You can edit almost every page by Creating an account. Otherwise, see the FAQ.

Treadmill of production

From EverybodyWiki Bios & Wiki

Treadmill of Production (ToP) is an economical approach for describing environmental damage and destruction in the modern history due to capitalist’s society tendency to rapidly grow without considering ecological consequences. This theory was first mentioned by American sociologists Allan Schnaiberg and published in the book The Environment: From Surplus to Scarcity in 1980.[1]

After WWII, the economy has developed and that leaded to use of more resources. In capitalistic society, the factories, companies and individuals want to maximize their profits and so the money started to be invested into new technologies and machines, which replaced human labor, but demanded more of materials, chemicals, and other resources. These chemical and technological innovations changed the production process by intensifying or speeding it up of production while requiring reduced labor input, thus accelerating the capital accumulation.This expand leaded and keeps leading to environmental degradation, so there is a contradiction between capital accumulation and ecological destruction under capitalism.

Schnaiberg puts into contrast neoclassical economics approach, which states that production is determined by demand by consumers and reality of capitalistic treadmill of production, where needs of consumers are formed by already produced goods.

Every following investment leads to deterioration of the environment and to of disadvantaging of workers in the production. The fear of losing job forces people to tolerate this created environmental pollution.

In capitalistic society is produced more goods, than the consumers are able to use or consume. This consumer’s surplus causes creation of more waste.

Treadmill interests are manifest in private investments in fixed capital, in public institutions developed by the state to facilitate economic growth, and the orientation of organised (and non-organised) labor toward these investments and institutions.[2]

Buttel called this theory the most important sociological concept and theory, which came from North-American environmental sociology.[3]

Environmental consequences of ToP[edit]

There are several types of ecologically destructive tendencies.

Ecological withdrawals[edit]

Ecological withdrawals are harm, which are produced by process of extracting raw materials. Those processed by chemically intensive methods and highly demand machines. Those modern processes intensifies and quicken the process of withdrawing. Labor need is very low and thus there is a big potential of capital accumulation. This profitable business has non-economic consequences in the form of destruction of nature.

Ecological addictions[edit]

Ecological addictions are emission of pollutants into the ecosystem. Consequence of these addictions are is climate change.

Waste accumulation[edit]

Waste accumulation is due to world’s increasing consumption of products especially those for one-use-only. Possible solution could be recycling.

Origin of Treadmill of Production[edit]


Marx was the first theorist, who pointed up problems caused by consuming societies. Later some environmental sociologists used his original ideas and developed conflict sociology theories of relative autonomous states applied on environment.

Marx’s theory of “metabolic rift” describes metabolism as a relationship between people and nature. This theory is based on materialism and dialectical philosophies. He believed that people are constantly interacting with physical, material and natural beings and they are themselves those beings. He also believed that the natural world is a set of conditions for our existence, it has own set of limitations in the sense of natural laws and resources, same as humans have own limitation. He understood that failing in recycling materials back into production would result as an environmental devastation and that is what he called metabolic rift between humanity and the natural world (see “Utilization of the Refuse of Production” in Capital vol. 3).

Some sociologist intend Marxist ideas of social conflict to reflect them into environmental-social issues and that is how “Eco-Marxism” became a term.

John Bellamy Foster transformed Marx’s ideas and ideologies into environmental destruction as we know it today. He described Marx’s metabolic rift as an estrangement between humans and nature.

Societal-environmental dialectic[edit]

Societal-environmental dialectic is a thought of Allan Schnaiberg. He indicates the economic expansion is more important than ecology. He pointed out the fact that government will eliminate oddly the most frightening disasters in order to protect people’s health, but at the same time not to let the economic crisis happen.

Sustainable Development and the Treadmill of Production[edit]

Environmentalists consider this political-economic system as unsustainable, because of destruction of nature. The problem is also seen in moving production to the Third World countries in order to lower the costs by lowering labor costs.

Hugh Stretton defined a mixture of social coercions and seductions traced difficult policy choices between national growth, environmental protection and social equity in industrial societies of the European Union. In contrast, many contemporary EU proponents of sustainable development envisage attaining all three goals.

Precursor of sustainable development was Intermediate technology. This so called appropriate technology is a movement encompassing technological choice and application that is small-scale, decentralized, labor-intensive, energy-efficient, environmentally sound, and locally autonomous.[4] Ecological modernization is approach of re-engineering in order to create more ecological industries. This change happened for example in private companies, which have relation to the local environment. Problematic is "getting the prices right". Companies who decided to change their structure has to face international competitiveness, which pushes to lower the cost and thus skip the ecological interference limitation.

Possible solutions are clearly political movements, which for example prevented expansion of nuclear generating facilities by increasing their costs. Citizen and scientific coalitions arose due to fear of own health, which was widen especially by catastrophic disasters.[5]

Recycling is “environmental” approach of a solid waste treatment. It is a way to "think globally and act locally". According to Allan Schnaiberg it is unusually neo-corporatist way of solving Treadmill of Production.

“Getting the price right” is a key policy instrument within all the environmental policies. In case of recycling it’s more question about “getting the right materials”.

Advantage is that recycling is manufacturing itself and manufacturing is business, not limitation.

Private owners may be resident in their communities of operation, rather than absentee; they may thus value their local environments, and the may have enduring relationships to their community of operations.[6] Overall, there is little evidence of universal internalization of negative externalities, through "getting the prices right" (EC 1993).

Managers have increasingly had to confront the realities of increasing transnational competitiveness, which has in turn pressured them to externalize as many waste processes as possible.[7]

Economic ineffectiveness[edit]

The biggest problem of Treadmill of production is its nonprofit factor of changing the current practices, it might possible bring a loss. It’s very inefficient to change the current business, because those which are used currently are profitable and possible environmental-friendly replacement of those practices are more costly and won’t bring the company any positives, except of status of more environmental company. Those changes might result higher cost and so competitive disadvantage. Schnaiberg called it an interest in increasing ecological disorganization for its own benefit.


  1. Burkett P . (2006), Marxism and Ecological Economics: Toward a Red and Green Political Economy . Haymarket Books.
  2. Barnet, Richard J., and John Cavanagh. Global Dreams: Imperial Corporations and the New World Order. Simon & Schuster, 1995.
  3. Buttel, Frederick H. 2004. The Treadmill of Production An Appreciation, Assessment, and Agenda for Research. Organization & Environment 17, 3: 323-336.
  4.  Hazeltine, B.; Bull, C. (1999). Appropriate Technology: Tools, Choices, and Implications. New York: Academic Press. pp. 3, 270. ISBN 0-12-335190-1 Search this book on Logo.png..
  5. Schnaiberg, Allan (1995). Sustainable Development and the Treadmill of Production. Chicago: Northwestern University.
  6. Schnaiberg, Allan and Kenneth A. Gould. 1994. Environment and Society: The Enduring Conflict.. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  7. Baker, Susan, editor. Politics of Sustainable Development. Routledge, 1997.

This article "Treadmill of production" is from Wikipedia. The list of its authors can be seen in its historical and/or the page Edithistory:Treadmill of production. Articles copied from Draft Namespace on Wikipedia could be seen on the Draft Namespace of Wikipedia and not main one.