The world is not in a transition , it metamorphoses. And we don’t see it.

Looking for answers in areas that are not my specialism , I recently took along three books on holiday. And that was a very interesting choice, as well as the coincidental order in which I read them.
I understand – at least I think – by now how the world works physically and environmentally, and also economically I start to develop some insight (money just has no value, is a belief, the clothes of the emperor) but how it works social, legal, or political I am still discovering. So this holiday I read a few books from a completely different angle than I normally do. “You only see it when you understand it”, as Johan Cruijff once put it, and in order to understand you have to venture off the beaten track.

I started with a book on a combination of economics and policy , the book ‘Adults in the Room’, by Yanis Varoufakis. [1] And the image that emerges from that report of a political-economic period is frightening: its like cow trading, to keep a bankrupt system afloat. Stunning report of negotiations between Greece and the troika, which not only dismantled the economy behind it, but certainly also unmasked politics. And Dijsselbloem, the Dutch minister and a socialist, does not get off too well. Money and debt is a game, a kind of monopoly, in the hands of politicians. It is absolutely not about people, or their needs. It is about maintaining institutions that maintain the status quo, the liberal growth model, the diseased banking system, and the money factory. It is juggling with debts, with in fact non-existent money. And in any case with non-existent value of that money. Anyway, we already knew this from earlier reports of the banking crises, and several authors who wrote about it. In fact, many agree that the current (financial) economic system * is not sustainable, especially in combination with democratic liberal politics, if we want to control the depletion of raw materials, loss of biodiversity, climate change, and some of those things. Then it will be necessary to look at other systems. Adam Smith appears to be wrong (who still thought that all sources were infinite). So then maybe Marx, but in a modern variant? That was my next book: Organic Marxism. [2].

The authors seek a way between Marxism and liberalism, and try to combine both in search of a better social organization to live in balance with the environment and climate. A balance between socialism and even communism on one side, in which “property” does not exist, at least, everything belongs to the people, and liberalism, where private property is the highest good.
The backgrounds of the author and of the promoters of the book initially aroused suspicion, so I had little hope that this would be an objective analysis, but well, you want to broaden your horizons and then you should not shy away from this. But the book contains amazingly good analyzes, partly historical, such as the definition of freedom, of market, of justice, of property etc. Very enlightening, and showing how we have created a mix of vague definitions, concepts and interpretations in which we ourselves have come to believe. For example, ‘freedom’ is nowadays often identified with ‘free market’. But those are two completely different things.

And he clearly shows from analyzing many publications that Capitalism does not work, at least not for 100% of humanity, but only for 1 %. Harvey quoting, the authors conclude that: “to restore a balance, some capital must be eliminated”. That’s what I thought too. But even capitalist countries are already using this strategy, only not for their own balance: if relations between countries develop wrongly, they force others to capital destruction, either through trade wars, dumping goods, influencing interest rates, force countries to change course, and even start wars straight away, thereby destroying capital with the other and safeguarding or increasing their own financial interests, such as oil interests in the Gulf War. Something we also learned from Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine) [3]
The book is very convincing in the sense that, now that we know that sources are finite, a combination should be found between socialism / Marxism and liberalism, what the authors call Organic Marxism: ‘Distribution of resources into harmony with what people actually need to survive, not with their unlimited desires. ‘

Indeed, it is the available amount of resources, divided by the number of earthlings, distributed fairly. (Brundtland 2.0 as I wrote earlier [4] ) And how to organize that is what I’m looking for.
Unfortunately, the elaboration of the concept does not really convince. An Enlightenment 2.0 is needed, that is clear, just as “ownership” in this debate has again a key role: a person’s work gives no right to property, because the material for production already existed (the sources): ‘Labor creates value, but not property’, which I found a convincing argument, useful to to further to be explored. (to redefine value, also of money).
The organic Marxists also assume that a new form of society and governance can gradually be introduced by politicians and national governments: a gradual transition . But that is exactly where the pain is, national democratic politics seem to fail to act sufficiently. Coincidence or not, the third book that I read is exactly addressing this issue, and paints a completely different picture: the book “Metamorphosis of the world” by Ulrich Beck. [5]

Central proposition: The world struggles with changes that rise above national influence and control: migration, but also products trade, biodiversity (-loss), traveling / flying, medical activities (exchange of sperm and organs across borders), genetic manipulation (where it is legal but that also influences the developments where it is illegal), nutrient depletion across borders, resource availability, and of course  CO2 / climate change, to name a few.
National borders have long since become obsolete, trying to settle matters at national level is rumors in the margins: multinationals, criminals, ICT, banks, refugees, everything has already moved beyond its national borders. People themselves also go to another country , if something is not available or allowed in their own country (transplants, medical treatments, adoptions, abortions, work, brides). Legal systems are not designed for this. And all this therefore requires an international approach, which is not in place. But he even goes a step further: This is not a transition, in which some things change and others remain the same, he foresees and describes the emergence of a different world order: the world itself undergoes a metamorphosis, where nothing remains the same. And hardly anyone notices what is going on, and no one can actually predict how that will develop or evolve. The international institutions that we do have, and could play a role in this, are mainly set up to maintain the existing status quo. But that is undermined by the side effects of that same system. (that what we see as common goods, create common bads) And these side effects are largely invisible, and if they do become visible, they are often downplayed or even made politically invisible: framed, just like climate change has been for decades . And still: politics suggest that we can innovate our way out, but that will create growth as a result , enlarging the hidden side effects, the bads. I can wholeheartedly endorse this . It is only in the case of a disaster that the ‘world risk society’, as he calls it, becomes -partially- visible. That people realize that there really is a problem, just as the aftermath of Chernobyl for the first time showed the real consequences of nuclear energy, when the outfall went far beyond national borders, and therefor threatened people globally, for which no institutional approach was available. And so he presents countless examples.

Globalization is therefore not a transformation, or cosmopolitan development, but the world itself “cosmopolitisises”, undergoes a metamorphosis and we have no knowledge of it and no answer to it. Following that line of thought, it is therefore too late to introduce some form of organic-marxism at national level, to try to solve the world’s problems nationally.
It is clear in any case that change is needed in all areas. Politically, financially, socially, they have to reinvent themselves. At this point Beck cites Copernicus, as an example of a great revolution, that the sun does not revolve around the earth but the earth around the sun: he sees that metamorphosis of the world risk society as a 2.0 version of Copernicus, of which we can not yet see what that means implies or changes the world order..
Inspired by that I would like to conclude, we slowly find out, little late, that the earth in turn does not revolve around people, but that people revolve around the earth. (Figuratively, and literally !) And there can be no question of any private claim on that earth. If we do not deal with this, and especially globally and with social fairness, it becomes an unregulated cosmopolitanized struggle for sources that will take place outside or beyond any jurisdiction or political influence.


* Financial economy: we have been leaving out the word financial, so it seems that economy is only about money. But economy can be related to much more than that. So always mention which kind of economy is addressed: financial economy, labor economy, resource economy (economic use) etc. ( its comparable to freedom that has become synonymous with ‘free market’.)


[1] Adults in the Room: My Battle With Europe’s Deep Establishment. London and New York: Random House, 2017 (ISBN 9781473547827)

[2] Organic Marxism, Philip Clayton, Justin Heinzekehr, 2914m Process Century Press, isbn 978-1-940447-02-5

[3]The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism , Naomi Klein, 2008, ISBN: 9780141024530

[4] UK: Dutch:

[5] The Metamorphosis of the World: How Climate Change is Transforming Our Concept of the World. Ulrich Beck , Wiley, March 2016 ISBN: 978-0-745-69021-6


Author: ronald rovers