Radical media, politics and culture.

P.M., "Suburbia or Global Communities?"

"Suburbia or Global Communities?

And the Next Mutiny on the Bounty"

By P.M.

[A longer article, presented in three parts.]

"I was more worried about myself then than I was at any other time of my life... You’ve fallen into something that’s so ugly and horrible. Instead of My Drugs Hell, it’s My Suburban Hell.That’s not being flippant. One thing I really fear is living that whole kind of home/garden/kids kind of suburban existence. DIY and all that. I’d much rather be selling my arse in King’s Cross than living that kind of life. It’s sick and sordid that people have set such limitations on themselves, thinking that’s all they’ll get.“ (Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, about his life after his drug-addiction)

"Paradise has been found.“ Bruce Steinberg, of Merrill Lynch, about the US. (Tages-Anzeiger 1-26-2002)

Suburban Utopia

At this moment everyone on the planet is watching the people of the USA and wondering how they are reacting to the present global crisis. For the most "dangerous" working class on this planet is the US working class. When its compliance with capital ends, US capital will collapse and thereafter, like dominoes, all the secondary capitals. Some of those lesser proletariates seem ready for such an eventuality, are even prepairing for the "day after“, expecting the big holiday. The Germans and the French are rehearsing work-free lifestyles for five to six weeks every summer, the Japanese have only been pretending to be part of the game for 100 years and seem to be about to quit now. The Italians, Spanish, Russians are ready to let go. The Chinese, the Indians and Argentinians are desperately looking for a way out. Many others never really tried.

But the US working class is not only potentially dangerous to world capital. If it keeps supporting it actively or passively, there can’t be an end to the world’s turmoil, destruction and misery. The key historic question of our age is therefore: why is the US working class not letting go? Why are they still putting up with capital’s arrogance and constant demands? What have they got to lose?

Try this: The US proletariate is living in a kind of continental "Truman Show“, in a consumers‘ paradise. They’re already living in near-paradise, in a state of bliss, in a virtual utopia, beyond, in non-capitalism, in suburbia. And they seem to love it. They’re disgustingly happy – or : they think they are. (Which is even worse.) As long as suburbia can exist or as long as there is at least a believable pretense or realistic hope for it to come true, there can be no change on this planet, just the defence of the status quo with all means. Nobody wants to lose paradise, especially not to crazy terrorists who are willing to die in order to get there.US-suburbia is expensive for capital, but it’s the price that world-capital has to pay to support its champion and ultimate garantor of survival, US-capital. Since the early eighties, the US trade deficit has been expanding, being 450 billion in 2000. Foreign capitalists are holding 36 per cent of federal loans, 18 per cent of private loans and 7 per cent of US stock, all rising. (Die Zeit, 2-14-02; 17) Even so-called national capitals would rather sacrifice their "own“ nations (it’s quite obvious that they’re doing this already) than give up their subsidies to US-capital. It’s a strategic investment, well-defined, ideologically air-tight, culturally defended by TV soaps, Hollywood productions, commercials, the media in general all over the world. US-suburbia is the spiritual homeland, the implicit aspiration, of most inhabitants of this planet, be they in Palestinian refugee camps, Iranian neighborhoods, African or Chinese villages. It’s the "regular lifestyle“, maybe even "civilisation“. Suburbia is "what we want“ and the Americans are already living it for us. The American dream has become the planetary dream. There’s no clash of civilisations – sadly.

What is so attractive about the model suburbia? First of all, it offers a piece of individually owned land, a garden, or old Persian: "pariwaiza“ (hence: Greek "paradisos“). To own land, real soil, not just a flat on the 22nd floor, means that you really belong to the planet, that you are a serious inhabitant of the biosphere. Unfortunately, the suburban lot is too small to actually feed the family – but it conveys at least the idea of it, it signifies symbolic subsistence, virtual independence, a sense of autonomy. The suburban lot is the shrunken version of what free farmland in the west used to be and it takes all its architectural and ideological connotations from that period of colonial expansion: the white man’s home at the frontier. It’s not communal land, with all its hassles of sharing, dividing and the necessary communication. It’s land with no strings attached, free land for free owners. The suburban lot is the home of the homo (or better: vir) economicus, capital’s ultimate decision unit and terminal of exchange and contracts. Wherever the idea of the "free man“ versus clans, communities, nations or society as a whole takes root, the immediate desire for individual enclosures, be they as small and dysfunctional as suburban lawns, arises. The fact, that the banks really own the land by virtue of mortgages, or the employer, by virtue of the interests that can only be paid as long as he pays wages, doesn’t diminish its ideological status. The land is virtually free, the idea of individual freedom is still there: this land is your land. You can mow the lawn or not mow the lawn. Here the tired heroes of work can stretch on the grass and enjoy a social moratorium.
The man-on-his-lot-ideology is not rooted in some genetic programme or even human nature, it’s the result of a long and tragic process, that might reach into prehistoric times. The traumatisation and militarisation of Celtic, Germanic and other Western Asian tribes in Europe by the Roman Empire played a crucial role in this development. The creation of the "Germans“ can be considered as the world-historic mission of the Roman Empire, it seems that even their name was a Roman invention. More than 500 years of wars taught these tribes, that they could only survive with an authoritarian and therefore strictly patriarchal organisation. Their original commons couldn’t withstand the impact of patriarchal family-clans and produced an aggressive clan-structure of conquest and subsequent enclosures to reward the warriors with their lots. The aggressivity of the Germanic movement of enclosing led to the conquest of the Americas, to the British Empire and to the construction of the most powerful war-and-work-machine of all times, the US. Originally a tribal movement, global Germanization has overcome cultural or racial limits. As a matter of fact the present US is more German than Germany itself, where some remnants of the commons have survived in the form of the welfare state (Sozialstaat). In some parts of the world, globalisation can still be percieved as a tribal issue, though. So the word for "westerner“ in Greek was frango, in Arabic it’s franji, in Thai farang and in Polynesian palangi, all meaning "Frank, Franconian, French“, i.e. the "free man“. (On a Pannonian tombstone the following inscription of the 4th century was found: "Francus ego,cives, Romanus miles in armis": "I’m a Frank citizen and a Roman soldier in arms“.) The Franks were the westerners that, from an oriental perspective, were encountered as crusaders in the 12th century, and later as the British (Saxons, Angles, Normans) merchants, soldiers and colonial administrators. Also the Spanish conquista of South America was only the continuation of the re-conquista by romanised Germanic Visigoths, Vandals and Swebes (cf. Germanic names like Carlos, Francisco, Rodrigo etc.). In 1492 Granada fell, the Jews were driven out and Columbus "discovered“ America. Even the architectural and other imagery of the global Germanisation ignited by the Romans is a reminder of these 2000 years of patriarchal education: the Roman pantheon or basilica provide the blueprints of any Capitol in the US, the two basic models of suburban houses are either Roman (or Spanish) villas or Germanic ("Tudor“) farmhouses.

On this Germanic lot there is a detached house, similar in design to all the others, but personalized in a variety of details: porch, paint, car port, garage, plants etc. So suburbia is symbolically egalitarian, but not communal. To avoid ennervating envy, the owners are on the same social level and those, who aren’t, are expelled. Again, this cultural monotony is an echo of the racism of white colonialism, and suburbia only works with racial or at least social segregation. But, self-evidently, the racists are all equal. The house is a two-generation family house, i.e. of a couple with children, not a clan seat. The family father, exploited and ridiculed at his workplace, is the only and uncontested master at least at home and so can regain his psychological stability (symbolic dignity). The social unit is also biologically independent, capable of producing a new generation of suburbanites under the genetic supervision of the head of the family.

In contrast to traditional communities, suburbia is only moderately patriarchal. Firstly, there’s only one patriarch to deal with who hasn’t got any strong allies in the same habitat. So wives were able to obtain a certain degree of material feminism. There’s a fridge, a dish-washer, a washing-machine, a vacuum-cleaner, automatic heating, a micro-wave and there are pre-cooked meals. Though it is correct, that hours spent on housework have not diminished since 1926, it must be conceded that the physically heavier chores have become easier and that the new forms of housework, like helping children with their homework, counseling burnt-out husbands, are more challenging than scrubbing floors. Originally suburbia was designed for the men working in factories and the women staying at home and taking care of reproduction. A rhythm of work and sex, punishment and reward defined what was considered "life“. As capital needed more workers, and as rising living costs required two incomes per household, a slight redefinition of suburbia occurred in the seventies, suburbia II. Since then, both parents have been working, sharing more of the housework, eating out more often and hiring underpaid illegal female household workers from poor countries. Suburbia II is more "feminist“ within, but at the same time more patriarchal on a planetary scale. Still, even the treacherous material feminism of suburbia is exerting a subversive attraction on more oppressed women around the world and is a source of revolt against traditional patriarchs.

The compensatory functions of suburbia within the framework of capitalist production and circulation are obvious. Suburbia did not come into existence as a surprising gift from capital, but it was the result of earlier struggles and defeats of company town workers against factory capital. It was necessary to diffuse working-class clusters and organisations based on more "camp-like“ forms (see later). But suburbia is an extremely costly and ineffective way of reproducing a proletariate. Firstly it’s based on huge amounts of readily usable energy (mostly oil and electricity). 60% of the present energy-supply is needed to heat or cool detached houses, whose ratio of volume versus surface is very high, making insulation difficult. It is even more essential to keep two or three cars running, that are used to link the house with several workplaces, schools, shopping malls, leisure facilities, all kinds of services (doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, nail studios). The suburban layout is the least energy efficient of all known urban structures. Whereas a person in Houston Texas (density 10 persons/ha) uses 290 litres of gas per year, it’s only 11.4 litres in Hongkong (density 293 p/ha), or thirty times less. (Maxeiner, Lexikon der Öko-Irrtümer, Piper, 2000; 283) Without the car, suburbia would collapse instantly and its symbolic subsistence would unveil itself as an almost total dependence on global macro-systems. Every US-president is the champion and father of suburbia and therefore an oil-president (particularly so the two Bushes). Without petroleum suburbia collapses, the US working class’ deal is off and the road to all kinds of unthinkable alternatives is open. But: TINA! ("There is no alternative,“ as Maggie Thatcher pointed out in 1980.)

Suburbia was created as the model of paradise – in reality it never worked on its own. Independently from its ecological lack of sustainability, suburbia actually went in crisis for internal reasons right from its start. In spite of all neoromantic Hollywood movies, the man on his lot was faced with instant desertion by his wife. The American male’s dream was dismantled as a trap of lies, deceptions and impossible ambitions by authors like Arthur Miller (Death of A Salesman), Edward Albee (Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf) right after WWII. The immense boredom of a life between single houses and shopping malls pushes young people into drugs, random violence, gothic and neonazi cults and into acts of amok. At the end of the nineties suburbia wasn’t much more than a cynical joke (The Simpsons and other serials), a depressed real estate agent’s nightmare (Richard Ford, Independence Day, 1995) or the downfall of gated communities (T.C. Boyle, Tortilla Curtain, 1996). So, suburbia is clinically dead, but still here, still being maintained physically alive by all kinds of palliative therapies (communitarianism, Prozac, more police, security systems, the mobile phone etc.). Paradise mustn’t die, although fewer people live there and enjoy it less and less.

The Camps

For capital suburbia was meant to be the good-weather deal, reserved for the most dangerous proletariat whose loyalty was essential on a global scale, the supervising American proletarians. But there has always been a bad-weather version of storing and reproducing the working-class. This "other“ deal we call the "camp“ or more appropriately the "lager“, for "camp“ is derived from Latin "campus“, meaning "field“ and actually is a euphemism; the German term "Lager“ (as in Konzentrationslager) is a synonym of "depot, storage“ (also of beer) and describes the concept more precisely. (A Latin term for lager could be "castra“, the military camp of the Roman army, that provided the lay-out model for KZs like Dachau.) The lager is the original way of keeping proletarians ready for work: the workhouse, the factory-cum-dormitory, prisons, plantations, orphans‘ homes etc. Even commercial or war ships can be considered as a kind of floating lagers. The first factory in Switzerland, Hard in Winterthur, which was leading industrialisation on the continent around 1800, was built with dormitory, school for working children included. The idea, that a worker would be able to afford his own house or even a rented room on the wages that were paid, was unthinkable. The time that would be lost if he returned (on foot!) to some relatives‘ homes, would have reduced actual working time to nothing. The lager is cheap in all aspects, for the "variable capital“ (workers) is stored right on top of the "constant capital“ (machines) and the synergetic combination of the two happens on the spot. Whereas suburbia is a form of symbolic subsistence of socially isolated families, the lager is a militarised, hierarchical, authoritarian form of community. The lager working class is brought together and pre-organised by capital itself. Communication between workers and bosses is instantaneous and fast – but also among the workers themselves. Lagers are ecologically very sound, energy-efficient, not wasting space and resources. The heating of compact buildings requires little or no fuels at all, no transportation time is lost, cooking in communal kitchens saves food and equipment. All these advantages were essential to keep wages low without necessarily compromising the workers‘ health and fitness (although historically, they usually were). But there are also costs and risks. Suburbia "rules“ itself by pitting the interests of individual units against each other. The lager however requires a professional crew of foremen ("Lagerleiter“), supervisors, cooks, doctors, ideologues, and clear formal lines of command ("Dienstweg“). This professional supervison in turn can only be upheld by granting the lagerleiters a more luxurious extra-deal outside of the lager, usually a suburban house. (From this perspective US suburbia is the extra-deal for the lagerleiters on a global scale!) Lagers are extremely profitable on a short-term basis and if — due to continuous influx of workers from the countryside — no internal reproduction is necessary. However lagers can suddenly become very expensive for a number of reasons: defection or "softening“ of supervisors, epidemics, flights, breakdown of discipline, mutinies, "hysteria“, fires, tensions between the two sexes etc. As soon as men and women are in the same lager and children are born, its productivity begins to decline, for the necessary social communication among the inmates will diminish the time available for production. Exactly the compactness of the lager enhanced this risk, and so the typical concentration camp is a spread of barracks, a lay-out, that, of course, is ecologically less efficient. The lager is a highly explosive "social reactor“ with all the characteristic risks of reactors. But capital is exactly the economic form to deal with risks.

Although suburbia has become the model lifestyle of the US and the world, there have always been extended areas of "lagers“ even there: cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia or Chicago comprise huge housing projects, neighborhoods of multistorey brownstones, and look more "European“. In a certain way a city like New York is a refugee camp (or therapy ward) for all those who run away from suburbia. Nevertheless even New York City is surrounded by a huge belt of suburbia, beginning in Queens and extending into Westchester, Long Island and New Jersey. Additionally, there is a movement of urban renewal against suburbia in the US, an important sign of hope to which I shall return later on.

In times of economic contraction and urgent need for cheap labor, lagers spring up almost spontaneously in manifold forms and shapes. US suburbia with its antisocial structure produces crimes among the excluded that in turn make necessary the construction of lagers for criminals. Not only is the US the country of the biggest suburban sprawls, but it’s also the one with the world’s biggest system of lagers, counting more prisoners than the Soviet Union’s Gulag in its worst times. The wars necessary to safeguard suburbia’s petroleum supply have produced refugee camps all over the planet. Living in camps has become a quasi-permanent lifestyle for millions of people. But also the armies fighting the wars are nothing else than mobile lagers. (Mental) hospitals, old people’s homes, trailer parks, institutions for the young, the handicapped, the "socially misadapted“ etc. are created, whenever cheap storage of problematic or rebellious groups of the population is required. Most governments keep plans for "internment“ of all kinds of people ready in their drawers for immediate implementation. Factories-cum-dormitories are the assets of such threshold-economies as the Chinese, that "have to“ catch up by all means. Their existence only appears in the media when fires break out and hundreds of workers are killed because the doors were locked by the management.

As the official utopia of capital is suburbia, and historically camps were mostly used for repression and extermination, the lager has a bad name. But the idea of communal life itself on a lager scale (500 to 1000 persons) is actually not unattractive, depending on the conditions and the way such a community is run. Considering the current density of population of the planet, some form of communal or "lager“ life is in fact the only sustainable option. (In the next 15 years one billion persons will migrate to the metropoles of the planetary south. Will they all live in single houses?) Even today the charm of lager-life takes on many different forms: holiday resorts, cruise ships, scout camps, summer camps, camp sites, open-air concerts etc. The horrors of the death camps could not deter the Jewish survivors from organizing their own utopian lagers, the kibbutzim. (Unfortunately at the expense of the native population.) Periodical stays in lagers seem to be one of the conditions of the functioning of dull suburbia. Conviviality, spring swings, fall festivals, picnics, mass orgies, promiscuity, ecstasy: all these are human desires, utopian dreams or compensatory factors.

Having lived for many months in military barracks, my memories are not altogether negative. The most embarrassing encounter with my lager-feelings was my visit to the KZ Dachau, where I had the impression, that those barracks, with their wooden bunk-beds, stoves and tables, were actually cozier than those of the Swiss army. The lager itself, its architectural lay-out, isn’t repressive as such, it’s the rules and the authoritarian misuse that can turn it into a nightmare. It’s exactly because of their liberating potential, that authoritarian lagers can’t exist without some form of death penalty. Terror and utopia always appear together.

There are major pockets of suburbia in Europe and Japan, but if you look at Germany or Switzerland, the predominant deal is not suburbia, but a mix of large and small lagers. 80% of the Swiss are tenants and live in multi-unit houses, French suburbs (banlieues) tend to consist of huge housing projects (HLM). Architects like Corbusier were the prophets of such structures. Japanese cities are like comprehensive lagers, with a police-station at every street-corner. (It seems that even the Japanese are not "disciplined“ by nature – they need to be reminded that they should behave.) The Italians even call their housing projects "palazzi“ (palaces). In Europe there’s a trend to return from the dull suburbs into the old down-town areas and into bigger buildings. One of the surprising differences between Europe and the US is the duration of vacations: 5-6 weeks, fully paid. These vacations are typically spent in "pleasure-lagers“ around the Mediterranean, on the Canaries or in Thailand, Bali, Cuba etc. The idea to make the time in work-lagers more bearable by holidays in special pleasure-lagers was invented by the nazis ("Kraft durch Freude“). Trainloads of exhausted German workers were sent to the sunny beaches of the fascist ally in Italy so that they could regain strength for the war-effort. (The "axis“ of pleasure and war.) The nazis were experimenting with the whole spectrum and potential of lagers, extermination at the one end, cheap reproduction at the other. Even the idea of the old "Germanic commons“ was unearthed to justify authoritarian social engineering on a mass scale and the colonial war against the Soviet Union. The nazis were also able to transform traditional working-class neighbourhoods into lagers ("Blockwart“ system). This totalitarian (= "the whole life“) lager-spirit was the basis of new forms of serfdom and slavery.

But, the authoritarian lager (be it fascist or stalinist) has proved to be as unsustainable as individualistic suburbia. Without "external“ subsidies from global exploitation both systems must fail. Whereas these subsidies flowed and still flow to US suburbia, the stalinist lager-economy choked on its own entropy. (cf. Saral Sarkar) The obvious solution – combining real subsistence and self-governed communal housing – however would contradict capitalist organisation, in fact make it superfluous.

The Final State of "Counteracting Causes“

In its intellectually pure form the industrial capitalist system could not have survived the 18th century. Its inbuilt mechanism of the "tendential decrease of the rate of profit“ — the more you invest in machinery, the lower the pro rata returns on it — push it into structural collapse every 5 to 7 years. (Whereas the absolute amount of profit increases, the profit per unit of capital tends to decrease. It’s just a matter of applied mathematics.) So, already in its early period, capitalist production had to be "rescued“ periodically by the intervention of the state. The fact that there is still capitalism implies that what exists under this name is something different: an amalgam of institutions of an absolute state with an equally distorted capitalist mechanism, a Janus-faced bastard. There has never been any other capitalism than state-capitalism. The "lager“ origin of capitalism really points to its alliance or even alloy with the "lagerleitung“ privided by state bureaucracies, armies etc. Russian and Japanese capitalisms were outright enterprises of the respective tsars or emperors. Whenever the capitalist mechanism grounded itself, its state avatar had to initiate a new cycle by means of war, massacres, conquests of colonies, deficit spending etc. To prove that capitalism can’t work (as Marx did), is therefore futile: it was never "meant“ to work. (I‘m not implying here, that it was designed by some world conspiracy.) The history of capitalism is the history of its crises, rescues and flights forward.

In its urge to expansion (away from its malfunctions) capitalism has now reached the final phase: globalisation. There’s no way out any more, very few external resources are left to subsidize the system. (The only viable solution seems to consists in externalizing former internal capitalist areas: creating tabulae rasae by war, extermination, destruction or just neglect. And then begin "reconstruction“.) What we see at the moment is an increasingly desperate mobilisation of what Marx called "counteracting causes against the fall of the profit rate“. Among these he mentioned: higher exploitation of the workforce, more machinery per worker, longer workweek, speed-up, inclusion of women and children in the work-process, reduction of wages (also via inflation), cheaper machines, relative overpopulation, foreign commerce, global trade, increase of share capital stock. (Karl Marx, Das Kapital Bd.3, 242-250, "Entgegenwirkende Ursachen“)

(In reality what can be expressed as an economic "law“ is only the consequence of the increasing resistence of the workers against the implementation of these "counteracting causes“ – they‘re the very definition of class struggle. It takes a few years to find out and make ineffective the new tricks of capital – and this period actually is represented as a "business cycle“, the proletarian "learning curve“. The real source of capital’s malfunctions is the social injustice it produces.)

At this moment one particular phase of mobilisation of counteracting factors is ending: an unprecendented speed-up of production and circulation, combined with an expansion of shareholder capital (the "New Economy bubble“). In the late nineties huge or even fictive amounts of capital were sped around the globe faster and faster in search of the minutest specks of profit. To find 1 cent of profit, 1 million dollars could be moved in a split-second without any transaction costs, thanks to electronic communication in the internet. While the capital drag-nets got larger, the profit-fish got smaller, till the ocean of surplus-value was finally over-fished. Or in other words: the little fish (in the low-wage areas) refused to be caught. Another "neo-liberal“ phase (maybe the tenth in history) is ending and a new round of statism has begun.

The telecommunications boom of the nineties had an almost religious, sectarian touch: you had to believe it would ultimately be productive to make it productive. But even maximum speed is limited by the time it takes humans to make appropriate decisions and the time it takes to train such staff. Information was increasing while knowledge stagnated. Even the most refined search programs came (and come) up with moronic results. To make the right decisions, capital would have needed a new breed of renaissance men possessing exactly that kind of general education that had been phased out already in the eighties. What capital got were naive believers in an endless boom. The Maxwell’s daemons of the nineties had no whatsoever qualification to tell the fast from the slow molecules. It turned out, that computerized telecommunication had no impact on productivity and was mainly used to steel working time from capital. A series of monstrous bankrupcies was the consequence of this attempt to counteract the diving profit rate. The speed-up ultimately threw capital off its orbit. The New Economy was back to the old iron laws.

The most important counteracting factor against falling profits, the core logic of capital indeed, is and has always been the reduction of the real costs of labor power. Global Germanisation has opened new possibilities in this regard. Most of the production that goes into the cost of reproduction, especially household goods, has been delegated to countries like China, Indonesia, India, Brazil etc. where the wage level is ten to a hundred times lower than the one of the old proletariates. There’s no spoon that’s not from China, no sneaker or pair of jeans that are not from Indonesia or Mexico. There are even cheap plates and glasses from Russia, plastic trays from Usbekistan. Cheap food was produced using fodder from Brazil to feed our cattle. So, inflation could be contained in the north, keeping the workers calm and still devaluating their share of the profits. At the same time working hours were increased in the US, so that the now cheaper labor power could be used to the maximum. Computer technologies blurred the barriers between work and free time, as mothers could be doing accounting for a company keeping one eye on the screen, the other on the kids crawling about under the table. Work invaded our whole 24 hour day and was sucked up by the global machine. Suburbia was the ideal lay-out to keep these diffused workers apart and with no organisational options. Legally the workers and their machines were established as micro-companies, so that employer and employee, supervisor and supervised, became two aspects of the same individual (making this notion itself absurd). The electronic share-cropper became the new type of worker. (As long as there were crops.)

In Europe there were a few variations on this theme. As the European lifestyle was already cheaper than the US one, there was less to gain from imports. Wages actually contracted in Europe, but so did working time. The deal was: work less, earn less and take care of yourselves. The key to the high productivity of European workers (supposedly higher than the US) was: get some rest, then work intensively for a short period, keep the machinery going by taking shifts. Recent struggles in Europe have mainly resulted in schemes of shorter work-weeks (35 hours in France, 4 days at Volkswagen), longer vacations, regular sabbaticals, rarely in higher wages. For capital these schemes pay off as they involve more night shifts, variable shifts and generally an intensification of work. A new wave of struggles is now aiming at higher wages, that can also be spent to "buy“ free time, when you want it and not when it’s convenient for the enterprises. But still, there is a sense of "retreat“ of the EU-working classes from the world of capital, even from consumer society, a benign neglect of the imperatives of progress, industry and modernity. (50% of the Europeans are not even planning to use the internet – the empty and odourless "commons“ promised by the prophets of the New Economy.) Movements like "Slow Food“ or even "Slow Towns“ (Orvieto in Italy is one), or an antiglobalist organisation called "Schöner Leben“ ("Living more beautifully“) express a refusal of capital’s pressure on time and quality of life. As long vacations and periods of unemployment were spent as "quality time“ in low-wage countries, living costs could be kept down and workers fresh. The rather short vacations or weekends that Americans take, involve more and more individual transportation than the Europeans‘ collective transportation to the workplace and to sunny beaches. Adding housing in "palazzi“ European fuel-consumption is only half of the American amount. Accordingly its dependence on cheap oil is weaker and its fervor for the "Bush wars“ as well. If there’s no kerosene, you can always take TGVs to the Côte d’Azur. But even this cheaper form of reproduction of the European working-class has been getting into crisis lately. Mass production of cheap lager food has shown its limits with BSE, MFD and various scandals concerning pigs, chickens, olive oil. The refusal of "global lager food“, i.e. genetically engineered food, is so strong, that this option seems barred for capital, at the moment. At the same time, the staff of holiday camps, the workers of spoon, furniture and car factories in Asia, the "late-comers“ to capitalist exploitation, are refusing their role, demanding higher wages and access to the same lifestyles that they were supposed to make possible only for their comrades in the north. So cheap reproduction at home or during holidays is bound to become more expensive and another counteracting factor will thus be cancelled.

As for the other counteracting cause: reduction of the cost of constant capital or raw materials, the future looks equally grim. Free natural resources are becoming expensive (water, soil) and fossil fuels are being burnt up at an increasingly faster rate and ruining the equilibrium of the atmosphere. The costs of energy supply are also increased by the expenses for the oil-wars, as a part of the extraction costs. (The fact that soldiers are relatively cheap workers, as they live in lagers, is only of minor importance.) The sums insurance companies are paying because of climatic catastrophes must also be added to the cost of fossil energy use.