Jonathan Coe’s 1994 novel ‘What a Carve Up’ satirises the aggressive pursuit of self-interest by wealthy individuals in 1980s Britain. Different members of the same family, the Winshaws, achieve dominating positions in the economy, politics, culture and media. Each plays a key role in the creation of a new neoliberal order.
One family that has achieved an influence similar to that of the fictional UK Winshaws is the real-life US Pritzkers. When Jay Pritzker, owner of Hyatt Hotels, died at the turn of the century, his $15 billion wealth was divided between eleven cousins.
The Pritzker cousins and Synthetic Sex Identities
Jennifer Bilek has analysed, here and here, how this generation of Pritzkers has used its inherited wealth to obtain political influence and promote synthetic sex identities.
At the heart of the Pritzker promotion of synthetic sex identities is Jennifer Pritzker, a father of three who claims to have become a woman in 2013. His Tawani Foundation directly funds a number of ‘gender care’ medical facilities and institutions promoting ‘transgender rights’. Different family members have used their political connections to promote the normalisation of synthetic sex identities. Penny Pritzker was an early supporter of Obama’s Presidency, and became his Secretary of Commerce. J.B. Pritzker is Governor of Illinois, and pioneered the inclusion of ‘gender identity’ ideology into sex education in the state’s public schools. His association with Planned Parenthood has coincided with that reproductive heath organisation becoming a major supplier of ‘gender affirming’ medical procedures in the US, and force teaming this with abortion rights in its campaigning.
Working in tandem with other billionaires and the medical industrial complex, the Pritzker family has worked tirelessly to establish a medical, legal, political and educational framework that enables the engineering of human biology, and paves the way for transhumanism.
A younger Pritzker generation and geoengineering
Linda Pritzker followed a different path to the other Pritzker cousins - she became a Tibetan Buddhist lama. But one of her daughters, Rachel, has continued the family tradition of philanthropic activism. Rachel Pritzker is one of the 18 signatories of the 2015 Ecomodernist Manifesto - another four signatories are affiliated with the Breakthrough Institute, which Rachel Pritzker chairs. The Ecomodernist Manifesto acknowledges the environmental risks of continuing with business as usual, but claims that technology can be re-purposed to allow continued economic growth while reducing human impacts on the natural world. Its central proposition is that “Meaningful climate mitigation is fundamentally a technological challenge.”
Such a stance is, of course, useful for the super-rich - it allows them to put all of the blame for environmental damage on technology, and none on greed, and to be able to salve their consciences without having to cut their living standards. It also appears to offer an escape from the dilemma faced by industrial capitalism - how to maintain the growth on which its profits depend in the face of the limits imposed by nature.
In a 2018 article co-written with Breakthrough Institute colleague Ted Nordhaus, Rachel Pritzker suggests that climate philanthropists should shift their funding priorities away from renewable energy towards nuclear power, and away from mitigation (cutting emissions) towards adaptation (coping with a changing climate). In particular, they recommend funding research into new geoengineering technologies like solar radiation management (injecting particles into the stratosphere to reflect more sunlight back into space).
The Pritzker Innovation Fund, which Rachel Pritzker set up with her brother Roland Pritzker, is putting that changed funding emphasis into practice. It sponsored an influential Silver Lining report, Ensuring a Safe Climate (2019), which argued that “atmospheric sunlight reflection, in the next 10 to 30 years, has the potential to constrain warming at a much lower cost than greenhouse gas removal while promoting safety and stability.”
The report acknowledges, but very much downplays, potential problems with sunlight reflection, including the unpredictability and divisiveness of its impact on global weather patterns, the delay it would cause to recovery of the ozone layer, and the likelihood that its introduction would weaken incentives to reduce carbon emissions.
The systemic threats of blocking sunlight are much more fundamental than these, however:
Clive Hamilton, in his book Earthmasters (2013), criticised the “Promethian ambition of planetary control’ held by many US-based proponents of solar radiation management and other geoengineering projects. This quest for planetary control, he suggested, “appears to be another application of human technological ingenuity, yet…actually represents a profound change in the relationship of Homo sapiens to the Earth.”
Global dimming may be aimed at constraining global heating, but it also inevitably regulates the amount of light reaching the Earth from the Sun. This will not be the first attempt to remake nature to suit our purposes, but many will consider it (like the amputation of healthy bodies promoted by the older Pritzker generation) to be a step too far.
“Changing the nature of sunlight around the Earth would affect photosynthesis, the very foundation of the biosphere. By reducing the amount of sunlight striking the Earth’s surface, and changing the balance of ‘direct’ and ‘diffuse’ sunlight (effectively making the sky look more hazy), solar engineering could have a profound impact on ecosystems and crops.”
(Jonathan Foley, Solar Geoengineering: ineffective, risky, and unnecessary, Medium 2 Apr 2021)
The fantasies of the super-rich
Blocking the sun has become the favoured climate mitigation measure of many billionaires, including George Soros, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos. But the super-rich are hedging their bets, and are already trading fantasies about how they can escape the mess they have created.
“American male billionaires are planning to jump ship. When the planet explodes in fire and flood due to alpha males’ careless avarice, their presumed right to acquire whatever their ever-expanding appetites desire, they’ll be sealed up in capsules heading for green pastures in an unknown elsewhere.”
(felicia rembrandt, Trans vision: through a glass dark and distorted, gender dissent, 21 Apr 2022)
Colonising space is a frequent fantasy of the super-rich (Musk, Branson, Bezos). As is life extension, either physical (Thiel, Page, Rothblatt, Bezos) or virtual (Rothblatt, Musk).
For one generation of the Pritzker family, the fantasy is one of engineering human evolution. For a younger generation of the same family, it is engineering a changed stratosphere. What unites them is awareness that their privileged position depends on the perpetuation of a capitalist economic system that cannot survive without growth. This requires them to pursue what is in reality an impossible goal, a way to circumvent natural limits to growth.
With the privileged position of the super-rich comes a conviction that they are entitled to use their wealth to pursue their particular fantasies - and to do so as ‘philanthropy’ that safeguards that wealth while creating misery for others. We are expected to put up with the consequences. No wonder one of the main concerns of the super-rich is how to protect themselves, not just from angry mobs, but from their own security guards.
What a carve up.
Coming next - ‘natural capital’, disengaging from nature by putting a price on it
such a nasty bunch of people. doing nasty things.