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Capitalism and Global Environment


Sugato Dutt

CONTEMPORARY ECOLOGICAL CRISIS: A MARXIST'S VIEW
By Randhir Singh
Aakar Books, New Delhi, 2009, pp. 159, Rs. 325.00

VOLUME XXXIV NUMBER 6 June 2010

Author Randhir Singh rightly critiques capitalism as the root cause of today’s global environmental crisis in his exposition of the Marxist view on the subject. In this book review I summarize his thesis and present a few seeming lacunae in an otherwise well-structured work that provides valuable insights into a problem that has plagued modern man and his institutions of governance for some time now. Singh’s purpose is to expose the structural contradictions in capitalism. Unlike several similar studies on the subject, he chooses not to elaborate on its social impacts. Instead, his goal is to promote socialism as a viable alternative to capitalism as a means to overcome the contemporary ecological crisis. This slim book, totalling 159 pages, begins with a somewhat lengthy account of the author’s own philosophical and intellectual orientation with autobiographical jottings of his real life engagements as a practising Marxist and a scholar. Though self-deprecatory about his lack of conventional academic credentials, and disarmingly open about the lack of originality in the treatment of the book’s topic, pointing out varied sources that influenced his thinking, he is nevertheless quite authoritative in his analysis of the structural logic of capitalism, its ‘throw away lifestyle’ and its inherent inability to ‘make peace with the environment.’ Singh’s perceptions on the severe nature of environmental degradation in the contemporary world are substantiated in 23 short analytical sections, which comprise the main content of the book. Through these brief but reflective pieces, many of which are repetitive in theme and based on his review of observations from major global environmental think-tanks and factual reporting by the media; he elucidates his position on the causal forces behind the global environmental predicament. Marxist writings on the ecological crises facing the contemporary world by and large tend to elucidate the social outcomes of the capitalist misadventure. Singh’s attention remains focused on the (profit maximizing) motives of capitalist entrepreneurship and the inherent lack of sensitivity to the human condition that it perpetuates. His purpose, as he outlines early on in Section Five is to reveal the contradictions inherent within capitalism and unravel their impact upon the present-day environment. He chooses to do so by amplifying the meaning of profit maximization, its rapacious use of resources and its innate inability to accommodate alternative positions on labour welfare and sustainable resource use in its single-minded pursuit of profit. Unfortunately, the book does ...


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