Does oil wealth lead to political poverty? It often looks that way, but Carbon Democracy tells a more complex story. In this magisterial study, Timothy Mitchell rethinks the history of energy, bringing into his grasp as he does so environmental politics, the struggle for democracy, and the place of the Middle East in the modern world.
With the rise of coal power, the producers who oversaw its production acquired the ability to shut down energy systems, a threat they used to build the first mass democracies. Oil offered the West an alternative, and with it came a new form of politics. Oil created a denatured political life whose central object—the economy—appeared capable of infinite growth. What followed was a Western democracy dependent on an undemocratic Middle East. We now live with the consequences: an impoverished political practice, incapable of addressing the crises that threaten to end the age of carbon democracy—namely, the disappearance of cheap energy and the carbon-fueled collapse of the ecological order.
Five years ago the Middle East and North Africa was electrified by unprecedented popular protests that heralded the start of the Arab Spring. Beginning in Tunisia popular movements swept regimes from power in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya and threatened to overthrow ruling elites across the region. Tragically, the Arab Spring has since become mired in counterrevolution and civil war with the extraordinary violence of the war in Syria, the rise of ISIS, the escalating refugee crisis, and the establishment of a new dictatorship in Egypt emblematic of the profound challenges facing the people of the region. As tumultuous events continue to unfold we present Verso's reading list of key titles addressing the developing situation in the Middle East.
As part of our series looking critically at climate change and the ongoing COP21 talks in Paris we have an exclusive extract from Andreas Malm's Fossil Capital. In it, Malm outlines his distinctive approach to the contemporary fossil economy by looking back to its contingent origins during the Industrial Revolution. It is only through this, Malm argues, that we can truly understand the crisis we are in today.
As part of our series looking critically at climate change and the ongoing COP21 talks in Paris, Steffen Böhm, Professor in Management and Sustainability at the University of Essex, argues that the limits of the current negotations result from the current "carbon fetishism", in which even emissions are commodified in an event to maintain the economic status quo.
While many people are still hopeful that the current UN climate talks in Paris will produce a strong, path-defining agreement, experts have already warned that the carbon-cutting commitments submitted by countries in the run-up to Paris fall far short of what is required to prevent global warming beyond the 2 degrees mark. To make matters worse, the US has already unilaterally declared that any Paris deal won’t be legally binding.