New updates appear regularly (23 October, 2023)
Essays and interviews in Portuguese, French, Korean, Czech, Persian, Polish, Chinese, Turkish, Spanish, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Arabic, Thai, Croatian, German, and other languages can be found here.
Jason W. Moore, 2023. Power, Profit & Prometheanism, Part II: Superexploitation in the Web of Life, Journal of World-Systems Research 29(2), 558-582.
In the hustle and bustle of climate scholarship it’s easy to lose sight of something fundamental about the climate crisis: it’s the direct outcome of the bourgeoisie’s drive to turn all life into profit-making opportunities. The climate crisis is a class struggle. But it begs some questions: What kind of class struggle is it? And what kind of class analysis is called for? Nearly a half-century of neoliberal triumph has silenced this line of inquiry. Within the knowledge factory, the realignment of the Western intelligentsia after the 1970s—when a minority tendency broke with its historic allegiance to the ruling class (Chomsky 2017)—embraced a democratic theory of causation. For mainstream and left-ish thinkers alike, causal pluralism returned with a vengeance. For the former, Marxism was simply unscientific; for the latter, it was a “Western construction.” Marxism became something more than bad scholarship that could cost you a career. It was politically retrograde to pursue dialectical syntheses of capitalism in the web of life. In diverse academic movements—from poststructuralism to globalization—“progressive neoliberalism” won the day. “ABC [anything-but-class] leftism” prevailed, defined by the refusal of progressive intellectuals to countenance any theory of class exploitation.
2023. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Marble: Capitalism, Nature and the Promethean Gaze, from Mercator to the Space Age, (English text of German, “Kapitalismus, Natur und der prometheische Blick von Mercator bis zum Weltraumzeitalter”), in Image Ecology, Kathrin Schönegg and Boaz Levin eds., C/O Berlin (Leipzig: Spector Books), 65-74.
No civilization has organized through the visual more than capitalism. Its capacity to image, survey, and map planetary ecologies of every kind has been a centerpiece of modern world history. That’s a story of capitalism, not as a narrowly-defined economic system but as a way of organizing life: as a world-ecology premised on endless accumulation and the endless conquest of the earth. At its heart is a lethal cocktail of big capital, big empires, and big science. From that epochal trinity emerged a mode of production – including its spectacular repertoire of visual technics – that transformed webs of life into profitmaking opportunities. The Environmental Imaginary and its visual technics are essential to the story of climate crisis and its capitalogenic development. I write these lines out of a growing conviction that modernity’s most significant technologies are not merely hardware; they are software. For Marx and Engels, these are the “means of mental production.” That’s significant, because capitalogenic climate crisis is not reducible to machines and resources. Such reductionism blinds us to the crucial role of capitalism’s software, the outputs of capitalism’s mode of thought. Blow up a pipeline, and you can slow fossil fuels for a day. Revolutionize the relations of thought, capital, and technology that produced those pipelines, and you can stop excessive carbonization for good. It’s a good reminder of an old radical slogan: You can’t blow up a socio-ecological relation.
2023. Our Capitalogenic World: Climate Crises, Class Politics & the Civilizing Project, Studia Poetica 11, 97-122.
Video lecture: Our Capitalogenic World, Swiss Institute, July 2017.
We live in times of anthropogenic climate crisis. Or do we? This essay shows how “humanity” is a thoroughly modern fetish, forged in the bloodbath of militarized accumulation and conquest after 1492. To say the the Anthropos drives the climate crisis implicates a historical actor that does not exist. But the reality is different. Humanity does nothing. Specific groups of humans make history – empires, classes, religious institutions, armies, financiers. This essay reveals the Anthropocene as more than lousy history – although the flight from world history is crucial. It argues that today’s Anthropocene is one pillar of the Environmentalism of the Rich. It is rooted historically in the Civilizing Project, and more recently, in post-1970 “Spaceship Earth” environmentalism. Both Environmentalism and its recent Anthropocene craze have sought to do one thing above all: deflect blame from capitalism as the prime mover of climate crisis. From the beginning, Environmentalism avoided “naming the system.” Only by identifying the climate crisis as capitalogenic – “made by humans” – can we begin to forge an effective socialist politics of climate justice.
2023. There is No Such Thing as a Technological Accident: Cheap Natures, Climate Crisis & Technological Impasse. In Technological Accidents, Joke Brower and Sjoerd van Tuinen, eds. (Leiden: V2 Publishing), 10-37.
Like Nature, Technology is one of our most dangerous words. It’s a metaphysic, a narrative prime mover endowed with supernatural powers. Such words are never innocent. They are never just words. They are guiding threads for the rulers. For the rest of us, they’re everyday folk concepts. These concepts shape what we see and what we don’t see, what we prioritize, and what we ignore. Importantly, they not merely describe the world; they license and guide modern ways of organizing power and re/production. They have real force in the world, because of what they mystify, and because of what they enable. Such ideas present themselves as innocent. They are anything but. These ideas are ruling abstractions. They are ideological constructs that have made the modern world, a kind of software for the “hard” mechanisms of exploitation and extirpation. Hence the uppercase. The ruling abstractions of Nature and Technology have very little to do with soils or machines; they have everything to do with modern fantasies of power and profit, and the dystopias they enable.
Jason W. Moore & John Peter Antonacci. 2023. Good Science, Bad Climate, Big Lies: Climate, Class & Ideology in the Capitalocene, Working Papers in World-Ecology 1/2023.
Anthropogenic phraseology serves double duty for much of the Green Left. It works descriptively, advancing a naïve empiricism. To the degree that a philosophical an-thropology is offered, we are served up a philosophy of history that turns on a self-referential, even tautological, conception of human nature: “The struggle for freedom represents the inner-human need to be free in terms of self-activity and human development.” For Marx, as we’ll show, the struggle for freedom is neither limited to humans – “the creatures, too, must become free” – nor does it derive from an “inner-human need.” In contrast, Marx underlines that the relational essence of “human need” is “outside itself.” That relational essence of human experience is grounded in “modes of life” that are irreducible to the interaction (collision) of acting units: human groups and ecosystem units. Rather, these must be grasped through an underlying labor-metabolic relation. Thus: “labor created man.” Through the metabolic labor process, historical man’s conditions of possibility emerge, entwining a “physical life-process” and a “historical life-process.” Modes of life and modes of production are constituted through social relations of environment-making within environments that are once, and unevenly, producers and products of those social relations. At the same time, given geographical conditions – Marx and Engels call them “natural bases” – necessarily exceed the narrow confines of a particular mode of production.
Jason W. Moore, 2023, Imperialism, With and Without Cheap Nature: Climate Crises and the Demise of Westphalia. English text for Das Argument 340 (2023), see https://jasonwmoore.com/in-translation/.
2022. Waste in the Limits to Capital, Emancipations 2(1/4), 1-45.
2022. Imperialism, With and Without Cheap Nature: Climate Crises, World Wars & the Ecology of Liberation, Working Papers in World-Ecology 3/2022.
2022. Our Capitalogenic World: Climate Crises, Class Politics & the Civilizing Project, Working Papers in World-Ecology 1/2022.
We live in times of anthropogenic climate crisis. Or do we? This essay shows how “humanity” is a thoroughly modern fetish, forged in the bloodbath of militarized accumulation and conquest after 1492. To say the the Anthropos drives the climate crisis implicates a historical actor that does not exist. Humanity does nothing. Specific groups of humans make history – empires, classes, religious institutions, armies, financiers. This essay reveals the Anthropocene as more than lousy history – although the flight from world history is crucial. It argues that today’s Anthropocene is one pillar of the Environmentalism of the Rich. It is rooted historically in the Civilizing Project, and more recently, in post-1970 “Spaceship Earth” environmentalism. Both Environmentalism and its recent Anthropocene craze have sought to do one thing above all: deflect blame from capitalism as the prime mover of climate crisis. From the beginning, Environmentalism avoided “naming the system.” Only by identifying the climate crisis as capitalogenic – “made by capital” – can we begin to forge an effective socialist politics of climate justice.
2022. Beyond Climate Justice. In The Way Out of…, E. Degot & D. Riff, eds. (Berlin: Hatje Cantz Verlag), 105-130.
2022. Power, Profit and Prometheanism, Part I: Method, Ideology and the Violence of the Civilizing Project, Journal of World-Systems Research 21(2), 415-426.
2022. How to Read Capitalism in the Web of Life: Towards a World-Historical Materialism in the Web of Life, Journal of World-Systems Research 21(1), 153-168.
2021. Empire, Class & The Origins Of Planetary Crisis: The Transition Debate in the Web of Life, Esboços: Histories in Global Contexts 28, 740-763.
2021. Opiates of the Environmentalists? Anthropocene Illusions, Planetary Management & the Capitalocene Alternative, Abstrakt (November).
2021. Climate, Class & the Great Frontier: From Primitive Accumulation to the Great Implosion, unpublished paper, World-Ecology Research Group, Binghamton University.
2019. Value, Nature, and the Vortex of Accumulation. In Urban Political Ecology in the Anthropo-Obscene, H. Ernstson and E. Swyngedouw, eds. New York: Routledge, 48-68.
2018. The Capitalocene, Part II: Accumulation by Appropriation and the Centrality of Unpaid Work/Energy, The Journal of Peasant Studies 45(2), 237-279.
2017. The Value of Everything? Work, Capital, and Historical Nature in the Capitalist World-Ecology, Review: A Journal of the Fernand Braudel Center 37(3-4), 245-292.
2017. World Accumulation and Planetary Life, or, Why Capitalism will not Survive until the ‘Last Tree is Cut.’ IPPR Progressive Review 24(3), 175-202.
2017. Confronting the Popular Anthropocene: Toward an Ecology of Hope, New Geographies 09, 186-191.
2017. Metabolic Rift or Metabolic Shift? Dialectics, Nature, and the World-Historical Method, Theory & Society 46(4), 285-318.
2017. The Capitalocene, Part I: On the Nature and Origins of Our Ecological Crisis, The Journal of Peasant Studies 44(3), 594-630.
2017. Anthropocenes & the Capitalocene Alternative, Azimuth 5, 71-80.
2016. The Rise of Cheap Nature, in Jason W. Moore, ed., Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History and the Crisis of Capitalism (Oakland, CA: PM Press), 70-115.
2015. Putting Nature to Work: Cheap Food, Cheap Nature and the Capitalocene, in Olaf Arndt & Cecelia Wee, eds., Supramarkt: A micro-toolkit for disobedient consumers, or how to frack the fatal forces of the Capitalocene. Gothenburg: Irene Books, 69-117.
2015. Nature in the Limits to Capital (and Vice Versa): Why Limits Thinking Has Been So Flawed and How to Start Fixing It, Radical Philosophy 193, 9-19.
2015. Cheap Food & Bad Climate: From Surplus Value in Negative Value in the Capitalist World-Ecology, Critical Historical Studies 2(1), 1-42.
2014. The End of Cheap Nature, or, How I learned to Stop Worrying about ‘the’ Environment and Love the Crisis of Capitalism. In Structures of the World Political Economy and the Future of Global Conflict and Cooperation, C. Suter and C. Chase-Dunn, eds. Berlin: LIT, 285-314.
2014. Toward a Singular Metabolism: Epistemic Rifts and Environment-Making in the Capitalist World-Ecology, New Geographies 6, 10-19
2012. Cheap Food and Bad Money: Food, Frontiers, and Financialization in the Rise and Demise of Neoliberalism, Review 33(2-3), 225-261.
2011. Ecology, Capital, and the Nature of Our Times: Accumulation & Crisis in the Capitalist World-Ecology, Journal of World-Systems Analysis 17(1), 108-147.
2011. Transcending the Metabolic Rift: A Theory of Crises in the Capitalist World-Ecology, The Journal of Peasant Studies 38(1), 1-46.
2010. ‘Amsterdam is Standing on Norway’, Part I: The Alchemy of Capital, Empire, and Nature in the Diaspora of Silver, 1545-1648, The Journal of Agrarian Change 10(1), 33-68.
2010. ‘Amsterdam is Standing on Norway’, Part II: The Global North Atlantic in the Ecological Revolution of the Seventeenth Century, The Journal of Agrarian Change 10(2), 188-227.
2010. The End of the Road? Agricultural Revolutions in the Capitalist World-Ecology, 1450-2010, The Journal of Agrarian Change 10(3), 389-413
2010. ‘This lofty mountain of silver could conquer the whole world’: Potosí in the world-ecological revolution of the long seventeenth century, Journal of Philosophical Economics 4(1), 58-103.
2007. Silver, Ecology, and the Origins of the Modern World, 1450-1640. In Environmental History: World System History and Global Environmental Change, J.R. McNeill, Joan Martinez-Alier, and Alf Hornborg, eds. (Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press), 123-142.
2004. Conceptualizing World Environmental History: The Contribution of Immanuel Wallerstein, in Earth Ways: Framing Geographical Meanings, Gary Backhouse & John Murungi, eds. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 23-42,
After some two decades of widespread concern over world ecology and sustainable development, world environmental history emerged as a small but significant field of inquiry in the 1990s. Yet, the enterprise remains weakly conceptualized. Its practitioners have been reluctant to engage in the theoretical labors that informed the conceptually-rich historical analyses pioneered by an earlier wave of world historians, primarily concerned with politico-economic transformation rather than ecological crisis. This under-theorization of world environmental history poses some substantial problems, since the enterprise of world history, even more so than local and regional history, poses difficult theoretical questions relating to, among other things, the nature of what constitutes a “world,” the (ever-shifting) relations between “global” and “local” space, and the ways that environmental transformation is at once cause and consequence of large-scale socio-spatial transformations. This paper tackles these dicey questions by turning to what many environmental historians might regard as an unusual source, Immanuel Wallerstein’s The Modern World-System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century. Among environmentally-inclined world-systems analysts and globally-oriented environmental historians, the consensus holds that while The Modern World-System may be useful for matters of large-scale economic history, it is silent on the environment. This consensus, however, betrays a casual reading. A closer reading of The Modern World-System points to the volume’s strong ecohistorical content, and its importance for conceptualizing a world environmental history that highlights capitalism’s historical-geographical specificity.
2003. Capitalism as World-Ecology: Braudel and Marx on Environmental History, Organization & Environment 16(4), 431-458.
This essay considers the relevance of Fernand Braudel’s world-historical studies for the theory and practice of environmental history. Arguing against the conventional view that Braudel regarded the environment as a backdrop, the essay points to his sophisticated layering of time, space, and nature in which society and ecology actively shape each other. Braudel’s greatest historical-geographical insight is the idea that world-economies are not simply social constructions but also ecological projects. In this fashion, Braudel implicitly suggests the concept world-ecology. Although never spelled out in precisely these terms, the idea that ecogeographical processes permeate the ever-shifting relations of region, state, and world-economy runs like red thread through Braudel’s corpus. Braudel understood nature in terms of transitory but identifiable socio-ecological moments that shape and are shaped by a world-ecological whole. Unfortunately, Braudel’s underconceptualized approach prevented him fromidentifying with greater specificity capitalism’s world-ecological contradictions. To build effectively upon Braudel’s ecohistorical insights, we might turn to Marx and Engels’ active materialist critique of capitalism.
2003. Nature and the Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism, Review: A Journal of the Fernand Braudel Center 26(2), 97-172
2003. The Modern World-System as Environmental History? Ecology and the Rise of Capitalism, Theory & Society 32(3), 307-377.
2002. Remaking Work, Remaking Space: Spaces of Production and Accumulation in the Reconstruction of American Capitalism, 1865-1920, Antipode 34(2), 176-204.
2002. The Crisis of Feudalism: An Environmental History, Organization & Environment 15(3). 301-322.
2001. Capitalist Development in World-Historical Perspective, with Giovanni Arrighi, in Robert Albritton, et al., eds., Phases of Capitalist Development. New York: Palgrave, 56-75.
2000. Environmental Crises and the Metabolic Rift in World-Historical Perspective, Organization & Environment 13(2), 123-158.
This article proposes a new theoretical framework to study the dialectic of capital and nature over the longue durée of world capitalism. The author proposes that today’s global ecological crisis has its roots in the transition to capitalism during the long sixteenth century. The emergence of capitalism marked not only a decisive shift in the arenas of politics, economy, and society, but a fundamental reorganization of world ecology, characterized by a “metabolic rift,” a progressively deepening rupture in the nutrient cycling between the country and the city. Building upon the historical political economy of Marx, Foster, Arrighi and Wallerstein, the author proposes a new research agenda organized around the concept of systemic cycles of agro-ecological transformation. This agenda aims at discerning the ways in which capitalism’s relationship to nature developed discontinuously over time as recurrent ecological crises have formed a decisive moment of world capitalist crisis, forcing successive waves of restructuring over long historical time.
2000. Marx and the Historical Ecology of Capital Accumulation on a World Scale: Comment on Hornborg, Journal of World-Systems Research 6(1), 134-139.
Marx’s approach permits a holistic analysis which illuminates the dialectical connections between capital accumulation, the exploitation of labor-power, and environmental degradation. From Marx’s perspective, the ceaseless accumulation of capital requires the ceaseless expansion of the proletariat — clearly a problematic necessity on a planet with finite boundaries. The ceaseless expansion of the proletariat lowers the costs of doing business over the short run but raises them over the long run, as the options for non-wage income decline and workers’ bargaining power increases. As the wage bill rises, capitalists seek out new wage workers in the countryside. This is only possible by reorganizing agriculture along increasingly capitalist lines. In this way the endless accumulation of capital leads to the endless proletarianization of labor power, which in turn leads to the continual pressure to widen and deepen the division of labor between town and country. This growing rift between town and country has profound ecological consequences.
2000. Sugar and the Expansion of the Early Modern World-Economy: Commodity Frontiers, Ecological Transformation, and Industrialization, Review: A Journal of the Fernand Braudel Center 23(3), 409-433.