The late 1990s and early 2000s were in many senses notable for the lack of anything much happening in the realm of big ideas on the political left, but one notable part-exception to this was the Canadian icon Naomi Klein’s No Logo, a seminal work which at least critiqued the outsourcing practices of multinational corporations – though it proffered little in the way of solutions. Well over a decade on, our Creative Director & CSO recently happened upon an interview with Ms Klein in Resurgence magazine in which she expounds upon the necessity of drastic measures in the face of the sobering evidence confirming (post-)modern man’s appalling impact on the ecology he depends on.
So far, so uncontroversial and indeed necessary, but the essence of Ms Klein’s latest work – This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate – is that it is only collective action defined by massive state intervention which has a chance of rescuing the planet: ‘Climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests. A belief system that vilifies collective action and declares war on all corporate regulation simply cannot be reconciled with a problem that demands collective action on an unprecedented scale and a dramatic reining in of the market forces that are largely responsible for creating and deepening the crisis.’
Ms Klein certainly has a point about the regulation of many the biggest corporate entities being at best nominal in many jurisdictions. This can and must change. But just as looking upon the state as an inconvenience to be subverted and/or captured at every opportunity is proving to have obvious practical limits, the author appears to be forgetting how and why gargantuan state intervention became so discredited: time and again, giving the state too much power has produced dire outcomes, particularly – as the Soviet experience demonstrated all too chillingly – for the environment. Indeed, it is easy to see how a genuine concern for today’s vital green issues could be hijacked by governments of all hues to engender unprecedented authoritarian dystopias.
Ms Klein’s provocative thesis is timely and welcome, but it largely serves to underscore just how important the articulation of a genuine third way – where highly capable, constitutionally-limited states interact with a vibrant civil society and sensitive forces of commerces to meaningfully address the compelling issues of the epoch – has become. But is anyone up to the challenge?