Translated from the French by Tim Gupwell.
In our capitalist system, the « advances » which are consented to by some, the holders of capital or « capitalists », in order to render a production process possible or to allow a consumer to consume are remunerated by interest payments. In my book Le prix (2010), I showed, using examples of “separate systems” in Africa or in Europe, how this system of interest must have appeared: interest being originally conceived as part of a newly created wealth, attributed to one of the partners who had contributed to its creation. The enduring dimension of this original logic in the current form of the capital system is the fact that each time interest has to be paid out, new wealth will have been, or will have to be, created in one way or another, in order to be the source of it. This aspect of the problem usually remains unnoticed but its implications are dramatic because they ensure that the capitalist system is, in economic terms, a dead-end.
We have treated the non-renewable resources of the planet on which we live as a “godsend” in Proudhon’s sense, as a “gift from Heaven” to share amongst ourselves, following the dividing lines traced out by the principles of private property. The non-renewable character of some of these “gifts from Heaven” has remained unseen for as long as the Earth has seemed to us to be infinite. Today, the Earth appears to us to be far too small when we take into consideration our insatiable appetites.
The exhaustion of the planet resulting from our activity is what is discreetly termed negative external factors, which are, moreover – just like godsends – loftily ignored in the calculation of the Gross Domestic Product. “Growth”, or in other words a rising GDP, implies therefore the irreversible destruction of the planet and, as capitalism requires this same growth (so that the interest can be paid), the fact that the logic of capitalism implicitly contains the destruction of the planet, assumes the value of a theorem.