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Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital

“Moore’s radical and rigorous work is, and richly deserves to be, agenda-setting.” – China Miéville

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.

Reviews

  • “Jason W. Moore’s Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital seeks to analyze the root cause of this impasse for environmentalism: the widely-shared view that “the environment” is a separate and unique part of existence outside of capitalism that capitalism devalues.”
  • “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.”
  • “Nature is not a foundation, container, or resource; it is us. As Moore tells us, we must live history as if nature matters.”
  • “If you’re interested in cutting-edge ecological thinking, Capitalism in the Web of Life is a must-read. Moore’s scope is vast, and few could pull off as ambitious an analytical achievement as he has here. There’s enough scholarship, wit and insight to leave your copy with margin notes on every page, and ideas for a lifetime. A landmark book.
  • “Moore’s radical and rigorous work is, and richly deserves to be, agenda-setting.”
  • “A major contribution to both Marxist and general ecological thinking...the closest thing yet to a complete theory of capital accumulation as an ecological process unfolding across past centuries up to the brink of tomorrow.”
  • “An exciting major work that puts forward a new paradigm of ‘world-ecology.’”
  • “The achievement of Moore’s book is to move past a metaphysical concept of nature towards an historical one…. Such a rich historical understanding of world-ecological regimes is going to be of vital importance.”
  • “A magisterial rethinking of world environmental history. It makes for a major work of synthesis and theory.”
  • “The type of theory we should all be pursuing…If you don't have a copy of this thing already, you should get one.”
  • “Probably the most significant work of eco-Marxism out there.”
  • “A superb and much needed book, rigorous, groundbreaking, yet accessible.”
  • “Jason Moore’s Capitalism in the Web of Life is, above all else, an ambitious book. At once theoretical treatise and empirical history, Moore’s work strives toward a ‘“unified” theory of historical capitalism and historical nature’ drawn together within a new paradigm of world-ecology … Moore sets out to do nothing less than to articulate, under the name of world-ecology, a ‘new paradigm’ for critical scholarship on capitalism, world history, and environmental thought that will transcend, once and for all, the dualism that for him is the singular source of all of the violence of modernity.”
  • “Moore’s theoretical contribution, and it is major, is his insistence that value is determined by, and capitalism is dependent upon, what he calls the ‘Four Cheaps’…His examples are wide-ranging and historical. Moore is at his best in this book when he not only ranges across centuries but also ranges across numerous fields of thought, most notably laboring to overcome the divide between Marxist value theory and ecology.”
  • “Not only does Moore provide an exceptionally powerful sense of the dystopian impact of capitalism...he also reveals a compelling dialectical grasp not just of how it might have to come to an end, but why it would be deplorable even if there were no limits to its continuing.”
  • “For nearly two decades, environmental historian Jason Moore’s ‘world-ecology’ theorisation has crossed the boundaries of sociological, historical, environmental, economic and literary disciplines. His monograph, an amalgamation of decades of research and critical writing as well as cross-disciplinary engagement in the humanities and social sciences, is likely to become central to future environmental theorisation.”
  • “"Moore calls for ‘a new ontological politics’ to subvert the metaphysical and moral imagination of capitalist nature… Affirms historical materialism as the basis for the solution to our ecological crisis.” – Commonweal
  • “Jason Moore...has produced a text that is required reading. Moore...seeks to bring nature to the centre of historical change and a dialectical understanding of capitalism to the heart of the analysis.”

Blog

  • Climate Crisis Reading List



    With Donald Trump's nomination of climate change denialist Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, it's expected that any environmental gains made under Obama will be threatened and activists will be called on to more vigorously fight against the capitalists destroying our planet.

    It is becoming increasingly evident that global warming is fundamentally linked to the regime of capital accumulation - a fact that no major government is willing to confront. How then should we think through such looming climate catastrophe? Here we present a reading list which aims to tackle one of the greatest issues facing us today. 



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  • Trump Eats the Planet


    September 2016 demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Sandusky, IA. via Flickr

    Donald Trump is a fitting emblem of the Capitalocene, the age when capitalism’s relentless drive to expand has generated massive carbon emissions, pushing planetary ecosystems into states of unpredictable turbulence, precipitating a mass extinction crisis of unprecedented ferocity.

    A man with an apparently boundless appetite for self-aggrandizement, Trump has promised to pursue policies of such environmental destructiveness that their impacts are likely to be measured in the geologic record, in degrees of temperature increase and feet of sea level rise around the world. Of course carbon emissions are collective and historical, so it would be wrong to suggest that Trump is solely responsible for planetary ecocide, but his election comes at a critical time for the struggle to avert cataclysmic anthropogenic climate change. In pledging to unleash unfettered fossil capitalism, Trump epitomizes and promises to grievously aggravate the catastrophic contradictions of the Capitolocene. In the wake of Trump’s election, some mainstream environmentalists may take solace in the idea of an unstoppable market-led transition to clean energy and green growth. These hopes are not simply misplaced but dangerously demobilizing. Trump is a devourer of worlds. He and the rampant fossil capitalism he embodies can only be stopped through clear-eyed, concerted, and radical political action.

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  • Speculative Aesthetics: Freeports as the Art Caves of High Finance

    The Verso Prize for Cultural and Critical Studies is a new prize for the top student graduating from Birkbeck’s MA Cultural and Critical Studies. The inaugural prize has been awarded to student Neil Fitzgerald, for submitted work that was described as “truly exceptional” by the external examiner, who continued: “The dissertation is especially noteworthy and is possibly the best I have read in my career. By turns, bold, original, informed, and beautifully written, the project explores the question of whether human extinction, in the context of the Anthropocene, can be thought and mapped, forging in the process a speculative aesthetics to render sensible what is determined as a ‘supersensible event’.” Speculative Aesthetics: Freeports as the Art Caves of High Finance is a selection from the winning dissertation.


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