Books on:Animal Rights
Food and Nutrition
Peace and Nonviolence
Trees and Forests
Toward Environmental Rationality
168 pages, paperback, Guilford Press, 1995
Green Production , a translation of Leff's work Ecologia y Capital, addresses the relation of production to development and the environment.
Praise for Green Production
"This work is one of the most coherent and sensitive explorations of the contradictions inherent in economic and environmental thinking. Enrique Leff has provided an important and enlightening demonstration of the critical relationship of production to development, ecology and culture."--Elmar Altavater, Free University of Berlin
"A magisterial synthesis of Marxism, ecology, and cultural theory, Leff's book sweeps away much of the intellectual and theoretical detritus surrounding sustainability, and proposes a compelling vision for an alternative ecotechnology rationality."--Michael Watts, University of California, Berkeley
"A very important book--It reviews the whole of the complex question of the relationship between Ecology and Economic Rationality and Calculation, starting from a critical reading of the philosophical debates over nature and society into a review of integrated resource management proposals, stressing the difficult valuation of environments."--Samir Amin, Director, Third World Forum, Dakar
"You can disagree with some (or many) of the theses of Enrique Leff's book. What cannot be denied is that Green Production is one of the most serious contributions to the contemporary debate on political ecology worldwide."--Victor M. Toledo, National University of Mexico
"Neither neo-Malthusian population pressure nor 'natural' tendencies in social evolution toward increasing energy consumption are sufficient explanations for the global environmental crisis. The crisis results from an economic system geared toward maximizing short-run private profits, that induces the over-exploitation and overconsumption of natural resources. In state socialist economies, the logic of maximizing economic surpluses had similar effects, undermining the ecological basis for sustainable development.
"Therefore, capitalist and socialist modes of production, under different political systems and ways of distributing the social surplus, have nonetheless shared a generalized process of capital accumulation. In capitalist states, free trade ideologies legitimate the need to constantly increase capital and labor productivity and to expand markets. In socialist regimes, an evolutionary concept of history privileged the development of productive forces over the transformation of social relations of production and ecological conditions of sustainability. In both cases, the protection of natural resources and ecological balance were overridden by the need to accelerate capital accumulation. From opposing ideological perspectives, the capitalist and socialist powers maintained in the past a battle toward economic growth as the primary means of attaining global political supremacy."
"A strong degree of contradiction, however, exists between the objective of reaching a determinate rate of growth measured in terms of market prices, and the possibility of including in this economic calculus certain considerations that promote an environmental potential of development. The system of economic calculation that is based on principles of optimizing an objective function reduces the factors to be considered in the development process to quantifiable, aggregated units of measurement. And for a lack of alternative indicators, this function is formed through a system of market pricing, whose tendencies can be regulated by certain 'planning prices' that introduce qualitative valorizations for an analysis of alternative social objectives, but that is incapable of making a specific evaluation of the multiple levels of articulation of economic, ecological, social, and cultural processes.
"In addition, establishing the relative value of long-term processes is constricted by economic calculation rationality. As Gutman suggests,
In any process of optimization where the temporal dimension is included, neoclassical economics interprets this as a rate of interest that penalizes the future, for present benefits. This conception of the future, as 'a cost', that makes any consideration of the long term superfluous, does not derive from any characteristic of physical time, not even from an ineluctable social psychology, but from the theoretical rationalization of capital's role in the process of production.
"The problem of fixing a social discount rate faces further difficulties when attempts are made to translate cultural values, social objectives, and ecological temporalities to a system of market prices. The perception of time is a cultural trait that impedes the establishment of a common norm or a system of equivalencies between a currently perceived value and the renunciation of this value for future benefits. To this is added the impossibility of discounting uncertainty in the future because of social conditionality, and the occurrence of unpredictable natural catastrophes or the emergence of new productive potentials that are not translatable to market prices in order to be extrapolated toward the future to evaluate possible costs and benefits. In this sense, the long-term necessities of production and consumption do not fit into the categories of current capital investment, and it is difficult to internalize them within a limited economic calculation in order to incorporate the goals of an environmental perspective of development."
"The objective of ecodevelopment, defined as a strategy for the production and application of knowledges and techniques necessary for the sustainable management of particular ecosystems, is a social process inserted within the struggles of each community for the appropriation of their natural resources and their social wealth.
"In this way ecodevelopment is linked to a political process of technical and social change, of reappropriation of nature and knowledge. The obstacles to the production and application of new technological strategies of ecodevelopment do not emerge solely from their technical viability and economic feasibility. These obstacles emerge above all from the conflicting interests between the beneficiaries of the established economic rationality and those social groups that have been marginalized and that would benefit from an alternative productive and social rationality. Such changes would affect the interests of those who own and control the means of production--including land and technological knowledge--and who are able to take advantage of the wealth produced within the dominant economic order."
The Difficult Valuation of the Environment