Naomi Klein's Analysis of Climate Policy Is A Useful Model of Cooperation/Cooperatives

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By Carl Ratner 

Naomi Klein has articulated an important analysis of environmental policy in her new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate. She traces climate policy to politics, and she traces inadequacies in climate policy to exploitive political economics in the world’s countries, particularly the U.S. She emphasizes that genuine change in climate policy -- that will make human life sustainable in the future -- requires transformation of the political-economies of the world’s countries. Failing this, the given political economics will continue to generate environmentally destructive policies. Exactly the same is true for cooperation and cooperatives. Her subtitle: “Capitalism vs. the Climate” can be paraphrased as “Capitalism vs. Cooperation.” Capitalism prevents cooperation, and this antagonism requires that capitalism be transformed in order to realize cooperation, just as it must be transformed in order to effect a humanly sustainable ecological system. Anti-cooperation cannot be solved within capitalism because it is a product of capitalism (as well as virtually all other social systems today). Anti-cooperation is a structural problem of capitalism which logically requires a structural change in capitalism.

The movement for cooperation and climate sustainability are not simply parallel with regard to the causes and solutions of the two problems; the movements are linked. Klein argues that the political-economic transformation necessary for sustainable climate policy and practice is the same transformation that is necessary for a cooperative society: solving pollution requires a cooperative political economy that is owned and controlled by the citizens rather than by corporate executives. This makes her analysis of climate policy/practice inextricably related to my analysis of cooperative policy/practice.

Klein criticizes major environmental groups which act as though technical changes can save the environment, without the need for restructuring the political economy. She argues that they abet environmental destruction by denying the necessary political changes necessary to stop it.  If we agree with this analysis, it follows that major cooperative groups which act as though cooperation can be constructed within the parameters of capitalism, to co-exist with capitalism, impede cooperation because they deny the political action necessary to realize cooperation. If politics is central to climate policy, it is also central to cooperative policy.