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Capitalism cannot survive if people stop buying, consuming and throwing away at an accelerated rate. Our purpose is to gradually build alternative practices and systems that allow more and more people to get out of the mainstream, abandon the consumer society, and secure more and more of their material and social needs from those alternative systems and sources that arise from their neighborhoods and towns. This revolution, there is no doubt, is about the death of capitalism; However, it can be a peaceful and non-violent revolution, whereby other new local, small-scale and participatory systems will gradually develop within the old systems to replace them. At first glance this may not seem very plausible, especially to people on the Marxist Left, but consider the following:
Appfel-Marglin describes the broad peasant movement of the Andes as a phenomenon of non-confrontational popular origin of direct (re) creation of alternatives. There is “… a withdrawal from the dominant system accompanied by the creation of alternatives to it, rather than a direct challenge” (1998, p. 39). These groups do not seek recognition of their territory by the state; that would be to recognize that the state has authority. He comments that they consider themselves anti-citizens, but not non-citizens. On the Relocalize website (2009) it can be read, “As the industrial system turns towards exclusion… the people at the base are not rebelling to take power in the hands of the elite, but rebelling to take power over their own lives ”.
The Zapatistas in Mexico seem to give us a paradigmatic example. They do not arise to defeat the Mexican state, they take power and later build a new society. They are simply building their own society, although from time to time they have to fight to defend what is built. This is the way in which we will get to the Simpler Way: simply by starting to create it in the ways that we have at our fingertips, here and now in the place where we each live. Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies indicate that there are possibly thousands of peoples in Asia and Latin America taking a very similar path.
Korten holds open the hope that we can “starve capitalism” (1999, p.262). Rude says: “The goal is no longer to overthrow world capitalism in an anti-capitalist revolution as in the traditional Marxist model, but rather to leave capitalism behind by slowly creating a new post-capitalist culture and economy to replace it…” (1998, p.53). Quinn states: “Defeating the hierarchy is useless; what we want is to simply leave it behind ”(1999, p.65). Buckminister Fuller explains it this way: “You can never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete ”(cited by Quinn, 1999, p.137).
Of course, the typical response of Marxists in these cases is to tell you that you must fight the monster because if you start posing a significant threat to it, it will crush you. Ah, but in the age of scarcity to come, will he be able to do it? We have just entered an era in which the forces that undermine the legitimacy of consumer-capitalist society are gaining strength. Legitimacy feeds on comfort and complacency. Capitalist and consumer society is safe only as long as it keeps supermarket shelves packed and keeps lack of cohesion, unemployment and injustice at levels easy to ignore. But scarcity is going to tear all that to pieces. The growing tremor has already begun to be felt in the more affluent countries because of the failure of the system to provide quality of life and cohesion, and also because of obscene inequality. The financial crisis that began in 2008 has been a blow to the supposed infallibility of the free market to correct itself. Although these effects will be nothing compared to what comes to us. We just have to wait until we hit the Tip of 2030: the coincidence of huge and unsolvable shortages of oil, water, food, land, phosphorus and various basic minerals ... accompanied by a growing population, the effects of climate change and an accelerating social decomposition. Surely before 20 years we will see collapses in the systems that allow keeping the shelves of supermarkets full. This multiple world catastrophe will eliminate the ability of the super-rich to manage things, and of course to manage them for the benefit of their own interests. The system will not have the capacity to deal with these events. Therefore you will not be in a position to prevent people from voting with your actions. It cannot run large governments, secret police forces, or armies without large amounts of oil. It cannot have surveillance and intervene in every town and neighborhood to prevent us from planting carrots and organizing our cooperatives.
Never before have revolutionaries had such an opportunity, such a void to fill. During the previous 200 years, revolutionaries have risen up against industrial, bureaucratic, and military systems that were increasingly powerful and capable of turning their weapons against dissidents. But our enemy will have great difficulty in finding the resources with which to organize absolutely anything and will have to face an enemy that is everywhere, with an enormous capacity to do what he wants locally and ignore the perplexed elites and authorities. Therefore time is largely on our side. Before long, circumstances will push people to suddenly realize that the consumer-capitalist society is not going to provide what they need. Our crucial task is to get the alternative systems in place and run them well enough in the time we have left, so that people can see that there are great alternatives, and come to join us.
What is worrying is that the crises of the consumer-capitalist society that are coming will occur too quickly and are too serious to allow a more or less orderly transition. If the collapses are too abrupt, we will not be able to get the Simpler Way to go well enough in time, and our situation could quickly slide into the chaotic conditions that some parts of Central Africa are experiencing today. Those of us in the alternative movement must therefore work as hard as we can to get the alternative ready and working so that it can be seen as a lifeboat.
Let's go back for a moment and consider this matter from a more philosophical and historical perspective. Sometimes profoundly radical changes happen without the need for open conflict. Sometimes it is more like a fading of a once dominant paradigm, which is replaced by a new one that becomes popular. This is indeed the norm at the level of major shifts in the scientific paradigm (as explained by Kuhn and Baker, 2006), and in many cultural domains such as the arts, popular music, customs, style and fashion. A particular view or theory is dominant for a time, but then people more or less lose interest in it and move on to another. In science it is rare - if ever - that a dominant paradigm is abandoned because it is shown to be wrong. It is not going to happen that the psychoanalytic current in psychology is going to be ousted or defeated by the behaviorist because it shows that it is superior, or vice versa. What will happen, if it happens, is that over time most psychologists will end up preferring one or the other, or a third position. If one is the winner in the end, it will not be as a result of a process that we could call an open fight by which one resoundingly defeats the other: it will actually be like the progressive phase change of the Moon.
Some of the greatest revolutionary changes that occurred in the 20th century seem to have happened in this way, especially the collapses of the Soviet Union, the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. All of them apparently were characterized not by frontal, face-to-face and violent confrontations in which one side was swept off the battlefield by the other, but rather it was the people, voting with their actions, ceasing to support them, after long periods of growing disenchantment and growing awareness of how desirable other avenues were. These revolutionary changes seem best described as collapses due to increasing internal malfunctions or outright disenchantment, rather than as defeats in mortal combat with more powerful opposing forces. In the end, the vast military, bureaucratic and economic powers of the establishments in command were of no use in the face of the withdrawal of support, of the loss of legitimacy.
Think of how liberation came from the most powerful imperial monarchy the world has ever seen, one that controlled most of the globe after fighting some seventy wars to establish its empire. Could such a brutal monster be defeated and released without a cataclysmic confrontation? Well, that's what we did with the British Empire. And if we wait just a little longer, we'll see the British royal family fade into little more than a minor element of the entertainment industry. They will have disappeared simply because the general public will have stopped noticing them. Sixty years ago Britain and its Dominions fought in World War II to defend the British Empire. Australia took it for granted that this was of enormous importance (Freudenberg, 2008). But now we can only find the British Empire in history books and there is hardly anyone who has the slightest interest in it, much less in defending it.
Excerpt from Ted Trainer's book “The Transition to a Sustainable and Just World” (2010)