How Capitalism’s Emphasis on Growth Is Destroying the Planet (and How to Stop It) | by Odin Halvorson | February 2024

Part One: An Introduction to Capitalism and Sustainability

This article is part of a series exploring capitalism and sustainability. Be sure to follow my blog and sign up for email updates so you don’t miss any of my work!

Capitalism has many possible definitions and modes of behavior. It is not only an economic system, but a philosophical system. We know that capitalism has worked in small ways for most of human history (Harris & Delanty, 2023, p. 339). However, it is only within modernity that its marriage with mercantilism, debt and bureaucratic power has given rise to the consolidated hydra that underlies our assumptions about the world.

In his article “What is Capitalism? Towards a Working Definition’, Neal Harris and Gerard Delanty arrive at a comprehensive definition of capitalism based on its historical and modern contexts and the way in which sectors of knowledge and behavior beyond the purely economic interact.

In short, they propose that capitalism be defined as an economic system characterized by private ownership of the means of production, where free markets, competitive enterprise, and the pursuit of profit drive the production and distribution of goods and services, supported by wage labor, by property rights. , financial mechanisms, government regulation and continuous growth through reinvestment of profits.

Try saying that three times fast.

It is divided into seven main categories:

  1. Free enterprise and the competitive market.
  2. The pursuit of profit and its private appropriation.
  3. Wage work and production of goods.
  4. Ownership rights.
  5. A financial infrastructure of money and investment that facilitates credit and debt.
  6. Highly variable degree of state regulation.
  7. Propensity to grow through productive reinvestment of profits.

Although none of this is easy to describe in itself. Consider, for example, Karl Marx’s theory of surplus value, which…

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