Excerpts from Introduction to Third Phase Transition: Solving The Anthropocene Crisis

On the myth of 'circular economy'

“Circular metabolism is not the same thing as ‘circular economy,’ but its opposite. ‘Circular economy’ is a corrupted concept. It is a contradiction in terms. It should not be confounded with globally advanced circular metabolism. ‘Circular economy’ is being marketed as a business model, claiming to represent sustainable economy. But it actually expresses a reactionary and artificial prolongation of linear metabolism’s commercial obstacles to circular metabolism.

We have ‘dematerialisation of commodities,’ or ‘commodities turned services,’ the story goes, in narrow market analysis of the tendency represented by globally dominant IT corporations. This also, is a contradiction in terms. Already produced information, available within virtual means of cooperation, which actually can be infinitely reproduced, without any additional cost than the energy required for storage and transmission, is being locked in judicially and functionally, as ‘immaterial rights’ and ‘intellectual property.’

This has turned into an ever harsher and more destructive struggle, trying to arrest the generally accelerating historical tendency of property liquidation. Instead, progressively completing this irresistible tendency, as general depropriation (dissolution of property), will be a necessary part of globally advanced circular metabolism. Such a depropriation becomes a fundamental precondition, for liberated natural right, as well as for equitable human right of abundant association.

To the extent that such reactions get successful, in trying to commercialise the need of circular metabolism, they turn into obstacles to systematisation, upscaling, and integration of innovations in sustainability. Instead such innovations become exploited selectively, unilaterally, and unbalanced, in such a way that they force up surrounding linear metabolism even more. They get implemented, only in forms and to the extent that they prove compatible with safeguarding and strengthening abstract capital’s accelerating demands for increasing rents.

In the past few decades, the virtual means of cooperation have found their perverse business model: Giving free access to social media, in exchange for a global systematic identity theft. They go on by auctioning collected data about us to interested bidders. Through Big Data, they centralise cognitive surveillance, control, and manipulation of the users, guiding their senses towards aggravation of globally unsustainable material overconsumption.

‘Circular economy’ wants to give these same commercial interests total control over all material resources of Earth, including monopolised ownership throughout the entire consumption process. This doctrine wishes to complete ‘commodities turning into services,’ so that we consumers never would buy anything, but instead lease all that we use. Global corporations would own and mine resources, produce, rent out, take back, and recirculate all the products. We consumers are told to trust that they would be interested in using this total power sustainably. But for crass economic reasons, the real results would be aggravation of products’ planned obsolescence, deepening of the rift in wealth, powerlessness, and growing frustration of human needs. The Anthropocene crisis would move towards catastrophe, instead of getting solved.

The fact that the phase transition to globally advanced circular metabolism neither can take place at an individual, separate, or national level of resource control, but only globally, is by the proponents of ‘circular economy’ utilised for demanding globally amplified power and wealth to a few billionaires. Their conclusion becomes the opposite of globally generalised right of association, which will be needed for a real transition to advanced circular metabolism. Monopolised ‘cradle-to-grave’ resource control to this associated rent-seeking abstract capital, would mean linear metabolism being transformed into a global totalitarian vicious circle of unbounded parasitism.”

Go back to quotes