Ecology, Capital, and the Nature of Our Times: Accumulation & Crisis in the Capitalist World-Ecology
2011 (English)In: Journal of World-Systems Research, ISSN 1076-156X, ISSN 1076-156X, Vol. 17, no 1, 108-147 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
In this essay, I elaborate the possibilities for a unified theory of historical capitalism – one that views the accumulation of capital and the production of nature (humans included!) as dialectically constituted. In this view, the modern world-system is a capitalist world-ecology, a world-historical matrix of human- and extra-human nature premised on endless commodification. The essay is organized in three movements. I begin by arguing for a reading of modernity’s “interdependent master processes” (Tilly) as irreducibly socio-ecological. Capitalism does not develop upon global nature so much as it emerges through the messy and contingent relations of humans with the rest of nature. Second, the paper engages Giovanni Arrighi’s handling of time, space, and accumulation in The Long Twentieth Century. I highlight Arrighi’s arguments for a “structurally variant” capitalism, and the theory of organizational revolutions, as fruitful ways to construct a theory of capitalism as world-ecology. I conclude with a theory of accumulation and its crises as world-ecological process, building out from Marx’s “general law” of underproduction. Historically, capitalism has been shaped by a dialectic of underproduction (too few inputs) and overproduction (too many commodities). Today, capitalism is poised for a re-emergence of underproduction crises, characterized by the insufficient flow of cheap food, fuel, labor, and energy to the productive circuit of capital. Far from the straightforward expression of “overshoot” and “peak everything,” the likely resurgence of underproduction crises is an expression of capitalism’s longue durée tendency to undermine its conditions of reproduction. The world-ecological limit of capital, in other words, is capital itself.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 17, no 1, 108-147 p.
Social Sciences Agricultural Science Business Administration Economic History History Social and Economic Geography
Research subject History; Economic History; biology, Environmental Science; Political Science; Sociology; Systems Analysis
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-39325OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-39325DiVA: diva2:390650