CFP: Ecology, Economy, and Cultures of Resistance: Oikoi of the North American World

Ecology, Economy, and Cultures of Resistance: Oikoi of the North American World
A two-day symposium at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh.
29-30 June 2017

Ecology and economy are inextricable. From the ‘oeconomy of nature’ theorized by Thomas Burnet, and later Carl Linnaeus, to the recent turn in the social sciences that reconsiders the Anthropocene as the Capitalocene, the interwoven global history of these two fields of thought makes their conceptual separation impracticable.

This two-day symposium considers the roles of cultural production and critique under these conditions of inextricability. It takes as its locus the North American world. We use the term North American world to denote the world-view as conceived by or through North American social conditions, governance, cultures, politics, and institutions, but which is global in its influences and effects. Scholars working in Anglophone universities, primarily in the United States, have dominated discussions on the role that the humanities should play in the theorization of and response to global environmental and economic crises. Amidst a ‘crisis in the humanities’ in Western higher education, many scholars have responded by directing their methods and knowledge towards resisting processes of environmental degradation and/or capitalist exploitation, in order to turn the humanities to the resolution of pressing global problems. This has also led to the rise of new forms of activist-scholarship, which seek to advocate for the political and social agency, and social relevance, of the humanities disciplines.

We wish to explore the implications of presuming the resistant power of the humanities, and the agency of its scholarship and pedagogy, in environmental and economic fields. We invite proposals for 30 minute papers that discuss any aspect of North American culture, politics, or history that responds to, or theorises the relationship between, the interlinked global concerns of capitalist exploitation, ecological degradation, and climate change. Our object is to foreground discussion of the methods and objectives of culture’s response, and of culture’s responsibilities. We are particularly interested in discussing the following questions:

  • Given the inexorable expansion of capitalist ideology, and a climate crisis which is developing at a rate that vastly exceeds all efforts to implement strategies for its resolution, must the cultural products of the world’s richest and most powerful industrialized states acknowledge an obligation to resist? What is at stake in adopting this stance?
  • To what extent are existing models of culture’s political, social, economic, and environmental agency viable, and (how) can the humanities advocate for massive systemic change?
  • How can our field(s) of study be employed to guide us, as students and as teachers, toward asserting and implementing the political agency of our work?
  • What are the epistemological conditions that might allow us to theorize the massive systems of capital and ecology, and where might we find or create these conditions within humanities disciplines?

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Professor Regenia Gagnier, University of Exeter
Professor Stephen Shapiro, University of Warwick

Topics for submission may include:

  • North America in world-systems theory
  • Anthropocene; Capitalocene; Chthulucene; the terms of grasping the singularity of humanity’s global impact
  • Histories and legacies of environmental and/or economic activism in/associated with North America
  • Representations of capital’s part in climate change/environmental destruction in art/literature/culture; the agency of representation with respect to global crises
  • The extent of the culpability of the arts and humanities in the negative effects of capitalism and environmental degradation
  • Spaces of resistance and/or extrication: refugia, wilderness, occupations
  • Subjectivity, collectivism, and the conditions of freedom under globalization
  • Radical or revisionary forms of agency: epigenetics, post- and trans-humanisms, new materialism
  • Global and/or ‘Third-world’ critiques of North American scholarship and/or activism
  • The scope for the political agency of a ‘humanities in crisis’

Please send abstracts of not more than 500 words, together with a short CV, to oikoiofamericanworld@gmail.com by 28 February 2017. For further information, please email the symposium organizers — Dr Sarah Daw (shd202@exeter.ac.uk) and Dr Benjamin Pickford (Benjamin.pickford@ed.ac.uk).

Jason W. Moore in Toronto, 13 Dec: The Rise and Fall of Cheap Nature

The Rise and Fall of Cheap Nature: Work, Power, and Capital in Making &Transcending the Planetary Crisis

Tuesday, December 13th, 7 pm
Steelworkers’ Hall, 25 Cecil Street, Toronto

* Jason. W. Moore
Sociology, Binghamton University and author of Capitalism and the Web of Life (2015)

Commentary from:
* Adrian Smith, Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University
* Tania Hernandez Cervantes, Environmental Studies, York University

Sponsored by: Centre for Social Justice, Socialist Project and from York University: Global Labour Research Centre, Faculty of Environmental Studies, Department of Political Science and Department of Geography.

Finance. Climate. Food. Work. How are the crises of the twenty-first century connected?
In Capitalism in the Web of Life, Jason W. Moore argues that the sources of today’s global turbulence have a common cause: capitalism as a way of organizing nature, including human  nature. Drawing on environmentalist, feminist, and Marxist thought, Moore offers a groundbreaking new synthesis: capitalism as a “world-ecology” of wealth, power, and nature.

Capitalism’s greatest strength—and the source of its problems—is its capacity to create Cheap Natures: labor, food, energy, and raw materials. That capacity is now in question. Rethinking  capitalism through the pulsing and renewing dialectic of humanity-in-nature, Moore takes readers on a journey from the rise of capitalism to the modern mosaic of crisis. Capitalism in the Web of Life shows how the critique of capitalism-in-nature—rather than capitalism and nature—is key to understanding our predicament, and to pursuing the politics of liberation in the century ahead.

“If nothing else, the climate crisis demonstrates that the history of capitalism is a thoroughly ‘environmental’ one. This energizing book proposes an inventive framework for making sense of that past, and for orienting ourselves as we get down to the business of changing the future.”
– Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything and The Shock Doctrine

Metabolismos, marxismos y otros campos de mentes

Traducido en octubre de 2016: Carlos Valmaseda https://derrotaynavegacion.wordpress.com/2016/11/13/metabolismos-marxismos-y-otros-campos-de-mentes/%5D

Artículo original: https://jasonwmoore.wordpress.com/2016/10/16/metabolisms-marxisms-other-mindfields/

Jason W. Moore

*Supongo que es un juego de palabras entre minefield, campo de minas y mindfield, que no existe pero se puede traducir como campo de mentes. Lo dejo así [Nota del tr.]

La turbulencia del siglo XXI plantea un serio reto analítico: ¿Cómo se desarrolla el capitalismo a través de la naturaleza y no solo actuando sobre ella? Intente dibujar una línea en torno a los momentos “sociales” y “medioambientales” de financiarización, calentamiento global, resurgimiento de los fundamentalismos, el auge de China –y mucho más allá–. El ejercicio termina rápidamente en futilidad. No porque estos procesos son “demasiado complejos”, sino porque el cálculo convencional de Naturaleza/Sociedad genera las preguntas equivocadas –y las respuestas equivocadas–. Tales preguntas y respuestas tienen como premisa la idea de la separación práctica de la humanidad de la red de la vida.

Pero no es lo contrario más plausible?

Si “la verdad es la totalidad” (Hegel), entonces la historia de totalidades específicas –de la financiarización o del cambio climático o incluso el capitalismo histórico– no se pueden aludir como un agregado de partes medioambientales y sociales. Porque el momento “social” de estos procesos es esencialmente co-producido y co-productivo; es un producto de la naturaleza como totalidad. Lejos de difuminar la especificidad de las relaciones “sociales” un enfoque de este tipo aumenta nuestra capacidad de captar su especificidad. Considérese, por ejemplo, la formación de nuevos órdenes de clase, raza y género en los siglos posteriores a 1492. ¿Podríamos realmente explicar el surgimiento del racismo moderno dejando entre paréntesis la conquista y despoblamiento de las Américas? O abstrayéndose del feroz registro de transformación biogeográfica de la frontera de la plantación de azúcar?¿O no considerando el endurecimiento de la división.

Humano/Naturaleza en la que muchos humanos –mujeres, gente de color y muchos otros– eran expulsados de la Humanidad con H mayúscula? La cuestión de la sociabilidad humana (diferencia, conflicto y cooperación) permanece en el centro de tal alternativa, pero está situada ahora en vivaces y rebeldes ensamblajes que envuelven y despliegan lo orgánico y lo inorgánico, lo humano y lo extrahumano, lo simbólico y lo material (Birch y Cobb 1981; Haraway 2016).

Situar la sociabilidad humana dentro de las redes históricas de poder, capital y naturaleza desplaza significativamente nuestro problema explicativo. Fuera sale el problema de cómo los humanos crearon Sociedad separada de Naturaleza. Dentro entra un nuevo conjunto de preguntas, encendiendo la luz sobre los patrones de diferencia, conflicto y cooperación de la humanidad dentro de la red de la vida. La financiarización, desde esta luz, no es un proceso social con “consecuencias” medioambientales y sociales –consecuencias que ulteriormente plantean “límites” sociales y medioambientales y que podrían ser solucionados mediante “justicia” social medioambiental–. La financiarización es, más bien, un paquete de naturalezas humanas y extra-humanas. Su reclamación de la riqueza futura implica reclamaciones sobre las futuras capacidades del trabajo humano y extra-humano y su transmutación en capital.

Las contradicciones –las “leyes del movimiento”– de tales procesos empaquetados no están basadas en una Sociedad abstracta (en general) presionando contra una igualmente abstracta Naturaleza. Están, más bien, basadas en el mosaico de la “doble internalidad” de la modernidad (Moore 2015, p. 3) –esto es, en las formas en que el poder y la re/producción están específicamente empaquetados dentro de una red de vida que hace humanos y que hacen los humanos–. (Pista: cuando los humanos interactuan con otros humanos, estamos –como cualquier cuidador y cualquier padre puede decirle– tratando con naturalezas rebeldes que desafían el límite Naturaleza/Sociedad)

Dicho simplemente, los humanos son una parte de la naturaleza. La totalidad de la naturaleza es inmanente en todo pensamiento, organización y movimiento humano. La frase es difícilmente controvertida. La mayor parte de los estudios académicos medioambientales estarían de acuerdo…. al menos en principio. Sienta bien caracterizar a la “sociedad humana” como “interna ydependiente de un metabolismo terrestre mayor (Foster 2013a, p. 8). Y para muchos expertos del cambio global tales frases que hacen sentir bien son el final de la línea. Es decididamente menos cómodo –y considerablemente más abrumador– repensar nuestros marcos metodológicos, proposiciones teóricas y estrategias narrativas bajo esta luz. Si no son solo los humanos, sino las organizaciones humanas producto y productores de naturaleza extra-humana, se sigue de ahí un replanteamiento fundamental de la narración, la formación de conceptos y la orientación metodológica.

Que dicho replanteamiento ha hecho pocos avances hasta hace poco –con la explosión de las perspectivas de actor-red, ensamblado, ecológico-mundiales y multi-especie– no es nada sorprendente. Porque moverse más allá de la Aritmética Verde en un sentido analítico-empírico es desafiar la base misma de las ciencias sociales y su idea gobernante: que la actividad humana está, para propósitos analíticos prácticos, “exenta” de la dinámica de la red de vida. En la lógica del “excepcionalismo humano” (Dunlap y Catton 1979; también Haraway 2008; Moore 2015), las relaciones entre humanos son ontológicamente independientes de la naturaleza. Al hacer esto, el excepcionalismo le permite a uno hablar de modernidad como un conjunto de relaciones sociales que actúan sobre la red de vida, en lugar de desarrollarse a través de ella. Esto le permite a uno suponer que la historia, en múltiples resoluciones temporales y espaciales, se despliega como una especie de ping-pong entre “fuerzas naturales” y “agencia humana”.

La contribución revolucionaria de Foster fue usar el metabolismo como un medio de poner el trabajo –el trabajo de los humanos y el trabajo de la naturaleza– en el centro de la cuestión de la naturaleza y por tanto de la historia del capitalismo. Su formulación de la brecha marcó una especie de umbral: entre ciencia social cartesiana y postcartesiana. Dentro del contexto de la sociología estadounidense, Foster tenía como objetivo consciente trascender los límites del excepcionalismo humano y establecer un programa de investigación basado en la teoría social clásica, el marxismo sobre todo (1999). La coyuntura era fructífera. El auge de la sociología medioambiental en los 70 no había cambiado la disciplina. El marxismo, también, tenía todavía que encontrar su ritmo sobre las cuestiones ecológicas. A finales de los 90, sin embargo, las condiciones habían madurado para el auge del metabolismo como una “estrella conceptual” (Fischer-Kowalksi 1997). Se estableció un vigoroso programa de investigación.

Esta estrella conceptual dio forma a una corriente importante dentro de las “humanidades medioambientales” en el amanecer del siglo XXI. En registros diferentes, el metabolismo influenció fuertemente tanto la escuela neomaltusiana “socio-metabólica” de Fischer-Kowalski como los enfoques marxistizantes sobre el cambio medioambiental global  (Fischer-Kowalski y Haberl 1998; Foster 1999). El metabolismo parecía ofrecer la posibilidad de vadear la “Gran División” de Naturaleza y Sociedad (Goldman y Schurman 2000).

La primera formulación de Foster de metabolismo sugería cómo podíamos llevar a cabo esa posibilidad (1999, 2000). Al destacar trabajo, naturaleza y capital, Foster parecía proponer un nuevo método de amarrar las naturalezas humana y extra-humana. Los procesos y relaciones iniciados por los humanos se podían situar dentro de su internalización de naturalezas particulares extra-humanas, y dentro de la naturaleza como conjunto. Al mismo tiempo, la biosfera podía ser entendida como elementos internalizantes de procesos iniciados por los humanos –obviamente una relación asimétrica–. Un método así se tomaría en serio un desordenado proceso de co-producción que se movería más allá de re-etiquetar a la Sociedad como “naturaleza humana” y a la Naturaleza como “naturaleza extra-humana”. En un cálculo de este estilo, los peligros del determinismo mediambiental y el reduccionismo social  serían trascendidos. la “sociedad” humana podría ser entendida como simultáneamente un productor y un producto de la red de vida, desigualmente co-producida y con facultades simbólicas. Al hacer esto, las formas específicas de sociabilidad humana podrían distinguirse y ser analizadas de formas mucho más complejas y sutiles comparadas con esos romos instrumentos, Naturaleza/Sociedad. En esta síntesis potencial, estaría el puente sobre la Gran División.

Y sin embargo, a pesar de este atractivo, esta síntesis nunca se produjo. Nunca se construyó el puente. La elaboración de Foster de metabolismo y materialismo incautó rápidamente la misma posibilidad de síntesis que sugería. Los “procesos interdependientes del metabolismo social” de Marx fueron forzados a un marco dualista: “metabolismo de la naturaleza y la sociedad” (Marx 1981, p. 949; Foster 2000: c. 6, cursiva añadida). Al mismo tiempo, Foster animaba a una brecha teórica entre materialismo histórico y economía política crítica, subrayada por la reluctancia a desarrollar las posibilidades socio-ecológicas de la teoría del valor de Marx. El dualismo de Sociedad (humanos sin naturaleza) y Naturaleza (ecologías sin humanos) no fue trascendido.

Al criticar al Marxismo Occidental por desterrar la naturaleza de la dialéctica, Foster estableció un nuevo canon Rojiverde, y dibujó un nuevo mapa cognitivo para el marxismo ecológico. El nuevo canon Rojiverde era notable no solo por a quién incluía sino por a quién dejaba fuera. Incluyendo a figuras como Richard Levins, Richard Lewontin, Stephen J. Gould y Barry Commoner eliminaba muchos otros pensadores críticos líderes de las nuevas ciencias sociales medioambientales en los largos 70: David Harvey, Neil Smith, Michael Watts, Robert M. Young y Carolyn Merchant, solo para empezar.1 Los geógrafos no eran bienvenidos en el canon de Foster, y especialmente aquellos asociados estrechamente con David Harvey (véase Foster y Clark 2016; Foster 2016, próximamente).2 La exclusión de los geógrafos –Foster no pudo encontrar a un solo geógrafo al que reconocer el mérito de moverse más allá de la “primera etapa del ecosocialismo” (Burkett y Foster 2016, pp. 3-4)– es importante por sí misma. (Ni tampoco el clásico artículo de Foster de 1999 hacía referencia a un cuarto de siglo (entonces) de ecología política de influencia marxista.)

Esta exclusión disciplinaria tuvo dos grandes efectos. Primero, la expulsión de los geógrafos de su versión de marxismo ecológico está estrechamente relacionada con su procedimiento de abstracción. Para Foster, la Sociedad (y el capitalismo) pueden ser conceptualizados abstrayéndose de las relaciones y condiciones geográficas. Lo mismo que un historiador no aceptaría concepciones ahistóricas del cambio social –digamos, versiones toscas de teoría de modernización o de transición demográfica– ningún geógrafo aceptaría una concepción de la Sociedad abstraída de la geografía. Segundo, el rechazo de los geógrafos a aceptar concepciones ageográficas de las relaciones Naturaleza/Sociedad ha llevado a un amplio escepticismo respecto al dualismo (véase especialmente Watts 2005; v.gr. Harvey 1995; Heynen et al. 2007; Peet et al. 2011; Braun y Castree 1998). La reticencia de Foster a emplear conocimientos geográficos se combina con una insularidad disciplinaria que lo ha apartado a efectos prácticos de discusiones con significado con geógrafos y otros especialistas en las ciencias humanas y sociales que han hecho el “giro espacial”  (v. gr., Warf y Arias, 2008). Entre las consecuencias intelectuales está la negativa de Foster a diferenciar a los construccionistas sociales de las interpretaciones materialistas que difieren de las interpretaciones Brecha. El argumento para el materialismo histórico-geográfico, por ejemplo, privilegia la relacionalidad de la humanidad-en-la-naturaleza (y la naturaleza-en-la-humanidad) en la que se entrelazan transformaciones materiales y culturales –sin sucumbir al idealismo (Smith 1984; Harvey 1995; Braun y Castree 1998; Moore 2015a)–. Y sin embargo, para Foster, todas las desviaciones de su interpretación de Marx son idealistas y construccionistas. Los críticos de la Brecha son marxistas poco fiables –o peor (v.gr., Foster 2013a, 2016a, próximamente; Foster y Clark 2016)–. El proceso evaluador es blanco y negro, y/o –las diferencias de interpretación se arrojan en el crisol de la racionalidad cartesiana, fundiendo toda diferencia en categorías binarias–.

El canon rojiverde de Foster ha evolucionado junto con el nuevo mapa cognitivo de Naturaleza y Sociedad de Foster. Gracias a Foster y otros, la Naturaleza se ganó un lugar dentro del marxismo –e incluso más allá–. Esta era, sin embargo, una interpretación estrecha del pensamiento de Marx sobre la red de vida (Moore 2015). Foster veía naturaleza como Naturaleza, con una gran N mayúscula. El dualismo había ganado la partida. La brecha como metáfora de separación, basda en flujos materiales entre Naturaleza y Sociedad, triunfó. El logro fue poderoso, pero también lo fue el coste. Se dejó a un lado una visión del metabolismo como medio de unificar a los humanos con la naturaleza, desplegándose mediante metabolismos combinados y desiguales de poder, riqueza y naturaleza. En estas, la concepción dualista de metabolismo y sus “brechas” influenciaron durante una década y más de estudios ambientales críticos, especialmente dentro de la sociología medioambiental.

¿Por qué debería ser esto un problema? Quizá no fue un problema importante durante la primera década del siglo XXI. Brotaron nuevas interpretaciones y análisis empíricos. Para 2010, sin embargo, empezó a parecer como si los argumentos de la Brecha hubiesen explicado todo lo que podrían dentro de los límites de la Aritmética Verde (v. gr., Foster et al., 2010). Los analistas de la Brecha han completado en buena parte el trabajo de mapeo de los problemas ambientales dentro del capitalismo –pero el carácter aditivo de ese proyecto limitaba su capacidad de explicar no solo las consecuencias del capitalismo, sino su constitución como productor y producto de la red de vida–.

La perspectiva de brecha metabólica no está sola en esto: la señal de haber cumplido del Pensamiento Verde, desde los 70, era rellenar y engrosar los espacios en blanco del mapa cognitivo excepcionalista humano. Como Pensamiento Verde como conjunto, los argumentos de la Brecha cayeron en una poderosa contradicción: un “doble sí” (Moore 2015). ¿Son los humanos parte de la naturaleza? Sí. ¿Podemos analizar las organizaciones humanas como si fuesen independientes de la naturaleza? Sí. Los estudios centrados en el metabolismo, como buena parte de los estudios ambientales críticos, se enfrentan a una contradicción no resuelta: entre una aceptación filosófico-discursiva de una ontología relacional (humanidad-en-naturaleza) y una aceptación práctico-analítica del dualismo Naturaleza/Sociedad (practicidad dualista). Una cosa ha sido afirmar y explorar las cuestiones ontológicas y epistemológicas (v.gr., Bennett 2009)3. Pero, ¿cómo se mueve uno de ver la organización humana como parte de la naturaleza hacia un programa analítico efectivo -y practicable?

Sobre el autor

Jason W. Moore, es historiador de historia del mundo y geógrafo histórico ese profesor asociado de Sociología en la Universidad de Binghamton. Es autor de varios libros, el más reciente de ellos Capitalism in the Web of Life (Verso, 2015) y editor de Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (PM Press, 2016). Coordina la Red de Investigación sobre Ecología-Mundo [World-Ecology Research Network] y está completando Seven Cheap Things: A World-Ecological Manifesto (with Raj Patel) y Ecology of the Rise of Capitalism, ambos para University of California Press. Este ensayo está extraído de “Metabolic Rift or Metabolic Shift? Dialectics, Nature, and the World-Historical Method.”

REFERENCIAS

Bennett, J. (2009). Vibrant Matter. Durham: Duke Univ. Press.

Birch, Charles, and John B. Cobb (1981). The Liberation of Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Braun, Bruce, and Noel Castree, eds. (1998). Remaking reality: nature at the millenium. New York: Routledge.

Burkett, P. (1999). Marx and Nature. New York: St. Martin’s.

Burkett, P., and J.B. Foster (2016). Marx and the Earth. Leiden: Brill.

Dunlap, R.E., and W.R. Catton, Jr. (1979). Environmental Sociology. Annual Reviews in Sociology, 5, 243-273

Fischer-Kowalski, M. (1997). Society’s Metabolism. Pp. 119-37 in M.R. Redclift and G. Woodgate, eds., The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Fischer‐Kowalski, M., and H. Haberl. (1998). “Sustainable Development. International Social Science Journal, 158, 573-587.

Foster, J.B. (2000). Marx’s Ecology. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Foster, J.B. (2013a). Marx and the Rift in the Universal Metabolism of Nature. Monthly Review 65/7, 2013: 1-19

Foster, J.B. (2013b). “The Epochal Crisis,” Monthly Review, 65(5), 1-12.

Foster, J.B. (2016). In defense of ecological Marxism. http://climateandcapitalism.com/2016/06/06/in-defense-of-ecological-marxism-john-bellamy-foster-responds-to-a-critic/, retrieved 4 June, 2016.

Foster, J.B., and B. Clark. (2016). Marx’s Ecology and the Left. Monthly Review, 68(2), 1-25.

Foster, J.B. (forthcoming). Marxism in the Anthropocene. International Critical Thought.

Foster, J.B., et al. (2010). The Ecological Rift. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Goldman, M., and R.A. Schurman. (2000). Closing the ‘Great Divide.’ Annual Review of Sociology, 26(1), 563-584.

Haraway, Donna J. (2008). When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Harvey, D. (1974). Population, Resources, and the Ideology of Science. Economic Geography, 50(3), 256-277.

Harvey, D. (1993). The Nature of Environment. Pp. 1-51 in R. Miliband and L. Panitch, eds., Socialist Register 1993. London, Merlin.

Harvey, D. (1995). Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference. Cambridge: Blackwell.

Heynen, N, et al., eds. (2007). Neoliberal Environments. New York: Routledge.

Marx, K. (1981). Capital, Vol. III. New York: Penguin.

Merchant, C. (1980). The Death of Nature. New York: Harper & Row.

Moore, J.W. (2011). Transcending the Metabolic Rift. Journal of Peasant Studies, 38(1), 1-46.

Moore, J.W. (2015). Capitalism in the Web of Life. London: Verso.

Peet, Richard, Paul Robbins, & Michael Watts, eds. (2011).  Global Political Ecology. London: Routledge.

Plumwood, V. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. New York: Routledge.

Smith, Neil. (1984). Uneven Development. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Warf, B., and S. Arias, eds. (2008). The spatial turn. New York: Routledge.

Watts, M.J. (1983). Silent Violence. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Watts, M.J. (2005). Nature:Culture. Pp. 142-174 in P. Cloke and R. Johnston, eds., Spaces of Geographical Thought. London, Sage.

Young, R.M. (1979). Science is a Labor Process. Science for the People, 43-44, 31-37.

[1] Entre los textos representativos se incluyen los de Harvey (1974), Merchant (1980), Young (1979), Watts (1983), and Smith (1984).

[2] Foster presenta a Harvey como si defendiese la naturaleza como una “frontera exterior” (2013a, p. 9) -una posición que distorsiona la posición real de Harvey. Harvey mantiene un punto de vista considerablemente relacional de las relaciones socio-ecológicas en el que “todos los proyectos (y argumentos) ecológicos son simultáneamente proyectos (y argumentos) político-económicos y viceversa” (1993, p. 2, también 1995). Una lectura errónea similar se encuentra en la apropiación de Foster de mi concepción de crisis de época (Moore, 2011), que él describe como la “convergencia de contradicciones económicas y ecológicas” (2013b, p. 1). Estas apropiaciones indican la negativa de Foster a plantear la crítica relacional en sus propios términos.

[3] La crítica del dualismo naturaleza/sociedad es amplia. Entre las declaraciones clásicas se incluyen Smith (1984); Plumwood (1993); Braun yCastree (1998). Descartes es simplemente uno de los diversos nombres para el tipo de dualismo que surgió con el auge del capitalismo a principios de la era moderna (Moore 2015).

 

CFP: Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference (MIGC)

The 12th Annual Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference (MIGC)

http://themigc.com/call-for-papers/

MOSAIC
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

KEYNOTE SPEAKER: DR. JASON W. MOORE (BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY)
KEYNOTE WORKSHOP & READING CONDUCTED BY: DR. MARGARET RHEE (UNIVERSITY OF OREGON)

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
February 17–18, 2017
Deadline: December 1, 2016

The Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference (MIGC) invites submissions across disciplines and fields that engage with the idea of “MOSAIC” in culture and theory. Mosaics are images produced by the arrangement of glass, stone, tile, and other non-precious materials into a pattern. While mosaic most immediately invokes an artistic aesthetic, the term also encompasses notions of perspective, legibility, materiality, representation, collectivity, and place.

Mosaic is a way of considering the relationships between the one and the multiple, troubling the artificial divisions cracking and crackling within our social compositions. As Jason W. Moore contends, we must recognize society and nature as entwined in a world-ecology. World-ecology interrelates capitalism, nature, power, and history as “the fundamental co-production of earth-moving, idea-making, and power-creating across the geographical layers of human experience.” Society and nature are often categorically separated, but they must be recognized as always and necessarily co-constituted. Margaret Rhee’s art, as both a praxis and poetics of social equality, enacts this kind of social consciousness in storytelling that interrelates being with desire. To recognize a mosaic is to engage in aesthetic attention to the world. This kind of perspective is also being taken up by studies in fields such as (but not limited to) eco-criticism, new materialism, ethnic and indigenous studies, media studies, Marxism.

This conference seeks to further complicate how the moments of world-ecology and social poetics fit together to attend to the permutations and arrangements of parts that make up various social, political, personal, and ecological wholes. What images can we abstract from the uneven fragments and “cheap natures” of our inherited world ecology? How can patterns help us attend to a long history of industrial grids, racial fractals, gendered webs, and class pyramids?  What materials are necessary to form a more sustainable political and empathetic economy? How do we become through our loves?

This two-day conference welcomes and encourages research across disciplines to collectively consider, question, and critique “mosaic” in theory, art, literature, music, architecture, philosophy, ecology, medicine, anthropology, art history, sociology, media, psychology, mathematics, history, biology, etc. MIGC will also showcase an evening of artistic performances, readings, and art installations. Please see the call for creative submissions.

Topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Mosaic and its history in art and cultures
  • World-Ecology as mosaic, mosaic in the Anthropocene
  • Form and its relation to content
  • Assemblages, nature-cultures, and other ways of thinking about nonhuman arrangements
  • Mosaic and architecture, urban planning, and public art
  • Gender and sexuality as mosaic
  • Embodiment as mosaic
  • Theories of political organizing and activism
  • Literature and film that considers the singular vs. the collective
  • Pattern, arrangement, organization in digital media and coding
  • Theories of cut-ups, mixed-media, collage in art and cultural texts
  • Comics as mosaic
  • Games

Questions can be directed to themigc@gmail.com. Please use the form below to submit all submissions by December 1, 2016. All submissions will be reviewed anonymously by a committee of UWM graduate student organizers.

The twelfth annual Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference is supported by the Center for 21st Century Studies, the College of Letters and Sciences, the Graduate School, the Office of Student Affairs, and the Department of English, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.

NATURE/SOCIETY & THE VIOLENCE OF REAL ABSTRACTION

Jason W. Moore

Fernand Braudel Center and Department of Sociology

Binghamton University

Among Nature/Society dualism’s essential features is the tendency to circumscribe truth-claims by drawing hard-and-fast lines between what is Social and what is Natural.[1] Here is a rift: an epistemic rift.[2] At its core is a series of violent abstractions implicated in the creation and reproduction of two separate epistemic domains: Nature and Society (again in the uppercase). The abstractions are “violent” because they remove essential relations from each node in the interests of narrative and theoretical coherence (Sayer 1987). Dialectical abstractions, in contrast, begin with historical movement and decisions about strategic historical relations – something conspicuously absent from Nature/Society.

The procedure of abstraction is central to Marx’s method, with implications that go far beyond philosophical differences (Ollman 2003). How we abstract reality into semi-fixed categories shapes our interpretation; analytics in turn shape politics and policy. This is why Foster’s defense of Nature/Society as appropriate abstractions – strikingly at odds with Marx’s method – is so curious (2013). Nature/Society are undialectical abstractions. They are no more dialectical than, say, “the market” and “industry,” or “population” and “environment.” At best, these are chaotic conceptions, as Marx would say (1973, pp. 100).

Such chaotic conceptions are violent in Sayer’s sense of the term – but also in a more practical sense. The language of Nature and Society is hardly value-neutral. Environmental sociology, in particular, has yet to experience its Bourdieu-ian moment, “reflexively” grasping the degree to which Nature/Society embody arbitrary yet patterned relations of power (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992).  While a distinction between humans and the rest of nature antedates capitalism by millennia (Arnold 1996), the elevation of Nature/Society to a civilizational organizing principle did not occur until the “long” sixteenth century (Braudel 1953; Wallerstein 1974; Moore 2016a). This is no mere quibble over terms. Cartesian dualism as a system of thought – and as a conceptual vocabulary – has been a quite palpable force in the making of the modern world. They have been real abstractions – abstractions with operative force in the material world (Sohn-Rethel 1978; Toscano 2016). Nature/Society – and manifold cognate terms, clustered in early modern Europe around “civility” and “barbarism” or “savagery” – implicated a new ways of thinking… and a new civilizational praxis: Cheap Nature

The birth of these real abstractions, Nature and Society, was consolidated in early capitalism (Merchant 1980; Moore 2015a). In the centuries after 1450, the entanglements of capital, science, and empire enacted a series of socio-ecological and symbolic revolutions aimed at the creation of an “external” nature as a source of cheap inputs (Moore 2014, 2015a). What is crucial to understand is that “Nature” in the rise of capitalism came to include the vast majority of humans within its geographical reach.

Nature – again our uppercase ‘N’ – was fundamental to capitalism from the beginning. The Columbian rupture of 1492 marked not only the “discovery” of the Americas, but the “discovery of Mankind” – and with it, Nature (Albuafia 2008; Mumford 1934). For the Columbian conquests were not merely exterminist and plundering; their epochal significance derives also from ambitious imperial projects to map and catalogue productive natures of every kind (Bleichmar et al. 2009). The project proceeded through the assumption that Nature included indigenous peoples. The overseas empires, beginning with the Iberian powers, “collected, harnessed, and ordered (natural) things as they tried to construct and control (knowledge about) the natural world.” These “practices included the collecting of humans, that is (savage) bodies, as fungible commodities to be classified and exploited” (Modest 2012, p. 86).

The newly-discovered Mankind was of a piece with early modernity’s epistemological and ontological revolution, creating Nature as external to civilization and subordinating it to new “measures of reality” – above all the primacy of visual knowledges embodied in the cartographic gaze and new procedures of quantitative rationalization (Crosby 1997; Mumford 1934). At best, the paired discovery of Mankind and Nature was less anthropocentric than it was Manthropocentric – to borrow Raworth’s apt turn of phrase (2014; see Federici 2004; Merchant 1980). At its core was an always-contested boundary between which humans counted as Human, and which would be forcibly resettled into the zone of Nature. The conquest of the Americas and the paired “discoveries” of Nature and Humanity/Society were two moments of a singular movement.

Colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and the emergence of Nature as a violent and real abstraction co-evolved from the very beginning. During the protracted conquest of the Canaries, Portugal’s King Duarte put the issue starkly (1436): Canarians are “nearly wild men… living in the country like animals” (quoted in Hulme 1994, p. 187). The same discourse characterized English rule in Ireland a century later (Rai 1993). Ethnic cleansing – typically in the name of “taking away their inhumanity” (Sued-Badillo 1992) – was the order of the day in the three great military campaigns culminating in the Columbian invasions. The final waves of conquest of the Canaries (1478-1490s) and Granada (1482-92) – which cash-strapped Castile and Aragon financed largely through slaving – were key moments in an emergent capitalism installing and reproducing a Humanity/Nature binary through an equally emergent racialized and gendered order (Nader 2002; Kicza 1992).

The earliest moments of conquest were effected through a radical inversion of land/labor arrangements – underscored by the overnight reinvention of the encomienda, from a medieval land grant and to a preciously modern labor grant. Indigenous peoples became de facto slaves, while the booming sugar plantation complex pioneered modern slavery de jure – tentatively at first in Madeira, and reaching critical mass in Brazil after 1600. An African slave was part of Nature – not Society – in the new order. Here Patterson’s characterization of modern slavery as “social death” receives a post-Cartesian twist (1982). Most human work was not labor-power and therefore most humans within capital’s gravitational pull were not, or not really, Humans. This meant that the realm of Nature encompassed virtually all peoples of color, most women, and most people with white skin living in semi-colonial regions (e.g. Ireland, Poland, etc.) (von Werlhof 1985; Rai 1993). Not for nothing did Castilians refer to indigenous Andeans in the sixteenth century as naturales (Stavig 2000). The problem with Nature and Society is not merely discursive – they are real abstractions with real force in the modern world we now inhabit.

Primitive accumulation therefore yielded not only bourgeois and proletarian, but Society and Nature. This is not a rhetorical flourish. The binary tendency of modern class formation and the dualism of Society and Nature reinforced each other in the rise of capitalism (Moore 2015a, 2016b, 2017a).

We can see this close relationship with the evolution of the word Society. Society begins to assume its modern English usage – as national collectivity – from the mid-sixteenth century (1 1983, p. 292; also OED 2016). The timing is significant. At precisely this point, following Kett’s Rebellion (1549), that the tide of agrarian class struggle shifted decisively in favor of the gentry (Wood 2007). By 1700, England’s landlords held two-thirds of arable land (Thompson 1966). Nor was it coincident that this period saw, from 1541, the intensification of English colonial rule in Ireland (Ohlmeyer 2016). Through all this, the Irish (and later North America’s indigenous peoples), the poor, most women,  and many others came to be viewed as “savages” of one sort of another – a view that justified all manner of bloody expropriations (Leerssen 1995; Moore 2016b). Here we begin to see modernity’s emergent epistemic rift practically bound to capitalism as ontological formation – as a world-ecology of power, capital, and nature.  The Cheap Nature strategy had become pivotal to the audacious restructuring of human relations along modern – and powerfully dualist – lines of class, race, and gender.[3]

Modernity’s epistemic rift is premised on the creation of two idealized and independent objects of investigation: Nature/Society. The binary is so resilient because its underlying ontology is mechanical, which corresponds remarkably well with capitalist rationality via the quantism of capital in its monetary and productivist forms (currency units, units of labor-power, etc.). In the dualist cognitive map, environmental “factors” are easily tacked onto the analysis of social processes – just what has occurred through Marxist Green Arithmetic. Announcing a “nature-society dialectic” (e.g. Foster 2013), such phrases confuse relations for dialectics and general abstractions and empirical patterns (e.g. Nature/Society) for the “developing tendencies of history” (Lukács 1971, p. 184). For Nature/Society can only be a dialectic – as opposed to a relation – through a specification of its laws of motion, its developing tendencies. Capital/labor is a dialectical relation for this very reason: it is asymmetrical and grounded in a historical-geographical movement of transcendence. At once producer and product of the town/country antagonism (its geographical moment), the capital/labor dialectic entails the undoing of an originary asymmetry in favor of a new synthesis: “the expropriators are expropriated” (Marx 1977, p. 929).

Rift arguments, however, deploy Nature/Society very differently, as basic units rather than interpenetrating relations (Levins and Lewontin 1985). Nature as a general abstraction – like population or production in general (Marx 1973) – dominates. As if to move from the frying pan into the fire, Rift analysts dismiss as idealist efforts to historicize the capitalism-nature relation (e.g. through integrating accounts of science and culture in successively dominant understandings of the web of life) (e.g. Foster and Clark 2016). The result is a twofold conception of history shaped by a declensionist Fall from Eden and the inexorable drive towards catastrophe in which capital accumulation will proceed until “the last tree has been cut” (Foster 2009, p. 206). No one disputes the reality of socio-ecological disaster, planetary change, and limits – notwithstanding Foster’s insistence to the contrary (2016, forthcoming). Rather, the crux of the present argument highlights how the life and times of metabolism has resisted the tendency of dialectical praxis to dissolve its analytical objects (e.g., capital/labor), and to create new categories suitable to comprehending the historically successive interpenetrations of humans with the rest of nature.

REFERENCES

Abulafia, D. (2008). The Discovery of Mankind. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Arnold, D. (1996). The Problem of Nature. Oxford: Blackwell.

Bleichmar, D., et al. (Eds.) (2009). Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, 1500-1800. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Bourdieu, P. and L.J.D. Wacquant. (1992). An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Braudel, F. (1953). Qu’est-ce que le XVIe siècle? Annales E.S.C., 8(1), 69–73.

Crosby, A.W. (1997). The Measure of Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Federici, S. (2004). Caliban and the witch. New York: Autonomedia.

Foster, J.B. (2009). The Ecological Revolution. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Foster, J (2013). Marx and the Rift in the Universal Metabolism of Nature. Monthly Review 65/7, 2013: 1-19.

Foster, J.B. (2016). In defense of ecological Marxism. http://climateandcapitalism.com/2016/06/06/in-defense-of-ecological-marxism-john-bellamy-foster-responds-to-a-critic/, retrieved 4 June, 2016.

Foster, J.B., and B. Clark. (2016). Marx’s Ecology and the Left. Monthly Review, 68(2), 1-25.

Foster, J.B. (forthcoming). Marxism in the Anthropocene. International Critical Thought.

Harvey, D. (1993). The Nature of Environment. Pp. 1-51 in R. Miliband and L. Panitch, eds., Socialist Register 1993. London, Merlin.

Hulme, Peter. (1994). Tales of Distinction. Pp. 157-197 in S.B. Schwartz, ed., Implicit Understandings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

James, P. (2015). They have never been modern? Arena Journal, 44, 31-54.

Kicza, J.E. 1992. Patterns in Early Spanish Overseas Expansion. William and Mary Quarterly, 49(2), 229-253.

Kuklick, H. (1991) The savage within. Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Leerssen, J. (1995). Wildness, Wilderness, and Ireland. Journal of the History of Ideas, 56(1), 25-39.

Lefebvre, Henri. (1991). The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.

Levins, R, and R Lewontin. 1985. The Dialectical Biologist. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Lukács, G. (1971). History and Class Consciousness. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Marx, K. (1967). Capital. 3 vols. New York: International Publishers.

Marx, K. (1973). Grundrisse. New York: Vintage.

Marx, K. (1977). Capital, Vol. I. New York: Vintage.

Marx, K. (1981). Capital, Vol. III. New York: Penguin.

Merchant, C. (1980). The Death of Nature. New York: Harper & Row.

Nader, H. (2002). Desperate men, questionable acts. Sixteenth Century Journal, 33(2), 401-422.

Modest, W. (2012). We have always been modern. Museum Anthropology, 35(1), 85-96.

Moore, J.W. (2014). The End of Cheap Nature, or: How I learned to Stop Worrying about ‘the’ Environment and Love the Crisis of Capitalism. Pp. 285-314 in C. Suter and C. Chasde-Dunn, eds., Structures of the World Political Economy and the Future of Global Conflict and Cooperation. Berlin: LIT.

Moore, J.W. (2015a). Capitalism in the Web of Life. London: Verso.

Moore, J.W. (2015b). Cheap Food and Bad Climate. Critical Historical Studies, 2(1), 1-43.

Moore, J.W. (2016a). Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism. Oakland: PM Press.

Moore, J.W. (2016b). The Rise of Cheap Nature. In: J.W. Moore, ed., Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Oakland: PM Press, pp. 78-115.

Moore, J.W. (2017a). The Capitalocene, Part I. Journal of Peasant Studies.

Moore, J.W. (2017b). The Capitalocene, Part II. Journal of Peasant Studies.

Mumford, L. (1934). Technics & Civilization. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Oxford English Dictionary. (2016). Society. In The Oxford English Dictionary, www.oed.com, accessed 10 July 2016.

Ohlmeyer, J. (2016). Conquest, Civilization, Colonization. Pp. 21-47 in R. Bourke and I. McBride, eds., The Princeton History of Modern Ireland. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Ollman, B. (2003). Dance of the Dialectic. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Patterson, O. (1982). Slavery and Social Death. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press.

Rai, Milan. 1993. Columbus in Ireland. Race & Class 34, 4, 25-34.

Raworth, K. (2014). Must the Anthropocene be a Manthropocene? The Guardian (October 20).

Sayer, D. (1987). The Violence of Abstraction. Oxford: Blackwell.

Schneider, M. and P. McMichael (2010). Deepening, and Repairing, the Metabolic Rift. Journal of Peasant Studies, 37(3), 461-484.

Sohn-Rethel, A. (1978). Intellectual and Manual Labour. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press.

Stavig, W. (2000). Ambiguous Visions. Hispanic American Historical Review, 80(1), 77-111.

Sued-Badillo, J. (1992). Christopher Columbus and the enslavement of the Amerindians in the Caribbean. Monthly Review, 44(3), 71-103.

Thompson, F.M.L. (1966). The social distribution of landed property in England since the sixteenth century.  Economic History Review, 19(3), 505-517.

Toscano, A. (2016). The World Is Already without Us. Social Text, 34(2), 109-124.

von Werlhof, C. (1988). On the concept of nature and society in capitalism. Pp. 96-112 in M. Mies, et al., eds., Women: The Last Colony. London: Zed.

Williams, R. (1983). Keywords. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wood, A. (2007). The 1549 rebellions and the making of early modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jason W. Moore is associate professor of Sociology at Binghamton University and author of several books, including Capitalism in the Web of Life (Verso, 2015). He is coordinator of the World-Ecology Research Network. This essay draws on his forthcoming essay, “Metabolic Rift or Metabolic Shift? Dialectics, Nature, and the World-Historical Method,” available here.

[1] Harvey offers the clearest exposition of this critique (1993).

[2] The term is indebted to Schneider and McMichael (2010), whose formulation is, however, distinct from epistemic rift as epistemological dualism.

[3] My concept of ontological formation draws on James’ groundbreaking work (2015).

Tenure-track hire, Binghamton Sociology

Sociology.  Binghamton University.  The department is seeking to recruit a tenure-track assistant professor beginning in Fall 2017 who can contribute to one or more of our key areas of interest: 1) critical political economy and world-systems analysis 2) critical labor and migration studies 3) carceral and surveillance studies and 4) the politics of resistance.

The Sociology Department at Binghamton has gained an international reputation for world-historical studies that cut across disciplinary boundaries.  We encourage applicants with degrees from any related discipline who can complement our existing strengths to apply.

Applicants should send a letter of application, research statement, curriculum vitae, three letters of reference, and one or two writing samples (articles or book chapters) that are representative of your work.  Send all application materials to the sociology folder at http://binghamton.interviewexchange.com/. Screening of applications will begin on October 17, 2016 and continue until the position is filled.  Binghamton University is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity Employer.

REVIEW: Knight on Anthropocene or Capitalocene?

REPOSTED FROM Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

http://marxandphilosophy.org.uk/reviewofbooks/reviews/2016/2426

'Anthropocene or Capitalocene?' by Jason W Moore (ed) Jason W Moore (ed)
Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History and the Crisis of Capitalism
PM Press, Oakland, CA, 2016. 222 pp., $21.95 pb.
ISBN 9781629631486

Reviewed by Steve Knight

Steve Knight

Steve Knight is co-convenor of the ecosocialist working group at the Marxist Education Project in Brooklyn, New York.

Review

The public’s imagination has been seized in the twenty-first century with the notion that human impacts upon the earth’s geology and ecosystems have been so widespread and profound that they have actually launched a new epoch in the Earth’s history. Biologist Eugene Stoermer suggested in the 1980’s that this hypothetical new epoch might be called the Anthropocene (literally, “New Era of Man”), a term that was repeated in a seminal paper in 2000, by the atmospheric chemist and Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen. While the Anthropocene has not yet been recognized officially by any of the major scientific organizations that designate geological epochs, and there is considerable disagreement among scientists as to when it might have begun, the increasing weight of evidence pointing to unprecedented anthropogenic impacts upon earth and climate systems virtually assures that “Anthropocene” will indefinitely be fixed as part of the public discourse.

In recent years, however, a group of thinkers trained in the ecosocialist tradition of Marx and Engels have initiated a critique of the concept of Anthropocene, arguing that it implicitly blames all of humanity for creating the deleterious effects of biodiversity and species loss, carbon emissions, ocean degradation, deforestation, and other strains on our biosphere. Instead of blaming all of humanity – which includes billions of the world’s poorest, who consume and pollute little – they contend that it is more accurate to place blame on a globalized system of capitalist relations, which are premised on the assumption that infinite, compound growth is possible on a planet with finite resources. This has locked us into unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, hence, “Capitalocene”. The recent collectionAnthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History and the Crisis of Capitalism, edited by Jason W. Moore, offers new perspectives on this ecosocialist critique that should be helpful to anyone engaged in extending their understanding of the current ecological crisis.

Part One of the collection, The Anthropocene and Its Discontents: Toward Chthulucene?, offers two attempts to evaluate the term “Anthropocene” as a potential normative category. What does it tell us, and what does it leave out of the conversation? Environmental sociologist Eileen Crist writes in On the Poverty of Our Nomenclature, that the problem with calling this epoch the Anthropocene, is that it traps us within the anthropocentric worldview that caused our climate crisis in the first place. “The Anthropocene discourse clings”, she tells us, “to the almighty power of that jaded abstraction ‘Man’ and to the promised land his God-posturing might yet deliver him, namely, a planet managed for the production of resources and governed for the containment of risks” (23). Crist declines to suggest an alternative name for our epoch, but says that whatever we call it, it must convey a more integral, holistic vision of interrelationships between the human and non-human. “Lifting the banner of human integrity,” she says, “invites the priority of our pulling back and scaling down, of welcoming limitations of our numbers, economies, and habitats for the sake of a higher, more inclusive freedom and quality of life” (29).

In the second essay of Part One, Staying With the Trouble: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene, Donna J. Haraway brings her background in fields as diverse as technology, feminist theory and multispecies studies, to bear on positing a new paradigm that might replace “Anthropocene” in our discourse. She laments at one point that “[t]hese times called the Anthropocene are times of multi-species, including human, urgency: of great mass death and extinction…of refusing to know and to cultivate the capacity of responsability…of unprecedented looking away” (39). As a response, she proposes the alternate term “Chthulucene”, based on the eight-legged tree spider Pimoa Chthulu, a creature that learns by feeling with many tentacles. What Haraway calls “tentacularity” (shared by organisms as varied as creepers, roots, fungal tangles, jellyfish, even humans) is a quality of life “lived along lines—and such a wealth of lines—not at points, not in spheres” (36). It is this sort of “string figured” (or “sympoietic,” as per environmental researcher Beth Dempster) thinking, which is multipolar, organizationally open, distributionally controlled, and dynamic, that Haraway believes will lead to better solutions to our ecological conundrum. While Haraway offers some exciting potential avenues for conceptualizing beyond the limitations of the Anthropocene model, I am unsure how her “string figured” mode of thinking might be applied practically to halting the worsening breakdown in our biosphere. I am personally more comfortable with Eileen Crist’s straightforward approach of emphasizing holistic relations between the human and non-human realms.

Part Two, Histories of the Capitalocene, offers three attempts to give some historical context to capitalism’s increasingly tight grip on Earth’s geology and ecosystems. The Rise of Cheap Nature, by editor Jason W. Moore, reprises many of the key points in Moore’s 2015 magisterial study, Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. Moore believes that while the Anthropocene meme can engage questions of how humans make natures, and vice versa, it cannot provide answers. This is because it is trapped in a Cartesian binary of Humanity vs. Nature, instead of recognizing the “double internality” of humanity-inside-nature, and nature-inside-humanity. Moore maintains that the Capitalocene (an epoch he says was initiated by significant transformations in land and labor relations ca. 1450 to 1640) is premised on a “world-ecology” dialectic in which “capital and power—and countless other strategic relations—do not actupon nature, but develop through the web of life” (97). The secret to capitalism’s creation of value, he says, is that it does not actually value most of its inputs; rather it depends on a steady stream of “Cheap Natures”—labor, food, energy and raw materials—to boost accumulation. Much of capitalism’s crisis since the beginning of its neoliberal phase in the 1970’s, Moore suggests, may be attributed to the increasing difficulty of obtaining Cheap Nature inputs.

Justin McBrien’s Accumulating Extinction: Planetary Catastrophism in the Necrocene posits that outright extinction, of species, cultures, languages and peoples, lies at the heart of capital accumulation. McBrien sees the Necrocene, an epoch of “New Death”, coterminous with the Capitalocene, as causing not just the “metabolic rift” between labor and the Earth, as described by John Bellamy Foster and other ecosocialists, but a process necrotizing the entire planet in a headlong rush to subsume all of the Earth under capital. The final section of McBrien’s essay connects the Necrocene to a post-World War Two “catastrophism” promulgated by the military-industrial complex, and embodied most vividly at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “Capitalism found in the atom bomb the dark watery reflection of its own image. It realized that its logic could lead to one thing: total extinction. It realized that it had become the Necrocene” (124).

The third essay in the Histories section, Elmar Atvater’s The Capitalocene, or Geoengineering Against Capitalism’s Planetary Boundaries, takes on the subject of geoengineering, namely proposed large-scale interventions in the Earth’s climate system aimed at limiting or reversing anthropogenic climate change. These strategies are considered risky by most scientists, but have become attractive in a world increasingly reliant on technological solutions; a few prominent scientists, including Google’s Ray Kurzweil and climate scientist Paul Crutzen, have even said that geoengineering is the answer to the climate crisis. Altvater’s critique of geoengineering, however, is rooted in his analysis of capitalism’s inherent irrationality. Classical political economy, he notes, neglects to consider the full web of life’s interdependencies, including most crucially that capitalism relies on a constant “tap” of cheap inputs and a cost-free externalization (“sink”) of waste outputs. Geoengineering promises to address the negative consequences of externalization by pricing in their costs; but Altvater says that this is doomed to fail, because “many interdependencies in society and nature cannot be expressed in terms of prices.” Approaching the problem holistically would be an answer, but this is impossible in capitalism, which Altvater says “is committed to fixing the parts and not the whole” (151).

The collection’s third and final section, Cultures, States and Environment-Making, looks at the crucial aspect of culture in creating the Anthropocene from two entirely different perspectives. In Anthropocene, Capitalocene and the Problem of Culture, Daniel Hartley defines culture as an historically evolving, contingent process, drawing on dialectical relations between land, labor, intellectual activity, the state and other factors. “Cultural history”, he writes, “must incorporate the profound interrelation of historically and geographically specific struggles with their fundamental symbolic components” (163). Hartley’s main problem with the Anthropocene concept is that it does not consider the politics of class struggle as materially determinant, suggesting instead a world where an undifferentiated “humanity” uses technology in a mechanistic “one-on-one billiard ball model of technological invention and historical effect” (156).

In contrast to Hartley, Christian Parenti’s Environment-Making in the Capitalocene: Political Ecology of the State looks at the crucial role played by the state in creating conditions for the Capitalocene. The author asserts that the state does not simply have a relationship with nature; it is a relationship with nature, because its assertion of territorial control—legally, militarily and scientifically—maintains the web of life necessary for societies to function. Parenti reviews some examples of the vital role the state has played in creating conditions for capital accumulation: Alexander Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures, the Erie Canal, and China’s Grand Canal. He concludes with an impassioned plea to the Left not to forget the role of the state in formulating an anti-capitalist strategy; “[t]o reform capitalism—and to move beyond it—the Left needs to place the state front and center in its strategic considerations” (182).

The essays in Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Provide an invaluable contribution to the debate over what we should call this strange new epoch, wrought by centuries of capitalist depredations upon our biosphere. As these ecosocialists so ably tell us, from their individual perspectives, that humanity’s best hope to save the planet (and its species, including our own) relies on finding ways to replace an unsustainable Capitalocene with socialist relations of production and consumption.

30 August 2016

CFP: Migration in the World-System

PEWS 2017: CALL FOR PAPERS

The theme of the 41st Annual Conference on the Political Economy of the World-System (PEWS) is “Migration in the World-system.”

The conference will be held at Texas A&M University (College Station, TX, USA) on April 28-29, 2017.

Paper proposals (around 3-500 words) should be sent by October 15, 2016 to Denis O’Hearn <PEWS17@tamu.edu>.

One of the most important processes in the formation and reformation of the world-system is the movement of people. The contemporary media is filled with accounts of Syria, where nearly five million people have migrated to other countries and more than six million are displaced within Syria. In North America, a presidential campaign is dominated by rhetoric of the dangers imposed by migrants from the Global South and East and a perceived “need” to close borders by walls and other means. In Europe, a liberalized policy to allow free movement of people among countries within the EU is under threat. Of course, this is hardly a new phenomenon but just the latest episode in an ongoing history of migration and resistance to migration. The 41stconference of the PEWS section of the ASA seeks to examine the role of migration in the changing world-system by examining the following themes:

1) gender, race, ethnicity and migration

A recent issue of the Journal of World-systems Research called for reconceptualizations in how we understand the racial or ethnic dimensions of exploitation in the world-capitalist system. Transformations in world capitalism, it is argued, pose new challenges to Western theories of race. The same might be said for theories of gendered dimensions of exploitation and social formation. How do gender, race and ethnicity shape the patterns of migration in the world-system? And, in turn, how do the gendered and racialized patterns of migration shape the economic institutions, politics, and cultures of the places to which people move and from where they move? How does this challenge our conceptualizations of gender, race, and ethnicity?

 

2) political conflict and migration

One of the most persistent features of the world-system is the emergence and re-emergence of wars and other forms of conflict and violence. This always causes the displacement of people, as we have so recently seen in the mass movements of people within the Middle East and from the Middle East to Europe, or from conflicted regions of Central and South America to the North. How are patterns of political conflict in the world-system related to the movements of people? And, in turn, how does such movement affect the world-economy, the interstate system, and their parts?

 

3) migration in history from 1492 (and before)

How has migration related to patterns of change of the capitalist world-system. To what extent is population movement patterned or not and does this make a difference in how we understand the development of world capitalism and its divisions of labor? How has migration mitigated or exacerbated environmental crises and problems associated with maintaining the “four cheaps” of labor-power, food, energy, and raw materials? Why, despite repeated attempts by governments to regulate it and economists to pronounce it “unnecessary” for global accumulation, has migration been so persistent?

 

4) impact of migration on localities such as Texas

One of the most important aspects of migration is the impact it has on the localities or regions to which people move. Nowhere is this more obvious than in a region like Texas and the US Southwest, where this conference is being held. Among the most obvious changes are those concerning the division of labor in and the economic structures of regions such as Texas. But migration also produces long term changes in the politics of such localities and regions. Texas, for example, is undergoing a rapid demographic shift that may completely change its place in US politics. German politics have been profoundly changed by generations of migration from Turkey/Kurdistan. How have migrations affected regional and local divisions of labor in the world-system, as well as the political/cultural transformations of those regions?

Capitalism in the Web of Life at the SSSP (August 21, 2016)

For colleagues at the sociologists’ meeting in Seattle (and Seattle friends, too!), join us for an author meets critics session on Capitalism in the Web of Life at the SSSP meeting:

Date: Sunday, August 21

Time: 12:30 PM – 2:10 PM

Westin Seattle Hotel
1900 5th Avenue
Seattle, WA

Session 177: Author Meets Critics: “Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital” by Jason W. Moore
Room: Cascade I-A

Sponsor: Program Committee

Organizer &

Presider: David A. Smith, University of California, Irvine

Critics:

Laura McKinney, Tulane University

Thomas J. Burns, University of Oklahoma

Daniel Aldana Cohen, University of Pennsylvania

In defense of Capitalism in the Web of Life

In defense of ‘Capitalism in the Web of Life’
The following was posted by Fred Murphy on June 17, 2016, as a Comment to the John Bellamy Foster/Ian Angus interview at climateandcapitalism.com/2016/06/06…
* * *
Let me preface this by affirming my respect and appreciation for the many contributions of John Bellamy Foster and Ian Angus to ecosocialist thought, and especially Foster’s accomplishments in rehabilitating Marx and Engels as ecological thinkers. A study group I co-lead at the Marxist Education Project in Brooklyn, NY, recently spent several rewarding weeks on Foster’s Marx’s Ecology. We also devoted considerable effort to Jason W. Moore’s Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (hereafter CWL). In the fall we aim to tackle both Angus’s Facing the Anthropocene and Moore’s edited collection Anthropocene vs. Capitalocene. While noting Moore’s differences with Foster on “Cartesian dualism” and “rift vs. shift,” our group did not dwell on these; we have found great value in both scholars and their works.
Hence I was taken aback by the sharp polemic Angus and Foster have aimed at Moore. It’s difficult to recognize the book that we read and the scholar I’ve come to know in the interview and comments above. I will leave “Cartesian dualism” to the philosophes, but I would like to point out here some key dissonances between Foster’s assertions and the content of Moore’s work.
Foster claims that Moore “essentially rejects all Green thought, including ecological Marxism or ecosocialism, for talking about ‘what capitalism does to nature’ instead of ‘how nature works for capitalism.’ For him, the central ecological problem is not the disruption of the Earth System, but the fact that natural resources have become more expensive, creating problems for the capitalist economy.” To the contrary, Moore’s immanent critique of capitalism’s historical development with respect to nature incorporates and builds upon Green thought. At the same time, he seeks to deepen it further with a critique along three axes (none of which he imputes directly to Foster, by the way): “the reduction of humanity to a unified actor; the reduction of market, production, political, and cultural relations to ‘social’ relations; and the conceptualization of Nature as independent of humans, even when the evidence suggests the contrary.” (CWL, p. 6) Moore proposes “a view of humanity as natural force [that] allows us to see new connections between human nature, global power and production, and the web of life. In an era of tightly linked transformations of energy, climate, food and agriculture, labor markets, urbanization, financialization, and resource extraction, the imperative is to grasp the inner connections that conduct flows of power, capital, and energy through the grid of capital accumulation — and in so doing, to shed new light on the limits of that very grid.” (CWL, p. 7)
Foster charges that Moore reduces capitalism’s “disruption of the Earth System” to “problems for the capitalist economy.” To the contrary, Moore shows how intimately these two moments are related, how all capital’s efforts to resolve its problems – historically and in the acute crisis now under way – lead inexorably to just such disruption. Foster ascribes to Moore the view that “ecological problems are reduced to the tap (or resource problem) for capitalism, downplaying or ignoring the larger problem of the sink, that is, how capitalism degrades and disrupts the entire Earth System, and imposes its wastes on it.” The following extended passage from CWL chapter 10 provides a prima facie refutation of the charge of “downplaying or ignoring” this problem:
“The cumulative and cyclical dimensions of nature-as-tap … are now meeting up with the cumulative dimension of nature-as-sink. Every great movement of appropriating new streams of unpaid work/energy implies a disproportionately larger volume of waste. That disproportionality has grown over time. The dimension of waste is therefore a crucial relation missing— to this point— from our simplified model of accumulation and crisis. Value and waste are dialectically bound, in a cumulatively disproportionate relation. … Urbanization, mining, and industry had been generating a rising volume of wastes since the sixteenth century, when contemporaries observed poisoned streams and befouled air amid the mining boomtowns of central Europe. … Agriculture has now moved to the pole position in the race to pollute the earth— in part because of its energy- and chemical-intensity, but also because its role in land clearance removes forests which would otherwise lock up carbon. “Capitalism’s … wastes are now overflowing the sinks, and spilling over onto the ledgers of capital. Climate change, once again, is our most expressive instance of this phenomenon. Hence, the connection between biospheric ‘state shifts’ and accumulation crisis is more intimate than usually recognized. But I think there is another, deeper, historical-geographical problem that has not (yet) been sufficiently considered: the temporality of nature-as-tap differs significantly from the temporality of nature-as-sink. New primary production regimes, until now, could develop much faster than did waste-induced costs. Outrunning these contradictions was possible because there were geographical frontiers— not just continents, but bodily, subterranean, and atmospheric spaces— from which ‘free gifts’ could be extracted, and into which ‘free garbage’ could be deposited. “There is, then, a fantastically non-linear dynamic at play. Capitalist technological advance not only produces a tendency for industrial production to run ahead of its raw materials supply— Marx’s ‘general law’ of underproduction. It also produces a general law of overpollution: the tendency to enclose and fill up waste frontiers faster than it can locate new ones. Thus the non-linear slope of the waste accumulation curve over the longue durée, with a series of sharp upticks after 1945, 1975, and 2008. As ‘resource quality’— a wretched term— declines, it is not only more costly to extract work/ energy, it becomes more toxic.” (CWL, pp. 279-280)
In sum, Moore takes Foster’s concern over earth system dynamics as central, and on that basis builds out a series of connections to demonstrate how the biosphere’s tipping points, rooted in capital accumulation on a global and historical scale, are becoming quite problematic for capital – and of course, not only for capital but for working people, all humanity, and the earth itself. Whatever its shortcomings, Moore’s analysis is very much in the tradition of Marx, Luxemburg, and … Foster.