The Life-Ground, the Civil Commons and the Corporate Male Gang | Prof John McMurtry (2001)


Scientific and everyday language have long lacked generic concepts to identify the market’s underlying systems of natural and social reproduction. In consequence, expropriation and destruction of these ecological and civil infrastructures by monetised capital expansion has evaded understanding. This investigation provides the conceptual bearings required to understand what has occurred and its modes of resolution by explanation of the long overlooked “life-ground” and “civil commons”; their evolving “social immune system”; and a “life-value calculus” whereby to assess authentic social development and retardation. At the same time, the analysis explains the causal structure behind a world-wide degradation and confiscation of life infrastructures whose principal victims and resisters are unwaged women. Finally, the argument distinguishes the civil commons and the life-ground from notions of “the global commons”, “the life-world” of Habermas, and the now dominant concept of “civil society.” Throughout, the analysis draws on real-life examples to demonstrate deep infrastructures of human life advance and regression which have eluded the received paradigms of social and political analysis.


Depuis bien longtemps, il manque dans le langage scientifique quotidien de notions générals pour identifier les systèmes de la reproduction naturlle et sociale qui sont à la base du marché. Par conséquent, l’expropriation et la destruction des ces infrastructures écologiques et civiles par l’expansion du capital monétaire échappent à la comprehension. Pour expliquer ce phénoène et ces modes de résolution actuels, cette étude fournit une base conceptuelle des notions ignorées depuis longtemps, telles que la «base vitale», la «commune civile», le «système immunitaire social» qui en émerge, et le «calcul des valeurs vitales», notions par lesquelles on évalue le vrai développement social ou le retard. Par ailleurs, l’analyse démontre la structure causale entre la dégradation mondiale et la confiscation des infrastructures vitales dont les principales victimes et opposantes sont les femmes au travail non rémunéré. Enfin, l’analyse différencie la notion de la commune civile et de la base vitale de celles des «biens publics globaux», du «monde de la vie» de Habermas, et de la «société civile» qui dominent dans le discours présent. L’analyse se sert des exemples actuels pour illustrer les infrastructures profondes des progrès et des reculs de la vie humaine qui ont échappé aux paradigmes de l’analyse sociale et politique actuelle.

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Getting the Bigger Picture: From Life-Disabling Neoliberal Traps to Life-Enabling Opening Up of Public Policy Fiscal Spaces

James K Galbraith Reviews Modern Monetary Theory Nov 2, 2017 Some sage advice from an elder at the First International Convention of Modern Monetary Theory 2017 Presidential Lecture Series: Stephanie Kelton – “But How Will We Pay for It? Making Public Money Work for Us” Oct 18, 2018 Our nation’s finances are a blistering topic.… Read More

The Paradoxes within Capitalist Democracy Spelled Out by the Zen Economist Rob Urie |

“A social taxonomy that supports the division of political power from economic power is necessary to pose capitalism and democracy as compatible. In the liberal frame, a government that determines when you wake and go to sleep, how you dress, which speech is acceptable, and which isn’t and what you will spend the overwhelming preponderance of your time and life’s energy doing, is totalitarian. In this same liberal frame, if your employer determines these, compliance is freely chosen. The social violence of ‘property’ is the initial condition from which this free choice proceeds.”

“The term ‘Democratic Socialism’ proceeds from a dubious distinction between political and economic democracy. The myth it appeals to is that American democracy reflects the popular will in ways that more straightforwardly hierarchical political systems don’t. The paradox of capitalist democracy has always been the assertion of flat (equal) political representation in the presence of hierarchical economic distribution. Being white, propertied and male were the initial conditions for American suffrage. As late as 2016, functional suffrage was a proxy for economic class. Real democracy begins with economic democracy.”

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Life-Value vs Money-Value: Capitalism’s Fatal Category Mistake | Prof Jeff Noonan

The 2008 financial crisis spread from Wall Street to the world almost overnight, threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions, even though its causes had nothing to do with the production and distribution of any of the basic necessities of life. Instead, the crisis erupted because the financial system had become unhinged from its real function: supplying credit to productive enterprises. Finance capital increasingly made its money from complex “derivatives,” which are not claims on a company’s profit (as shares are) but on debts packaged and sold as investments. Immense profits were made, which provided the incentive to create more derivatives, causing debts to be piled on debts, all sold with guaranteed returns. Many of these derivatives involved American mortgages. Since these were backed by a physical asset (the house), they were advertised to institutional investors as highly secure, but the models assumed that housing prices would continue to rise. As it turned out, the housing market was a bad-mortgage fuelled bubble. When it burst, the “mortgage backed securities” became worthless, and banks from Athens to Iceland collapsed. Instead of having to foot the bill for their recklessness and greed, major banks were bailed out with hundreds of billions of dollars of public money. Workers lost their jobs, housings, and savings; Wall Street bankers paid themselves bonuses for the greatest failure of the financial system since 1929.

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Presentation by Professor Trevor Munroe – JCA Anti-Corruption Day Celebrations Dec 7 2018

Chairperson, Members of the Platform, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning. May I thank the Jamaica Customs Agency for this invitation to share in your commemoration of International Anti-Corruption day 2018. Allow me to congratulate the JCA for developing this tradition of an annual commemoration of International Anti-Corruption Day, a celebration in which countries all over the world partake. Justifiably so, because countries big and small, rich and poor, north, south, east and west suffer along with Jamaica and the Jamaican people from corruption, a corruption in which the United Nations estimates that one trillion dollars is paid in bribes to public officials everywhere, including Jamaica, and that 2.6 trillion dollars is stolen from the global economy according to the United Nations again. No wonder the nations of the world agreed in 2015 that “sustainable development” is not attainable without more effective combat of bribery and corruption….

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Revitalizing human virtue by restoring organic morality | Darcia Narvaez

Most of human history and prehistory was lived in economic poverty but with social and ecological wealth, both of which are diminishing as commodification takes over most everything. Human moral wealth has also deteriorated. Because humans are biosocially, dynamically, and epigenetically shaped, early experience is key for developing one’s moral capital. When early experience is species-atypical, meaning that it falls outside the evolved developmental niche (EDN), which is often the case in modern societies, biopsychosocial moral development is undermined, shifting one’s nature and worldview to self-protectionism. Individuals develop into self-regarding shadows of their potential selves, exhibiting threat-reactive moral mindsets that promote unjust treatment of other humans and nonhumans. Humanity’s moral wealth can be re-cultivated by taking up what indigenous people all over the world know: that a good life, a virtuous life, is a one that is led by a well-cultivated heart, embodied in action that includes partnership with nonhumans. Moral educators can help students to revamp their capacities with self-calming skills, the development of social pleasure and communal ecological imagination.

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Decoding the Market Destruction of Public Knowledge | Prof John McMurtry

Aeron Davis(ed), THE DEATH OF PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE? How Free Markets Destroy the General Intellect. London: Goldsmiths Press, University of London, 2017 (i-xi, 262 pages with Index)

By John McMurtry

The title and subtitle of this book tell the untold story of the neo-liberal era – a cumulative destruction of foundational institutions of public knowledge. This ‘free markets destruction of the general intellect’ (subtitle) is described in 15 chapters by 20 authors. Its method is empirical and copiously referenced, but with no second order level of theory to join the dots. Yet every chapter provides a significant substantiation for a yes answer to the title’s arresting question.

The degeneration of ‘the general intellect’ of society across borders does not delve into what draws increasing attention concern today and supports the book’s case – the growing incapacitation of the millennial generation to perform operations of thinking through on their own. While research increasingly indicates that the wireless generation are cognitively/affectively locked into their i-phones, facebook, twitter, computer games, and ever more non-stop exchanges and hits from separated life places – oxymoronically called ‘social media’ – this is not an issue of this study. That attention spans measurably decline in substance and length by electronic-screen captivity is certainly relevant to the decline of ‘the general intellect’ of society, but is only a silent background to what is examined case by case in this collection – the destruction of institutional public knowledge. The authors refer to the “privileging of speed, technology and homogeneity – – [in] recycling journalistic content on BBC online services”, for example (p. 55). Yet the electronic revolution itself is only glancingly taken into account. The question is thus not posed of whether the electronic-media revolution itself has propelled the marketizing degradation of public knowledge.

One might argue on the work’s behalf, however, that market totalization has selected forever more velocities and volumes of commodities and commodifications with no limit, and so the electronic media revolution has fitted like a glove to the marketing invasions everywhere in the public sector – which is the book’s main concern. But this underlying line of inquiry does not arise. Nor, relatedly, does the issue that hard copy foundations themselves disappear in the pervasive marketing electrification. Most profoundly, as the commodification of society’s civil commons advances – even of language as commercial property – any common life-ground is eliminated. As social communication becomes more dominated by advertising and corporate sellers invading ever more of society’s policy discussions, information sources, sports, arts and news as marketing sites, citizens are reduced to atomic consumers rather than joint participants in understanding and effecting the common life good. Beneath notice, the very bases of public choice are erased.

The destruction of public knowledge on which this study is focused is not, however, on system-structural abolition of the public world itself. Nor does it conceive of the marketing elimination of any common life ground at all. More specifically, the degraded downstream effects are addressed in regard to instituted public knowledge. The privately-owned communications technology enabling super speeds and volumes of messages and data to spellbind higher public offices themselves is not a causal mechanism that is examined – even as it advances into control of citizens’ every move and decision. For example, my Apple i-phone (just given to me by my children) travels by publicly owned electro-magnetic spectrum and bandwidths, but locks on me again and again demanding it “can only help you if you choose home apps”. One must connect to some marketing repertoire, or the phone turns off – until a fuss is made. The future here shows itself at another level of the ‘market destruction of the general intellect’ – a total market-computerization of citizens in which every life choice and function is reduced to commercial-machine control, changing prices, and one-dimensional options.

While most people may sense that capitalist marketing lies behind the systemic loss of social and planetary life bearings on many levels, this dissolution of shared life coordinates through time is heretical to examine at its base. The ‘general intellect’ is blocked across siloes, expertises and narratives ruling out any comprehensive life frame of reference. The notion of any unifying meaning is has come to be repelled within even the academy as an oppressive thought. Marxism remains essentially stuck inside industrial mechanics with no determining life-ground or life capital base. What this book’s analyses show is the pervasive drivers of total marketing and privatization destroy the public institutional environment so that all reliable public bearings are lost. What is destroyed is the once sovereign state upon whose facts, findings and evolved public-policy parameters were once authoritatively available, reliable and above private-interest selection, slanting and erasure.

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Since its founding, Capital Institute and its collaborative network have been on a journey in search of a path that leads beyond today’s unsustainable economic system and the finance-dominated ideology that drives it toward an economy that operates in service to human communities without undermining the health of our biosphere and all life that depends on it.

Along the way, we discovered a new way of thinking about economics—an approach aligned with the latest understanding of how the universe and its living systems actually work. We call this approach Regenerative Economics, defined as the application of nature’s laws and patterns of systemic health, self-organization, and self-renewal to the vitality of socio-economic systems.

The seeds of emergence of Regenerative Economies in response to the escalating and interconnected social, economic, and ecological crises that jeopardize all we hold dear is a most hopeful development. Yet the promise of such emergence at scale demands we ask a single, vital question:

What would Finance look like if it were to operate genuinely in service of healthy human communities, and without undermining the long-term health of the planet in the process?

Drawing upon an insider’s understanding of the world of high finance from Capital Institute Founder and President John Fullerton, as well as the principles and patterns of sustainability found throughout living systems in the real world, Finance for a Regenerative World provides a frank assessment of our flawed finance ideology, and a bold, principles-based framework for the future of Finance.

The transition toward a regenerative world is a collective effort that is already underway. To promote collaborative review and comment on this paper (and the ideas it introduces) Finance for a Regenerative World is being released in four acts:

Act I: Context and Implications of the Regenerative Paradigm for Finance

Act II: The Failures of Finance

Act III: Towards a Regenerative Finance and a New Investment Theory

Act IV: An Agenda for the Reform We Need

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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

The Political Economy of the Weapons Industry | Prof Joan Roelofs

Guess Who’s Sleeping With Our Insecurity Blanket? For many people the “military-industrial-complex (MIC)” brings to mind the top twenty weapons manufacturers. President Dwight Eisenhower, who warned about it in 1961, wanted to call it the military-industrial-congressional-complex, but decided it was not prudent to do so. Read More