It Never Ends, or Terrorism and Scarcity 2.

There is no end to the end of the world scenarios spun out by and for the small minds of the little bourgeoisie, academics, pseudo-radicals, and once-upon-a-time socialists. Whereas revolution requires imagination and audacity, reproduction of the status quo in all its increasing depreciation can produce no more than nostalgia, repetition compulsion, and ecclesiastic extinctionism.

So the once and future king of the end of world, the emperor of scarcity, Malthus, is dug up, dusted off, dressed up and paraded about as the dismal scientist, dyspeptic Einstein of the dismal science. Malthus, Hobbes’ accountant –all exchanges are nasty, brutish and short. Malthus the borscht belt comedian– “The food here is terrible.” “Yes, and such small portions.” Malthus, Keynes’ inspiration– “In the long run, we’re all dead.”

It’s always the same, and it never ends, variations on the theme: The world is running out of food, the world is running out of oil, the world is running out of water, the world is running out of….most of all, the world is running out of time. That the world is a social not a natural organization, that the world is a specific economic organization based on a specific property form requiring a specific organization of labor is not of significance. It is the world as such, people as such, oil as such that is the shortage/overage. It is the end of the world, the end of food, the end of oil that is always just around the corner. Dread and terror are the true offspring of fear and greed.

The little bourgeois always confuses the mundane and the spiritual, the profane for the holy, and his or her immediate ignorance with universal truth. Heaven for the bourgeois order is a place where the rate of return never drops, so it’s clear that a decline in the rate of profit will be produce reports that the sky is falling.

This time, same as the last time, Malthus in his guise of petroleum engineer has agents of panic proclaiming that the oil has run out, the natural gas is gone, and the world as we know it is about to come to an end. Curves and peaks are proclaimed for production where curves and peaks do not appear. “Reserves” are depleted. Absolutely….., although the reserves this year are larger than the reserves the mini-Malthusians stated were absolute 6, 7, 10 years ago. The “peak of production” is just around the corner, this year, although that peak 6 years ago was predicted to occur 4 years ago… and if it’s not this year, then surely the peak will be next year..or ten years from now and if not then 30 years from now. What difference does it make? The sky is falling.

The little bourgeois mini-Hubbertist-Malthusians have a problem. And that problem is economics. Economics is nothing but a social relation of production, a form of property, a specific organization of labor. The trick, and it is a trick, to Malthusian and bourgeois economics, is the disavowal of private property as a social relation. Rather private property, property that demands the organization of labor as wage-labor to give it life, to reproduce its existence as a form demanding wage-labor to give it life again, is a natural function. Then all limitations, failures, shortages are natural in origin. Property in all its purity is preserved, it’s humanity in all its gruesome impurity that must go.

“Reserves” have peaked, claim the HubbertMalthuses. But reserves, proven reserves, are not a natural category. In their very origin, very definition, petroleum reserves are an economic function, an accountant’s line item entry. No kidding. From the American Petroleum Institute: “Companies whose publicly traded securities are registered with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) also report proved reserve information under the requirements of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) Statement No. 69 (FAS 69), ‘Disclosures about Oil and Gas Producing activities.’ This information is not part of a company’s audited financial statements; however, the proved reserve quantities are used as a basis in the financial statements to recognize expense on the income statement associated with depreciation and depletion of a company’s investment in proved oil and gas properties.” Does any of this sound like nature? Like a geological limit?

And what is the SEC/FASB approved definition of proven oil and gas reserves? “Estimated quantities of crude oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids which geological and engineering data demonstrate with reasonable certainty to be recoverable in future years from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating conditions.” In a word….Profitably. Does any of this sound natural?

Shell Oil’s write down of its reserves was triggered not by any world wide decline in known petroleum reservoirs, but in changes in economic and operating conditions. Shell was caught using the Arthur Andersen manual of creative accounting to claim reserves it no longer had access to, license to develop, partnership and/or ownership rights. Does that sound natural? Well, cheating is natural to the bourgeoisie, but that’s the point isn’t it?

This inability to distinguish nature from economy, property from development, not only leads our mini-Malthusian academics and near radicals to see the end of the world where it isn’t. This same inability obscures their ability to see the origin of capitalism, as capital, as a form demanding a specific organization of labor as wage-labor, where it really is. Instead, they identify the origin in “transfers” of “surplus,” the extraction of precious metals, jewels; the inevitable growth of trade: everywhere and anywhere except where it really is and really was– in the relation between the conditions of labor and labor itself. It is in that precise relation where the former survives only by reproducing itself through expropriating the latter, where each exists only as an element in the expanding reproduction of that precise social relation of private property and social labor that capital is created, and the real limits to the creation of capital are determined.

It, the origin and the future of capital, has never been a question of wealth per se. It, the limit to capital, has never been nature. It, the problem of capital, the conflict between the means and relations of production, has always been manifested in the problem of reproduction of profit.

S. Artesian

May 30, 2004

address all correspondence to:


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: