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The missing C that threatens to flood us all

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to contrast conventional economists' belief that human needs are optimally satisfied by the market, with Marx's view that capitalism has a narrow focus on money making, where satisfying human needs is at most a by-product of the system's restricted purpose. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper explores conventional economics, then Marx's economics, focusing on the issue of saving the environment, as the most basic human need is having a viable environment. Findings ‐ Economists' focus on use-value and optimality is explored. Marx's alternative explanation of capitalism is then introduced. The author explains why Marx thinks capitalism has a tendency to boom and slump and to produce rising levels of inequality and considers how, under capitalism, the environment could be saved, and concludes that both human needs and the environment are best secured in a more advanced social system than capitalism. Research limitations/implications ‐ To properly understand capitalism, one must look to Marx's unsurpassed analysis of capitalism, rather than conventional economists' attempts to justify, but not actually explain, capitalism. Practical implications ‐ Saving the environment is likely to be far more difficult and disruptive to the economy than conventional economists imagine. Social implications ‐ For society to actually focus on satisfying human needs, including, crucially, saving the environment, there needs to be a move to a more advanced social system than capitalism. Originality/value ‐ The paper challenges orthodox views by applying Marx's deeper understanding of the economy to the question of human needs/the environment.
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Keywords: Capital; Economic theory; Marxist economics; Social systems; Value analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 15, 2011

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