The project of applying general systems theory to social sciences is crucial in today’s crisis when social and ecological systems clash. This book concretely demonstrates the necessity of a Marxist approach to this challenge, notably in asserting agency (struggle) as against determinism. It similarly shows how Marxism can be reinvigorated from a systems perspective. Drawing on his experience in both international systems and low-input agriculture, Biel explores the interaction of social and physical systems, using the conceptual tools of thermodynamics and information. He reveals the early twenty-first century as a period when capitalism starts parasitising on the chaos it itself creates, notably in the link between the two sides of imperialism: militarism (the ‘war on terror’) and speculative finance capital.
Robert Biel M, PhD (1991) International Relations, London School of Economics, teaches political ecology at University College London and publishes extensively, including The New Imperialism (Zed Books, 2000). He researches systems theory and conducts a wide-ranging practical programme on urban agriculture.
“There is now a constant flow, if not a flood, of books on the various overlapping crises of the present – climate change and ecological destruction, the economic crisis, peak oil etc... however, Robert Biel has produced an analysis, synthesizing all of these developments, that certainly deserves a place on your bookshelf. It is a fascinating and insightful book, about which there is too much to say, every page warranting copious marginalia and underlining.” - David Tyfield, Lancaster University, in: Journal of Critical Realism 12/1 (2013)
List of Figures
1. Understanding the Limits and Decay of the Capitalist Mode of Production
2. Capitalism as an Adaptive System
3. The ‘Systemic Turn’ in Capitalist Political Economy
4. The Era of Feedback from Entropy
5. Militarism and State Terrorism as a Response to Crisis
6. Organisation of the Twenty-first Century International System
7. Contradictions in the Contemporary Phase of Imperialist Governance, and the Forces for Change within it
Students and academics in the fields of political economy/ecology, labour movement and grassroots activists, everyone interested in understanding the current crisis and the way forward.