It is impossible to overstate the tragedy that is spreading over the Gulf of Mexico, now in its second month, and likely to continue through the summer. There are no surprises there, sadly, either. It was not a question of "if", but of "when". Drill in hard to reach, risk-prone areas, with a more and more precarious chain of technology, with a built-in drive to cut corners -- not if but when.
The whole thing fits so neatly into the dismal dynamics of globalization, a further unfolding of what the ecosystem of globalization looks like.
I still think the most functional, concise definition of "globalization" is "capitalism in the age of electronics." It captures the idea that globalization is very much an expression of capitalism, with its compulsion to constantly expand and maximize profits, but capitalism under very specific technical conditions, the production environment of new technologies. New technologies have enabled oil companies to exploit more distant, hard to reach sources of oil, which entails more and more risk of something going wrong. In the effort to speed production and maximize profits, BP cut corners, used riskier methods, and voila, the largest oil spill ever.
I wrote a piece a few years ago about the "ecosystem of globalization", trying to understand environmental change and how it relates to globalization and speculative capital. In short, my conclusion was that globalization doesn't just transform markets and social relations, it also transforms the environment, creating an ecosystem that facilitates the maximization of profit using new technologies. It recreates the world in its own image. The oil slick spreading over the ocean and coating the shores of Gulf Coast is what that image looks like.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Check out the recent New York Times article, "In Job Market Shift, Some Workers Are Left Behind" (5/12/10) for an insightful (I think) description of the changes in work pushed along by new technologies in the current economy, and the social wreckage that that entails.