A review essay of the second, revised edition of John McMurtry, Understanding the Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Cancer to Cure (London: Pluto, 2013). Published in the November 2013 issue of the CCPA Monitor, Canada.
Search Results for: cancer stage of capitalism
Social Philosophy and Oncology | G. Baruchello and E. Hjörleifsdóttir (2014)
McMurtry’s work offers a contribution to the understanding, as well as to development of standards for the measurement, of human well-being, so that progress and regress may be interpreted in ways that mainstream economic criteria neglect or fail to ascertain, both in theory and in practice. The importance of determining novel standards and indicators is considerable, and widely acknowledged by many academics and politicians (for example, the 2008–2009 Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission created by the French Government), but above all it is important to reconceptualise economic phenomena so as to re-orient them in line with life-based criteria.
First, it has already been highlighted that the type of ‘growth’ conceptualised and pursued in today’s global market has had systemic negative effects upon life at many levels, to the point of making possible the explanation of said implications by means of a cancer-based explanatory model. ‘Real capital’ as ‘life capital’ is both unseen and harmed by standard economic thought (CSC2013, p. 12).
Second, in the wake of the current economic crisis, the same global market has been proven equally unable to attain ‘growth’ on its own life-blind terms, that is, in terms of pecuniary aggrandisement for money investors and/or managers (cf. Crotty, 2000). ‘Real capital’ as sheer ‘money’ is not there either, especially if one considers that the vast meltdowns of the last few decades have been caused by speculative bubbles in exponentially ‘leveraged’ masses of currency without any ‘grounding’ in ‘a medium of exchange and capital’ such as ‘gold, labour, or livestock’ (CSC2013, p. 12).
The system’s inherent rationality, which economics textbooks presuppose, is to be seriously questioned, and that is what McMurtry’s work does, consistent with Castoriadis’ (2005a, p. 129) poignant characterisation of the Socratic role that philosophers are expected to play in genuinely democratic societies: the possibility and the ability to call established institutions and significations into question. Whether he will be listened to, we do not know. However, responding to a cancer diagnosis by avoiding what alone can work is fatal.
The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure | Prof John McMurtry (2013)
The Cancer Stage of Capitalism is a modern classic of critical philosophy and political economy, renowned for its depth and comprehensive research. It provides a step by step diagnosis of the continuing economic collapse in the US and Europe and has had an enormous influence on new visions of economic alternatives.
John McMurtry argues that our world disorder of unending crises is the predictable result of a cancerous economic system multiplying out of all control and destroying ecological, social and organic life – a process he describes as ‘global ecogenocide’. In this updated edition he explains the ‘social immune response’ required to fight the ‘macro cancer’, something which has already been shown in developments such as the Occupy movement and the democratic social transformation of Latin America.
In an official global culture increasingly destructive of life, this book shows the necessity and possibility of building a sustainable society based on a universal commitment to life and nature.
CSC-2 | Chapter 4 | The Social Immune System and the Cancer Stage of Capitalism (2)
RE-GROUNDING IN THE UNIVERSAL LIFE-REQUIREMENTS OF HUMAN HEALTH The simplest framework of the general determinants of social health and disease has three universal parameters of diagnosis: Continuity of life-necessities and means to members of society (that is, that without which their life-capacities are reduced); Functioning contribution of citizens to society’s life-requirements (that is, as able… Read More
CSC-2 | Chapter 4 | The Social Immune System and the Cancer Stage of Capitalism (1)
The Social Immune System and the Cancer Stage of Capitalism Social life-organizations survive because they evolve strategies of recognition and response to select out what endangers them. Thus from the beginnings of human society, people living in productive and reproductive exchange with one another have regulated their lives and functions so as to prevent or… Read More
Prof John McMurtry – Winning the War of the World – Toronto Z-Day, 2014
John McMurtry shows that a false economic paradigm holds the world in thrall to a global corporate death system masked as market freedom. Liberation is explained as grounded in humanity’s repressed life-value code, life capital bases and civil commons organization which unify across distances and differences.
THE BANKS AND THE CANCER STAGE OF CAPITALISM: FROM CAUSE TO CURE | Prof John McMurtry (1997)
There is a hidden war of value codes in the world today. On the one hand, there is the life code of value: Life → Means of Life → More Life (L → M of L→ L1). On the other hand, there is the money code of value: in its classical form, Money → Commodity → More Money ($ → C → $1). In its carcinogenic form, this sequence becomes: Money → More Money → More Money ($ → $1→ $2 → – $n). The latter money sequence of value is decoupled from any commitment to life function and is driven by the lending and investment cycles of banks. This paper demonstrates the carcinogenic properties of this sequence at the social level of life-organization.
The second part of the paper proposes a remedy. The first step consists in making the government-conferred privileges of banks – creating money by credit and lending others’ money stocks at compound interest – accountable to society’s life requirements. The second step consists in returning central banks to their constitutional mandate of lending to governments rather than alienating this function to private banks. The article concludes by arguing that the great obstacle to Canada’s and other countries’ economic well-being is the abdication by governments of their sovereign powers over society’s money supply, and the long cultivation of public ignorance on this ultimate issue of public policy and value decision.
Department of Philosophy
University of Guelph
Bank of Montreal Distinguished Visitor Lecture, Trent University, March 13, 1997. Read More
Corporate Child Abuse: The Unseen Global Epidemic | Prof John McMurtry (2013)
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul”, Nelson Mandela says, “than the way in which it treats its children”.
Who would disagree?
Yet today children may be assaulted, diseased, or killed by pervasive corporate drugs, junk-foods and beverages, perverted by mindless violence in multiple modes, deployed as dead-end labour with no benefits, and then dumped into a corporate future of debt enslavement and meaningless work. How could this increasing systematic abuse be publicly licensed at every level? What kind of society could turn a blind eye to its dominant institutions laying waste the lives of the young and humanity’s future itself?
The abuse is built into the system. All rights of child care-givers themselves – from parent workers to social life support systems – are written out of corporate ‘trade’ treaties which override legislatures to guarantee “investor profits” as their sole ruling goal. Children are at the bottom, and most dispossessed by the life-blind global system. The excuse of “more competitive conditions” means, in fact, a race to the bottom of wages and benefits for families, social security, debt-free higher education, and protections against toxic environments to which the young are most vulnerable. At the same time, escalating sales of junk foods, malnutrition, and cultural debasement propel the sole growth achieved – ever more money demand at the top.
“The Social Immune System and the Cancer Stage of Capitalism” by Prof John McMurtry (1995)
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).[note]For a systematic critique of the military paradigm of social self-defense, see McMurtry (1989).[/note] 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.[note]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.[/note] 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.[note]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.”[/note]
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.
From Ontario to the United Nations: An Introduction to the Thought and Influence of John McMurtry, FRSC | Giorgio Baruchello
Born in Toronto in 1939, the third son of a prominent Canadian barrister, McMurtry was educated as tuition-free scholar-athlete at Upper Canada College (1951–57). He then read English (1957–61 BA) at Trinity College, University of Toronto, graduating with A standing while receiving the Clough Memorial Trophy (Outstanding Athlete Award) during his B.A. Subsequently, McMurtry starred as professional football player for Calgary Stampeders during his Master’s studies in philosophy (1961–62, MA awarded 1963), to which he brought his rare experiences as an elite athlete, developing thereafter philosophy of sport and competition qua areas of original research (e.g. McMurtry 1974 & 1983) and, more deeply, ground-breaking critiques of self-maximising games as a general model of rationality (e.g. economic and contract theory; cf. McMurtry, 1984b, 1997b, 2011 & 2012).