Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future has a liberating audacity. Taking its departure from the notion that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism, it proceeds to describe how the end of capitalism, hence the beginning of a postcapitalist epoch, could be imagined. And the end of the world avoided. It is a long process, made possible only by a militant commitment, a clear taking sides in a War for the Earth against the myriad interests intent on stripmining the biosphere, including whatever is human in it, for the sake of capitalization. But it is only stupid, arrogant, self-deluded, destructive capitalization with no merit other than the further enrichment of the already rich.
Perhaps at some point in the near future—because, unless a new world system is imagined and implemented, there will be no other future, not for us—the world will realize up to what point neoliberal capitalism was indeed a stupid state of affairs. Imagined, produced, and developed by and through a North American hegemony that the Trump years revealed for what it always was: cruel, clueless, ignorant, lying. Unfortunately the political class that has been fostering the catastrophe—they certainly have not contained it, had no visible interest in it, bought and sold as they were by financial agencies that we must now name as enemies of humanity—will pay no price. They are more than complicit in the production and sustainment, with minimal resistance, of a mental structure whose goal was never how to make the system work in a democratic republic, but rather how to make the system create more money for themselves and their owners. The institutions under their boots have been only too happy to go along. That shame should never be whitewashed, should never go away, if historical memory has any purpose.
Be that as it may, it is important to read Robinson’s book, at least to understand how the monumental failure of political imagination of the last fifty years can start to be corrected. Against a political right interested only in continuing and augmenting predatory behavior at whatever cost to others, but also against a political left unable to understand that no universal moralization in the name of a new cultural hegemony contained by the same economic and political-economic structures is bound to have any real effects, The Ministry for the Future says that real politics can only be a function of structural intervention. Moralizing the superstructure through education of the masses in antiracist or antisexist ways—and has the left really proposed anything else recently?—plays directly into the hands of extractive, surveillant, predatory procedures. Did the Obama years not settle that issue already?
Interventions in the economic structure sustained in binding legislation—it is only them that may have a chance to correct the course of history, to change our planetary Gestell, and to open a transition to another historical epoch without which history itself may come to be extinguished. It might be better not to wait for any pious new hegemony before proceeding. It is time to change the political game.
Will Joseph Biden’s presidency even understand the stakes? Or are we doomed to the endless rhetorical parading of a patriotic empathy and a pretense for unity whose direct beneficiaries will continue to be the predators, the actual enemies of humanity? Will Biden initiate the structural interventions that are as necessary as they are urgent in the War for the Earth?