Environmental Ethics

Volume 27, Issue 3, Fall 2005

Costa Panayotakis
Pages 227-244

Environmental Ethics and Capitalism’s Dialetic of Scarcity

A non-productivist Marxism departing from the analysis of capitalism’s “dialectic of scarcity” can make a valuable contribution to the field of environmental ethics. On the one hand, the analysis of capitalism’s dialectic of scarcity shows that the ethical yardstick by which capitalism should be measured is immanent in this social system’s dynamic tendencies. On the other hand, this analysis exposes capitalism’s inability to fulfill the potential for an ecologically sustainable society without unnecessary human suffering that capitalism’s technological dynamism generates. This argument can be illustrated by a critical analysis of Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist. An exploration of capitalism’s dialectic of scarcity can bring to light those weaknesses and internal contradictions of antiecological discourses that are likely to escape the attention of non-Marxist ecologists. This analysis shows that to the extent capitalism’s dialectic of scarcity encourages the fragmentation of social justice and environmental movements, a critical analysis of this dialectic can contribute to the formation of the alliance of emancipatory movements that the attainment of a just and ecologically sustainable society presupposes.