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As capitalist society remains incapable of addressing climate breakdown, one measure is waiting in the wings: solar geoengineering. No other technology can cut global temperatures immediately. It would alleviate the symptoms of the crisis, not its causes. But might it be combined with radical emissions cuts? This essay, the final instalment of two, subjects geoengineering to a materialist psychoanalysis and argues that it represents a fantasy of repression, setting itself up for a dreadful return of the repressed.

Open Access
In: Historical Materialism
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Abstract

As capitalist society remains incapable of addressing climate breakdown, one measure is waiting in the wings: solar geoengineering. No other technology can cut global temperatures immediately. It would alleviate the symptoms of the crisis, not its causes. But might it be combined with radical emissions cuts? This essay, the first instalment of two, scrutinises the rationalist-optimist case for geoengineering: the idea that soot planes in the sky can shield the Earth from the worst heat while society rids itself of fossil fuels. A more likely outcome is that they encourage business-as-usual to continue, while negative side-effects from geoengineering itself pile up. The logic of the enterprise points in the direction of a catastrophic termination shock. A subsequent, second instalment will subject geoengineering to a materialist psychoanalysis and argue that it represents a fantasy of repression, setting itself up for a dreadful return of the repressed.

Open Access
In: Historical Materialism
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Abstract

For good reasons, the green movement turned from wilderness to environmental justice as its central category in the 1980s and ’90s. Today, several leading wilderness advocates seem to compete for the most reactionary positions, particularly on the issue of migration. A case can, however, be made for a progressive, cosmopolitan, Marxist view of wilderness as a space less fully subjugated to capital than others. There is a long history of exploited and persecuted people seeking freedom in and through the wild. This essay focuses on two such groups – maroons and Jewish partisans – and asks what we lose in a rapidly warming world where the remotest and supposedly wildest corners of the world are among the first to be destroyed.

In: Historical Materialism
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Abstract

It is fashionable to argue that nature and society are obsolete categories. The two, we are told, can no longer be distinguished from one another; continuing loyalty to the ‘binary’ of the natural and the social blinds us to the logic of current ecological crises. This article outlines an argument for the opposite position: now more than ever – particularly in our rapidly warming world – we need to sift out the social components from the natural, if we wish to understand the crises and retain the possibility of intervening in them. Tracing the current of hybridism to the writings of Bruno Latour, this article ends with a critique of the foremost proponent of a hybridism in Marxist garb: Jason W. Moore. Against his theories, it suggests that historical materialism is a form of property dualism that distinguishes between social and natural relations while considering them equally material in substance. That is also the analytical premise of ecological class hatred, the flames of which ecological Marxism seeks to fan.

In: Historical Materialism
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Abstract

The process commonly referred to as business-as-usual has given rise to dangerous climate change, but its social history remains strangely unexplored. A key moment in its onset was the transition to steam power as a source of rotary motion in commodity production, in Britain and, first of all, in its cotton industry. This article tries to approach the dynamics of the fossil economy by examining the causes of the transition from water to steam in the British cotton industry in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Common perceptions of the shift as driven by scarcity are refuted, and it is shown that the choice of steam was motivated by a rather different concern: power over labour. Turning away from standard interpretations of the role of energy in the industrial revolution, this article opens a dialogue with Marx on matters of carbon and outlines a theory of fossil capital, better suited for understanding the drivers of business-as-usual as it continues to this day.

In: Historical Materialism
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Abstract

The left must confront the politics of removing carbon from the atmosphere – a topic rapidly making its way to the top of the climate agenda. We here examine the technology of direct air capture, tracing its intellectual origins and laying bare the political economy of its current manifestations. We find a space crowded with ideology-laden metaphors, ample fossil-capital entanglements and bold visions for a new, ethereal frontier of capital accumulation. These diversions must be cut short if a technology with the capacity to help repair at least some climate damage is to be of any use. Only socialising the means of removal will allow this to happen.

Open Access
In: Historical Materialism