In May, Andreas Malm appeared at Verso's Brooklyn office for a panel discussion on Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming with Aaron Jakes, Daniel Aldana Cohen, and Anthony Galluzzo, whose contribution we present below.
(James Eckford Lauder, James Watt and the Steam Engine: The Dawn of the Nineteenth Century, 1855. Via Wikimedia Commons.)
Andreas Malm’s Fossil Capital represents a much needed intervention in a series of recent, oftentimes irrelevant, and sometimes irresponsible debates on the Marxisant left, about a properly socialist response to anthropogenic climate change. These debates see-saw between two, superficially antithetical, poles. On the hand, we find fatalist catastrophism exemplified by geographer Nigel Clark, who contends that climate change is ultimately rooted in an innate and immutable human proclivity for combustion, originating with homo erectus. Human beings are “fire apes" or self-igniting Prometheuses, according to this iteration of Anthropocene theory. In other words, here is an ideologically over-determined myth that conveniently effaces the specifically capitalist origin and character of the climate crisis.