes a chapter to the ‘AGE OF THE GREAT CAPITALIST EMPIRES (1450 – 1971 AD)’. Part IV of that chapter, titled ‘So what is capitalism, anyway?’ notes ‘It would seem that almost all elements of financial apparatus that we’ve come to associate with capitalism—central banks, bond markets, short-selling, brokerage houses, speculative bubbles, securitization, annuities—came into being not only before the science of economics (which is perhaps not too surprising), but also before the rise of factories, and wage labor itself.’ Building on my point above, Newcomen patented his steam engine in 1712, marking a departure point in man’s relationship with energy stocks and associated energy conversion technologies – he’d tapped into an energy stock of unprecedented size and concentration, inventing a technology to harness it. Di Muzio argues convincingly that ‘human history can be divided into three major eras: (1) the age of efflorescences, (2) the age of carbon energy and (3) the postcarbon energy age’ (Carbon Capitalism, p10). For a study of the role of energy in determining history see Why the West Rules, For Now (Ian Morris 2010).
  3. Figure 4 (From Hierarchical Organizations to Energy Capture), highlights the basic premises on which you’ve built your model. It states ‘capitalism is able to capture more energy than other modes of power’. Elsewhere you’ve referred to the ‘uniqueness of capitalism’ and how ‘in comparison to other modes of power it still sparkles and shines. What, then, is the source of this seemingly unique resilience? What is it that enables capitalism to transcend its own power-imposed sabotage and expand faster and more vigorously than any other social system?’
    Having made the distinction above between the stocks of energy, and the technologies which create the flows so they can be harnessed/captured by society, it’s clear capitalism had no role in creating the stocks, that’s a geological phenomenon. I don’t know if one could go so far as to say that capitalism ‘got lucky’ and hit the energy jackpot, but that it did figure out how to tap into it made the material difference. Graeber may have got it right again when he states: Capitalism is a system that enshrines the gambler as an essential part of its operation, in a way that no other ever has (Kindle Locations 7381-7382). Just look at how our capitalist society fetishizes its entrepreneurs (Jobs, Zuckerberg, Musk, etc). Their equivalents of the early 20th century were Edison, Ford, and Tesla, backed by some of the greatest capitalists of their time, Morgan, Rockefeller, and Westinghouse. Is that not the algorithm of capitalism, neatly held within the palm of the capitalist state and its legitimate use of force?

Considering further the last point above, again the social hologram (2009, p223) comes to mind: a framework that integrates the resonating productive interactions of industry with the dissonant power limitations of business. And (p226) ‘The only way to make a profit is through dissonance. It is only by propelling industry in ways that interfere with and partly hamper its open integration, coordination and the well-being of its participants that business earnings can be appropriated and capital accumulated.’ Something Steve Jobs understood.

Another thought that came to me while studying your paper was your analysis of coalitions of differential accumulation (2009, p392). Daniel Yergin’s ‘The Prize’ came to mind, and his recounting of the British navy's decision to convert from coal to oil, and its geopolitical ramifications; Hitler’s failed attempt to secure the oil fields in Baku; Japanese kamikaze pilots eventually running out of fuel, despite only needing half a tank; and America winning WWII ‘on a sea of oil’. Thus a Weapondollar–Petrodollar Coalition would seem inevitable. The ruling elites first priority is to deploy its army to secure the energy it needs to project its power. Similarly, the Technodollar–Mergerdollar Alliance to produce the technologies that can exploit the energy sources and/or be weaponised. Suggesting capitalists use physical force to ensure markets conform to the logic of capitalism, one form of power augmenting the other.

Image

Turning finally to your idea of the ‘Hierarchy-Energy Space’ or ‘Hierarchy-Energy Curves’ and their trajectories, I would first recommend, at the risk of confusing your readers, renaming them ‘Hierarchy-Power Space’ or ‘Hierarchy-Power Curves’, and amending the x-axis to be explicitly power (W), rather than GJ/year. The y-axis is more problematic: ‘The other challenge is to theorize and measure the basic split between hierarchical and livelihood [power].’ After reading your paper I went to my bookshelf and dusted off Environment, Power and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy, having put it down half-read a decade ago. Several statements struck a chord:

‘The science of economics may profit by restating more of its theorems to include power principles.’

‘A study of humanity and nature is thus a study of systems of energy, materials, money, and information.’

‘The author proposed the universal hierarchical self-organization of energy systems as a fifth energy law (Odum 1987, 1988): All the energy transformations known can be connected in a series network according to the quantity of one kind of energy required for the next.’

Thus, the suggestion above that capitalists use physical power to ensure markets conform to the logic of capitalism could be explained by Odum’s theory.

Two CasP studies I’m very keen to see:
- The US and European power (electricity) markets
- The current focus on scaling investment in low-carbon infrastructure to tackle climate change

cf http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/faqs/what-is-climate-finance-and-where-will-it-come-from/

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/dec/04/green-bonds-innovative-finance-climate-change-paris-cop21

https://www.forbes.com/sites/dominicdudley/2018/01/14/renewable-energy-geopolitical-impact/#6919e872f49b
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Re: Growing through Sabotage

Postby Jonathan Nitzan » Tue Jan 23, 2018 6:40 pm

POWER

1. I’d like to know if you consciously decided not to bring a discussion of physical power into your work for fear of it causing confusion, and thus used the term ‘energy capture’.


The term 'power' has different meanings and connotations in physics and the study of society. Energy capture in JG/person/year seems sufficiently clear in this context and serves to avoid confusion with the much fuzzier and contentious notion of 'social power'.

In our paper, we argue that energy capture (or physical power, in your terminology), can be used to augment hierarchical power in society. But the pattern of this augmentation is the question to be studied. As shown in Figure 7 in our article, this pattern can be negative or positive, highly nonlinear, and regime dependent.

DATES

2. The dates of your periodisation of history, and in particular to that of capitalism, beginning in 1700 (‘Our choice of 1700 as the ‘beginning’ of capitalism is practical rather than theoretical: regardless of its precise birthday, until 1700 capitalism was simply too limited in scope to have a significant impact on the world’s average rate of growth.’):


As Figure 1 in our paper makes clear, 1700 is a rather arbitrary marker. If you chose 1450 instead, the computations in Table 1 would be only marginally different.

ENERGY CAPTURE IN CAPITALISM

3. Figure 4 (From Hierarchical Organizations to Energy Capture), highlights the basic premises on which you’ve built your model. It states ‘capitalism is able to capture more energy than other modes of power’. Elsewhere you’ve referred to the ‘uniqueness of capitalism’ and how ‘in comparison to other modes of power it still sparkles and shines. What, then, is the source of this seemingly unique resilience? What is it that enables capitalism to transcend its own power-imposed sabotage and expand faster and more vigorously than any other social system?’


We personally don't know why energy capture in capitalism is greater than in prior modes of power. Fix's answer is that capitalism has created larger, more complex forms of coordination, particularly through hierarchy, and that it is this hierarchical coordination that allows for greater energy capture per capita. In our view, this claim, particularly its emphasis on hierarchy, requires further study. We bring various examples to suggest that democratic coordination -- particularly in science and the generation of ideas more generally -- could be much more crucial here than hierarchical coordination in the actual production of energy.

The notion that capitalism simply 'got lucky' is not really an explanation. And I'm not sure how Graeber's 'gambler' argument fits here: have Jobs, Zuckerberg and Musk contributed anything toward greater energy capture per capita?

LUXEMBURG'S 'FORCE IS THE ONLY SOLUTION'

If force=violence, then we are in disagreement. Greater energy capture per capita need not go toward more open violence. It can be used, often much more effectively, to build hierarchies that make the open use of violence less necessarily.
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Re: Growing through Sabotage

Postby rorourke » Wed Jan 31, 2018 5:41 pm

A brief holding response ahead of a more considered one:

FORCE=VIOLENCE
Greater energy capture per capita need not go toward more open violence.


Indeed, it need not, and it's not my contention that it does.

MAN V MACHINE
We personally don't know why energy capture in capitalism is greater than in prior modes of power.


I'm not arguing to reframe the periodisation of history to have capitalism begin in 1450, which it may or may not do. I'm proposing that the exponential growth in Depth from 1700 can be attributed to the harnessing of fossil fuels, starting in 1712 with the invention of the steam engine, representing a paradigm shift in the calculus of man's relationship with energy.

Using standard scientific definitions:
- Energy is the ability to do Work.
- Work is done when a Force moves a body.
- Power is the rate at which Work is done.
- Newton’s third law: Forces are interactions, they exist between bodies.

Force is the key word above – nothing happens without it, no entropy increase (i.e. energy 'used'/'captured'), no power measured.

Prior to Newcomen's invention of the steam engine, humans got Work done by harnessing: other humans, beasts of burden, the wind (sails/windmills), rivers (watermills), biomass, etc. Coal can generate steam to drive a piston to generate a Force to do Work (not to mention the Work of refining/forging metals) with several advantages over previous technologies, not least of which is the orders of magnitude greater energy/power density (lower entropy) and availability. Man requires a machine to extract Work from the process of increasing entropy. He also needs access to a low entropy source of energy.

Accepting the above, understanding the role, if any, of capitalism in increasing Depth after 1700 would involve theorising its role in the invention and/or distribution of machines for extracting Work from Energy (steam engine, internal combustion engine, electric motor). So too when theorising and measuring the basic split between hierarchical and livelihood power. Although a preliminary study of Odum suggests energy systems are inherently hierarchical. Suggesting social sub-systems are such is controversial (cf Jordan Peterson and the lobster).

Nate Hagens's perspective on energy is always instructive.

more anon...
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Re: Growing through Sabotage

Postby Jonathan Nitzan » Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:05 am

Thanks for the useful clarifications and additional pointers, Richard. Of course, the rigor with which physics defines its concepts is rarely matched in the study of society, where "power" and "force" often mean different things to different people.

BTW, Blair Fix has a new podcast interview, where he discusses his research of the hierarchy-energy-distribution link:

http://bnarchives.yorku.ca/531/
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Re: Growing through Sabotage

Postby rorourke » Thu Feb 15, 2018 7:29 am

DEFINITIONS

"power" and "force" often mean different things to different people


CasP theory defines capital as power.
- Is that the power to force someone to do something they don't want to do, e.g. repay a predative loan, or more usually in the case of a predative loan, recover the loan's security?
- Is that the power to hire people/equipment to do work, e.g. build a wall?

ENERGY HIERARCHIES

From Odum:
Image
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Re: Growing through Sabotage

Postby max gr » Tue Mar 06, 2018 12:40 am

Came across this article, which reminded me of the 'Tennessee Valley Authority' example from B&N's paper:

"Senator George Norris of Nebraska, a champion of FDR’s New Deal and proponent of the Tennessee Valley Authority, was also a prominent cheerleader for local and national reforms that strengthened the position of public utilities in the electricity market. Nebraska passed the Enabling Act in 1933, which allowed voters to petition for a public utility through the democratic process. In 1935, Congress passed the Public Utility Holding Company (Wheeler-Rayburn) Act, breaking up the highly-concentrated, Wall Street-financed firms like the ones that had bought up one-third of Nebraska’s municipal utilities. The following year, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act, which provided funding for publicly-owned power companies. Nebraska’s power companies were 100 percent public-owned by 1949."

Is anyone familiar with this organization and can recommend a good read about it and its history?
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