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

On the second metabolic phase

“Understanding the intimate interconnectedness of natural and social exploitation, characteristic of the entire second phase of human metabolism within the earth system, will prove completely decisive for approaching, apprehending, analysing and acting effectively within the present phase transition out of linear metabolism, culminating in the Anthropocene crisis.”

“In this type of order, the labouring classes received limited legal protection, in return for regularly being subjected to systematic exploitation by the ruling classes. The latter now monopolised, simply by legislation, the large-scale right of association through state and property. The former looting, or tributes paid for tribal protection rackets, had been substituted by taxes and labour rents. Monotheistic hierarchies of state religion would contribute to the social cohesion of class society.

The territorial sovereignty principle of the state was to culminate in European absolute monarchies or empire-states like China. The principle of appropriating nature was to be even more enduring. Eventually the property principle would be subordinating the state principle. Through enclosure of private property by a minority, modern society was to be constituted – ‘the rule of law.’

Trade had coevolved as a more civilised, secure, permanent, and self-organising way of procurement, parallel to the proto-historic protection rackets and wars of conquest and plunder. In fact, it had had its predecessor even in the harvesting phase, as friendly exchange of gifts in building alliances, avoiding recurring wars over hunting grounds. In the emergence of linear metabolism, trade, together with the trust building practice of credit, had evolved as an organising principle, leading towards class society. With class society established, cities as handicraft centres and trade hubs were to increasingly develop into self-organised semi-autonomy within agricultural societies, that were still dominated by inherited aristocracies and monarchies.


With urban entrepreneurial logics entering agriculture, a rapid increase in its productivity would result. This, in turn, would lead to accelerating population growth, with surplus rural labour power migrating into the slums of growing cities. As the development of productive forces had reached a level that made large-scale industrial production possible, dissolving the monopolistic fraternities of craft guilds, class society was entering its last mode of production, the capitalist one. It was to perpetuate a revolution in productive forces, in turn needing and breeding a general surplus in material provision and in means of cooperation. Thereby new needs were to be awoken among humans at an increasing pace, and development of modern society would take off.”

“Two inverse curves of human cooperation can be distinguished, throughout the entire second phase of linear metabolism, including its proto-historic phase transition. The rate of internal lethal violence has been tendentially declining. The level of association has been incrementally rising. There is a correlation.”

“Definition of agricultural society’s original linear metabolism should be exploitation of the soil through exploitation of human labour. Emergence of this type of metabolism could be counted by thousands of years. Linear metabolism would culminate in a much more rapid tempo. It has now endured for a few hundred years, by geological exploitation of Planet Earth. This fossil regime of resource extraction signified a culmination in exploitation of human labour by machinery. The industrial revolution of capitalism marks the end of the linear phase.”

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