‘The Overpopulation Argument’ by Professor John McMurtry

The following are excerpts extracted from McMurtry, John. The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure. Pluto Press. Kindle Edition that addresses ‘The Overpopulation Argument’. “The most established general argument for our parlous condition is that the global crisis is led by ‘overpopulation’ – or more precisely, ‘seven billion human beings overloading the carrying capacities of… Read More

Why is there a War in Afghanistan? | Prof John McMurtry (2001) | scienceforpeace.ca

The following article was part of a Science for Peace Forum and Teach-In, about How Should Canada Respond to Terrorism and War on Sunday December 9, 2001. A speech was made there by Professor of Philosophy, John McMurtry. It looks at a wider and deeper issue of totalitarianism that is creeping in, or, as McMurtry suggests, continuing in more earnest.

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Climate Catastrophe and Social Justice: Analysis and Action (2008) | Prof John McMurtry | scienceforpeace.ca

Published 2008-10-04 by John McMurtry

Keynote Address

Science for Peace and University of Toronto Students Union Conference
Climate Catastrophe and Social Justice: Analysis and Action
October 4, Earth Sciences Building, University of Toronto

The destabilization of the world’s climate and hydrological cycles is a catastrophic effect of a more general disorder to which it is not connected — the failed global market experiment and its regulating money-value system which brings degradation and despoliation of human life and life support systems at virtually every level of life organization.

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Capitalism and Freedom: The Core of a Contradiction – An Essay on Cornelius Castoriadis and John McMurtry | By Giorgio Baruchello (2008)

0.0 Capitalism and freedom is not only the title of a 1962 book by Milton Friedman playing a pivotal role in asserting worldwide the neoliberal paradigm, but also the slogan that leading statesmen, politicians and opinion-makers have been heralding in recent years, in order to justify, amongst other things, the slashing of welfare states and the invasion of foreign countries…

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“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.

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Behind Global System Collapse: The Life-Blind Structure of Economic Rationality | Prof John McMurtry

This study examines the system-deciding principle of economic rationality for its logical soundness and effects in global practice. Analysis demonstrates the fallacious structure of the underlying assumptions of homo economicus across theories and institutions, and explains how cumulative destruction of global economic, social, and ecological life systems follows from its life-blind mechanism. Higher-order concepts of life-capital, life-value efficiency, and life-good supply and demand are then defined to bring economic rationality into coherence with terrestrial and human life requirements. Read More

John McMurtry on Project Sanity – “Knowledge is the secret of all human advancement”

Ep 19 VIDEO PREVIEW – John McMurtry explains the immutable social imperative to flip this cancer paradigm to life-coherence and how knowledge is the secret to all human advancement. Read More

“150 Years After Capital: Reading Marx as Life Grounded” by Prof John McMurtry


“One basis for life and another basis for science is an a-priori lie” – Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, 1845.

Marx’s Base-Superstructure Theory (BST) has long been a major object of controversy. It is deeply embedded in a monumental corpus of system-challenging analysis while secondary interpretations are deeply conflicted and rarely reliable. In general, partial takes and opposed propagandas militate against primary-source understanding. Within the last 35 years, a sea-shift of global culture to anti-foundationalist relativism has uprooted the very idea of a common base or ground. 

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Good and Bad Capitalism: Re-thinking Value, Human Needs, and the Aims of Economic Activity | Giorgio Baruchello (2009)

The world is experiencing a twofold crisis. On the one hand, the global, virtualised economy is collapsing and, in its fall, it is bringing down significant sections of the real economy. On the other hand, the environmental collapse of the planet is also marching on, and there is no clear sign that this may stop soon, for the most commonly discussed paths for economic recovery seem to rely upon further spoliation of the Earth’s life support systems. In this book chapter, the reader is to encounter an account of this twofold crisis in light of the deeper axiological grounds that are causing it. To this end, the present author refers extensively to the theory of value developed by Canadian scholar John McMurtry, according to whom: “[F]inancial crises always follow from money-value delinked from real value, which has many names but no understanding of the principle at its deepest levels.”

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