Marketocracy and the Capture of People and Planet — The acceleration of Twenty-First Century Monopoly Capital Fascism through the pandemic and the Great Reset

This study examines the trajectory that the world has followed since neoliberalism was imposed on humanity half a century ago, assessing the subsequent motivations—and their consequences for humanity and the planet as a whole—of key global elite groups and individuals (Gates, Musk, Bezos and the World Economic Forum, and its proclaimed "Fourth Industrial Revolution" through "The Great Reset") who have powerful influence on the world's governments. We live in dangerous times on our planet that threaten the future of all living things, but there is a way to avoid such a future –––– Álvaro J. de Regil

Water as the Pandora's Box of Ecological Debacle from South and Central America

The hydrological cycle triggers the pandora's box of global greenhouse gas emissions from South and Central America - the Amazon, the Andean Glaciers, the Gran Chaco in Argentina and Paraguay. Since the origins of the Earth some 4,5 billion years ago, water has played an essential role in the planet's biological activity. Through it, mineral salts are diluted, and the organic substances in the cells are maintained, which, in turn, enable vital reactions from the simplest forms of life to the most complex and specialised. In the tragedy of the commons, peasant resistance and struggles for water are fought daily. - Nubia Barrera Silva

Neoliberal economics, planetary health and the COVID-19 pandemic: a Marxist ecofeminist analysis

Planetary health sees neoliberal capitalism as a key mediator of socio-ecological crises; a position echoed in many of the comments on COVID-19. In this personal view, I set out an economic theory that emphasises some of the ways in which neoliberal capitalism's conceptualisation of value has mediated responses to COVID-19. Using the intersection of ecological, feminist and Marxist economics, I develop an analysis of neoliberal capitalism as a specific historical form of economics. I identify the accumulation of exchange value as a central tendency of neoliberal capitalism and argue that this tendency creates barriers to the production of other value forms. - Simon Mair

Democratising Firms –A Cornerstone of Shared and Sustainable Prosperity

We face a dilemma when considering the future of politics. Some argue that environmental sustainability is an obstacle to shared prosperity, calling it elitist and too costly. Others believe that environmental protection measures should take precedence over everything else at the expense of the poorest. This essay will argue that it is possible to respond to citizens' concerns about these issues, and care for the planet, in an entirely different way: by extending democracy in large transnational corporations to build a kind of internal constraint on their behaviour and decisions. I will argue that by addressing what I have called workers' "intuition of democratic justice" - their right to have a say in their lives and futures inside and outside the workplace - we can build a world that is both more democratic and more prosperous and sustainable. - Isabelle Ferreras

Bildung in the 21st Century — Why sustainable prosperity depends upon reimagining education

Bildung implies a dynamic worldview that values independence of mind and spirit, based on ecological and social interdependence. The premise of this essay is that we need to reconsider Bildung today because the challenge of 'understanding' in Understanding Sustainable Prosperity is fundamental. The complexity of the world is overwhelming the complexity of our minds, and addressing that challenge is central to our attempts to create a viable and desirable future. The formal and informal educational challenge is to empower us to develop the capacities fundamental to ecological health and human well-being. - Jonathan Rowson

Anti COVID Vaccines — Temporary Suspension of Patents?

The magnitude and complexity of the pandemic have confronted global society with seemingly irreconcilable dilemmas between combating it with a certain level of effectiveness by seriously affecting the economy and other aspects such as education, free movement of people and freedom of assembly. Or to keep the latter untouched at the price of an uncontrollable spread of the pandemic. A compromise between the two was sought, with relative success. Vaccines seem to play a vital role in slowing down the pandemic. But there is a marked difference between rich and poor countries in vaccines' availability, with direct negative consequences on pandemic control in the latter and indirect consequences in the former due to the ease and speed of transmission of COVID and its variants from deprived regions to those with a sufficient supply of vaccines. This led to the call to make vaccines a public good, not subject to the market. - Alejandro Teitelbaum

Marxism and the Dialectics of Ecology

The recovery of the ecological-materialist foundations of Karl Marx’s thought, as embodied in his theory of metabolic rift, is redefining both Marxism and ecology in our time, reintegrating the critique of capital with critical natural science. This may seem astonishing to those who were reared on the view that Marx’s ideas were simply a synthesis of German idealism, French utopian socialism, and British political economy. However, such perspectives on classical historical materialism, which prevailed during the previous century, are now giving way to a broader recognition that Marx’s materialist conception of history is inextricably connected to the materialist conception of nature, encompassing not only the critique of political economy but also the critical appropriation of the natural-scientific revolutions that were taking place in his time. — John Bellamy Foster

The Physics of Capitalism

Human economies are complex biophysical systems that interact with the wider natural world, and none of them can be examined entirely apart from their underlying material conditions. By exploring some fundamental concepts of physics, we can better understand the workings of all economic systems, including how the energy-intensive activities of capitalism are changing humanity and the planet. This article will explain how fundamental features of our natural and economic existence depend on the principles of thermodynamics, which studies the relationships between quantities such as energy, work and heat. A firme understanding of how capitalism works at the physical level can help us understand why our next economic system should be more ecological, prioritising long-term stability and compatibility with the global ecosphere that sustains humanity. - Erald Kolasi

Energy, Economic Growth, and Ecological Crisis

Can economic growth continue forever? This question poses some intellectual headaches for modern capitalism. It cannot recognise any natural limit to economic growth because that would mean recognising its definitive demise. All this revolves around the central idea that we can decouple economic growth from the material needs of human civilisation, achieving this economic nirvana by doing more with less, investing in clean energy and developing energy-efficient technologies. But instead of organising our societies around the principle of growth, we should organise them around the principle of sustainable human development, which requires the metabolic stability of the wider ecosphere. The social and the ecological are inseparable, and future generations will judge us harshly if we fail to take advantage of this exceptional moment in history. The impending convergence of crises, from the economic to the ecological, demands nothing less than a new vision of our social order. - Erald Kolasi

Capital, Science, Technology

The Development of Productive Forces in Contemporary Capitalism [such as the Silicon Valley Imperial System]. Understanding how contemporary capitalism - which Samir Amin insightfully characterised as the era of generalised monopolies - organises the productive forces is crucial to understanding the forms of domination that define imperialism today and the profound metamorphoses that monopoly capital has undergone over the past three decades. The concept of the general intellect, put forward by Karl Marx, is a valuable starting point for exploring the organisation of productive forces. Take the example of one of today's most "advanced" innovation systems: the imperial system of social Silicon, which has become a parasitic entity with an essential rentier and speculative function. It is underpinned by an institutional framework that favours private appropriation and concentration of the products of the general intellect. — Raúl Delgado Wise and Mateo Crossa Niell

The Pandemic as a Manifesto of a General and Prolonged Crisis of the Capitalist System — The Case of France

The COVID pandemic constitutes a significant health crisis on a global scale. Additionally, it exposes a general and prolonged crisis of the current capitalist system in its multiple aspects: economic, social, political and cultural, with its specificities in each country. We will attempt to analyse the case of France by considering these different aspects. When articulated together, they can give us a coherent and objective picture of the current state of French society. — Alejandro Teitelbaum

Capital and the Ecology of Disease

The marginalisation of socio-environmental approaches to epidemiology in the mid-20th century was justified by the triumph of modern medicine over infectious diseases. It was argued that infectious diseases were phenomena of the past in developed economies, swept along by modernisation. Although contagious diseases were still present in underdeveloped economies, it was proposed that health concerns should focus on the concomitant rise of degenerative diseases. This approach began to unravel. “Is Capitalism a Disease?,” the appearance at the end of the twentieth century of a new series of pathogens, including the return of malaria, cholera, dengue fever, tuberculosis, and other classic diseases,-to which we might now add H1N1, H5N1, MERS, SARS and COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2)-signalled the total failure of the epidemiological transition theory. — John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Hannah Holleman

Moral Economies of the Future — The Utopian Impulse of Sustainable Prosperity

"Moral economy" explores how seemingly amoral economic institutions are normatively and politically instituted. It has tended to neglect how economic actors engage with the long-term future, which is implied in 'sustainable prosperity'. Neoliberalism channels all forms of future, hope and promise into market-based mechanisms such as credit, risk, derivatives, business models and so on. This way of instituting 'the future' blocks all planning, design or imagination alternatives, where the latter seek non-economistic and potentially incalculable forms of long-term engagement (for instance, to future generations). Unframing the neoliberal framework of the 'future' requires rediscovering the forms of futurity, utopia and hope that were present in modernism, which now need to be reinstated in forms that do not degrade the environment. - Will Davies

COVID-19 and Catastrophe Capitalism — Commodity Chains and Ecological-Epidemiological-Economic Crises

COVID-19 has accentuated as never before the interlinked ecological, epidemiological, and economic vulnerabilities imposed by capitalism. As the world enters the third decade of the twenty-first century, we are seeing the emergence of catastrophe capitalism as the structural crisis of the system takes on planetary dimensions. — John Bellamy Foster and Intan Suwandi

Capitalism of Dispossession in the Palm Oil Plantations in the Countries of the Global South

The commodification of land has deepened the ecological, social and economic crises. The unprecedented global pandemic of the covid-19 virus comes from the destruction of the habitats of species of wild animals and plants and the subsequent migration to humans. The neoliberal model is unsupportable in the sustainable conservation of nature and the planet's economy. A change in the capitalist economy is urgently needed. — Nubia Barrera Silva

An Eco-Revolutionary Tipping Point?

Just a couple decades ago, we were told that neoliberal capitalism marked the “end of history.” Now it appears that the system’s ideologues may have been right, but not in the way they envisioned. The system of fossil-fuelled neoliberal capitalism is indeed moving toward an end of history, but only in the sense of the end of any historical advance of humanity as a productive, political, and cultural species due to the increasingly barbaric socio-economic and environmental conditions the system creates. There is now no alternative to the end of history as we know it. — Paul Burkett

The Contagion of Capital

The U.S. economy and society at the start of 2021 is more polarised than it has ever been. The wealthy are awash in a flood of riches, marked by a booming stock market, while the underlying population exists in a state of relative, and in some cases even absolute, misery and decline. The result is two national economies as perceived, respectively, by the top and the bottom of society: one of prosperity, the other of precariousness. At the level of production, economic stagnation is diminishing the life expectations of the majority. At the same time, financialisation is accelerating the consolidation of wealth by a very few. Although the current crisis of production associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened these disparities, the overall problem is much longer and more deep-seated, a manifestation of the inner contradictions of monopoly-finance capital. Comprehending the parameters of today’s financialised capitalist system is the key to understanding the contemporary contagion of capital, a corrupting and corrosive cash nexus that is spreading to all corners of the globe, and every aspect of human existence. — John Bellamy Foster, R. Jamil Jonna and Brett Clark

Marxism and Ecology: Common Fonts of a Great Transition

This essay unearths the deep ecological roots of Marx’s thought, showing how he brought an environmental perspective to bear on the overarching question of social transformation. From there, it traces the evolution of Marxian ecology, illuminating its profound, formative link to modern ecological economics and systems ecology. It concludes by discussing the wider project of building a social movement broad and deep enough to halt and reverse ecological and social destruction. — John Bellamy Foster

Transitioning to Geocratia — the People and Planet and Not the Market Paradigm — First Steps

Parting from the fact that saving Planet Earth, our home, changes everything, we need to build a new ethos where the majority of humankind commits to a system whose only purpose is the pursuit of the welfare of people and Planet Earth. This requires that all Earth resources necessary for the enjoyment of life of all living things be managed to achieve true long-term sustainability. — Álvaro J. de Regil

Democracy, Condocertism and Popular Participation

Parting from the fact that the Anthropocene has pushed us beyond the limits of Mother Earth’s resilience, it is urgent to impose strict rules in order to curb the overflowing anthropic impact that is leading us towards an unknown that appears, alas, sadly known to us. It is in this context—the imposition of insuperable limits—that politics becomes fundamental. At first glance, the most appropriate political form to impose strict rules is any form that allows for a more centralised power. However, the new society must be established by deliberation, not by imposition. In this sense, it is democracy that these pages will deal with; trying also to overcome the dispute between representative and direct democracy. I advocate for the proportional system, considering it the maximum representation of elective democracy. — Andrea Surbone

The Common Places of Environmental Scepticism

The challenge posed by the ‘limits to growth’ runs beyond the level of ordinary political debate, pointing to a crisis of philosophical anthropology: who are we, and how should we live, if we now believe that progress will not continue forever?— Richard Douglas

Ethnic-Peasant Resistance iin South America and Meso America to the 4.0 Agriculture of Catastrophe Capitalism

The ethno-peasant economy extended to indigenous peoples in voluntary self-isolation leads to the concept of Mother Earth. This is incompatible with agriculture 4.0 of the Global North in South America and Mesoamerica in areas of territorial expansion towards the Pan-Amazon Region made up of nine countries: Brazil, Venezuela, French Guyana, English Guyana, Suriname, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. These peoples have full respect for and dependence on land, water, air and forests as sources of life. Unlike the concept of Western economic growth with its linear and fragmented approach, the integral vision of the natural economy, as Karl Marx said, is about "living well" and is on the opposite side from the passions and feelings of greed that emerge from the unlimited accumulation of transnational landowning capital. — Nubia Barrera Silva

The Preemptive Counterrevolution and the Rise of the Far Right in Brazil

Will the left be capable of radically altering the political course it is currently on, which is mostly relegated to institutions and elections? If, throughout the twentieth century, the epicentre of the left’s actions was institutional and parliamentary action, the biggest challenge in this period will be found elsewhere, somewhere different from that which has dominated and exhausted the left until now. It is imperative to reforge the organic ties between the labor and social movements, with their mosaic of multiple tools and without previous hierarchical structures, taking as a starting point the concrete actions of the working class. If we are on the side of reason and revolution,an indispensable beginning is to ascertain, in a Lukácsian way, what are the vital questions of our time if we want to walk together, in solidarity, toward a new, emancipated way of life. — Ricardo Antunes

Life Beyond Capital

People’s everyday lives are lived among the particular people and places that matter to them. They still live lives outside the ever expanding domains of capital. Our environmental and social crises require not the expansion of the worlds of capital, but resistance to that expansion and the growth of spheres of life beyond capital. — Jim O'Neill

The Dictatorship of Financial Capitalism

Capitalism, in its current configuration as the global dictatorship of finance capital, is committing crimes against humanity and devastating the planet. "What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?" (Bertold Brecht) — Alejandro Teitelbaum

Imperialism in the Anthropocene

In 2019, the International Commission on Stratigraphy voted to recognise the existence of the Anthropocene epoch: "the period in Earth's history during which humans have a decisive influence on the state, dynamics and future of the Earth System". Today there can be no doubt about the main force behind this planetary emergency: the exponential growth of the capitalist world economy, particularly in the decades since the mid-20th century. Capitalism thus promotes a "madness of economic reason" that undermines the healthy human metabolic relationship with the environment. But the mere critique of capitalism is insufficient to address today's environmental problems, which cannot realistically be addressed without addressing the imperialist world system, or globalised capitalism, organised on the basis of classes and nation-states and divided into centre and periphery. Today, this necessarily raises the question of imperialism in the Anthropocene. - John Bellamy Foster, Hannah Holleman y Brett Clark

(Un)witting Servitude and Minds Manipulation

Despite the profound crisis of the capitalist system, which is now more evident than ever in all aspects of social and individual life, there is no organised anti-establishment reaction from the majorities nor a rigorous and coherent discourse. A messenger, without populist or opportunistic concessions of a revolutionary ideal, is conspicuously absent. The collapse of real socialism and the fictitious and corrupt “socialism of the 21st century” have also contributed to a conditioned rejection of the idea of a socialist transformation of society. With this combination of circumstances, and on the basis of the almost absolute control of the instruments and means of production and communication, the latter with a practically unlimited capacity for the manipulation of minds, the dominant system is winning the battle. We hope that, sooner rather than later, this balance of power, which is disastrous for the future of humanity, will radically change. — Alejandro Teitelbaum

A Tale of Two Utopias: Work in a Post-Growth World

In this paper, we aim to contribute to the literature on post-growth futures. Modern imaginings of the future are constrained by the assumptions of growth-based capitalism. To escape these assumptions we turn to utopian fiction. We explore depictions of work in Cokaygne, a utopian tradition dating back to the 12th century, and William Morris's 19th century News from Nowhere. By breaking the link between work and consumption at the level of the individual, we can remove some of the coercion in work. This would free us to do jobs that contribute to the social good, rather than generate exchange value, and empower us to fight for good work. Finally, we draw on eco-feminist analyses of capitalism to argue that by challenging labour productivity growth we can also challenge wider forces of oppression. — Simon Mair, Angela Druckman and Tim Jackson

The Politics of Food in Venezuela

Few countries and political processes have been as scrutinised, and at the same time as misunderstood, as Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution. The international media paints a picture of utter devastation in the country, wrought by the government's failed policies and mismanagement. But this dominant narrative fails to capture the complexities of what is happening in Venezuela today. We begin by looking back to the past to place current trends in their proper context. By focusing on the dynamics around the most consumed staples in Venezuela, we can understand the recent food shortages. Some of the main drivers of the shortages come from forces opposed to the Bolivarian Revolution. In the next section, we will discuss the responses to the shortages by government and popular forces. - Ana Felicien, Christina Schiavoni and Liccia Romero

Global Commodity Chains and the New Imperialism

As the authors clearly explain and demonstrate in the following pages, the much higher rates of worker exploitation in the global South have to do with low wages and the fact that the difference in wages between North and South is larger than the difference in productivity. This paper illuminates with powerful evidence, anchored in the theoretical and empirical research of primary chain analysis, our argument that the main driver of social inequality between North and South is the deliberate system of "Modern Slave Labour"; a system imposed on the Global South by elites at both the centre and periphery of the system, to exploit primary labour value chains to perpetuate what could best be described as a new colonialism or global imperialism. - Intan Suwandi, R. Jamil Jonna and John Bellamy Foster

Invisible Exploitation — How Capital Extracts Value Beyond Wage Labour

Capitalists have always used more than the wage form alone to extract surplus product from workers. However, this century is particularly distinguished by its growing reliance on alternate methods of extracting surplus. It’s time for Marxists to rethink our preoccupation with the wage and develop a theory encompassing a common ground of exploitation across a wide variety of extractive relations under capitalism. A recognition of that shared exploitation may prove key if the exploited “class-in-itself” is to become a “class-for-itself,” able to unite and act in solidarity. — Eva Swidler

Unequal Exchange

This Brief assesses economist Arghiri Emmanuel's theory of Unequal Exchange, to delve, from an economic analysis angle, into TLWNSI's central argument: that we endure a North-South system of exploitation, which, among other features, has a direct and premeditated impact on the misery wages paid in all countries in the South. This unequal exchange constitutes a trade imperialism that historically has generated vast earnings for the North, greater than the interests recovered by banks and the profits obtained by transnationals. — Claudio Jedlicki

Keynesian Economics and the Welfare State

This work explains in detail the emergence of the new Keynesian economic paradigm as a consequence of the experience of the Great War and the Great Depression and the results obtained through government intervention during the New Deal. The goal here is to show how the post-war era, with the government in the driver's seat of the economy, provided the greatest period of progress in the welfare of both rich and poor nations, in spite of the very powerful interests that continuously moved in the opposite direction. The essay opens by stating that the war economy pulled the capitalist world out of depression. — Álvaro J. de Regil

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Research and analysis to provoke public awareness and critical thinking

We contribute to the liberalisation of the democratic instituions of society, for they have been captured by the owners of the market. They work in tandem with their market agents, who, posing as public servants, are entrenched in the halls of government. The political class has betrayed its public mandate and instead operates to impose a marketocratic state to maximise the shareholder value of the institutional investors of international financial markets. They own the global corporations and think they own the world on behalf of their very private interest.

Our spheres of action: true democracy – true sustainability – living wage – basic income – inequality – ecological footprint – degrowth – global warming –human development – corporate accountability – civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, responsible consumption, sustainable autonomous citizen cells...

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Parting from an ethos of true democracy and true sustainability, We, the citizenry, work to advance the paradigm whose only purpose is to go in pursuit of the welfare of People and Planet and NOT the market.

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2020 Report: Living-wage assessment – PPP Wage rate gaps for selected "developed and emerging" economies for all employed in manufacturing workers (1996 up to 2018).

Our 2018 assessment reports divergent outcomes among selected economies that were predominantly the result of a meaningful increase of hourly wages in local currency (or lack of it), exchange rates and changes in their PPP cost of living. Six economies improved their position, four lost ground and four did not change. France, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Singapore and Australia improved their equalisation index (Eq-Idx). Canada, United Kingdom, Spain and Turkey lost ground compared to their 2017 position, whilst Brazil, Mexico, Japan and South Africa experienced no change.

Among the six economies that improved their living-wage equalisation position, the main factors were the substantial increase of their hourly rates in local currency combined with a revaluation of their currency or a decrease in their cost of living in PPP terms for private consumption. In the case of the three euro-area countries (France, Germany and Italy), it was specifically the combination of the increase of their hourly wage rates with a revaluation of the euro. This allowed France, Italy and Germany to increase their equalisation Eq-Idx. This combination served to offset their increase of their PPP cost of living, and increased their advantage over the increase of the US hourly rates in real terms. A similar behaviour took place in the case of Singapore and South Korea. In this way, they clearly outperformed the increase of the US hourly rate in manufacturing and thus increased their equalisation Eq-Idx In fact, Singapore’s Eq-Idx is its best recorded since 1996. Australia, in contrast, devalued its currency, but it achieved the highest improvement of its equalisation Eq-Idx among all 41 economies in our reports, which is equal to its best position previously achieved in 2014. This was the result of a strong increase of its hourly rate in local currency and a currency devaluation, which contributed to a drop of its PPP cost of living.

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2020 Report: Living-wage assessment – New assessment of Argentina's wage rate gap 1996-2018

Our analysis of Argentina’s living wages in the manufacturing sector from a global perspective (purchasing power parities) no longer assumes that Argentina’s government will continue to regard the appreciation of real wages as a fundamental element of its economic policy. As expected, the Macri government did everything possible to resume the old centre-periphery relationship that applies a neocolonial ethos to Argentina’s economic policies. Unfortunately, his economic policies have proven disastrous, and in his four years, inflation and devaluation have exploded, the country fell into default of its sovereign debt, real wages collapsed and poverty increased very meaningfully. One clear direct consequence is that the equalisation indices for at least the 2018 - 2020 period will drop dramatically, from 50 in 2017 to low to mid 30s, which is tantamount to the levels prevalent during the 1996 - 2000 period.

After the staunchly neoliberal Macri government left Argentina’s socio-economic conditions in dire shambles, the new Fernández government is doing its best to recover the gains for the common citizen of the preceding Kirchner-Fernández governments, which will be a rather daunting task, given the recurring crises since the start of this century. For now, living wage equalisation in the manufacturing sector vis-à-vis equivalent US wages has collapsed and is destined to drop to levels reminiscent of the 2002 crisis before it begins to recover.

The new government of Alberto Fernandez immediately implemented a countercyclical package to return to demand-side policies aimed at reducing as much as possible Macri’s neoliberal ethos and his economic policy errors. Some of these are tax hikes on foreign currency purchases, agricultural exports, wealth, and car sales as well as labour protections to increase compensation for unjustified work dismissals. Also, as it happened at the start of the century, Argentina was forced to default on its foreign debt, and has just reached an agreement with vulture funds and other foreign creditors that, for the most part, fulfils their demands and not those of Argentinians. Moreover, Argentina is once again under negotiations with the IMF to reduce its never ending sovereign foreign debt. Furthermore, the economic crisis has been convoluted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which will clearly exacerbate Argentina’s deep recession. So far, inflation appears to be substantially lower in 2020 than in 2019, at 13,5% for the first six months, but expected to hover at 30% by the end of the year, despite the effect of the pandemic on an already depressed demand. As with the rest of the world, GDP will fall drastically, at least 11% and then gradually recover, more as a technical rebound rather than as true growth in 2021. All of these factors will make it difficult for Argentina to recover real wages in manufacturing and gradually bring them to their previous equalisation position relative to the 2002 crisis.

Parting from this rather negative context, the socio-economic picture for Argentina looks a lot like a loss of two decades. This would entail a colossal hardship particularly for the lower ranks of society. One of the greatest benefits of the appreciation of real wages of any country –in the context of a living wage ethos in a market society– is the direct impact on the eradication of the conditions of inequality and exclusion; conditions that have prevailed in Argentina for many decades and were only reduced substantially between 2004 and 2015. It remains to be seen if the new government is capable of performing a successful balancing act between the different variables in an extremely complex scenario.


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2020 Report: Living-wage assessment – New assessment of Brazil's wage rate gap 1996-2018

Temer’s supply-side economic policies that continues with Bolsonaro’s government, have stopped any effort to improve the labour’s share of income and clearly reflect a policy of deliberate wage contention. Temer’s government passed a new law (PEC 55) that freezes all public spending for 20 years, which implies that constitutionally-protected government expenditures in the areas of health, education and other social sectors would remain stunted until 2036. This has ended Brazil’s commitment to sustain its minimum wage appreciation policy, after the minimum wage had more than doubled in real terms since 1996. As for manufacturing wages, they actually lost ground since 1996, which partially recovered from the recession at the start of the century, until the minimum wage appreciation policy had a positive influence from 2010 onwards that is now receding once again. Yet, with a renewed recession during the 2014-2016 period, that only began to subside in 2017 and will fall back into a deep recession due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the staunchly neoliberal and predatory supply-side approach followed by Bolsonaro’s government, Brazil will not resume any gains in real terms from a domestic perspective nor will it resume the closing of its Eq-Idx, from a global perspective, for the foreseeable future. In fact, it is likely to actually increase its equalisation gap with comparative wages in the US in the coming years.

For the entire 24-year period (1996-2018), living wage equalisation of manufacturing hourly wages have not made any improvement whatsoever, and they are slightly lower than in 1996. The hourly rates recovered gradually after the turn of the century recession but by 2018 their equalisation with equivalent US wages are down to a 32 index relative to the 34 index of 1996. Our estimate for 2019, indicates that their Eq-Idx would drop to 31 as the result of a meagre increase estimate in local currency, the actual erosion of the BRL and an increase of the PPP cost of living in local currency. The compounding effect of Bolsonaro’s government predatory economic policy that is clearly anti-labour and the COVID-19 pandemic, make any change for the better rather unlikely for the foreseeable future. Hence, the prospect for living wage equalisation appears grim.

Parting from the implications carried by the shift from demand-side to supply-side economic policy in Brazil’s current government, it appears to be unlikely that any meaningful progress will be achieved in increasing manufacturing wages and wage rates for the entire economy in real terms. In the best case scenario, wages will keep their current value. All of this is further complicated by the deep recession triggered by the pandemic.

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Textile Sweatshops in the US
Textile Sweatshops in the US
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Living-wage assessment – Table T5: 1996-2018 Real wage-gap rates for fourteen selected economies, in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, for all employed in manufacturing. *(The base table used for all PPP real-wage gap analysis)

Our 2018 assessment reports divergent outcomes among selected economies that were predominantly the result of a meaningful increase of hourly wages in local currency (or lack of it), exchange rates and changes in their PPP cost of living.

Germany continues to have the best position with an increasing equalisation advantage over the US in real PPP terms in its hourly wage rates, followed by France with a four-point advantage over US wage rates. All other countries continue to record wage gaps vis-à-vis equivalent manufacturing wage rates in the US. Six out of the twelve countries improved their position in 2018 vis-à-vis 2017 by increasing their advantage (Germany and France) or decreasing their wage gaps (Italy, Singapore, South Korea and Australia). Brazil and Mexico remained with the same gap since 2016. Only Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain and Turkey increased their gaps from the previous year. Mexico and Brazil continue reporting the greatest wage gaps.

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2020 Report: Living-wage assessment – New assessment of Mexico's wage rate gap 1996-2018

The staunchly predatory, corrupt and fraudulent governments of Mexico, imposed a policy of wage erosion and containment at an extremely precarious level in manufacturing and all economic sectors, as one of the pillars of their economic policy for nearly 36 years. With the current government, this appears to be changing.

Mexico’s track record since 1996 exposed a deliberate state policy of maintaining modern-slave-work real wages between 1996 and 2015. However, their wage policy appears to have changed in 2017 after the execution of consistent supply-side policies over more than three decades. For the first time the federal minimum wage was increased above inflation in 2017 and 2018. Through a so-called “Independent Recovery Amount”, the minimum wage for 2017 was increased arbitrarily by 9,6%, including 3,9% to offset the estimated CPI inflation rate. The same criterion was applied for 2018, for a total minimum wage increase of 10,4%, including a 3,9% increase to offset CPI inflation. In 2019, Mexico’s new government, vowing to implement a strong minimum wage recovery policy, increased the minimum wage by 16,2%, including a 5% increase to offset inflation and by 20% in 2020, including 5% to account for inflation. This changes appear to have a direct positive impact on manufacturing wages in real terms and on its equalisation with comparative US wages. Between 2015 and 2018 the manufacturing hourly rate in local currency increased 43,6%, and by 18,3% in US dollars after accounting for an erosion of the peso, which allowed the PPP conversion factor for private consumption to drop. The combination of these components allowed the Eq-Idx to gain five points in 2016 and then remain at this level in 2017 and 2018.

After two years, it remains to be seen if the government follows this path or resumes abiding by supply-side criteria. Mexico has the worst wages in Iberian America. We have observed 36 years of a deliberate policy of wage pauperisation that has forced a huge population to join the ranks of the precariat. While minimum wage policy appears to be moving on the right track, there are many instances of public matter with the government clearly siding with the interest of capital and not with the people. If, at the end, the labour’s share of income does not improve steadily and shows a marked increase by the end of 2024, we would have to conclude that the only goal of the government was to mitigate the worst characteristics of exploitation and not to change the structures that sustain them.

On the other hand, if the government complies with its campaign promises, it will take decades to both achieve a living-wage ethos and to close the gap with equivalent wages in the manufacturing sector, under the equal pay principle. At the very least, it will take five six-year terms to fulfil this expectation under the presumption that the current government sets the path and materialises the progress that can be achieved by 2024, as illustrated in our projections.

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2020 Report: Living-wage assessment – New assessment of Spain's wage rate gap 1996-2018

In 2018 Spain widened the gap of its equalisation index (Eq-Idx) after a meaningful four-point gain in 2017. The increase in its gap was largely the result of the combined effect of a drop of its hourly rate in euros and a meaningful increase of its cost of living in purchasing power parity terms, with the latter being in turn a consequence of the revaluation of the euro for the most part, since consumer prices increased less than two percent.

Since Spain joined the €uro area, hourly manufacturing wage rates generally performed better than the minimum wage, with rates consistently moving above CPI inflation, whilst the minimum wage increased at lower rates and lost value in real terms between 2001 and 2004. It was only until 2017 and 2018 that the minimum wage outperformed manufacturing wages in real terms relative to CPI inflation, ending 16% above the CPI versus only 9% for the manufacturing hourly rate. Undoubtedly, Spain’s minimum wage will greatly outperform manufacturing wages in 2019 and 2020. We will see to what extent manufacturing wages are influenced by the pressure exerted by the increases to the minimum wage when the hourly manufacturing rates become available. The government has pledged to push for powerful increases to the minimum wage in the next three years for a total increase of 26% by 2023. Yet mounting opposition from employers already forced them to increase the rate in 2020 at half of what they pretended. According to the government, the 2019 minimum wage of Spain was still below the average for the rest of Europe at 80,6%. For now, inflation has not been impacted whatsoever by the unprecedented minimum wage increase. As for unemployment, it continued to drop in 2019, from 26% in 2013 to 13,8% by the end of 2019. But, as could be expected, by second quarter 2020, it has climbed to 15,3% as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Living-wage assessment (1996-2018) twenty-eight European economies.

For the 28 European economies in our reports, far more economies increased their Eq-Idx with equivalent hourly wages of US workers than experienced a set back in 2018. As in the vast majority of cases
in the 41 economies included in all our reports, our assessment among European economies found divergent outcomes that were predominantly the result of a meaningful increase of hourly wages in local currency (or lack of it), combined by the behaviour of their exchange rates and their cost of living in purchasing power parity terms for private consumption.

The best performers in increasing their Eq-Idx among European economies in 2018 were Estonia (+6), Ireland (+4), Romania (+4) and Slovakia (+4), whilst the major under performers were Switzerland ((-7) and Hungary (-5). All European economies that improved their living wage equalisation index (Eq-Idx) with equivalent US workers, was primarily the result of significant increases of their hourly compensation wage rates in local currencies—vis-à-vis the US hourly wage rate increase of 1,8%— combined with the revaluation of the euro (4,79% or their national currency). This clearly offset their increase in their PPP cost of living and produced increases of their Eq-Id., Conversely, practically all under performers that widened their wage gap with US hourly compensation wage rates, increased their hourly rates in local currency less than the US hourly rate of +1,8% or actually decreased their hourly rate: Croatia (-1,4%), Hungary (-8,1%), Spain (-0,6%), Switzerland (-7,8%) and UK (+0,7%). Lithuania was one exception due to a high increase of its cost of living (+6,7%) despite its hourly rate increase of 2,6%, and Turkey that suffered a steep devaluation of 24,4% that offset its hourly rate increase of 13,2%.

•Among the 16 euro-zone economies, nine increased their Eq-Idx, Austria, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and Portugal did not change and Lithuania and Spain widened their living-wage gap. The combination of the same variables described above for all Europe drew similar results in euro-zone countries: (1) a meaningful increase in the hourly compensation wage rate in local currency (averaging 4,5%), combined with (2) the significant revaluation of the euro against the dollar of 4,8%, were sufficient in most cases to offset the increase in their PPP for private consumption cost of living (averaging 4,9%) and the increase of 1,8% of the US hourly wage rate. This resulted in a 9,5% average increase in the hourly rate of the 16 euro economies in US dollars. Some economies experienced extremely strong increases of the hourly rate in local currency. Estonia recorded the strongest increase at 17,8% in local currency —which translated into a 23,5% increase of its hourly rate in US dollars and on its Eq-Idx, equivalent to a six-point gain, from 43 to 49— followed by Slovakia at 16,8% and Ireland at 11,4% in US dollars. Only Spain and Lithuania increased their living wage gaps due to increases of 4,1% and 7,5% in US dollars that were offset by increases of their PPP cost of living of 5,9% and 6,7%, respectively.

•Among the 12 Eastern European economies, including the euro-zone economies of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia, a marked improvement in their Eq-Idx is evident as a continuation of a powerful trend that has been closing the Eq-Idx gap since 1996, with Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia, more than doubling their 1996 Eq-Idx. The best performers in 2018 were Estonia (+6), Romania and Slovakia, with 4 points each, and The Czech Republic and Poland with 3 points each. Overall, performance was very positive for the 12 economies, once again as a result of the combination of the same variables with the same behaviour: (1) a strong increase in the hourly compensation wage rate in local currency (averaging 7,6%), (2) small change in their PPP for private consumption cost of living (averaging 3,7%), (3) a meaningful revaluation of their currencies against the dollar of 2,3%, which resulted in a strong increase of their wage rates in US dollars (averaging 9,8%), enough to offset the 1,8% increase of the US wage rate and thus increase the Eq-Idx for eight of the 12 economies. If we exclude the euro-zone economies in Eastern Europe, the gains are also considerable for Bulgaria (+1), Czech Republic (+3), Poland(+3) and Romania (+4), Conversely, Croatia, Hungary and Turkey lost ground, with Hungary recording the worst performance as the result of the steep drop of its rate in local currency (-8,1%) and increase of PPP (3,4%) and small revaluation of only 2,6%, which resulted in a drop of 6,6% in its US dollar rate and a loss of 5 points in tis Eq-Idx. Turkey recorded a steep devaluation of 24,4% but its hourly rate increase of 13,2% and the drop of 14,4% in the PPP cost of living allow it to lose only one point in its Eq-Idx.

•The United Kingdom lost two points in its Eq-Idx due to little change in its local currency wage rate (0,7%) and an increase of 4,2% of its PPP despite a 3,7% pound revaluation. Surprisingly, Switzerland recorded the worst performance in all of Europe due to a steep drop of its hourly rate in local currency of -7,8% and little change of its exchange and PPP rates, which resulted in a drop of -7,2% of its rate in US dollars and a loss of seven points.

•Scandinavia, including euro zone Finland, recorded a positive performance. Denmark gained three points, followed by Norway and Sweden with +1 in their Eq-Idx, Only Finland recorded no change. It is worth noting that Denmark, Norway and Sweden have Eq-Idx above 100 and only Finland lags with a 92 Eq-Idx.

 

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Living-wage assessment (1996-2018) eight Asia and Oceania economies.

In 2018 Australia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand improved their equalisation index (Eq-Idx) in manufacturing, Japan recorded no change and China and India
experienced slight set backs. All gains are largely the result of increases of their hour wage rates in local currency in manufacturing, combined with currency devaluations or decreases in their PPP cost of living for private consumption. Conversely, set backs are, for the most part, the result of decreases in the hourly wage rates in local currency.

•In 2018, Australia recorded the best performance of its Eq-Idx among all 41 economies in our reports by increasing it nine points to a 90 Eq-Idx, which is equal to its best position previously achieved in 2014. This was the result of a strong increase (6,6%) of its hourly rate in local currency and a 2,5% currency devaluation, which contributed to a drop of its PPP cost of living of 2,9%.

•Singapore also recorded a strong performance with a six-point gain as the result of an increase of its hourly wage rate in local currency of 6,6%, a revaluation of its currency of 2,4% and minimal increase of only 0,4% of its PPP cost of living. In this way, Singapore clearly outperformed the 1,8% increase of the US hourly rate in manufacturing and thus increased its equalisation by six points to an 89 Eq-Idx, its best position ever and the second best performance after Australia in 2018.

•South Korea followed with a similar behaviour of the key indicators, gaining three points to a 72 Eq-Idx due to a 5,9% increase of its hourly rate in local currency and a 2,7% revaluation of its currency, which was enough to offset the 2,8% increase of its PPP cost of living.

•New Zealand gained one point in its Eq-Idx (56) due to a 1,8% increase of its hourly rate in local currency, a currency devaluation 2,6% and a drop of 3,5% of its cost of living.

•Japan experienced no change in its Eq-Idx (65) due to a PPP increase of 1,3%, little increase of its hourly wage rate in local currency (0,9%) and a currency revaluation of 1,6%.

•India recorded a one-point loss in its meagre Eq-Idx (14) due to a drop of its hourly wage rate in local currency of 1,7%. India recorded a meaningful currency devaluation of 4,8% and a 2,5% drop of its PPP cost of living, but they were not enough to offset the drop in its hourly wage rate and the 1,8% increase of the US hourly wage rate.

•China also lost one point in its meagre Eq-Idx (18) due to the scant increase of only 1,5% of its hourly wage rate in local currency and a very strong increase of its PPP cost of living of 10,3%, the strongest by far among the 41 economies in our reports.

•As for the Philippines, it has not reported yet an update to its “Compilation of Industry Statistics on Labour and Employment”.

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Living-wage assessment (1996-2018) – the four largest economies in the Americas (Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina).

2018 in the Americas exhibits a clear set back or a stagnation in living-wage equalisation for the four economies in this assessment, with a dramatic loss for Argentina, also a loss for Canada and no
change for Brazil and Mexico in their equalisation indices (Eq-Idx) with comparable US hourly rates in manufacturing.

Canada lost a very meaningful three points in its Eq-Idx drop as the direct result of a rare drop of its hourly rate in manufacturing in local currency, with minimal change in its PPP cost of living and exchange rate. This puts Canada at an 82 Eq-Idx, which is one of the lowest positions recorded since 1996.

•Argentina has experienced a gradual erosion of its Eq-Idx as the direct result of incontrolable high inflation rates since 2008. This erosion began to deepen with the Macri government. In 2017, there was a slight recovery, just before the supply-side staunchly neoliberal economic policies of the, at the time, new government began to dramatically reverse the gains in real wages and labour’s share of income delivered by the previous governments. Contrary to its vow to reduce inflation, which averaged 25,6% in the previous government, the policies of Macri´s government averaged 41,4% in CPI inflation during its four years (2016-2019) and the Argentine peso devalued by 81%. Hence, as expected, in 2018 Argentina’s equalisation index collapsed by dropping 8 points, equivalent to a loss of 16%, the worst performance by far among the 41 economies included in our reports. A new economic crisis exploded closely resembling the 2002 collapse, and all wages have dropped dramatically. In 2018 the minimum wage increased 12,9% but inflation reached 47,8%. In 2018, manufacturing hourly rates increased 26,1% in pesos, but the 41% devaluation produced a drop of 25,7% of its hourly rate in US dollars. Thus, despite a drop of 13% in its PPP cost of living, Argentina’s equalisation index recorded a very steep drop and in 2019 will drop even more, as inflation and devaluation rates became even worse, at 54% and 42% respectively. This will take Argentina back to conditions reminiscent of its previous crisis of 2002-2004.

•After Brazil widened its manufacturing wage gap in 2014 and 2016, due to the devaluation of its currency since 2010 under a sustained recession, it managed to keep its Eq-Idx stable in 2017 and 2018, despite the fact that the neoliberal government of Michele Temer passed a law that put a freeze on public spending effectively ending compliance with the minimum wage appreciation law. Minimum wage policy serves as an indicator for all other wages and directly influences manufacturing wages. End of year inflation rates for 2015, 2016 and 2017, added up to 21%, but manufacturing hourly rates in local currency increased only 15,9% during the 2016-2018 period, As for exchange rates, Brazil’s real has managed to experience a minimal loss of only 4,5% during the same period. This has allowed Brazil’s manufacturing Eq-Idx to suffer a minimal erosion, from 32,2 to 31,6 for the same period, given that Brazil’s cost of living in PPP terms dropped 11,6% in 2018. However, Brazil’s Real lost 7,4% in 2019 and has lost 29,2% in 2020 up to the end of August. Thus the combination of Brazil’s increase in currency erosion and Bolsonaro’s reckless deepening of the anti-labour policies initiated by the Temer government, is bound to widen Brazil’s manufacturing hourly wage rates gap, in real terms, with comparable rates in the US in 2019 and 2020.

•After more than three decades of deliberate state policies to impose modern-slave-work wages, Mexico appears to be gradually reversing such policies. This has resulted in the increase of the minimum wage in real terms beginning in 2017 and 2018 with the previous government, a directive that has been reinforced in 2019 and 2020 with the present government. In 2016, Mexico’s Eq-Idx jumped to an unprecedented level of 24, an increase of 21,2% from 2015, as the result of the combination of a 15,1% currency devaluation, a low inflation (2,7%) and a nominal increase in pesos of 27,7%, which resulted in an increase of 8,4% in US dollars despite Mexico’s peso erosion. As for 2017 and 2018, the hourly rate has increased only 5,7% and 6,4% in nominal terms, somewhat above inflation rates of 2,8% and 6% respectively, resulting in a slight increase in its Eq-Idx from 23,6 in 2017 to 24,1 in 2018. It seams clear that, as expected, the government’s demand-side minimum wage policy is gradually pushing wages up in manufacturing and all sectors. 2019 should show this more clearly for the minimum wage increased 16,1%, inflation 3,6%, the peso only slid 0,1% and the US hourly rate in manufacturing increased only 0,8%, which should increase the manufacturing Eq-Idx at least one point.




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Leaked IPCC Reports

(Required reading to become aware that it is up to us, the citizenry, to save ourselves by taking eco-revolutionary action, as those in power will lead us to the final precipice)

On August 9, 2021, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. This was Part I of its Sixth Assessment Repory.

It is a sign of just how serious matters have become—with the UN COP26 talks on climate in Glasgow this November now regarded by many as a last-ditch effort to achieve a global solution on behalf of humanity as a whole—that the early draft versions of both Part II and Part III reports were leaked during the summer. In late June, Part II of AR6 was leaked to the French news agency Agence-France Presse (AFP), which then proceeded to publish an article based on the leaked report (“Crushing Climate Impacts to Hit Sooner than Feared,” June 23, 2021). 

Days before the publication of Part I, the key section of Part III, a “Summary for Policymakers,” was leaked by scientists associated with Scientist Rebellion and Extinction Rebellion Spain. An article announcing the leak, entitled “IPCC Sees Degrowth as Key to Mitigating Climate Change,” was published on August 7 by journalist Juan Bordera and ecologist Fernando Prieto in the Spanish online magazine Contexto y Acción (CTXT). The leaked “Summary for Policymakers” for Part III was the draft document accepted by Working Group III, before the various participating governments—which in the IPCC formal adoption process are able to make changes to the “Summary for Policymakers” prior to its publication—could excise key elements of the report and water it down. 

Near the end of August, there was a second leak from Part III of the Sixth Assessment Report emanating from the same sources—this time of Chapter One of the third report. This leak was announced in an article by Bordera, Prieto, and three others published in CTXT, entitled “Leaked Report of the IPCC Warns that the Growth Model of Capitalism Is Unsustainable” (MR Online, 23 August 2021). 

As the report indicates at one point, referring to the analysis of Malm and others: “The character of social and economic development produced by the nature of capitalist society” is viewed by many political-economic critics “as ultimately unsustainable.” Indeed, a close, critical reading of the leaked Chapter One leaves little doubt that radical system change is now the only remaining path to a sustainable future for humanity. As UN secretary-general António Guterres exclaimed in a statement accompanying the release of the new IPCC report, this is “a code red for humanity.” There is simply no hope for the world unless people everywhere are determined to surmount the main barrier to human survival: the barrier of capital itself.

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The "Metabolic Rift" of John Bellamy Foster:

What contributions for an ecomarxist theory?

This article sets out to analyse the relevance and identify the eventual limits and shortcomings of J. Bellamy Foster’s concept of “metabolic fracture”. A series of criticisms from various branches of ecomarxism are compiled. Some criticisms reject the idea altogether, while others recognise its interest and consider refining it. Despite an obvious lack of empirical foundations and its “catastrophic” character, I propose the concept has several merits. It explicitly refers to the Marxist concept of “metabolism” and allows a much-needed debate in ecomarxism about the limits of nature to be started.
 

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The Paris Commune

Marx, Mao, Tomorrow

In 1871, Karl Marx proposed an account of the Paris Commune that is wholly inscribed in the question of the state. For him, it comprises the first historical case in which the proletariat assumes its transitory function of the direction, or administration, of the entire society. From the Commune’s initiatives and impasses, he is led to the conclusion that the state machine must not be “taken” or “occupied,” but broken.

Let us note in passing that the chief fault of the analysis probably lies in the notion that, between March and May 1871, it was the question of power that was the order of the day. Thus, those tenacious “critiques” that have become commonplace: Whatthe Commune supposedly lacked was decision-making capacity; if it had immediately marched on Versailles; if it had seized the gold of the Bank of France; and so on. To my mind, these ifs lack real content. In truth, the Commune had neither the means to address them properly, nor in all likelihood the means to arrive at them.

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Buen Vivir: A Concept on the Rise in Europe?

The concept of buen vivir has gained visibility in Latin America in recent years. Rooted in indigenous worldviews, buen vivir rests on an understanding of humanity’s relationship with nature that is fundamentally at odds with the anthropocentrism of modernity. Gustavo Hernández and Henkjan Laats trace the concept’s rising trajectory and its influence and echos in Europe. While buen vivir’s inclusion in formal bi-regional dialogue and its resonance with local initiati

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2020!
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2020!

Identifying a Safe and Just Corridor for People and the Planet

Keeping the Earth system in a stable and resilient state, to safeguard Earth's life support systems while ensuring that Earth's benefits, risks, and related responsibilities are equitably shared, constitutes the grand challenge for human development in the Anthropocene. Here, we describe a framework that the recently formed Earth Commission will use to define and quantify target ranges for a “safe and just corridor” that meets these goals. Although “safe” and “just” Earth system targets are interrelated, we see safe as primarily referring to a stable Earth system and just targets as being associated with meeting human needs and reducing exposure to risks. To align safe and just dimensions, we propose to address the equitydimensions of each safe target for Earth system regulating systems and processes. The more stringent of the safe or just target ranges then defines the corridor. Identifying levers of social transformation aimed at meeting the safe and just targets and challenges associated with translating the corridor to actors at multiple scales present scope for future work.

Plain Language Summary 
For the first time in human history, we are now forced to consider the real risk of destabilising our home, planet Earth. This is an existential risk, as we all need a planet that can sustain life and provide the basis for the well-being of all people. Here, we outline a conceptual framework for a global-scale “safe and just corridor” that delivers on these goals for people and the planet. The recently formed Earth Commission will use this framework to map key functions that regulate the state of the Earth system and provide life support to us humans, including processes such as biodiversity and nutrient cycling. It will also analyse the related justice components, for each of these Earth system target domains, in terms of how such ranges can be defined and how nature's contributions to people can be justly shared. Furthermore, social transformations that meet safe and just targets for all people and how the global-scale targets can be translated to targets for actors at other scales will be explored.

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2020 Report: Living-wage assessment – PPP Wage rate gaps for selected "developed and emerging" economies for all employed in manufacturing workers (1996 up to 2018).

Our 2018 assessment reports divergent outcomes among selected economies that were predominantly the result of a meaningful increase of hourly wages in local currency (or lack of it), exchange rates and changes in their PPP cost of living. Six economies improved their position, four lost ground and four did not change. France, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Singapore and Australia improved their equalisation index (Eq-Idx). Canada, United Kingdom, Spain and Turkey lost ground compared to their 2017 position, whilst Brazil, Mexico, Japan and South Africa experienced no change.

Among the six economies that improved their living-wage equalisation position, the main factors were the substantial increase of their hourly rates in local currency combined with a revaluation of their currency or a decrease in their cost of living in PPP terms for private consumption. In the case of the three euro-area countries (France, Germany and Italy), it was specifically the combination of the increase of their hourly wage rates with a revaluation of the euro. This allowed France, Italy and Germany to increase their equalisation Eq-Idx. This combination served to offset their increase of their PPP cost of living, and increased their advantage over the increase of the US hourly rates in real terms. A similar behaviour took place in the case of Singapore and South Korea. In this way, they clearly outperformed the increase of the US hourly rate in manufacturing and thus increased their equalisation Eq-Idx In fact, Singapore’s Eq-Idx is its best recorded since 1996. Australia, in contrast, devalued its currency, but it achieved the highest improvement of its equalisation Eq-Idx among all 41 economies in our reports, which is equal to its best position previously achieved in 2014. This was the result of a strong increase of its hourly rate in local currency and a currency devaluation, which contributed to a drop of its PPP cost of living.

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The Energy-Extractives Nexus and the Just Transition

The concept of a ‘just transition’ to a low-carbon economy is firmly embedded in mainstream global discourses about mitigating climate change. Drawing on Karl Polanyi's political economy elaborated in The Great Transformation, we interrogate the idea of a just transition and place it within its historical context. We address a major contradiction at the core of global energy transition debates: the rapid shift to low-carbon energy-systems will require increased extraction of minerals and metals. In doing so, we argue that extractive industries are energy and carbon-intensive, and will enlarge and intensify social and ecological injustice. Our findings reveal the importance of understanding how the idea of a just transition is used, and by who, and the type of justice that underpins this concept. We demonstrate the need to ground just transition policies and programmes in a notion of justice as fairness.

I get to have the benefits of air conditioning and air travel and all the other environmentally expensive amenities that the prime victims of climate change will not have. And the same holds for the overlapping case of global economic justice. ‘The Beneficiary’ (Robbins, 20171)

Karl Polanyi's classic work The Great Transformation provides a template for understanding major points of epochal change. The proliferation of proposals for transitioning to a low-carbon economy implies, to a greater or lesser extent, a major paradigmatic transformation in the Polanyian sense (e.g., Kanger & Schot, 20192). This thinking is beginning to settle around the concept of a ‘just transition’, which originally emphasised labour and environmental interests and is now broadly conceived as an approach for balancing socio-economic and ecological considerations in response to climate change. We might therefore say that our current ecological crisis is subject to what Polanyi called a ‘double movement’: where steps taken towards the partial or complete resolution of a crisis are continually counter-balanced by forces that created the crisis in the first place. The concept of a just transition forms part of the many movements in the dynamics of industrial capitalism. But as we observe, there are both modest and radical versions of the just transition concept and there is limited consensus as to what a process of transition should or might entail and who should be responsible for this change.

In this article, we address a major contradiction at the core of energy transition discourse and debate: building low-carbon energy-systems to power a low-carbon economy will require vast amounts of minerals and metals. Meeting this future demand will mean more energy and carbon-intensive forms of resource extraction, which will likely enlarge and intensify geographies of injustice. The meaning of a just transition is explored in the context of expanding extractive capitalism – we question what is ‘just’ about the transition given the current and future costs of delivering on global emissions targets. As the just transition discourse rises in popularity, and shapes climate and energy policies, tracing both its history and future development will be important. Understanding how the idea is used, and by who, matters a great deal as we interrogate who bears the burden and shares the benefits of a global energy transition.

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