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“The Social Immune System and the Cancer Stage of Capitalism” by Prof John McMurtry (1995)

The Social Immune System and the Cancer Stage of Capitalism

John McMurtry

John McMurtry is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1). He specializes in social and political philosophy and value theory. His latest book, The Global Market as an Ethical System, will be published in spring 1996 by Garamond.

Source: Social Justice, Vol. 22, No. 4 (62),
Public Health in the 1990s:
In the Shadow of Global Transformation & Militarism (Winter 1995), pp. 1-25
Published by: Social Justice/Global Options

WHEN WE THINK OF A SOCIETY’S “DEFENSE SYSTEM,” WE THINK OF ITS ARMED FORCES. We have long been conditioned to do this. The military industrial establishment and the armaments business are the world’s most powerful institutions of organized violence and international trade. For them to preserve their vast systems of power, it is essential that they be sold as society’s primary form of “self-defense” (e.g., at least $700 million a day of demand on the U.S. public purse alone).1 Society’s real system of self-defense, its public health process, is in this way deprived of its proper social resources and functions. At the same time, ever more invasive assaults on the protection and circulation of means of life within societies by environmental despoliation, redistribution of wealth from the poor and middle-income classes to the rich, and radical dismantling of public forms of life-provision now attack society’s health and life-defenses from another side.2 In these ways, we now confront a situation where the cumulative breakdown of society’s structures of life-security and health protection poses a more systemically far-reaching threat to social and planetary well-being than we are yet prepared for.

In this context, we must look through a wider lens at what we call “public health.” Public health regimes regulated by self-conscious scientific practices are a comparatively recent evolution, originating in Europe in the latter half of the 18th century with, as Michel Foucault puts it, “the accumulation of bodies” in large cities during the industrial capitalist expansion. The intensive concentrations of propertyless humanity in rising capitalist production centers introduced a host of new and deadly problems of runaway sewage, fouled water supplies, adulterated foods, contagious diseases, roaming street people, abandoned children, extreme poverty and degradation, infirm and aged people without familial supports, and so on – much as we see growing again in the unfettered “free market” cities of today at the end of the 20th century.3

Subsequent to its initial development in Europe and Britain, public health came to be associated with a host of municipal, regional, and national government regulations to secure the prevention of disease and the promotion of health in social populations – from laws to ensure the purity of food and water supplies, to administrative and liability norms to protect workers’ health and safety, to public educational systems to develop cognitive capabilities essential to social and individual survival within vast, interconnected organizations of interdependent functions constituting contemporary social bodies. When surveying the increasing state and public-sector mediations of every aspect of our lives by complex, articulated systems of life-protective circulation and regulation of social intercourse and functions, one begins to recognize that – despite its continuous errors, oversights, and dogmas – this historically evolved organization of societies for the protection of their members against disease, trauma, and dysfunction is a determining level of species survival and development. It is a social immune system.

To measure the competence of this “social immune system” in any given society, we now have standard indicators of infant mortality, disease frequencies and ratios, average life expectancies and indices of mortality, distribution of life resources across social memberships, national fitness levels, grades of mental competence, and measures of citizen participation in the organizational development of social bodies as functioning wholes. To an increasing extent, these various social indicators of social health and well-being have become more complex and detailed than the medical profiles and records of individual patient organisms.

In recognizing this evolution of social life-organization and the corresponding immune defense systems, we must be very careful not to reduce the individual, as some political theorists like Hegel and the fascists have done, to a mere function and element of a social organism. Rather, we must understand that human individuals are dependent upon the larger social bodies to which they belong for their healthful reproduction and expression. To exist as individuals functionally able to realize individual capacities in a state of normal health, they must be protected members of social bodies. Individual persons are not reducible to, but are based upon the socially interrelated whole to which they belong for their life requirements to be fulfilled, and for their health to be secured. If we imagine the absence from our lives of an evolved social system of life protection, we immediately realize how precarious and lethally exposed individual human life becomes without it – for example, against contagious plagues, toxins, and insecure conditions of life and information transmission. In 14th-century Europe and Asia, up to three-quarters of individual humans suffered horrible deaths without the system of social immune defense that we now take for granted.

Knowing the Enemy

Confusion about social immune defense, however, is a very longstanding problem in human societies. Although social immune systems have evolved to collectively ensure the lives and reproduction of society’s members free of disease and breakdown, there have also been barbaric regressions in times of great social stress. Atavistic attacks on minority populations as “unclean” or “foreign” elements have been unleashed in murderous “defenses” of a spurious social self. We see in these cases a disordered social immune system at work – a false recognition of a “not-self’ agent and response by extinctive attack or isolation. As primitive derangements of the social immune system, they too require eradicative recognition and cure. Civilization gradually selects out these social immune-system disorders as long as there are not more general breakdowns in the health of the social host ( e.g., massive impoverishment of the social body’s members). In these cases there is a danger that social immune regimes will atavize to false identification of disease agents ( e.g., the impoverished themselves or a different-looking group). Such disordered targetings of “foreign elements” in the social body are normally exploited by ruling interests that benefit from the disorder, as in the promotion of anti-Semitic, anticommunist, or racist movements to deflect public attention from the real problems afflicting a social life-organization.

We have observed these social-immune disorders in various forms, from “witch hunts” across the nations of Europe in the later 16th century to “anti-subversive” exterminations in developing countries across the world in the Reagan period of the 1980s. We see them again in the 1990s in “ethnic cleansing” operations in postcommunist Yugoslavia and in “social cleansing” operations by right-wing governments across the world that attack the poor and unemployed. These immune-regime pathologies in social bodies are perhaps history’s most virulent plagues. By failing to recognize the underlying roots of the social immune response that deranged rightist movements capitalize on and direct onto spurious agents, we overlook the unconscious ground out of which they arise. We thus remain vulnerable to the disease and have failed to respond to the actual disorder by redirecting the social-immune system to the real disease pattern. Until we are able to distinguish between society’s pathological self-protective operations and its healthy self-defense operations, we remain in a darkness of confusion. This is a particularly deep problem now. Pathological social-immune responses are on the rise across the world, from the Balkans to the U.S. Congress. A healthy social-immune response remains disoriented in the face of an as yet unrecognized disease agent that is attacking planetary life-organization at every level.

Telling Health from Disease

How can we tell a pathological social immune defense from a healthy one? The recognizing principle for any disease, individual or social, is the extent to which it disables the life-host. With the individual organism, we test for and discern disease by symptoms manifesting the disorder – impairments or interferences with normal operations of the body that are states of morbidity to the extent that they reduce the host organism’s range of bodily or mental functioning. Broken bones, dislocations, and torn muscles are easy to tell because the host immediately experiences a decisively reduced ability to move. Infectious diseases are less easy to tell, but they invariably manifest themselves as real health problems to the extent that their continuance manifests a loss of bodily or mental function that the healthy organism normally possesses.

With health problems, the severity of the affliction is always identifiable by its reduction of the host’s range of life. This life-range reduction is, in turn, calibrated by the degree of its disablement.

We can express these principles of individual or social health and disease in a simple axiom: The more the life-host is disabled, the worse the disease or the health problem is. That is, the extent of the health problem is recognized by how much of the host’s range of life function is lost from the reference body of the prediseased state, and by how long this deprivation lasts. At worst, the affliction approaches totality in its disablement, with the limiting point in this process of functional reduction being the premature death of the life-host.

This general criterion for distinguishing between health and disease admits of progressive refinement and sophistication. For instance, a society that loses or is deprived of its former capacities to provide nutriments, protection against pathogens, or literacy education for its citizens is suffering from a disease of the social body. Conversely, a society that defends itself against such systemic disablements of its living capacities is healthy to the extent that it does so, and becomes healthier the more it enables these and other capacities that extend the social body’s range of life abilities and functions (e.g., its members’ average physical fitness, vital longevity, freedom from environmental pollutants and destruction, and scope and diversity of cultural activities). Whatever promotes more comprehensive ranges of an individual’s or society’s joint capacities to act, feel, and think is the direction of its health protection and development. Whatever reduces or eliminates these life ranges is the direction of its disease, and obtains in proportion to the extent of the life functions it disables.

The criterion of enabling or disabling the host’s life-range is also applicable to the issue of a diseased or healthy defense of the social body. Clearly, burnings of “witches,” “eradication of subversives,” or “ethnic cleansings” – rampant destruction of members of the social body itself – are grave pathological disorders of the defense systems of the pertinent social bodies. Two conditions typically precede such social-immune disorders. The first is the presence of an agent of the disease, such as an organized armed force within the social body that has ceased to subordinate itself to the larger social body’s self-regulation. The decoupled agent no longer serves to reproduce the interdependent whole of its members by protecting the society against external invasion, but rather attacks and kills members of the society itself without accountability to the larger life-system’s requirements.

Second, before this usurping invasion of the social body, economic conditions often preclude life security for a large proportion of society’s members, making them insecure in their daily production and reproduction. Whether this results from the seizure by a despotic oligarchy of the means of life and reproduction or from more subtle mechanisms, such as financial transactions that systematically enrich a section of the population at the expense of the life-sustenance of the rest, the attack on the health of the social body calls forth a resistant response that is inchoate and undeveloped in its ability to recognize and respond to the disease invasion. The sector that appropriates its life resources at the expense of the community, thus depriving its members and functions of necessary sustenance, also prevents an effective social self-protective reaction to the disease challenge by recasting the response itself as society’s “disorder.” It then attacks the bearers of the social body’s restorative immune response as “enemies,” “terrorists,” “subversives,” etc., and seeks to destroy them to ensure continued appropriation of society’s resources for an autonomous rogue sub-body of its membership.

The Social Immune System Model

The conventionally accepted military system of social defense behaves very much like an intra-organic immune system, so much so that one wonders whether it is an unconscious projection from the cellular level onto the social plane. “Foreign” antigens “invade” the host body. After “recognition” of the “invasive agent,” the antibody can neutralize the antigens by engulfing or isolating them as a mass, in both cases eventually absorbing the “not self’ into the host organism. It can also destroy the “foreign invader” by a process of cellular-wall perforation and blasting, which in principle uncannily resembles the bullet and bomb attacks of military operations.

These concepts of “self’ and “not self,” “surveillance,” “recognition,” “foreign agent,” “invasion,” “response,” “defense,” and “attack” are all standard concepts of scientific medicine. One might argue that the idea of a “social immune system” is only “a metaphor,” modeled on the intra-organic analyses of medical science. Considered more deeply, though, the terms and designators deployed by medical science in its explanatory descriptions of the immune system’s organic operations are themselves social categories. The foundational concepts of the entire immune system lexicon begin with the binary opposition of “self’ and “not self,” a reference ground that is the primary distinction between individual persons and what they are not in the realm of human interrelations. The ultimate signifier of the entire immune system model, “immune,” itself derives from the Latin root, in-manus, which refers to the “custody” or “guardianship” (manus) exercised by a person over that which is entrusted to or belongs to him or her, again a basic category of social life-organization.

Other fundamental concepts and designators of immune-system operations are articulated and developed following this model of social life-organization into a unified system of meaning and explanation – “surveillance” of all the phenomena of organic processes to “detect” any “abnormality” in its functioning, “recognition” of the “not self’ of disease or antigenic “challenge,” “response” of the “host” body to the “foreign invasion,” “opportunistic” pathogen, disease “agent,” or whatever is “interfering with” or “compromising” normal life functions, etc. Reflective examination of the standard categories of description and explanation found in medical science’s immune-system model reveals, in short, that this model is pervasively conceptualized in terms of social life-organization. The idea that social life-organization itself cannot be properly understood in terms of the medical model of the immune system is thus a conceptually naive objection. It fails to recognize that social distinctions, relations, and aggressions are themselves the prior model of life-ordering and defense against attack upon which medical immune-system accounts themselves are systematically based.

This is not to suggest that scientific medicine’s social model of the immune system must be recast. It works well as it stands. Rather, we must lay bare the organizational principles and operations common to the social and individual planes of life-organization. Scientific medicine itself presupposes this systematic correlation. The structured similarity of social and individual self-protection systems is a long-established basis of the medical model and it has served to aid understanding and description. We need to advance from this common ground of understanding.

Sustaining our distinction between health and disease at the individual or social levels of life-organization creates the commensurable basis of judgment and evaluation needed to systematically relate them. We also avoid a crude ideological error that has long bedeviled our comprehension of the relationship between individuals and social organization. The various fascisms and totalitarianisms created confusion by reducing the individual to simply an organic element of the social body, with a consequent assault on individual lives that has destroyed countless millions of people due to their false metaphysic. Moreover, a specific, pathological individualism seeking only to appropriate life resources for the unrestrained proliferation of itself is now in the process of dismantling the evolved social immune systems of humanity in an aggressive invasion of social bodies everywhere. This “individualism” is the opposite of individualism in the life-affirming sense of realizing one’s unique capacities in a creative or autonomous way. Rather, it is a radically deindividuating disorder whose nature is to seize and accumulate command over social resources of every kind. Following its specific disease character, it increasingly does so via an uncontrolled growth that lacks commitment to any contributing function to the host social bodies upon which it feeds in ever more dysfunctional advance and reproduction.

The Pre-Cancer Condition: From Marx to the Welfare State

Karl Marx was the first to see that the law of capital’s process inverted all previously existing systems of social metabolism and exchange. He distinguished it from previously existing organizations of humanity’s “metabolism with nature” by the way in which its “commodity cells” were produced and distributed as society’s system of survival. What separated the capitalist organization of social bodies from all previous modes of social reproduction, Marx argued, was that it adopted as the initiating moment of its reproductive circuit exchange value rather than use value as its basis of social interaction. Whereas previous exchanges by the medium of money had begun with a use value (e.g., shoes) that was then sold to others for the money to buy another use value ( e.g., food), the capitalist mode of producing social use value was an inversion of this circuit. It began with money to be invested in others’ production of use values that, once produced, were sold as commodities on the market for more money, which then began the production-exchange circuit of netting more money for the capitalist investor again, and so on ad infinitum.

This transformation process in the social body’s structure of reproduction took centuries to institute in Britain and Europe before it spread across the globe. Merchants first merely bought goods independently produced by others and sold them to others for more than they had paid so as to extract a profit for themselves. They began with money and ended up with more money, but played no role in the process of production itself. This mercantile operation was as old as history. However, the truly distinctive nature of the capitalist market system arose with the money owners’ direct control over the production process itself. It emerged as money owners moved from purchasing the use values made by others to purchasing the factors for producing the use values themselves – that is, the required human workers, instruments of production, and natural resources used to produce the use values in the most cost-reducing way, in short, the original prototype operation of the modern corporation. By directly subordinating human work and the means of production to the money investors’ ownership and control, the process of production could be rapidly reorganized, mechanized, and intensified with no internal limit on the treatment of the human lives or environmental resources used as components in the system.

In the first volume of Capital, Marx formalized the transformation in the capitalist mode of reproducing society as follows. In precapitalist exchange, the producer begins with a use value or Commodity, turns it into Money, and once again into a use value or Commodity, or C-M-C. In capitalist exchange, the process begins and ends with Money, or M-C-M1, but with More Money at the endpoint for the transaction to make sense to an accumulator.

Marx revealed the contradictions between the requirement for reproducing and developing societies of human beings, as opposed to the requirements of ever more money extraction and accumulation by the private owners of investment capital. A primary contradiction was between the need of the working class to obtain sufficient means of life to continue to produce and reproduce, as opposed to the insatiable, systemic demand of capitalist investors for ever more surplus value extraction and accumulation. To reduce this contradiction, Marx recommended a revolution in the economic and political system – the replacement of capitalist class rule of the social body and its specific metabolism of exchange with that of working-class rule and a new form of production and exchange that would regulate society’s reproduction to fulfill the vital needs and capacities of all its members.

Marx analyzed a systemic disease of the social body, one that was disabling the life-range or health of its members in a multitude of ways. The problem with this account, however, was that the capitalist organization of social bodies was producing ever more material use values for its members. Not only was its yield of material use values more productive than that of any previous organization of social life, it was also more efficient than subsequent noncapitalist organizations of society – though it relied on continuous attacks on noncapitalist alternatives through illegal military invasions and threats, trade embargoes, pogroms and death squads, a global propaganda war, as well as blacklistings and other means of extinguishing the development of any more enabling organization of social life.

The capitalist form of social life-organization, however, was eventually compelled by the “communist threat,” workers’ movements, and a new electoral accountability to adopt preventive measures against its own internal pathologies. Slowly and under great social pressure, advanced capitalist societies introduced social reforms to limit the invasive assaults of capitalist production on workers’ lives and development. This process began with social legislation that restricted working hours and factory-caused hazards and diseases, and eventually led to laws requiring tax-supported educational, health, and social security protections for all members of society. In this way, the pathological patterns of the capitalist organization of society were counterbalanced by socially legislated protections of life development and security. Social breakdown under the strains of blind money-profit maximization was for a time resisted by newly accountable government bodies. In this overall social immune maturation, a state-regulated system of recognizing and responding to the vital life needs of social bodies as a whole increasingly shielded members from disease, starvation, and disabling morbidities of all kinds against which social life-systems are always in some way formed to prevent.

The Global Mutation of the Capitalist System

Despite the long-term development of social immune systems within capitalist and noncapitalist societies, a relatively sudden mutation of social orders has recently emerged. Dramatic changes in social life-organization across the world by capitalist “restructurings” of social systems have rapidly led to a breakdown in evolved social immune systems in virtually every parameter of life protection. Although the following global survey of this breakdown is at the highest level of generalization, the patterns of morbidity they identify are now more or less universally applicable to social bodies around the world. We will recall that the criteria of health and disease are that disease obtains and increases in its severity to the extent that it disables the vital life functions of its host, while health obtains or increases to the extent that vital life functions are maintained or increased.

Applying these general principles to life-organization at the social level, we can identify the following general parameters of social well-being as basic general determinants of social health and disease in any social body:

1. Continuity of life sustenance to members of the social body;
2. The functioning contribution of members of the social body to the life requirements of the larger life-organization to which they belong; and
3. Maintenance of the biophysical carrying capacity of the external environment of the social body.

1. Continuity of Vital Life Sustenance to Members of the Social Body

Only income security can assure to the members of a capitalist-organized society the requisite needs of life that cannot be synthesized by the body itself or by independent production. Something is a need, in turn, to the extent that to deprive someone of it normally results in a reduced ability to move, feel, or think. For example, a brief deprivation of air, or food or water over a longer time, or of shelter, affection, or variety in activity over differing periods of time, normally results in morbidity or disablement of the human so deprived. Fulfillment of needs is in this way the most basic requirement of health, and failure to fulfill needs is the most basic cause of disease.

As the goods of life that meet human needs become increasingly commodified (i.e., available only upon payment of money), continuity of money income for vital life sustenance becomes correspondingly essential. Food, clothing, and shelter are now normally available to members of capitalist societies only in commodity form. Safe drinking water, air, sunlight, and other basic organic needs are increasingly dependent on commodity purchases for social members to have access to them. Even social intercourse and cultural participation have become increasingly dependent on money income. Reproduction itself has become a disastrous condition in the absence of sufficient revenue to purchase capitalist-produced goods.

At the same time, access to natural means of life support has declined to near zero due to this system’s ever more global appropriation and destruction of the world’s forests, species, oceans, coral reefs, fresh water habitats, soils, and inter-tidal zones. Though continuity of sufficient money income is required to sustain the life and health of societies and their members across the world, capitalist-organized societies are simultaneously reducing and eliminating the social infrastructures that assure sufficient monetary life-income for members of social bodies. This pattern of reducing the flow of vital life sustenances through social bodies is revealed in part by the following macro-trends in social income distribution.

The real incomes of most of society’s members and, for dependents, the real incomes of those who care for them, have declined across the world in a varying but consistent pattern of incremental reduction. In the U.S., which boasts the world’s highest GNP, wages and salaries declined overall by 15% in real terms between 1973 and 1992, and by 20% during the same period for private-sector nonsupervisory workers. Meanwhile, the real income of society’s top one percent escalated by 60% between 1977 and 1992, leaving this group in possession of more personal wealth than that held by the bottom 90%.4

Other national profiles reveal even more precipitous declines in the continuity of life sustenance to society’s members. In Mexico, for example, after infiltration of deregulated maquiladora “free trade zones” in 1980, the national wage and salary average declined by over 50% in real terms and the unemployment rate more than doubled to 18%. In 1994 to 1995, after Mexico’s government opened its social body to reorganization by the North America Free Trade Agreement and after $70 billion invaded Mexico in speculative investment in the new unprotected order, civil war raged in Chiapas over “the death sentence of NAFTA,” while currency speculation in the rise and fall of the Mexican peso further decreased the life sustenance flow to the Mexican people. Examples are the estimated 30% drop in the value of wages in 1995, and a plummeting rate of stable national employment to only 30%. During this period of extremely rapid decline in life-support income for most of Mexican society, the Mexican stock exchange rose 1,000% between 1988 and 1994, the number of billionaires escalated to 17, while the manufacturing sector declined from a 7.3% rate of growth in 1989 to increasingly negative growth ever since.5 The dominant depiction of Mexico in the capitalist-owned media during most of this process was as an “economic miracle,” which it certainly is in terms of the rapid appropriation of the social body’s life-income by decoupled money-capital accumulation.

In New Zealand, the government proceeded with an internationally celebrated “austerity” budget to reduce public expenditures and the federal deficit. Social spending and programs for public-sector employment, income security, health care, and education were radically reduced or eliminated. In the two years after cuts were introduced (1990 through 1992), New Zealand’s Department of Statistics reported a 40% increase in poverty, a doubling of youth suicide to the highest recorded in the world, a 50% increase in violence against women, and a 40% increase in violence against children, including a trebling of infanticide. Taxes on corporations and the wealthy were cut by 50%, interest rates rose to 30%, and the government deficit doubled from $22 billion to $46 billion despite the sale of $16 billion worth of public property to private capital interests.6

The continuity of vital life sustenance and security for citizens of the former Soviet Union has been drastically affected by the rapid conversion of the social body to a capitalist form of organization. Real incomes for the vast majority have dropped to Third World levels, with a loaf of bread now costing 10,000 times its former price; 60 million pensioners’ lives are at risk (a large proportion from starvation) and 40 million live at the poverty level; prices have increased by 2,600%, industrial output has dropped over 40%, and violent crimes have escalated exponentially (Pilger, 1993: 80; Trickey, 1995: B3).

For most people globally, the circulation of required income for the means of life and their production have plummeted. With revenue increasingly flowing to private money-capital investors, the means of life that remain for social memberships as a whole have become ever more endangered and insecure. Unemployment rates continue to rise even in the European Community. From Latin America to China, protective social sectors are experiencing cutbacks. Further, the unregulated, cross-border movement of money capital for nonproductive speculative seizures of social incomes is accelerating in volume and velocity everywhere, reaching an estimated 30 to 40 times the size of the total dollar turnover for goods and services (Phillips, 1994: 65).

Falling income and other access to the means of life and health, along with rapidly rising insecurity over continuing access, is particularly harmful to human well-being. This is because among the world’s species, humans uniquely think, feel, and act in terms of future life means. Those lacking independent income support – the young and unemployed members of society, who make up a rising proportion of social memberships across the world – are endangered in their health and life functions by the declining incomes of those who support or aid them, as well as by deprivation of the social welfare and assistance upon which they variously depend for their continued existence. With ever diminishing job prospects, they are approaching the condition of a surplus population – an inversion of the biological law of species living to reproduce themselves.

Statistics showing that one-quarter of the world’s people are starving and one-third of all children are malnourished – a pattern of deprivation of the most basic means of life that has burrowed progressively into the margins of the wealthiest First World societies – must be understood in this context. Between 1981 and 1991 in Canada, for example, the poverty rate for working households grew by 30%. The figure was 57% for unattached individuals, while the poverty rate for children grew at least 34% between 1989 and 1994 (Mihill, 1995: 1; Valpy, 1995a; Globe and Mail, 1995b: AIO).7 What is most alarming about this deepening, spreading deprivation of the basic requirements of life sustenance is the universality, rapidity, and apparent inexorability of its advance. A relatively small and increasingly walled-in proportion of social bodies is escalating its appropriation of world society’s income, while access to vital life means is rapidly decreasing and becoming more insecure for a rising majority of the globe’s population.

2. Functioning Contribution of Members of the Social Body to the Life Requirements of the Larger Whole

To reproduce free of the ravages of disease, disablement, and death, a healthy life-organization requires a sufficient flow of vital life means to its contributing functions. Each element must actively contribute to the well-being of the interrelated whole to sustain its own functioning capacities and those of the larger bodies of which it is a living part. This is a basic requirement of all life systems. Just as wastage, atrophy, or disease quickly set in with non-use of any part of the individual organism, observation at the social level of life-organization verifies that social members who fail to animate, exercise, and develop their functioning abilities by actively contributing to their smaller or larger communities usually decline in health and vigor, suffer higher rates of heart, cancer, and other primary forms of organic morbidity, and, perhaps most dramatically, manifest various mental disabilities such as suicidal depression (Morris et al., 1994: 1135-1139; Dohrenwend and Levar et al., 1994: 946-952; Lin et al., 1995: 529-539).

There are many ways for members of a society to contribute to their relevant social bodies in ways fitting their particular abilities. The extended families and tribal communities of noncapitalist societies demonstrate this in the multitudinous social functions of the elderly and the young. Capitalist-organized societies, however, increasingly tend toward an ever deeper and universal division between two great classes of social members – those instrumentalized as paid employees who contribute to the production, extraction, or protection of the circuit of money-profit generation and accumulation, and those who are not so instrumentalized. Since the need for the former class of people decreases with labor-cost reduction methods (i.e., the introduction of increasingly powerful machines and electronic circuits of articulated production) and with the dismantling of the public sector, the class of full-time employees in capitalist-organized societies is diminishing with runaway speed. Nearly one-third of the world’s 2.2 billion workers are now estimated to be jobless or unemployed, with increasing proportions of even First World social populations becoming marginalized and disconnected from a socially productive existence.8 As more and more of life’s functions and fields are subordinated as sectors of production and consumption for money-capital expansion, ever fewer areas remain for those not employed by capital to contribute as active members of their societies and communities. They are thereby rendered increasingly disposable as functioning members of society.

The loss of social function leads to a wide variety of pathological outcomes. According to a 1994 study of American men between the ages of 40 and 49 (Morris et al., 1994), a recently unemployed man’s probability of heart disease or cancer doubles within five years. Adolescent suicide and prostitution rates escalate as future employment prospects become darker (as with the group of 12-to-l9 year olds across First World nations since the late 1980s).9 Most lethally, ethnic wars, racist attacks, armed violence, urban riots, beatings of women and children, and mass murders of unknown others seem also to rise in social sites where secure employment opportunities have plummeted in recent years. This does not include the purely psychological damage caused when one lacks a committed function to perform for one’s smaller or larger communities. We can now only speculate on the resulting disabling effects and mental torments in terms of a social epidemic across sectors of society (e.g., the increasingly unemployable) and entire societies ( e.g., indigenous peoples). When no recognized work for a wider community is being or can be performed, the member of the social body becomes a superfluous being who has “no reason to live.”

3. Maintenance of the Biophysical Carrying Capacity and Reproductive Diversity of the External Environment

Since the crisis of “environmental sustainability” is widely recognized, I will not reiterate the specifics of this global life crisis. Less attention has been paid to the fact that the capitalist organization of environmental usage – the atmosphere, fresh waters and oceans, topsoils, forests, animal habitats and species, and mineral resources – primarily determines the environment’s sustainability or lack of it. Although Soviet societies were as ecocidal as capitalist ones in their five to seven decades of operation, they were merely imitating centuries-long practices of capitalist production. Yet the long-term capitalist organization of environmental usage has been more or less entirely excluded from research, investigation, and the public view as a determinant of environmental depletion and destruction. This is not surprising given the increasing control by capitalist conglomerates of public media and foundation research funding as the environmental catastrophe builds from one threshold to the next. Nevertheless, independent surveillance of planetary life environments allows us to discern a principle of correlation between the use of environmental resources and their decline. As the capitalist organization of environmental usage has advanced across global life conditions and elements – the atmosphere, fresh waters and oceans, topsoils, trees, animal habitats and species, and mineral resources – they have in direct proportion degenerated in their capacities of life-carriage and yield.

An effective international regulatory regime of environmental usage might withstand this accelerating pattern of reduction and destruction of the life-carrying capacity of the planet. Revealingly, however, at the threshold of its cumulative environmental damage and crisis, capitalist organization of environmental usage systematically seeks to avoid or reverse effective environmental regulation via aggressive global demands for reduced “government interference” in its processes (as the Republican’s current attempt to dismantle the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency itself chillingly demonstrates).

On a world scale, 20,000 pages of GATT or World Trade Organization regulations and 1,400 articles within NAFTA specify exact rules to protect the rights of capitalist corporations to own, produce, sell, and invest across boundaries. Yet, absent from this mountain of regulations are any effective environmental protections against increasing pollution, destruction, wastes, exhaustion, homogenization, or extinction. Even where regulation under Article 724 of NAFTA permits the institution of standards for “human, animal, and plant life protection,” there is no requirement for any such standard. The only prescription is that no one may discriminate against any foreign corporation in applying any environmental standards that may exist (which is consistent with having no standard).

The invasiveness of such “free trade” regimes may be discerned by the pathologies of its outcomes. For instance, the air may be increasingly unbreathable in the “miracle” economies of the East and the South, no one on earth may stay in the sun without cancer danger, ocean bottoms and ecosystems may become lifeless in multiplying regions across the planet, tropical and temperate rain forests may be clear-cut at the rate of 100 acres a minute, plants and animals of countless varieties may be becoming extinct every day, the desertification of soils may be proceeding by country sizes each year, and the sounds of the world may be ever more dominantly the anaplastic din of fossil-fuel motors – but the profit-exploitation of the global life-environment only increases its assaults on environmental life-systems without self-inhibition.

Even the long-awaited U.N. Rio Declaration on Environment and Development ultimately failed to respond to this global pattern of environmental destruction on behalf of corporate “value adding.” Principle 2 recognizes that “States [read corporations using state environments as vehicles] have the sovereign right to exploit their own resources …. ” Principle 16 declares that “the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution … without distorting international trade and investment.” In short, the world body responded with no effective inhibition of the accumulating destruction of the earth’s biosphere or of the spreading regime of pathogenic invasion bearing it.

The Cancer Stage of Capitalism

Long-term, systematic, and irreversible destruction of global life-organization emerged for the first time in history during the current advanced stage of capitalist organization of the environment. If we consider the defining principles of carcinogenic invasion and eventual destruction of a life-host, itis difficult to avoid discerning that a cancer pattern is increasingly invading and spreading across the planet.

That is, there is:

1. An uncontrolled and unregulated reproduction and multiplication of an agent in a host body; that
2. Is not committed to any function of the host body; that
3. Increasingly appropriates nutriments from the host body in its growth and reproduction; that
4. Is not effectively recognized by the immune system of the host body; that
5. Possesses the ability to transfer or metastasize its assaultive growth to sites across the host body; that
6. Progressively infiltrates and invades contiguous and distant sites of the host body until it obstructs, damages, or destroys successive organs of its life-system; and that
7. Eventually destroys the life-host in the absence of an effective immune-system recognition and response.

The question thus arises: if this is a malignant cancer pattern advancing across the world environment of social bodies, what is the disease agent that underlies its symptoms of invasion and assault?

A superficial diagnosis would be that the disease agent is the human species itself. Yet it cannot be the human species as such because over 99% of the species’ time on earth has been free of any such pervasive, systemic pattern of incremental environmental destruction. Moreover, it cannot be coherently diagnosed as human overpopulation because exponential human population growth beyond the environment’s carrying capacities is itself symptomatic of more fundamental social conditions that cause it – specifically, mass poverty in the recent era of global industrialization, where an effective social response to or regulation of these conditions is lacking. Contemporary societies without mass poverty typically have negative population growth rates (ruling out immigration). The “over-population disorder,” we can reasonably infer, is a problem linked to specific social-structural conditions, i.e., mass impoverishment in industrializing societies, where mass poverty has not been overcome and industrialized extraction or destruction of environmental resources go unregulated.

These linkages also indicate that breakdowns in the circulation of vital life sustenance to members of social bodies and in environmental carrying capacities are determinants of this “overpopulation crisis.” The latter is a symptom of these deeper-lying conditions. These structural conditions, in turn, correlate with an underlying common condition of global life-morbidity.

The Nature of the Cancer Agent

Two comparatively sudden and rapidly advancing systemic changes across the social bodies and global environment are attacking the evolved systems of life-protection just as the stress and assault on their carrying capacities by money-capital circuits have become more rapid, intense, and pervasive. The most sudden attack is on society’s evolved protective systems, which were designed to ward off both the internal starvation of its members’ functions and growth by the unregulated mechanisms of capital invasion and accumulation. Globally, protective systems are now being dismantled at every level to redirect their resources to this process. The pattern is now so universal and aggressive that even the language of its agents no longer disguises its destructive assaults – “drastic cutbacks,” “axing social programs,” “slashing public services,” “subjecting societies to shock treatments,” and so on.10 While society’s protective systems, which evolved over generations of social struggle, are being “cut,” “slashed,” and “axed” to “reassure lenders and investors,” this circuit of money investment and profit itself has mutated to a form no longer linked to the production or circulation of use values for social memberships.

Money capital that seeks more money without producing any life good or service goes back as far as usury, but never before has it been the dominant form of social life-organization. Even when the loan-capital circuit was greatly empowered in earlier centuries by the immensely profitable financing of kings’ armies, investment capital as a whole invested in the production or distribution of useful goods. Critics of capitalism from Marx and Lenin to contemporary analysts have argued that it is industrial capitalism that rules social bodies in its ever-widening “imperialist stage.” Thus, Marx’ canonical model of the inner logic of capital’s general process of surplus value extraction asserts that the “movements of this money-capital are therefore once more merely movements of an individualized part of industrial capital engaged in the reproduction process” (Capital, Volume 3: Chapter 29). Money capital that appears to go directly from money to more money is, according to this view, only a specialized moment within larger capital circuits that go from money through goods or service production and distribution to more money as the macro-circuit of capital’s expansion. Again, in Marx’ words and emphasis: “A definite part of the total capital disassociates itself from the rest and stands apart in the form of money-capital, whose capitalist function consists exclusively in performing these operations for the entire class of industrial and commercial capitalists.” No Marxist analyst that I know of has disagreed with this account.

The mutation in this macro-circuit of money investment and profit occurs when money capital is no longer a phase within the circuit of the production or distribution of goods or services, but is exclusively committed at every stage of its growth to the direct multiplication of itself. Rather than a productive or distributive function in the metabolism of money through the medium of use value to more money (M-C-M1), there is only the metabolism of money to more money, without any conversion to use value in the circuit (M-M1-Mn).

This capital circuit mutation can take place when capital is no longer bounded by any national base, interest, or regulation, or by any other director indirect requirement to commit itself to a productive function beyond itself, but can receive more money for money without limit and with no conversion into sustenance or services for any human, social, or environmental life-organization. These conditions satisfy our carcinogenic formula of M-M1-M2-Mn. It has become an autonomous, unregulated, and multiplying reproduction and growth of an agent within social bodies with no contribution to life function.

A cancer pattern of disease is at work in social bodies to the extent that this and other hallmark traits of its behavior are confirmed – and none are ruled out – through observation. Increasingly, money capital lacks a committed function to any life-organization on the planet. This process of unmediated “money to more money” accumulation increasingly exhibits the classic indicators of carcinogenic invasion and metastasis because of money capital’s new “freedom” to move with increasing volume and velocity in and out of, but not to sustain, social and environmental life-hosts. Another factor is the nonrecognition of host bodies in its competitive metabolism, which converts ever more social life resources and protections to replenish and extend its decoupled growth and self-multiplication.

The spiralling debt and deficit circuits currently bankrupting governments and social infrastructures around the world are a primary channel of money-capital’s mutated form as it invades social hosts and appropriates their life resources for its own growth and spread. For example, even after over $14 trillion had already been appropriated from poor, less-developed countries by the money-extraction cycles of major banks, their total indebtedness to banks doubled from approximately $819 billion in 1982 to $1,712 billion in 1993.11 Third World government debts, in tum, were themselves largely contracted by domestic ruling agents installed by U.S.-supported military seizures of regulatory power and sustained by external military and financial institutions that assisted in channeling these original government debt-money loans into major foreign banks (Laurie, 1987: Al9; Naylor, 1994).

Such processes cannot continue for long without destroying the host body. Symptoms of this destructive pattern are visible across the nations of the world, but especially in Africa and Latin America. At a certain stage of this invasive appropriation of life resources, social bodies can no longer continue to convert their life-sustenance base to the money-multiplying circuit of money-capital agents. “Restructuring” and “structural adjustment” programs are thus imposed on them to ensure that this appropriating circuit continues without resistance from the host bodies. Political and military agents within societies enriched by the circuit take on the expropriative program as their own, much as in the emergence of anaplastic cell invasions. The self-protective possibility of societies recognizing and repelling the attack – by refusing further payment on socially destructive debts following the precedents set by the Athenian lawgiver Solon, Britain’s King Henry IV, and contemporary billionaire businessmen – is suppressed as a response. The disease agent advances against the weakened host social body and spreads more deeply and widely into its organs. Society’s ruling orders submit. Restructurings of social life-organization to feed the invasive program proceed faster and deeper. More and more of society’s resources are yielded up to the autonomous M-Mn circuit and social immune resistance succumbs to the “shock treatment” of the invasion.

“Structural readjustments” to the demands of money-capital agents generally produce an array of social-disease effects. Life means in the form of food, water, shelter, and heat energy for most of society’s members are sharply reduced. Unemployment rises, organized labor declines, and jobs everywhere become insecure. Poverty and below-poverty levels significantly increase. Social infrastructures for health, education, and housing are rapidly cut back or dismantled. Social disorientation and panic spread beneath the mask of normality. Incremental starvation of social bodies advances to sustain continuous money outflows to agents who lack a committed function to any life-host. Consequently, the morbidities of social bodies increase on ever more indicators of health and function, and the life prospects of most of society’s members, especially the healthful reproduction of its children, rapidly deteriorate.

The Emergent Disease Pattern

A “money to more money” circuit lacking productive commitment has long been a tendency of private money-capital investment. Its original form, usury-capital, revealed a tendency toward this unmediated form. So does its seizure of developed environmental life-organizations, which it rapidly plunders to transform into money before moving on to other life habitats. It is evident in military manufacture, where state-guaranteed profits are extracted from the semi-monopoly, fast-obsolescence business of mass homicidal weapons that hold only destructive consequences for life reproduction. It has sought this form in evanescent mass-produced junk and toxins that meet no life need, but command a price from created market demand. What distinguishes the pure, unproductive M-Mn circuit today is that:

1. There is no use value creation between the transformation of money into more money; and
2. This pure M-Mn circuit has become for the first time in history the preponderant form of all capital investment.

Even the world’s leading productive-capital formations have moved to this unmediated system of autonomous money-capital growth. General Motors and General Electric, for example, both earned more profits in 1994 from their financial subsidiaries than they did from all their automotive and electrical manufactures production.12 The combination of a borderless, global financial investment field created by recent international trade agreements, failure to replace the gold standard and subsequent Bretton Woods exchange regime for currency regulation, new electronic information technology that transmits data and money speculation decisions instantaneously, vast new pools of liquid capital in blind pension and mutual funds, and unprecedented annual corporate profit taking of 100% or more during recessionary periods have transformed the world’s capital flows and circulations into a mutated circuit of “money to more money,” with no limit on volume or velocity or the mediating requirement of life-sustaining conversion.

The M-Mn circuit has thereby mutated into a self-multiplying and autonomous economic metabolism, which invades every site of the globe’s life-system at an ever increasing rate of penetration, infiltration, and social destruction. One of its symptoms is that no national life and health security infrastructure is safe from its expropriative invasions. Another is the recent doubling of the world’s billionaires to over 358 individuals. The accumulated wealth of these people, who control this new preponderant global circuit of money-begetting-more-money, is now equivalent to the total annual income of 45% of the globe’s population (Maclean, 1995: 5).

This process of depriving social bodies to feed the increasingly aggressive advance of the money-to-more-money circuit is not restricted to Third World societies. “Monetarist reforms” in New Zealand and Canada’s similar pattern of assault on the social body have emerged in recent years. Spiraling interest demands on federal government debt (which account for over half its growth) are increasingly paid for by incremental reductions in income support for the poor and the unemployed, by reduction toward zero of federal higher education and public health financial transfers to provinces, by massive firings of public-service employees, by cutbacks in environmental surveillance and protection systems, and by privatization or abandonment of evolved public transport, communications, and cultural infra-structures. (This destruction of the civil commons has been perversely accompanied by a government-subsidized explosion in armaments sales to the Third World, up almost 600% between 1990 and 1994.) The federal debt has continued to rise due to compounding and increased real-interest payments to foreign and domestic money lenders, and to complementary tax subsidies to capital-owning agents that together account for 94% of the national government’s “out of control” debt growth (Mimoto and Cross, 1991: 3.1-3.18; McQuaig, 1995: 53-62, 117).

Like the U.S. Federal Reserve System, the Bank of Canada in the 1980s increased the money-for-more-money rate of interest for all lending institutions to historically unprecedented rates above inflation, up to 21.5% prime, thereby systematically bankrupting productive companies, disemploying citizens by the hundreds of thousands, and reducing national productivity by between $40 billion (Bank of Canada economic planners’ estimates) and $140 billion (the former president of the Canadian Economic Association’s estimate) for each point drop in the national inflation rate (Epps, 1995: 3; McQuaig, 1995: 87-88). The declared rationale for this process of depriving the social body of the circulation of money it requires to continue its production and distribution functions for social members has been to “preserve the value of money.” This objective of the Bank, in turn, was unilaterally introduced by its new president, a former International Monetary Fund director. The step was in noncompliance with the Bank of Canada’s 50-year-old Charter, which specifies the “best interest of the economic life of the nation,” including “the general level of production and employment,” as its principal regulatory function. Here, a First World central money-regulating institution’s organizing principle of preserving the well-being of the social body is clearly displaced by the mutated principle of preserving “the value of money.”13

Systemic deprivation and starvation of the social body’s life sustenance are now clearly evident, from the most undeveloped to the most advanced societies. In Canada, for example, infant mortality rates, the quintessential indicator of social health, have just risen an astonishing 43%, the first recorded rise in over 31 years (Mitchell, 1995; Statistics Canada News Release, June 1, 1995). At the bottom end of the world’s social bodies, approximately 500,000 more children die from the “restructuring” of their countries’ economies. After imposition of “structural adjustment programs” on Africa that ensure increased flows of money to external banks, spending on health care declined by 50%, and on education by 25% (George 1993: 239; Ecumenical Council for Economic Justice, 1990: 12).14

As this deprivation grows, the M-Mn circuit increasingly diverts effective demand for use value production to its own growth and self-multiplication. Its modes of mutating the metabolism of the social body to its own autonomous proliferation have many new and aberrant forms, such as turning bankrupt governments into receiver states that enforce money lenders’ insatiable demands on ever poorer public sectors; demanding more tax breaks for investment in debt instead of equity, and in nonproductive speculation instead of job-creating enterprises; attacking national currencies by speculative buying and selling in multi billion-dollar profit accumulations that create no use value and cripple social and economic orders overnight; transforming productive enterprises into broker-and-lawyer-dismantled assets for sale by leveraged buyouts that pay for themselves by unproductive appropriation of the liquid capital of the purchased firms; regulating high-interest savings and loan banks so that their principals can expropriate up to $500 billion from taxpayers to pay for their money-into-more-money amassments; transferring tax obligations from banking and financial institutions and their agents to productive members of society who have increasingly less income to extract; directing saved capital into continuous billion-dollar speculations on derivative currency and market values that are disconnected from any productive function; and channeling vast mutual and pension funds that now bear the privatized old-age security of the First World’s older middle class into money and stock speculation transactions. Everywhere the channels of money investment are systemically and progressively converted to the metabolism of money for more money in place of differentiated commitment to any social life function.

Business journals estimate that the monthly U.S. electronic trade in currencies, futures derivative instruments, and stocks and bonds, which operates beyond effective government regulation, now exceeds the country’s entire annual GNP. Of the $900 billion in currencies traded daily on U.S. stock exchanges, only one of 70 dollars of effective demand actually pays for trade in goods or services. Further, the financial sector’s annual trade volume is 30 to 40 times greater than the dollar turnover of all production and distribution of goods and services (Ecumenical Coalition for Social Justice, 1994: 2; Fishman, 1994: 54; Phillips, 1994: 65). As these indicators show, the escalating money-for-more-money circuit, with no commitment to use values within social or environmental life-hosts, has increasingly overwhelmed the normal organization and reproduction of life systems by a usurpative program of escalating self-expansion.

The Social and Environmental Life Response

From its inception as usury loan through its various developmental stages, the law determining capital’s inherent and defining structure has been to maximize by any vehicle, method, or channel the ratio of increases in its owners’ money to money inputs, by a series of continuous and expanding appropriations that unfolds as rapidly and extensively as possible. Lacking an internal limit to inhibit or regulate this historically genetic commitment of private money capital to its own self-maximization, the potential for cancer invasion of the social body by money capital has existed from the beginning. Hedging in the invasive and uncontrolled growth of money capital’s destructive circuits over a period of centuries, however, were a horizonless stretch of cultures, habitats and natural elements, national boundaries and trade regulations, society-wide movements to limit private capital’s destruction of working people’s capacities and their local environments, liberation movements across the globe against capitalist colonization and expropriation of resources, the growth of public sectors and welfare systems out of the crises of world depression and war over the last century, and the institutionalization of a “socialist bloc” to build and defend alternate forms of social organization. In its compulsion to drive and reproduce its self-expanding accumulation, money capital has at various stages of its growth enslaved societies, cumulatively destroyed environmental systems, and produced enough weapons of mass destruction to obliterate the globe many times over. These profound assaults on life-systems have been consistently excluded from calculi of efficiency such as the GNP, GDP, or other established measures of social growth.

To discount the destruction of global life-capacities over the long-term as “externalities” is, clinically speaking, a self-disclosure of the carcinogenic pattern from inside the disease pattern. It reveals its pathological program by its displayed marker of reproductive commitment. That which destroys the host life-body, its agents acknowledge, is “external” to its own growth and thus not calculated in its costs. At this stage of money capital’s development, we confront an unprecedented disease challenge to the survival of its social and planetary life-hosts. Indicative of the classic pattern of cancer mutation and spread are the synergistic effect of money capital’s cumulative destruction of the planet’s basic conditions of life (air, sunlight, water, soil, and biodiversity), its increasingly aggressive invasions and assaults on social infrastructures and self-protective systems of life sustenance and circulation, its systemic intolerance of bearing the costs of maintaining social and environmental carrying and defense capacities, and its rapidly escalating, autonomous self-multiplication that is no longer subordinated to any requirement of life-organization.

The essential problem of any carcinogenic pattern is that the host body’s immune system does not effectively recognize or respond to the cancer’s pathogenic challenge and advance. On the level of global and social life-organization, this failure of the social immune system to recognize and respond to the disease agent is understandable once we realize that the surveillance and communication organs of host social bodies across the world have become immuno-incompetent in their ability to recognize the structural determinants of the disease patterns. That is, capitalist-organized media and information systems select for reproduction only messages that do not contradict the capitalist organization of social bodies. Consequently, whatever exposes the systemic disorder of this social organization’s structure is normally refused transmission through its communications media. In this way, our social immune systems have been gravely compromised by the accelerating control of multinational capital conglomerates over most of the recorded information produced and exchanged across the world – mass communications, the production of textbooks and educational resources for higher learning and other schools, and the biotechnology for reproducing and adapting life-forms themselves. Because of this increasing subordination of social systems of research and communication to transnational capital control, whatever does recognize the underlying pathology is normally ruled out by the very structure of organizing social life, whose mutation has generated the carcinogenic pattern. This social immune suppression is now global, with over 90% of all foreign news output, for example, controlled by five U.S. and European multinational news agencies.15 Cancerous takeovers of life-systems only prevail if they are not recognized by their hosts. This is our predicament today.

Life-bodies recover when the evolving immune system recognizes and responds to the systemic disease attacking them. At this stage of money capital’s mutation and invasion, manifestations of disease are increasingly evident. Even capitalist-organized mass media display the life-danger in sporadic, partial recognitions of bio-spheric and social-structural breakdowns and money-capital circuits decoupled from productive life functions. These eruptions, however, are not yet linked to the underlying disease pattern. As on any level of complex life-organization, the social immune system must recognize the disease agent before it can effectively respond to its invasion. If recognition of its invasive code is clear and systemic, then effective response to the disease can proceed. On the macro-level of carcinogenic invasion, effective response now minimally requires global regulatory assertion to subordinate lethal, uncontrolled growth and metastasis. This could be a transformation of the world’s now failing political and economic systems, which nothing but a global cancer could effectively elicit.


1. For a systematic critique of the military paradigm of social self-defense, see McMurtry (1989).

2. On November 11, 1994, Canada’s House of Commons Committee on Foreign Affairs made the extraordinary announcement that the state of Canada’s economy was more important than military defense to Canada’s security “because the threat to Canada’s standard of living is now greater than the threat to its borders.” The announcement, however, was not communicated in any mainstream news media.

3. Interestingly, the postmodernist Foucault (1984: 279-281), typical of the naive nihilism of this school, seems to deplore the regime of “care, contact, hygiene, cleanliness, attentive proximity, and physical exercise … which envelopes, maintains, and develops the child’s body … as an instance of social control.”

4. These figures are drawn from Mead (1992: 41), Chomsky (1993: 14-18), Luttwak (1994: 3-5), and Hawthorn (1994: 12-13). Luttwak’s book (1993) documents the recent precipitous decline of worker income and job security in the U.S. in particular.

5. These figures are drawn from The Globe and Mail Business Report (July 16, 1993: B-13), Orchard (1994: 2), Grinspun (1995: 1-10), Americas Update (1995: 3), Krehm (1995: 7), Globe and Mail (1995a: 7), and Ecumenical Coalition for Social Justice (1995: I, 7).

6. See Dobin (1995: 5). Despite Dobin’s exposure of these statistical indicators of the breakdown in New Zealand’s social life, the Canadian mass media have aggressively propagated the “New Zealand solution,” which Canada’s government is now in the process of emulating.

7. De Grace (1995) claims the rise in child poverty since 1989 is 55%.

8. See Ellis (1995: A11). In the case of Canada, Statscan reports that the participation rate of the working-age population that is either working or looking for work has fallen to 64.4% (Globe and Mail, December 2, 1995: A2). Judith Maxwell, the director of Canadian Policy Research Network, concludes in her independent research: “Forty-one percent of the Canadian population no longer feel connected to mainstream society” (quoted by Valpy, 1995b: A21).

9. This increase seems to be correlated with falling unemployment prospects and the lack of social security. The teen suicide rate for the U.S., for example, was over three and one-half times that of Sweden in 1994, as full-time job prospects and real wages continued to decline (by 1.3%) and as social spending was further reduced as a percentage of GDP (14.8% in the U.S., 34% in Sweden) (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Monitor, February 1995: 6). In New Zealand, teen-age suicide doubled after social and educational spending was radically reduced between 1990 and 1992, and unemployment rates rose from the government-induced recession (Dobin, 1995).

10. These “shock treatments” include fiscal dismantling of occupational health and safety regulations and inspections in a context where in the U.S. alone an estimated 500,000 annual deaths are “attributed to occupationally related diseases, the majority of which are caused by knowing and willful violation of occupational health and safety laws by corporations” (Kramer, 1984: 19). Trial lawyer Gerry Spence (1989: 197-199) observes that “one in five major corporations has been convicted of at least one major crime – [ or] serious civil misbehaviour” and observes in illustration that “240,000 of the million workers who worked with asbestos will die from asbestos-related cancer.” “It is still not a crime,” he adds, “to knowingly market an unsafe product or to conceal a hazard in the workplace” (p. 213).

11. See Ecumenical Coalition for Economic Justice (1994: 7).

12. See Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Monitor (October 1995: 5).

13. For the effect of post-1981 monetarist policies of historically high real interest rates on the U.S. economy, see Grieder (1989). However, that and other studies fail to recognize that these escalated interest rates, combined with massive tax cuts to the wealthy and daily expenditures of up to one billion dollars on the military during the Reagan years, tripled U.S. government debt and thereby bankrupted the U.S. public sector. Unmanageable public debt, in turn, permitted drastic rollbacks of noncapitalist social spending. In this way, a revolutionary redistribution of wealth to the rich, banks, and major corporations was achieved.

14. For a regional analysis of this problem from a health-care perspective, see Epprecht (1994: 31-38).

15. For a fuller argument, see McMurtry (1988: 130-150).


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