The world’s richest man left the planet today for a few minutes. Over two weeks ago, he stepped down from his role as the Amazon CEO. Bezos has long expressed an interest in space travel that goes back to his youth — in one sense, today’s trip presents space adventure as a stylish vacation option for the new retiree.
But, of course, the trip also connects to his greater vision for capitalist expansion. Paris Marx puts Bezos’s extraterrestrial ambitions in a class with those of other billionaires like Elon Musk, writing in a piece for Jacobin:
Bezos doesn’t have much time for Mars colonization. Instead, he believes we should build large structures in Earth’s orbit where the human population can grow to a trillion people without further harming the planet’s environment. As we live out our lives in O’Neill cylinders, as they’re called, we’ll take occasional vacations down to the surface to experience the wonder of the world we once called home.
Alienated from our earthly homes, we won’t be able to expect luxury in Bezos’s space stations, either. So brutal and inhuman are the working conditions in his corporation’s warehouse that Amazon created mindfulness booths for its stressed workforce, and a worker committed suicide at a Las Vegas facility earlier this year. As climate catastrophe tightens its grip on our current home, the consequences for humanity would be devastating if Bezos’s endless wealth and power enabled him to design the next one (with maximum worker exploitation in mind).
Consider Karl Marx’s own thoughts on capitalism’s insatiable demand for expansion:
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.
Not content with the globe, this profit motive is chasing the bourgeoisie into space. Bezos’s trip is only the beginning.
This week, speaking of the relationship between CEOs, workers, and the distribution of profit, we’re talking to Dan Price, the CEO who established a $70k minimum wage at his company. Tune in on Friday if you’re a paid subscriber in order to access the video of our conversation. Everyone else can get the audio on Saturday through Substack, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pandora, Stitcher, and more.