Joachim Spangenberg: Production Pattern – Workshop Suggestions

In the process of narrowing down the issue of debate, the sub-item „production and consumption patterns” has been dropped. This is a pity from my point of view for two reasons:

(i)                  Production patterns should remind us of the fact that besides the financilisation, there is a physical side of the economy, and its development is unsustainable. While many – also on the left – agree that economic growth stimulation is the key means to overcome the crisis, to “grow out of the crisis”, be it for job creation, tax revenue generation or (on the other side of the bench) for profit maximisation, the objective is shared across the traditional left-right divide (except for German ideologists). However, the growth potential is not what economists calculate, but restricted by social and environmental factors, a fact known and largely ignored for about a century now. Any left anti-crisis strategy must be compatible with a longer-term sustainability strategy – if it is counterproductive in the context, it is not suitable. Where is the point where such criteria are brought in? What is the horizon of our strategic debates?

(ii)                One of the reasons why capitalism has been so successful is that it always managed to cater human demands (if necessary, demands itself created, from tamagochis to high-speed transport and aviation). So dissatisfaction with the provisioning capacity of capitalism seems to be one of the conditions for mobilising for change. This is where consumption patterns come in – either because in the crisis human demands are not met (one reason for the growthmania is the attempt to keep the masses calm by filling this gap), or because human demands are changing in a way that goes beyond what a market system can deliver (usually only for a limited time – then alternatives of all kinds, from cooperatives to sharing approaches or freeware provision – are transformed intro “business opportunities”. So what are the changes needed on the consumption side, what do left strategies have to offer to be acceptable and mobilising, and which are the intervention points against the status quo? Which bottom-up, grassroots activism opportunities do arise? How can that be mustered for a longer term, visionary strategy of societal change?

In total, there is a risk that the current crisis absorbs so much of our analytical capacities that its larger framing remains underemphasised. That is no pledge for neglecting the current struggles, but one for taking a safe direction when looking for escapes. We need roadmaps out of the swamp we are caught in, but even if successful, it will matter at which side we are coming out of it. So the question for a suitable compass may sound detached from current struggles, but it is is not negliable when looking for the exit.

I hope we find a slot to deal with these challenges as well in our workshops.

For a flavour of what could be discussed, please see the attached paper.

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