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Book Review: SLOW DOWN

Written by: Duncan B. on 20 April 2024


Slow Down. How Degrowth Communism Can Save the Earth, by Kohei Saito is the second recently-released book which we are reviewing. Kohei Saito is a Marxist scholar and an associate professor at the University of Tokyo. He is a member of the MEGA project which aims to publish the complete works of Marx and Engels, including many works never previously published. 

The author firmly bases Degrowth Communism on his study of Capital and other works of Marx, including unpublished works discovered by the MEGA project.These works show that Marx deeply studied ecology and the relationship between capitalism and the natural environment. Like Vulture Capitalism, Slow Down shows that Marx is still relevant today.
The author discusses the effects of the climate change crisis, and how it particularly affects the countries of what he calls the “Global South.” He describes how the wealthy capitalist countries of the “Global North” exploit the resources of the “Global South” and shift the burden of the environmental crisis on to the countries of the “Global South”.
He debunks the Sustainable Development Goals being promoted by the United Nations and other world bodies. He also criticises ideas such as the “Green New Deal,” “Green Keynesianism” and other attempts to allow capitalism to keep functioning as normal while reducing the burden on the environment. “Decoupling,” which seeks to use new technologies to allow the economy to grow while reducing carbon dioxide emissions is another example of these ideas.
Saito’s answer to the environmental crisis is what he calls “Degrowth Communism.” This means winding back capitalism’s never-ending drive for growth at the expense of the environment, and developing a society where production is carried out to benefit the people within the limits of what the environment can bear.
He writes, “Yet it is capitalism, with its demands for unlimited maximisation of profits and economic growth, that is fundamentally unable to protect the earth’s environment. Both humanity and nature become objects of exploitation under capitalism.”
There is a need for people to band together in solidarity to rein in capital and protect the planet. To achieve this, Saito puts forward what he calls “The Five Pillars of Degrowth Communism.”
1. Transition to a use-based economy. This means producing goods that meet people’s basic needs, rather than producing luxury items and status symbols.
2. Shorten work hours. Workers will improve the quality of their lives when meaningless work is eliminated.
3. Abolish the uniform division of labour. This means ending the division between physical and mental labour and returning creativity and autonomy to work.
4. Democratise the production process. This means communal management of the means of production and deciding what, and how much should be produced.
5. Prioritise essential work. This means prioritising and valuing labour-intensive jobs such as nursing, education, child care and aged care.
Capitalism is destroying our planet. Only the overthrow of capitalism and the creation of a communist society will stop further damage to our earth. Slow Down is a book which should be read by all who are concerned about the destruction of our environment by capitalism.
I will leave the last word to Marx. In chapter XLVI of Volume Three of Capital he wrote, “From the standpoint of a higher economic form of society, private ownership of the globe by single individuals will appear quite as absurd as private ownership of one man by another. Even a whole society, a nation, or even all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the globe. They are only its possessors, its usufructuaries and, like boni patres familias, they must hand it down to succeeding generations in an improved condition.”


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