You are here

neoliberalism

A US green investment bank for all: Democratized finance for a just transition

By Thomas Marois and Ali Rıza Güngen - Next System Project, September 20, 2019

In ways unimaginable just a few years ago, public banking and its potential for catalyzing a transition to a green and just future have been catapulted to the center of political and economic debate. The reason: The greed-driven excesses of Wall Street and global finance that gave rise to the 2008-09 global financial crisis are now continuing to drive today’s global crisis of climate finance.

The financial sector today offers seemingly limitless access to debt for financing planet-damaging consumption but does not carry its weight in financing solutions to the climate crisis. Of the $454 billion in climate finance invested in 2016, the private investment sector, which controls 80 percent of all banking assets, contributed $230 billion, while the public sector contributed $224 billion. That is, with only 20 percent of total assets, public banks invest nearly as much as all private banks combined. The short-term, return-maximizing horizons of private finance have failed, utterly, to drive anything like a green transition. The future of climate finance must look to the public sphere, not the private.

We must also ensure that the green transition is just. The costs of the global finance and climate crises have fallen disproportionately onto workers, women, racialized communities, and the most marginalized in society. In the financial crisis, failing corporations got direct bailouts; their low-wage workers and the unemployed got imposed austerity as public support systems were axed. The challenges the climate crisis will impose on both the natural and built environment will also necessarily be faced unequally and unjustly. The most marginalized will bear the brunt of transition by virtue of existing structural barriers and in-built systems of oppression.

What is urgently required is strategy and action on a green and just transition for all. Democratized finance will be key. Low-carbon infrastructure needs constructing, local jobs protecting, fossil fuels need to remain in the ground, the planet needs cooling, and social equity needs action. Yet there is no hope of this type of green and just transition without financial institutions that can be democratically commanded to function in the public interest.

It is for this reason that we propose the creation of a democratized US Green Investment Bank (GIB). A democratized GIB has the potential to catalyze a transition to a socially just and environmentally sustainable future that is otherwise impossible under the short-term, high-return regime of private financiers (regardless of the extent of their financial resources). The GIB’s potential is, of course, only realizable within a grander strategy of socioeconomic transformation, such as is envisioned within the Green New Deal. The proposed design of a new GIB is meant to fit strategically within this evolving framework. Its potential depends on the GIB catalyzing structural change in the public interest.

Read the report (PDF).

Remaking Our Energy Future: Towards a Just Energy Transition (JET) in South Africa

By Richard Halsey, Neil Overy, Tina Schubert, Ebenaezer Appies, Liziwe McDaid and Kim Kruyshaar - Project 90 by 2030, September 19, 2019

A just transition (JT) is a highly complex topic, where the overall goal is to shift to systems that are better for people and the planet, and to do so in a fair and managed way that “leaves no one behind”. A JT is about justice in the context of fundamental changes within the economy and the society.

Both of these areas are extremely contested, consensus is hard to achieve, and people are generally resistant to change. A JT confronts “business as usual” and threatens powerful vested interests in certain economic sectors. In recent years, a vast amount of literature on the subject has been published, and in South Africa the conversation has picked up pace. The urgency of acting now is indisputable.

While a JT can apply to many sectors and industries, this publication focuses on energy. In addition to being a major contributor to climate change, environmental damage and impacts on human health, the energy sector (particularly Eskom), is facing significant challenges in South Africa. We fully acknowledge that energy is linked to other sectors such as transport, agriculture, water and land use, and that a just energy transition (JET) is a part of a wider JT. While the focus of this report is on one sector, we do so recognising that it is linked to other parts of a larger system in many ways.

Our approach was to look at what we can learn from international experience, to combine that with what has already been done in South Africa, and to make recommendations about how to move forward. This publication focuses on the shift from coal to renewable energy (RE), mainly for electricity generation. We are well aware that a movement away from fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) is far more than just moving from coal to RE, but as discussed in Chapter 3, this particular transition is the obvious starting point in South Africa. The lessons and recommendations presented here can also be adapted to other fossil fuel sectors. While the focus of this study is on coal, a big picture perspective of the energy system is crucial. South Africa must adopt an integrated planning approach, for energy and other sectors.

Read the text (PDF).

Truck Driver Misclassification: Climate, Labor and Environmental Justice Impacts

By Sam Appel and Carol Zabin - New Economics Foundation, August 2019

The next great challenge for California climate policy lies in the transportation sector. Vehicles account for fully 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions in California, the most of any economic sector in our state, and consistent and significant reductions in vehicle emissions remain elusive.

In the transportation sector, commercial trucking is a critical focus area for climate policy. Heavy-duty vehicles emit a fifth of all transportation-related greenhouse gases. They also produce toxic air pollutants that significantly increase risk of cancer and other severe health challenges for California residents, particularly in low-income communities of color.

To meet these challenges, California has passed and continues to develop new policies designed to accelerate the adoption of low- and zero-emissions vehicles in the commercial trucking subsector. These policies set increasingly stringent emissions standards for commercial trucks over time and provide incentives to buy down the cost of new vehicles and retrofits in advance of these mandates.

This report analyzes a major barrier to successful implementation of new clean truck standards: the common trucking industry practice of classifying (and often misclassifying) truck drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.

Contracting out truck driving shifts the costs of truck ownership and operation from trucking companies to individual truck drivers. Contract truck drivers, particularly misclassified contractors, earn low incomes and face high capital costs. While regulatory compliance costs for large trucking firms represent a small percent of total revenue, contract truck drivers face compliance expenses far in excess of their yearly income. Under the contractor business model, truck drivers least equipped financially to buy and maintain clean vehicles bear the financial burden of attaining the state’s climate goals in this sector.

This report describes the fundamental misalignment of the contractor business model in trucking with California’s climate goals. The report proceeds by discussing:

  • California’s policies to reduce heavy-duty truck emissions.
  • The environmental, public health, and environmental justice impacts of non-compliance with emissions standards.
  • The nature of the contractor business model, evidence of the widespread misclassification of independent contractors, and the consequent low incomes of truck drivers.
  • The direct link between low road industry practices and the failure to meet emissions standards.
  • Policy principles that can address the climate, economic justice, and environmental justice challenges in the commercial trucking industry.

Currently, the low road labor practice of misclassifying workers in the trucking industry undermines climate action by shifting the costs of emission reductions to the most economically vulnerable actors in the industry: contract truck drivers. Because drivers are unequipped to meet emissions standards, communities impacted by truck pollution continue to suffer the effects. With the correct policy levers in place, California policymakers have an opportunity to support a trucking industry that complies with climate policy and that upholds employment and labor laws for California workers.

Read the report (PDF).

Internationalising the Green New Deal: Strategies for Pan-European Coordination

By Daniel Aldana Cohen, Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, and Thea Riofrancos - Common Wealth, 2019

Climate politics are today bursting to life like never before. For four decades, market fundamentalists in the United States and United Kingdom have blocked ambitious efforts to deal with the climate crisis. But now, the neoliberal hegemony is crumbling, while popular climate mobilisations grow stronger every month. There has never been a better moment to transform politics and attack the climate emergency.

When the climate crisis first emerged into public consciousness in the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were consolidating a neoliberal doctrine that banished the most powerful tools to confront global heating— public investment and collective action.

Instead, neoliberals sought to free markets from democratically imposed constraints and the power of mass mobilisation. Thatcher insisted that there was no alternative to letting corporations run roughshod over people and planet alike in the name of profit. Soon, New Democrats and New Labour agreed. While the leaders of the third way spoke often of climate change, their actual policies let fossil capital keep drilling and burning. Afraid to intervene aggressively in markets, they did far too little to build a clean energy alternative.

Then the financial crisis of 2008 and the left revival that exploded in its wake laid bare the failures of the neoliberal project. An alternative political economic project is now emerging—and not a moment too soon. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put it, keeping global warming below catastrophic levels will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” In other words: public investment and collective action.

Fortunately, movements on both sides of the Atlantic have been building strength to mount this kind of alternative to market fundamentalism. On the heels of Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, Bernie Sanders’s 2016 Democratic primary campaign breathed new life into the American left and its electoral prospects. Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party, spurred by a vibrant grassroots mobilisation, gives those of us in the U.S. hope: if New Labour could give way to Corbynism, surely Clintonism can give way to the left wing of the Democratic party. In the U.K., drawing on tactics from the Sanders campaign, Momentum has developed a new model of mass mobilisation to transform a fossilised political party. It’s restoring the dream that formal politics can be a means for genuinely democratic political organising. In turn, U.S. leftists are learning from Momentum’s innovations.

The vision of the Green New Deal that has taken shape in the United States in the past few months is in many ways a culmination of the U.S. left’s revival. The Green New Deal’s modest ambition is to do all that this moment requires: decarbonise the economy as quickly as humanly possible by investing massively to electrify everything, while bringing prodigious amounts of renewable power online; all this would be done in a way that dismantles inequalities of race, class and gender. The Green New Deal would transform the energy and food systems and the broader political economy of which they are a part.

Read the report (PDF).

Labour and the ecological crisis: The eco-modernist dilemma in western Marxism(s) (1970s-2000s)

By Stefania Barca - Geoforum, January 2019

The article offers an intellectual critique of Marxist political ecology as developed in western Europe between the 1970s and 2000s, focusing on the labour/ecology nexus. My critique is based on the intersection of two levels of analysis: 1) the historical evolution of labour environmentalism, focusing on what I will call the eco-modernist dilemma of labour; 2) the meaning of class politics in relation to the politics of the environment, with a special focus on the production/reproduction dialectic.

Focusing on the work of four Marxist intellectuals whose ideas resonated with various social movements across the Left spectrum (labour, environmentalism, feminism and degrowth), the article shows how the current entrenchment of labour within the politics of eco-modernization hides a number of internal fractures and alternative visions of ecology that need to be spelled out in order to open the terrain for a rethinking of ecological politics in class terms today.

Read the text (PDF).

Working Together for a Just Transition

By David Powell, Alfie Stirling and Sara Mahmoud - New Economics Foundation, November 2018

This short pamphlet has been produced to launch the New Economics Foundation’s new programme of work on the 'just transition'. Our interest is in the practicality of change: the policies, processes, narrative and investment needed to accelerate the UK’s progress on 'just transition', here and now. Over the coming months and years we will be working at local and national levels to explore what is needed to build common cause and provide the right mixture of incentives and critical challenge to all parties to help unlock a new momentum for a 'just transition' for the UK.

It has been produced in association with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s London Office, part of the international network of FES. The London office was established in 1988 to promote better understanding of British- German relations. FES's work in the United Kingdom focuses in particular on the exchange of ideas and discussion on the following topics: common challenges facing Germany, the United Kingdom and the European Union; economic and social policy; experiences gained from differing regional and local policies and practices; and a continuing dialogue between politicians as well as between the trade unions in both countries.

Read the report (PDF).

Jobs vs the Environment?: Mainstream and Alternative Media Coverage of Pipeline Controversies

By Robert A Hackett and Philippa R Adams - Corporate Mapping Project, September 2018

Much of the argument advanced in support of expanding Canada’s fossil fuel production centres on job creation and economic benefits. Politicians, pundits and corporate spokespeople who support fossil fuel infrastructure projects—such as new oil and gas pipelines—often evoke this rhetoric when they appear in the media.

This study examines how the press—including corporate and alternative outlets—treats the relationship between jobs and the environment. Focusing on pipeline projects that connect Alberta’s oil sands to export markets, it also asks which voices are treated as authoritative and used as sources, whose views are sidelined, which arguments for and against pipelines are highlighted, and what similarities and differences exist between mainstream and alternative media coverage of pipeline controversies.

Read the report (PDF).

Envisioning a Leap Forward: How We Can Replace Neoliberalism With a Caring Economy

By Cliff Durand - Truthout, May 26, 2018

In her timely book No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, Naomi Klein calls on us to resist President Trump and the turn to reactionary-right politics in the US. She also reminds us that, even if we succeed, we will still be left with the conditions that gave rise to Trumpism in the first place. We’ve got to do more than resist Trump. She calls us to change the neoliberal paradigm that has guided (or rather, misguided) public and private life for the last four decades in the United States and much of the rest of the world. This is no small challenge, but without a new way forward, life will become increasingly unlivable. 

As I have discussed previously, neoliberalism is a renewal of the 19th century liberalism of laissez faire, free market, unbridled capitalism of the robber baron era. The 20th century social liberalism we are more familiar with is the opposite of that. Born of the crisis of the Great Depression of the 1930s, it accepts the need for an active state to protect ordinary people from the depredations of the market while also regulating and guiding the economy to make capitalism work. That social liberalism, or “social democracy” as it is also called, was the dominant public ideology in the US up through the 1970s.

But then, with the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the US and Margaret Thatcher’s leadership in the United Kingdom, a new ideology began to eclipse “social democracy.” Rather than seeing the state as the instrument for democratic self-government, this ideology saw government as the source of our problems. In this view, government should just “get out of the way” and let the market direct society.

The dirty little secret that advocates of neoliberalism try to hide from us is that government is still needed to structure markets so they will work for capitalism. For example, unions must be curtailed since organized workers bargaining collectively distort a free market in labor. Individual workers are to be free to sell their labor as they choose. Powerless as individuals, the “right to work” in reality amounts to a right to work for less. At the same time, investors can organize collectively into corporations and operate freely in the market. In neoliberalism, grossly unequal power relation between individuals and corporations is ignored or even perpetuated. This means that neoliberalism favors the interests of corporate capitalism over working people, and that neoliberalism is a project for unbridled capitalism. It is the default position of capital when unrestrained by popular forces.

Vivir Bien: Old Cosmovisions and New Paradigms

By Pablo Solón - Great Transition Initiative, February 2018

The concept of Vivir Bien (or Buen Vivir) gained international attention in the late twentieth century as people searched for alternatives to the rampage of neoliberalism. Imperfect translations of the Andean concepts of suma qamaña and sumaq kawsay, Vivir Bien and Buen Vivir reflect an indigenous cosmovision that emphasizes living in harmony with nature and one another. As these ideas’ popularity has grown, however, their meaning has been compromised. Governments in Bolivia and Ecuador incorporated Vivir Bien and Buen Vivir, respectively, into their constitutions and governing agendas on paper, but not in spirit. Rather than radical alternatives to the dominant paradigm of development and progress, these concepts have become new branding for (un)sustainable development. The lessons are clear: to avoid state cooptation, truly revolutionary change must be based on emancipation and self-determination from below. And to succeed in our interdependent world, proponents of Vivir Bien must link up with advocates of complementary global movements on the path of a better future for all.

Globalization and the End of the Labor Aristocracy

By Jayati Ghosh - Dollars and Sense, March/April 2017

Twenty-first century imperialism has changed its form. In the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it was explicitly related to colonial control; in the second half of the 20th century it relied on a combination of geopolitical and economic control deriving also from the clear dominance of the United States as the global hegemon and leader of the capitalist world (dealing with the potential threat from the Communist world). It now relies more and more on an international legal and regulatory architecture—fortified by various multilateral and bilateral agreements—to establish the power of capital over labor. This has involved a “grand bargain,” no less potent for being implicit, between different segments of capital. Capitalist firms in the developing world gained some market access (typically intermediated by multinational capital) and, in return, large capital in highly developed countries got much greater protection and monopoly power, through tighter enforcement of intellectual property rights and greater investment protections.

These measures dramatically increased the bargaining power of capital relative to labor, globally and in every country. In the high-income countries, this eliminated the “labor aristocracy” first theorised by the German Marxist theorist Karl Kautsky in the early 20th century. The concept of the labor aristocracy derived from the idea that the developed capitalist countries, or the “core” of global capitalism, could extract superprofits from impoverished workers in the less developed “periphery.” These surpluses could be used to reward workers in the core, relative to those in the periphery, and thereby achieve greater social and political stability in the core countries. This enabled northern capitalism to look like a win-win economic system for capital and labor (in the United States, labor relations between the late 1940s and the 1970s, for example, were widely termed a “capital-labor accord”). Today, the increased bargaining power of capital and the elimination of the labor aristocracy has delegitimated the capitalist system in the rich countries of the global North.

Increasing inequality, the decline in workers’ incomes, the decline or absence of social protections, the rise of material insecurity, and a growing alienation from government have come to characterise societies in both developed and developing worlds. These sources of grievance have found political expression in a series of unexpected electoral outcomes (including the “Brexit” vote in the UK and the election of Trump in the United States). The decline of the labor aristocracy—really, its near collapse—has massive implications, as it undermines the social contract that made global capitalism so successful in the previous era. It was the very foundation of political stability and social cohesion within advanced capitalist countries, which is now breaking down, and will continue to break down without a drastic restructuring of the social and economic order. The political response to this decline has been expressed primarily in the rise of right-wing, xenophobic, sectarian, and reactionary political tendencies.

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.