The Mill Of Production

Hereby I represent a chapter of my work, originally written in Slovene, which I am slowly but surely translating, entitled: Capitalism as the main polluter of our environment, created in the year of 2014. 

The Mill of Production is a complex self-driven mechanism, that feeds itself with natural resources, consequently it grows and expands. Bigger The Mill gets more natural resources it needs for its existence. Nature goes through Mills metabolism and is, after the Mill absorbs all the capital nutrients from it, eliminated as nothing more useful than feces. (Gould et. al., 2007).

Alan Schneiberg, the professor from the University of Northwestern, Illinois, USA, interweaved Marx’s political economy and neo-Weber sociology, thus created a theory called the Mill of production through which he highlights the meaning of nature and the development of contradictory relations between economic blossoming and environmental destruction (Hanningan, 2007).

Theory recognizes that the nature of capitalistic investing leads to even greater commands for natural resources in order to be able to achieve the determined level of social wellbeing.

Every new wave of investing:

  1. a) weakens employment conditions of production workers,
  2. b) worsens the state of the environment,

but

  1. c) increases profits.

The ecosystem is, during this process, changed into a new profit and new investment, which accelerates demands for elements of the ecosystem (Gould et. al. 2007).

Until 70s years of the previous century, most of the analysis about environmental problems were done by researchers from the field of Natural Science. It was then when first researchers done by the scientists from the sociological field were made. Schneiberg, as one of them, concentrates on the political economy of production and its relationship with environmental problems, and he sees the problem, not as people wouldn’t want to save the environment, but in that that people don’t actually know from whom the environment should be saved (Schneiberg, 2002).

Without proper awareness, people make some decisions that can, in the long run, lead to loss of some elementary human rights. And public will do it voluntarily, by them itself.

For example, private use of bottled water. People, where the state had set this regulation, have accepted it, without being aware that supply with drinking water is a basic right of every human being and that the government’s job is to enable that to every single of its citizen. Instead, the citizen is now responsible for supplying himself with drinking water by buying a bottled water, from which only the Mill of Production profits (Gould et. al. 2007).

mill of production

The Illustration of The Treadmill of Production. Curry 1981; Source: Gould et. al. The Treadmill of Production, 2007

The theory was set as an answer to the question: Why has the degradation of the environment enlarged itself since the World War II?

It states that by the growing degree of Capital that was available for investing and by the change of the distribution of investments, need for natural resources has gradually risen. The theory differs itself from others while it recognizes that the most of the profit accumulates in the Western Countries and that human force is being replaced by ever more efficient technology in order to accumulate wanted profit. In economic boom that followed after WWII, the most of the money was mobilized in the development of newer and more efficient technology, the creation of which demanded far more energy and/or chemicals to be able to replace former, labor-intensive processes and thus resulted in degradation. With the use of new technologies profit increased. The profit that was later used for researchers and development of yet newer and better technologies. Consequently, production had to expand, in order to authorize both fix and operative costs of new technologies. And not only that production had expanded the demand for natural resources, it also extends the amount of toxic waste and waste in general (Gould et. al. 2007).

The theory stands on few hypothesis.

  1. Nature is committed to production. The ecological system has production function, that consists of creating organic matter – biomass – through the birth, grow, and death (Stretesky et at., 2014).
  2. Nature’s production follows rules of nature, such as laws of thermodynamics. First, the Law on Conserving Energy states that Energy cannot be created or destroyed. And the Second, the law of entropy states, that energy that is used in a process of production takes less organized form. For example: when we burn a tree, the energy, previously stored in the tree, is released into the environment and it heats up the surrounding. Energy is transferred into a heat and the ashes, that is to say, becomes reorganized and disorganized. When used in irreversible processes energy loses itself more and more in the environment and moves towards the equilibrium. Following this, production has to, at some point stop, namely, when the equilibrium is reached. Then, the transition from one form to another will not be possible anymore.
  3. Capitalism, by its constant spread of production and use of energy in order to accumulate, as many profits as possible,  accelerates the increase of the entropy. Human economic system interferes into the organization of ecological system (Stretsky et al 2014).

Schneiberg states, that the dynamics of capitalism and its constant tendency for expansion of the Mill of Production the main reason for the ecological disorder.

In the capitalistic system, the access to ownership, namely to the means of production, is distributed unfairly. But to be able to use those means of production capitalists need workers who are able to manage the means. In favor of the owners, must workers and non-owners, for their survival, sell their working power, which is then used by capitalists in order to change raw material into products. If they are to make the profit out of this system, owners must manipulate with the process of production –  intensify work and thus make it more productive. And in order to do that, they strengthen the production with additional use and employment of machines in the chemical industry, which replaces human labor. On the long run, that causes the marginalization of working places and leads to increase of unemployment or the employment under human capability (Stretesky et. al. 2014).

*Featured photograph: Professor Allan Schnaiberg, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA, 14 July 2007. Photograph by Alan Thomas http://www.alan-thomas.com

Sources:

  1. Gould, K., A., Pellow, D., N., Schnaiberg, A. (2007). The Treadmill of Production. Boulder. Chicago.
  2. Hannigan, J. (2007). Environmental Sociology. New York
  3. Schnaiberg, A., Gould, K. (2002). Environment and Society. The Enduring Conflict. The Blackburn Press. New Jersey.
  4. Stretesky, B., P., Long, M., A., Lynch, M., J, (2013): The Treadmill of Crime: Political Economy and Green Criminology. ROUTLEDGE. New York.
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