Organized around exchange-value, not use-value, the capitalist system is actively and intentionally wasteful, steadily worsening a multi-faceted ecological crisis. Is a post-growth, post-capitalist world conceivable?
|This post belongs to a reading series of Less is More by Jason Hickel. For quick access to all chapters, please click here.|
Disclaimer: This chapter summary is personal work and an invitation to read the book itself for a detailed view of all the author’s ideas.
The emergency brake
Step 1. End planned obsolescence
“We like to think of capitalism as a system that’s built on rational efficiency, but in reality it is exactly the opposite. [planned obsolescence] is like shovelling ecosystems and human lives into a bottomless pit of demand.” For instance, every year, “150 million discarded computers are shipped to countries like Nigeria, where they end up in sprawling open-air dumps that leak mercury, arsenic and other toxic substances into the land.”
Blaming consumers for buying too many things misses the point; people fall victim to the production logic of capitalism. The issue is the logic itself. If washing machines or smartphones lasted four times longer than they currently do, we would consume 75% fewer of them. Not only would it be a huge reduction in material throughput, but people wouldn’t have to deal with the frustration and expense of constantly replacing some piece of equipment. How to achieve this? For starters, a mandatory extended product warranty and a “right to repair” with affordable replacement parts could be introduced. A leasing model could also be used, requiring manufacturers to assume full responsibility for all repairs and regular upgrades.
Step 2. Cut advertising