Monday, January 6, 2020

Are We Living In The "Capitalocene"?

I also attended the last session listed in the program at the ASSA at 2:30 on Sunday, an URPE session on "Ecology, the Environment, and Energy," chaired by Paul Cooney.  He presented on "Marxism and Ecological Economics: An Assessment of the Past, Present, and Future." Lynne Chester presented on "Energy and Social Ontology: Can Social Ontology Provide Insight?"  Finally Ann Davis presented on ""'Home on the Range:' Integrating the Household and Ecology."  There were a lot of interesting ideas in these talks, and there was a vigorous discussion about them involving the audience.

What I want to present here is not anything in particular from the talks, but rather a remark from probably the most insightful commenter in the audience.  That was my old friend, David Barkin, who has lived in Mexico for a long time and is at Metropolitan University in Mexico City.  Long an expert on Mexican agriculture, he has in more recent years written a lot on ecological economics from a radical perspective.

Near the end of the session as the discussion was going on about all the papers, he brought up an idea I was unaware of previously, although it has been around for awhile.  It is due to the late German Marxist political scientist, Elmar Altvater, who first became known for writing on environmental problems in the Soviet Union.

So the concept he introduced is that rather than the world being in the "Anthropocene," we are in the "Capitalocen.e."  We may have been the former since humanity first emerged as a species and began heavily impacting the environment, including through bringing about species extinctions.  But in the last several hundred years we have moved into this much more damaging system of the Capitalocene.

This is a serious and challenging idea.

Barkley Rosser

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really important thoughts.

Anonymous said...

This advertisement is disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Better: this advertisement is criminal and disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Please remove this criminal spam.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

A.,

I apologize I do not know how to delete comments.

Sandwichman, or any anybody else, please, how can I do it? I may not be able to get rid of all these ads in our margins, but I would like to delete this garbage that shows up as comments.

Sandwichman said...

Barkley,

The way to get rid of spam comments is to go to "comments" from the "all posts" page and mark the offending comment as spam. I have removed the comment from this post.

Sandwichman said...

The anthropocene/capitalocence distinction brings to mind the Frederic Jameson quote, "Someone once said it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism."

The quote has an interesting history that goes back to a remark by H. Bruce Franklin in a review of J.J. Ballard's science fiction. See: http://qlipoth.blogspot.com/2009/11/easier-to-imagine-end-of-world.html

What "someone" (i.e. Franklin) actually said was, "What could Ballard create if he were able to envision the end of capitalism as not the end, but the beginning, of a human world?"

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mr. Rosser, and I do appreciate the help of Sandwichman.

Anonymous said...

"What could Ballard create if he were able to envision the end of capitalism as not the end, but the beginning, of a human world?"

Possibly Mr. Rosser or Sandwichman would take a sentence or so to answer this answer.

ken melvin said...

slavery
feudalism
mercantilism
capitalism
??????

Anonymous said...

Forgive the repeating of the question, but the question set down by Sandwichman is so interesting:

"What could Ballard create if he were able to envision the end of capitalism as not the end, but the beginning, of a human world?"

What could this mean?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Melvin:

slavery
feudalism
mercantilism
capitalism
??????

How might you finish this list?

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Thanks, S-man.

Now we need to figure out how to get rid of the margin ads.

Sandwichman said...

"What could Ballard create if he were able to envision the end of capitalism as not the end, but the beginning, of a human world?"

Franklin is calling for an imaginative vision, not a programmatic one. Nearly 20 years ago I received a self-published novel in the mail, unsolicited. My instinctive response was dread and embarrassment. How would I inform the sender that I just didn't have the time to read vanity novels? Should I even look at the thing or immediately bury it in the woods?

As it turned out, I glanced at the first few pages and what I found was compelling enough to actually sit down and read the thing. It was quite well written, entertaining and thought provoking. The name of the novel was The Four-Hour Day by a guy named Gabe Sinclair, who a few years later I met at a conference.

It is still available online to download free from http://fourhourday.org/our-story/

The Four-Hour Day is how one author, Gabe Sinclair, could envision "the end of capitalism as not the end, but the beginning, of a human world."

ken melvin said...

Think of the greatest catastrophes of all time; make a list. Climate change will eclipse them all.