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Capital & Class Which Path to Paradise? Andre Gorz, Political Ecology and the Green Movement
Gerard Strange Capital & Class 1996 20: 81 DOI: 10.1177/030981689605900107 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Gerard Strange


Which Path to Paradise?

Andre Gorz, Political Ecology and the Green Movement
G Andre Gorz has gained a reputation in the labour movement as something of a heretic. His early work, as Sayers (1991) has pointed out, challenged the then dominant socialist thinking on the efficacy of full employment, pointing instead to the disadvantages of full employment policy and the work ethic in terms of lost human freedom and autonomy as well as in relation to nature and the destruction of the environment. Gorzs emphasis on the notion of liberation from rather than through work was always presented dialectically and in the context of other social policy imperatives, such as a basic non-work income, but for his critics Gorzs suggestion almost seemed to be that people should welcome unemployment (Sayers 1991: 16). Gorzs rejection of the classical Marxist analysis of class in Farewell to the Working Class (1982) helped to confirm his reputation as a heretic. Gorz argued that the form and direction of capital accumulation and the class struggle had so distorted working class consciousness that liberation and autonomy were no longer core proletarian values (Whitbread 1985: 129). Gorz developed a critique of the Marxist notion of the organised working class as the revolutionary agent, arguing that the politics of social change had grown in complexity with the development of accumulation and with changing class and social structure. This had led to the emergence of a new historical subject provocatively labelled by Gorz the non-class of
In this article Gerard Strange examines Gorzs development of political ecology around the notions of self-limitation and autonomy. While endorsing his humanist articulation of political ecology, Strange criticises Gorzs advocacy of what is identified as a productivist model of transition from capitalism to postindustrial socialism. The productivist model is contradictory since it breaks with the Green imperative and alienates increasingly important nonproductivist interests and the new social movements.


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post-industrial proletarians (Gorz 1982: 6674). Critics, such as Hyman (1983: 2868) and Byrne (1984), interpreted Gorzs analysis as a dismissal of traditional working class politics, organisation and aspirations, although Gorz later insisted that this had not been his intention and that his purpose had been to reconceptualise the role of traditional working class organisation in terms of broader, more universal, interests and demands. Yet such critical labour movement responses to Gorz have never been universal. Others on the left have been much more appreciative of his work, recognising that it builds on alternative left traditions, mainly originating in continental and Mediterranean Europe, which have grown in popularity and relevance in recent years. The greater currency Gorzs work and ideas have begun to enjoy on the left is also, no-doubt, a consequence of the crises encountered by more traditionally dominant socialisms following the collapse of Soviet and Eastern bloc Communism and the marginalisation of social democratic state forms in Western Capitalism. These developments have helped to facilitate a re-evaluation of Marxism which has led among other things to a rediscovery of the humanist and existentialist traditions, of which Gorz has long been a leading exponent (Shorthose 1994; Lodziak 1995; Maycroft 1996). Gorzs work has thus been highly important in sustaining and developing in practical ways a Marxist tradition which, though marginalised in many ways in the decades after the second world war, has arguably proved to be more lastingly relevant than other Marxist traditions. Perhaps the main reason for the growing recognition and influence of Gorzs work among socialists has been its practical and political relevance. The relevance of Gorzs work has been most marked, for socialists, in relation to understanding the unemployment crisis which has proved to be a permanent feature of most advanced capitalist nations since the mid 1970s and which in recent years has begun to look dangerously unmanageable. Gorzs work, which has consistently emphasised the need to democratically redistribute the declining amount of necessary working time, so as to secure the dual objectives of social inclusion and the extension of autonomy, offers a novel and progressive solution to the unemployment crisis which governments and other corporate actors of both left and right, notably in Europe, have begun to take seriously. It is not surprising that Gorzs work has also been significant in informing the theoretical and practical discourses of the Green

Which Path to Paradise?


movement and political ecology. Indeed it is arguably within political ecology that Gorzs most theoretically coherent and distinctive contributions can be located. Central to Gorzs efforts in this respect has been the attempt to utilise principles drawn from a humanist Marxism for an articulation of a radical ecology based, ultimately, on self-limitation. As Finn Bowring has noted, Gorzs main concern in recent years has been to show that the defence of nature and the defence of human autonomy against the ever greater encroachments of economic, or capitalist, rationality are inextricably linked (Bowring 1995: 68). Yet Gorzs continuing desire to distance himself from the Green movement, a desire that has been reciprocated by some leading left Greens (Dobson 1990; Lipietz 1995) provides an important indication of the controversial nature of Gorzs contributions to political ecology. The main purpose of this article is to offer a review and critical appraisal of some of the key aspects of Andre Gorzs contribution to left thinking in political ecology. The article divides into three parts. The first part begins by examining the distinction drawn by Gorz between environmentalism and political ecology; it then goes on to explore the relationship between political ecology and humanist socialism and the importance Gorz attaches to the principle of self-limitation in determining a humanist model of sustainable development. The second part of the article looks at Gorzs relationship to the Green movement. This part of the analysis is structured around an examination of two alternative models of transition from capitalism to post-industrial socialism presented by Gorz in his recent book Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology (1994). Despite his commitment to ecology, Gorz adopts a productivist model of transition in preference to the zero/negative growth models of the Green movement. Gorzs specification of and preference for the productivist model is explored in some detail. This section concludes by considering the alternative transitionary model rejected by Gorz and developed most comprehensively by Alain Lipietz and the French Green Party. Finally, the third part of the article provides a critical analysis of Gorzs assessment of the political constraints faced by the transition from capitalism to postindustrial socialism. It is argued that Gorzs negative account of the political feasibility of the Green model of transition is overpessimistic. Gorzs subsequent adoption of the productivist model creates a contradiction in his work between its commitment to productivism and its commitment to ecology and sustainable development.


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Gorzs work makes a fundamental distinction between environmentalism and political ecology (Gorz 1993; 1994: 945). Environmentalism or scientific ecology has sought to address the relationship between the growth of material output and the exploitation of material resources under industrialisation and the destruction of the natural environment. The main objective of environmentalism has been to persuade governments and other groups in positions of power of the need to arrest or at least limit ecological destruction by introducing policies which place quantitative and qualitative constraints and regulations on material production and consumption. In Ecology as Politics (1980),1 Gorz criticises environmentalism for not distinguishing sufficiently between industrialisation as a general mode of resource utilisation and the historically specific dynamics of industrialisation under capitalism. The consequence, Gorz argues, is that environmentalism fails to either historicise or politicise adequately the process of environmental destruction. In particular, it fails to identify destructive patterns of resource exploitation with the historical process of capitalist development and a specific logic of material growth rooted in the requirements of capital accumulation. For this reason environmentalism tends to be underdeveloped politically. In terms of environmental policy environmentalism recommends that technical constraints should be placed on the system of production and that the behaviour of individuals and groups should be subject to abstract controls and manipulation what Gorz describes as fiscal and monetary hetero-regulation (Gorz 1993: 56) to ensure that production, consumption and social action is made consistent with the ecological imperative. Gorz argues that while such regulations have the effect of altering the environment in which capital accumulation takes place they do not alter the consciousness of individuals and groups subject to hetero-regulation or fundamentally challenge or transcend the paradigm of accumulation (Gorz 1994: 945). For Gorz this indicates the contradictions and limits of environmentalism as politics. Capitalism is able to adapt to, and turn to its own advantage by commercialisation, the regulations and constraints on production and consumption required by stricter environmental standards. But the general consequence of such regulations will be higher costs and prices and subsequently growing material inequalities. Under environmentalism, Gorz argues, groups of commodities and patterns

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of consumption which were once available to all at low prices become high cost, high price, luxury products whose consumption, by definition, is restricted to a social elite (Gorz 1994: 94). Environmentalism therefore reverses the trend towards the democratisation of consumption strictly limited and contradictory though this was achieved under affluent society, and raises instead the spectre of what Gorz has termed eco-fascism (Gorz 1980 [1974]: 39, [1973]: 7791; 1993: 59). By this Gorz means the totalising expansion of bureaucratic control into the sphere of consumption where previously a modicum of democratic choice and individual autonomy remained. In contrast to environmentalism, political ecology begins by identifying the ecological crisis with the historical development of capitalism and the logic and requirements of capital accumulation. Gorz argues that tendencies leading towards unsustainable development and the destruction of the environment can be best understood historically, in terms of the responses of multinational monopoly capital to overaccumulation crises (Gorz 1980: 21). In order to counter such crises and reverse the associated tendency for the rate of profit to fall capitalist enterprise must expand the quantity of consumer goods sold and/or increase the exchange value of existing categories of goods so as to increase the efficiency of valorisation. The general manner in which this strategic response is realised is through the systematic generation of false needs. This is achieved by greatly expanded investment in advertising, by the introduction of symbolic differentiations into the design of existing commodities (over-designing) and by designing new products with built in physical and/or social obsolescence (Gorz 1980: 234). In this way exchange value can be expanded without a genuine expansion of use value or need satisfaction (Gorz 1980: 23). Gorz thus illustrates how an increase in the output and the price of consumer goods does not necessarily increase economic welfare but can instead involve the one-sided, destructive, use of material resources (cf Hirsh 1977). The logic of this process is thus exclusively to re-establish and maintain the valorisation of capital. Eventually the expansion of destructive consumption comes up against physical limits as environmental resources and raw materials become absolutely scarce. Capitalism is then faced with a crisis of reproduction (Gorz 1980: 247). Additional capital must be invested merely to recycle polluted resources which can only then be utilised for output production. While the organic composition of capital thereby increases, there is no corresponding


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increase in the volume of consumer merchandise. Hence the immediate consequence of the crisis of reproduction is the need to use more resources to satisfy a given volume of use value production. The initial crisis of over-accumulation is thus aggravated by the crisis of reproduction. (Gorz 1980: 27) Further economic growth can only reproduce and reinforce the tendency towards unsustainable development and environmental destruction. The ecological crisis can therefore only be resolved by the inversion of the logic of capitalism itself (Gorz 1980: 27). This means replacing the capitalist logic of production for valorisation with the ecological and humanist logic of production for use. Ecology is thus intimately associated with a system where use value production dominates over production for exchange. Political ecology is therefore inextricably bound up with the achievement of socialist society. The Norm of Sufficiency and Self-limitation Gorzs historical approach to political ecology has also examined the relationship between human beings and the natural environment in pre-capitalist society. This provides Gorz with a basis for identifying the principles which might govern a post-capitalist society based on sustainable development. The historical approach to political ecology is developed through the central concept of norm of sufficiency and the related notion of self-limitation (Gorz 1993). The concept norm of sufficiency refers to the historical propensity (and future potential) for human beings to regulate the relationship between production and consumption in a way that brings it into line with the dialectic between the expenditure of effort and the satisfaction of material needs (Gorz 1993: 61). The operation of a norm of sufficiency implies the self-limitation by producers and society of needs (satisfaction gained directly and indirectly from work) and effort (the intensity and duration of productive activity) in line with socially determined norms and/or the natural-rational predisposition of autonomous human beings. Such self-limitation has operated historically (see below) and according to Gorz (following Marx) will govern the human metabolism with nature in a future society of associated producers (Gorz 1993: 60). Gorz points out that in pre-capitalist societies production and consumption was constrained culturally and institutionally by

Which Path to Paradise?


agreement between merchants and artisans and through the operation of guild monopolies. These set strict limits on output and price levels and regulated remuneration in line with the culturally and historically defined needs of the artisans. These regulations enabled the guilds to determine for themselves the intensity and duration of their labour and thus defend a distinct realm of freedom and autonomy from encroachment by competition (Gorz 1993: 61). In a similar way the predisposition of the associated producers under communism would be to define needs dialectically by reference to both the sphere of necessity, and the sphere of true freedom. Production would be organised accordingly so that the satisfaction of needs is accomplished, rationally, with the least expenditure of energy and in conditions most worthy and appropriate for their human nature (Marx 1978: 959; quoted by Gorz 1993: 60). In other words, rational control over production and consumption enables the associated producers to balance their basic material needs, associated with the realm of necessity, against their wider existential needs, associated with the realm of freedom, and, moreover, to critically define the former by reference to the latter. Historically, such a balancing of material and existential needs is conditioned by the norm of sufficiency but is possible only where the worker can exercise a genuine choice between levels of material satisfaction and the amount of time sacrificed and effort required to obtain it. By contrast, capitalist production production for exchange and profit must break with the norm of sufficiency and the principle of self-limitation since its defining logic is the competitive valorisation of capital. This means that capitalist production must maximise output and effort and expand unnecessary surplus production. As a condition of valorisation capitalist production must therefore break with the principle of self-limitation so that the sphere of consumption can be dominated by the requirements of capital. This is achieved, first, by eliminating the power of the direct producers over and in production (Gorz 1993: 63). In this way the needs of the producer can no longer be defined directly by the producer through his or her control over and direct relationship to the production process. Historically, the separation of producers from control over the production process has taken the form of, first, depriving workers of ownership of the means of production and second, of the degradation of the workers work through deskilling and bureaucratic management (Braverman 1974).


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Self-limitation as the natural expression of needs defined in autonomy or by reference to autonomy is not possible under capitalism where the direct producers lose control over the production process and where the producers needs are consequently defined principally by the loss of autonomy. In Critique of Economic Reason (1989) and Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology (1994), Gorz extends the analysis of consumption and ecological crisis undertaken in Ecology as Politics by providing a critical analysis of the structured subjectivity of consumption decisions made by individuals. Gorz examines how consumption decisions are conditioned not only by explicit capitalist strategies (see above) but also by a choice logic conditioned by the marginalisation of human autonomy (Gorz 1989; 1994, ch.1). In particular Gorz is concerned to show how the individuals loss of autonomy can generate false needs for specifically commodified consumption (Gorz 1994).2 One way of understanding the tendency for needs to become defined in terms of expanded commodity consumption is to identify a direct causal relationship between over-consumption and over-work. Gorz shares this approach with many other critics of mass consumption in late capitalism, notably Marcuse (1964), Galbraith (1958), Mishan (1967) and Hirsh (1977). This approach stresses how the generation of false needs by the strategies of multinational capital leads to the over-consumption of commodities and subsequently imposes upon the individual the need to undertake greater quantities of alienated (i.e. waged) work. In this way multinational capital can further marginalise the sphere of autonomy and reinforce its subordination to the sphere of economic rationality (Gorz 1994: 115). However, Gorz also wishes to emphasise how the material necessity of undertaking alienated work can, in itself, generate a need for expanded commodity consumption. Hence, while overconsumption may lead to over-work, it is also true that over-work may lead to over-consumption (Gorz 1994: 93). This is because the expansion of alienated work reduces the amount of time (existential resource) and energy (labour power) available for individuals and groups to do things for themselves and thereby expand their individual and collective autonomy (Gorz 1994: 93). According to Gorz this relationship between over-work and the expansion of commodified consumption provides a logic for understanding economic growth which goes beyond the immediate logic of capital accumulation and is conditioned directly by the

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marginalisation of autonomy (see 1980: 2032; 1994: 94). The loss of time and energy to waged labour in the sphere of heteronomy encourages the commodification of the sphere of autonomy and thus the further capitalization of consumption. The main strategic conclusion Gorz draws from this critical analysis of commercialised consumption is that political ecology must, as a priority, seek to rescue the sphere of autonomy from its domination by and subordination to the sphere of economic rationality. The means by which this paradigm shift (from mass consumption to less but better) can be achieved is through the implementation of a social policy combining reduced working hours with a universal basic income detached from commercial employment. This is what Gorz views as the imperative of ecological restructuring (Gorz 1994: 1213 and 945). The policy of reduced working hours and basic income, in conjunction with the state provision of resources designed to encourage community-based use-value production (a third sector of useful employment), facilitates the subordination of the sphere of commodity exchange and economic rationality to the sphere of autonomy and freedom. This policy provides the foundations for the reinstitutionalisation of the principle of self-limitation and thus also provides the basis for a political project aiming to define a new norm of sufficiency around the ecological imperative (Gorz 1993: 647).

II. PRODUCTIVISM VERSUS ECOLOGY: GORZ AND THE GREEN MOVEMENT Although Gorz is widely recognised as one of the leading theorist of political ecology currently writing in Europe his work has nevertheless attracted significant criticism from both academic socialists and leading members of the Green movement. These criticisms have reflected an apparent contradiction in his work between ecology and productivism.3 Thus, while critics from the traditional left have accused Gorz of anti-productivism and romanticism (Byrne 1985; Sayers 1991: 19) others, from the Green movement, have argued that Gorzs analysis is anti-Green and that his later work in particular abandons important ecological imperatives (Dobson 1990; Lipietz 1995: 154). The reasons why Gorzs work should give rise to such apparently contradictory interpretations will be briefly examined shortly.


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However the main focus of the rest of this article will be a critical examination of some of the productivist aspects of Gorzs work. At one level much of Gorzs work is explicitly developed as a critique of productivism. This is evident in the way Gorz links ecology and sustainable development to the elaboration of a humanist model of post-industrial socialism built around a social policy of reduced working hours and basic income guarantee. The rejection of productivism is also evident in much of Gorzs sociology which has highlighted the marginalisation of productivist interests and demands and emphasised the decline of the organised skilled manual working class. This position is stated with greatest clarity in Farewell to the Working Class (1982) but it remains a crucial theme in much of Gorzs later work (see, for example, Gorz 1994: 8592). At a different level Gorzs work appears to be more located in the productivist tradition. For example, Gorz (following Marx) has consistently emphasised the progressive potential of industry and technology. Technology is central to the achievement of the humanist-socialist project because, Gorz argues, it is largely through the augmentation of labour productivity by technological advance that it becomes possible technically to marginalise the sphere of necessity and economic rationality and thus expand free time and the sphere of autonomy. But for at least one Green theorist, Gorzs linking of the humanist project to technological advance and auto production mean that his proposals are not Green (Dobson 1990: 165). By basing his utopia substantially on technology, Dobson argues, Gorz disqualifies himself from the canon of Green thought (Dobson 1990: 98). It can be readily shown (I believe) that the link made between technology and the advance of the humanist project need not automatically disqualify Gorz from the Green paradigm. Briefly stated, the problem with Dobsons argument is that it fails to historicise technology and thus to indicate the radically different ecological consequences of technology under different epochs of development. In this sense, Dobsons argument suffers from determinism. More problematic, I believe, is Gorzs productivist position in relation to economic growth. Gorz has consistently advocated positive economic growth and more specifically refuses to uncouple the humanist case for reduced working hours from explicitly productivist wage demands. Gorz insists that cuts in hours worked need not and should not involve cuts in income (Gorz 1989: 199202; 1994: 102117).

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Furthermore, in arguing for shorter hours without loss of pay Gorz explicitly distances himself from the Green movement which, he maintains, stand[s] apart by choice from the labour movement and the left and whose aim must be to bring about a negative growth in industrial and commodity production (Gorz 1994: 103). Gorz also distances himself from other political ecologists, notably Alain Lipietz, who have argued that a policy of reduced working hours must from the economic point of view involve some reduction in purchasing power and that such limitations on the potential rate of economic growth are, in any case, desirable from the ecological viewpoint (Gorz 1994: 103; Lipietz 1994: 349). The differences Gorz has emphasised between his approach to political ecology and positions adopted by the Green movement will be examined in more detail shortly. However, it needs to be noted at this point that Gorzs political ecology also shares much common ground with the humanist left within the Green movement and in particular the French Green Party, Les Verts (see Lipietz 1995). There is first a common identification of political ecology with humanist socialism. This leads to a common emphasis on reduced working hours and basic income guarantee as the key contemporary social policy imperatives (Gorz 1994: 23; Lipietz 1992: 7791). It also means that the French Greens, like Gorz, identify the principle of self limitation through the expansion of autonomy as central to the achievement of sustainable development in the long term (Gorz 1993; Lipietz 1995: 424).

From Capitalism to Post-industrial Socialism: Two Models of Transition Where Gorzs and the Green movements approaches to political ecology differ most is in relation to the wider context of demands from which the humanist-socialist policy of reduced working hours and basic income guarantee is advanced. These differences of approach and their political consequences are examined by Gorz in Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology (pp.102117). In an essay entitled Shorter Hours, Same Pay, which was first published in Partage, the monthly paper of the French unemployed workers union, Gorz presents and analyses two distinct four year models of transition from capitalism to post-industrial socialism. These models are outlined and examined below; while the empirical


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detail of the two models relate specifically to the French economy, the key propositions of each can be readily applied to any advanced capitalist economy. The first model, which incorporates Gorzs favoured approach, can be labelled humanist radical productivism or radical productivism. This model is productivist in the sense that it presupposes positive economic growth. National output is also assumed to be unconstrained by environmental regulation (at least during the initial four year transitional period) and continues to grow at normal rates. Thus, in the four year period, output increases by 8% (2% per annum) and productivity increases by 12% (3% per annum). The approach can be considered radical in at least two respects. Firstly, it assumes that workers achieve significant economic advances on three distinct fronts: hence, working hours fall (by 9%), average real wages increase (by 3%) and the workforce expands (by 5%) thereby reducing unemployment. Secondly, the model appears to abstract from important economic constraints which would normally be associated with the bargaining process between labour and capital; in particular, the impact of the model on industrial production costs and profitability are not explicitly considered. Instead, Gorz chooses to emphasise the technical feasibility of the model which follows from the assumption of positive growth and significant increases in productivity (Gorz 1994: 103). Gorz does reject other political choices available on the basis of the productivist model, such as a 12% wage rise with no reduction in working hours and a 4% reduction in the size of the workforce (Gorz 1994: 105). This choice clearly needs to be rejected because it is inconsistent with the establishment of the humanist project (reductions in working hours) or with the forging of social alliances and solidarities with those precariously employed or out of work (rising unemployment). However, what needs to be noted at this stage is that the immediate relevance of any version of the productivists model to the new social movements and non-productivist interests is unclear since they all (including Gorzs choice) completely abstract from the ecological imperative, a point that will be further considered below. To understand why Gorz chooses the productivist model of transition it is necessary to look in more detail at his main criticisms of the Green movement. His principal criticism focuses on the Green movements advocacy of zero growth and the overriding priority it gives to the ecological imperative relative to

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other progressive demands. As was noted earlier, Gorz is highly critical of those in the Green movement the environmentalists who view the question of sustainable development as a technical problem whose solution is primarily a question of scientific intervention and bureaucratic regulation (Gorz 1993). This was the dominant approach spawned by the Club of Rome Report, The Limits to Growth, in the early 1970s. Gorz maintains that, uncoupled from the imperatives of humanist socialism, environmentalism becomes anti-democratic, implying the imposition by an expertocracy of a model of sustainable development which serves the interests of a social elite at the expense of the majority. Arguing against such a contradictory project, Gorz insists that the ecological movement cannot be reduced to the demand that the environment be protected (in other words, political ecology cannot be reduced to the ecological imperative). If it is, Gorz argues, its demands will end up, sooner or later, being taken on board by capitalism and nothing will have changed (Gorz 1994: 94). Yet Gorzs critique of the Green movement extends beyond right environmentalism to include much of the Green left. In particular, the French Green Party is criticised for incorporating an explicit programme of environmental regulation into its broader manifesto for social transformation towards postindustrial socialism (see Lipietz 1995). Gorzs critique of the Green Partys proposals is based, first, on the subordination of the ecological imperative to the imperatives of humanist socialism and second, on identifying the environmental policy demands of the Green Party as a political impediment to the realisation of the humanist-socialist project. The key to Gorzs critique can be found in the overriding importance he attaches to the idea of self-limitation (discussed above) as the only non-authoritarian, democratic way towards an eco-compatible industrial civilisation (Gorz 1993: 64). This contrasts most evidently with left-Green fundamentalism, as exemplified by the work of Rudolph Bahro (1982; 1984; 1986), where the imposition of a sustainable model of development is seen to involve massive cuts in material output and consequently bureaucratic rationing of scarce material resources (a left authoritarianism; see Barratt Brown 1985: 110111). But direct ecological regulation features, to a greater or lesser degree, as a defining imperative throughout the Green movement. The overriding emphasis Gorz gives to self-limitation thus distinguishes


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his model of sustainable development not only from right environmentalism but also from left-Green fundamentalism and the humanist radical ecology of the Green Party (discussed below). Since Gorz also adopts an explicitly productivist model of transition, the priority he gives to self-limitation in fact requires the subordination of ecology initially, at least to the more immediate objectives of the humanist-socialist project. As was discussed earlier, the institutional and social policy foundations necessary for the growth of a politics and culture of self-limitation the expansion of free time and the uncoupling of income from waged work are absent under capitalism. Hence, self-limitation can only emerge as a general tendency once the foundations of a sustainable society have already been established. As a coherent political project self-limitation thus pre-supposes an existent postindustrial socialist society where the objective conditions for autonomous development have already been institutionally secured and considerably extended (see Gorz 1993: 637). In Gorzs model such objective conditions include the 32 hour week and the introduction of the social cheque, uncoupling basic income from alienated work (Gorz 1994: 10810). The second transitionary model outlined by Gorz corresponds closely to the approach of the French Green Party and can be labelled humanist radical ecology or radical ecology. The key difference in the radical ecology model is that it assumes an explicit ecological imperative which restricts the expansion of output and increases economic costs. By definition this represents a rejection of productivism. In Gorzs presentation which he claims corresponds to Lipietzs (Lipietz 1992: 86; 1995: 4950) zero growth of the national economy is assumed. The zero growth constraint corresponds to the process of environmental restructuring initiated in the first four year transitionary period. This takes the form of various controls and regulations on capital accumulation, for example strict pollution controls, strict health and safety standards at work, as well as taxes and other penalties and restrictions to discourage the production and consumption of ecologically damaging commodities such as private cars (Lipietz 1995: 558). The model assumes that in the first four year period productivity increases by 9% (3% less than in the productivist model). This allows for a 13% cut in working hours (to a 34 hour week), and an expansion of employment of 4%. However, in contrast with the productivist model, average wages must fall (by

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4%) since the same amount of national wealth has to be shared out among a (4%) larger workforce. The leading exponent of the radical ecology model is the French regulation school theorist Alain Lipietz. Lipietz has been an active member of the French Green Party since the late 1980s. As an ecologist and political economist Lipietz has been concerned to examine the relationship between ecological and economic imperatives and to consider the implications these constraints have for the political articulation of progressive models of social and economic of regulation. These related concerns have been examined most comprehensively in Towards a New Economic Order (1992) subtitled Post-Fordism, Ecology and Democracy and more recently in Green Hopes (1995) subtitled The Future of Political Ecology. Lipietzs work has been highly critical of the productivist left and its demand for a radicalisation of the Fordist compromise. These demands were articulated first in the late 1970s and early 1980s, notably by the French Communist union centre, the CGT. However, as in the work of Gorz, radical productivist demands have resurfaced on the left in more recent years in response to the debates on working time which have taken place in Europe in the context of high and long term unemployment. In France these debates crystallised in the publication of a number of different proposals for the introduction of a four-day working week (for a detailed survey and analysis see Bastian 1995). The CGT has opposed these proposals on the grounds that they would require unacceptable wage cuts for many workers as well as the introduction of flexible working practices, notably the extension of shift working. But other union groupings, such as the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT), have been more supportive of bargained reductions in working time as have other major European union groupings, notably the German DGB and the German metal workers union IG Metall as well as the Italian union Confederation, CGIL. Lipietz has argued that the productivist demand for shorter hours without loss of pay fails to confront a whole set of important economic, political and sociological constraints and imperatives which have profoundly affected the real choices available to the labour movements of advanced capitalist societies. The main economic constraints confronting radical productivism relate to the supply-side imperatives of global capitalism. To be feasible a policy of reduced working hours must be introduced in


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such a way that it does not undermine competitive accumulation. Lipietz has argued that the parameters of competitive accumulation have been greatly conditioned in advanced capitalist societies by the crisis of Fordism and the corresponding crisis of the Keynesian mode of regulation (Lipietz 1992: 123). This crisis has been determined by the growth in the international mobility of capital and the declining capacity of national governments to regulate and protect the domestic economy and determine the broader objectives of national policy. In advocating radical productivism as part of a broader progressive strategy, Gorz fails to confront these changing economic and political realities and thus fails to break with the Fordist model. Indeed the productivist model favoured by Gorz closely approximates to the radicalisation of Fordism/Keynesianism attempted by the Mitterrand government in the early 1980s and still supported by the French Communist unions. This collapsed after 1981 following a severe national economic crisis in France caused by capital flight, inflation, balance of payments deficits and monetary instability, which accompanied successive devaluations of the franc. Lipietz maintains that the failure of Mitterrands radicalised perfection of the Fordist compromise provides evidence of the bankruptcy of the lefts productivist model and its incompatibility with the globalisation of capital accumulation (Lipietz 1986: 3; Barbrook 1989: 105). Lipietz further argues that the crisis of the Fordist regime of accumulation has important sociological and political implications which challenge the efficacy of the productivist model. These centre on the impact of the collapse of Keynesianism and government guaranteed full employment on labour market divisions and the universe of bargaining constraints faced by the unions and the organised working class in post-industrial society (see Lipietz 1994; Bastian 1995). The emergence and growth of labour market and social division between included and excluded workers, which followed the collapse of Keynesianism, has been entrenched in many societies notably in Britain and the USA by the political dominance of neo-liberalism or what Lipietz terms liberal productivism (Lipietz 1992: 3047; 1995: 3541). This change in the dominant mode of regulation, which represented a response from the right to the crisis of Fordism, has generated a crisis for the old Fordist model of unionism. In particular, Fordist unionism can no longer claim to speak for and advance the interests of all workers because the growth of labour market divisions and most

Which Path to Paradise?


dramatically the emergence of a permanent mass of unemployed workers serves to exclude millions of people from effective union representation. Under liberal productivism, Lipietz argues, the traditional aspiration of the trade union movement towards a universal politics conflicts with a growing reality of interest group politics. Such a crisis of union politics can be seen to correspond with the contradictory duality within unionism first identified by Flanders in the 1960s and which, in Britain, was exacerbated by the economic and industrial relations policy of the Thatcher government (MacInnes 1987; see also Hardey 1990). Flanders duality thesis distinguished between the role of trade unions as organisations campaigning for social justice and the more instrumentalist role they adopt in the pursuit of vested interests. The crisis of Fordism has intensified this contradiction because it has meant that the state can no longer successfully use Keynesian demand management to secure full employment. The trade union defence of the immediate interests of their members thus comes into conflict with the interests of excluded workers and the pursuit of more universal objectives. At the level of state policy, it becomes increasingly difficult to meet the economistic demands of Fordist unions while at the same time maintaining relative social unity and social inclusion (OConnor 1973; Gough 1980). For Lipietz this developing contradiction within union politics represents a collapse of the organicism that was central to the success of the Fordist compromise as a social project and has created a crisis of solidarity within the labour movement which has been crucial in sustaining the anti-organic paradigm of liberal productivism (Lipietz 1994: 3415). For Lipietz the crisis of the Fordist regime of accumulation is thus reflected in the political crisis of the Fordist left and its essentially productivist demands for Keynsian (demand based) full employment, wage increases and cuts in hours worked. Under modern, post-Fordist, conditions, Lipietz maintains, such demands might at best be advanced individually, as alternatives, but not simultaneously as a realistic programme of advances (Lipietz 1992: 802). Instead, what is required is a genuine alternative compromise which seeks to articulate labour advances, through negotiated involvement, within the parameters of feasibility established by the crisis of Fordism, the ecological crisis and the imperatives of new social solidarities. In Lipietzs judgement it is the radical ecology model outlined above which most coherently articulates the progressive alternative.


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III. SOCIALISM, ECOLOGY AND THE POLITICS OF TRANSITION While Gorz and the French Green Party thus adopt very different models of transition towards post industrial socialism radical productivism and radical ecology respectively they nevertheless share a common ultimate objective. This is a humanist socialism based on expanded autonomy and self-limitation where, as Gorz puts it, less means better. Given this coincidence of objectives it would seem that Gorzs rejection of the Green model of transition has to be explained, principally, in terms of his negative assessment of its political feasibility. The key issue here concerns the political feasibility of combining reduced working hours and zero growth. Gorz rejects this policy, arguing that it would alienate both the employed and the unemployed sections of the workforce. The Green Party strategy would be unpopular with currently employed core workers, Gorz maintains, since they would be required to take significant cuts in pay which could only be partially offset by compensating benefits from the state. This would alienate the most educated and influential fraction of the active, employed population and thus undermine core support for reduced working hours (Gorz 1994: 103). Gorz also doubts whether those who initially benefit most economically from reduced working hours the unemployed and those currently engaged in unskilled, precarious employment, would continue to support the policy if economic growth was restricted in line with Green Party proposals. This is because the progressive absorption of previously marginalised groups into the expanding sector of skilled employment would then go hand in hand with declining wages in that sector. As Gorz (1994: 107) puts it, Can we increase the number of skilled jobs and, at the same time, reduce the level of remuneration for such jobs? Can we expect the most skilled workers to suffer the drawbacks of a policy of reduced working hours before they have even been able to discover its advantages? I do not believe so. In making a political judgement about the feasibility of the Green model Gorz thus implicitly maintains that skilled workers would be unwilling to accept cuts in their income in return for other benefits, including shorter hours and greater job and income security, while the unemployed and peripheral workers would be less supportive of the expansion and redistribution of skilled employment if this meant a significant decline in remuneration for such jobs. The zero growth model is thus rejected by Gorz because he fears that the austerity it requires would make it politically unfeasible.

Which Path to Paradise?


Can Gorzs negative assessment of the political feasibility of the Green model be justified or, alternatively, can it be argued that in arriving at this conclusion Gorzs political judgement is unduly pessimistic? One point that should be noted in this respect is that Gorz makes little attempt to contextualise, sociologically or economically, the choices and decisions facing the key economic groups whose political behaviour he seeks to anticipate. Instead he simply asserts that the scope for choice and the possibilities for political and social alliances are greatest under the productivist model (Gorz 1994: 75, 107). While this point may possibly be construed as formally or technically valid it seems, nevertheless, to be politically contentious. In practice, Gorzs claim in favour of the productivist model cannot be meaningfully evaluated without first taking into account the complexity of economic and political bargaining constraints which confront different groups of workers at different historical conjunctures and which profoundly affect the choices and decisions available to them. The importance of the changing nature of the bargaining environment has been forcefully considered recently by Bastian (1994: 3045) in relation to the responses of European trade unions to a number of recent proposals for reduced working time. Bastian argues that union leaders have faced considerable difficulties in coming to terms with such proposals because of the shift this requires from the old and familiar constraints of Fordist bargaining towards a new bargaining environment informed by an explicit assessment of the diversity of working time and income preferences of the union rank and file. Such new and relatively unfamiliar constraints in the bargaining process have been conditioned, at least in part, by the direct and indirect experience many workers have had of the economic uncertainties and insecurities created by permanent unemployment. Bastian maintains therefore that the old assumptions of full employment and continuous economic growth are no longer relevant to the bargaining process. However, to the extent that they are nevertheless maintained by union negotiators, they provide a poor guide to the preferences and needs of the membership. It is certainly debatable therefore whether or not Gorzs pessimistic judgement on the political feasibility of the radical ecology model is justifiable. What in some ways seems far more puzzling and problematic is that, apparently as a consequence of this political judgement, Gorz chooses to abandon the ecological imperative as an immediate and urgent political project and instead

100 Capital & Class G 59 embraces a radicalised version of productivism, maintaining that this is the only feasible root towards a future society of sustainable socialism. This position seems, to say the least, contradictory, and as such suggests a number of awkward questions; for example, how is it possible to advance political ecology by rejecting the ecological imperative and Green politics; how can self-limitation be encouraged by demanding higher average wages; how do such demands encourage social solidarity and the forging of political alliances between the labour movement and the new social movements? Gorz provides no clear answers to such questions. Furthermore, Gorzs advocacy of the productivist model seems clearly to be at odds with his own analysis of the sociology of postindustrial society (see Gorz 1982; Gorz 1994: 8592). This has emphasised the crisis of productivism, highlighted the political importance of new social movements and recognised the challenges to more traditional left notions of class politics thrown up by the marginalisation of work through technological advance. Indeed Gorz has, at times, examined the political crisis of productivism in great detail and has emphasised the difficulties this crisis creates for progressive political movements. Gorz has, for example, identified important barriers to socialist solidarity created by the crisis of productivism and the growing complexity of social divisions under advanced, post-industrial, capitalism (Gorz 1985: 628; 1989: 183190, 227; 1994: 1526). Most significantly in the current context, Gorz has argued that the crisis of productivism requires a fundamental reconceptualisation of the leadership role of trade unions and the organised working class away from the old politics fashioned by Fordism and Keynesianism and towards a new politics, involving coalitions and alliances with new social movements and with socially excluded groups such as the growing number of precariously employed workers in the capitalist service sector as well as the unemployed. This would all seem to suggest that the successful development of a new progressive politics must begin by recognising the weaknesses of and constraints on the traditional productivist demands of the old labour movement. Yet, as we have seen, Gorz seems in fact to advocate a radicalisation of these traditional demands which explicitly excludes a key aspect of the politics of environmentalism and the new social movements, namely, the zero growth imperative. It must be concluded, therefore, that there exists a contradiction in Gorzs work between the old politics of productivism and productivist wage demands, and the new politics of post-industrialism

Which Path to Paradise?


and political ecology. This contradiction is rooted in Gorzs advocacy of a productivist transitional project. It contrasts with the cogency of the radical ecology advanced by Alain Lipietz and the French Green Party. This avoids the contradictions of the productivist path to sustainable socialism by articulating an alternative left politics within the parameters of feasibility set by, on the one hand, the crisis of Fordism and on the other hand, the ecological imperative. ______________________________
I would like to thank Neil Maycroft, Larry Wilde and Peter Clarke for reading and offering useful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. I have also discussed the ideas in the article with Jim Shorthose, Adam Barnard, Karl Haselden and Linda Swinckels. Thanks, also, to them. Finally, I would like to thank the anonymous referees at Capital&Class for their helpful comments.


1. Ecology as Politics was first published in English in 1980. However, it is a collection of articles and essays written in the early 1970s. 2. For Gorz such needs can be considered false in the sense that they are needs specifically conditioned by the dominance of heteronomy over autonomy. The logical inference is thus that, were things otherwise, that is, if autonomy dominated heteronomy, needs would also be different and would be met in different ways. False also indicates that the shift to needs defined by autonomy is progressive. 3. The term productivism is used here to refer to a political economy premised on and committed to positive economic growth. It also refers to the articulation of progressive economic demands, for example, the demand for reduced working hours without loss of income or with increased income, which pressuposses positive economic growth as a means. The usage of the term is this article is derived from Lipietz (1992).


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