Book Review: The Beguiling Sins of Industrial Capitalism, by SJ Kimber

Book Review: The Beguiling Sins of Industrial Capitalism, by Stephen J Kimber

An essay on industrial capitalism arguing for a recognition that, for all the personal benefits it may bring, it does so at the cost that can’t be sustained.

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Stephen J Kimber lives in Queensland and has had over 20 texts published. He writes educational texts in English, History and Geography and has also published a novella, three plays and many short stories. This ebook contains plenty of illustrations, charts and graphs with useful hyperlinks to more references for those readers who want more information.

Kimber’s view on industrial capitalism is evident from his title, with the three main sins being exploitation, particularly of labour; resource depletion; and environmental degradation. He argues that even though these factors clearly threaten global peace, stability and sustainability they are often seen as the strengths of industrial capitalism by those who own and/or control the means of production.

industrialcapatalism200Particularly eye-opening is Chapter 2 A Haves and Have Nots World, A Much Greater Hunger. Kimber graphically shows that the rich (over US $1 million) and super rich (over US $50 million) control around 80% of the world’s wealth, while at least 80% of the world’s population lives on less than US $10 a day. This raises an old question, one highlighted by the British critic Terry Eagleton in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Is itplausible to maintain that there is something in the nature of capitalism itself which generates deprivation and inequality?” Source, 10 April 2011

Kimber certainly argues that this is the case. Before industrialisation, production was most often small scale and local with resource use keeping pace with this. However, when production was powered by water, then steam and now petrochemicals, the resources needed to power machinery and get raw materials to make products quickly outstripped what was available locally. Production began taking place in large factories, at times in new towns which were developed to house the new working class.

As industrialisation of production spread, the workers, first in the UK, then the USA and Australia, challenged the capitalist owners. The Luddites were known for smashing machinery in the textile mills of the English Midlands and later the Chartist Movement presented several petitions to the House of Commons seeking better conditions, all of which were rejected. Such views were seen as radical by the Establishment with demonstrations brutally supressed, with Luddites and Chartists being transported to Australia and bringing with them a tradition of seeking to improve workers’ rights.

Kimber demonstrates how overconsumption is now a necessary condition of industrial capitalism and how this is fuelled by advertising, promotion via celebrity lifestyles, and easy access to credit. He argues we are mainly valued as consumers, our social status and prestige marked by our consumption patterns where we literally buy into the rituals of purchasing new ‘stuff’ all the time – shopping as entertainment. I was astonished to read that in the US only about 1% of purchases were still in use 6 months after purchase.

Kimber is not arguing for the overthrow of industrial capitalism but rather a recognition that, for all the personal benefits it may bring, it does so at the cost of ‘overconsumption, exploitation of someone else, somewhere else…and we simply do not have the …ecosystem resources – for it.’

Reviewed by: Jan Kershaw

Rating out of 10:  7

The beguiling sins of Industrial Capitalism: A chiefly historical survey of what is wrong with the dominant ideology is available in eBook format through Amazon.com.au

Publisher: Inkstained fingers
Release Date: July 2015

Cover image sourced from Overthrowing the Illuminati and is not associated with this book.

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