Conference to examine capital and climate change

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Call For Papers: Climate change stream at the Eleventh London Historical Materialism Conference, November 2014

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The quarterly journal Historical Materialism holds an important conference every year in London, and at longer intervals in Toronto, New York and Sydney. For activists, attending one can be a mixed experience: powerful presentations on current struggles, combined with many papers that can only be called abstruse and abstract.

So I’m extremely pleased that this year the London conference will include an entire stream focusing on climate change and ecology, subjects that have not received much attention at past HM meetings. If the sessions live up to the call for papers (below) it could be an important step in the development of ecological Marxism and ecosocialism.

Call For Papers: Climate change stream at the Eleventh London Historical Materialism Conference, 6-9 November 2014

As business-as-usual continues, annual growth of global CO2 emission now three times higher than in the 1990s, it is becoming abundantly clear that the capitalist mode of production is unable to stave off perhaps the greatest challenge ever faced by civilization: catastrophic global warming. Rather, it is hurling humanity into the fire with maximum force. Yet capital remains a non-entity in established climate change discourse and politics: unquestioned, unexamined, rarely as much as mentioned.

This stream at the HM annual conference 2014 will seek to cast light on the many ways in which the workings of capital raise the temperature of our present and future. Marxist analysis has recently proved a fertile source of critique in this field, but much work remains to be done, on levels of theory as well as of urgent praxis.

What mechanisms are driving the ever-increasing combustion of fossil fuels? How can historical materialist approaches serve to identify the vested interests of business-as-usual?

The ecological implications of capitalist development are only now becoming apparent: this might require a rethinking and recalibration of Marxist theories, from the founding fathers to more recent currents (e.g. autonomist Marxism, political Marxism, world-systems theory, feminist Marxism: what do they have to offer; how do they need to be updated?).

Dangerous impacts of climate change have already become part of daily life, but they strike unevenly along lines of class, gender, race, location in the world-economy: can patterns of vulnerability be understood – and altered – without a little help from the Marxist tool-box?

As people suffer from the heat, capital is not only surviving but thriving, developing new ways to profit from adaptation and false solutions. This calls for application of all the instruments of critical political economy. Given the speed with which the window for meaningful mitigation is closing, any break with current trajectories would certainly require dramatic upheavals: are some of the old precepts of revolutionary Marxism slated for an unexpected comeback? How, for instance, would it be possible to cut CO2 emissions by 5% per year – as science tells us is necessary – without comprehensive planning of the economy?

While the scientific community rings the alarm bells ever louder, climate movements are spreading across the world, though nowhere as fast and extensively as needed. With COP-20 in Paris in 2015 on the horizon, strategies for more effective mobilisation should be on top of the agenda.

Although this stream focuses on climate change, that particular problem cannot be extricated from the ecological totality that is capitalism, and so we welcome contributions on related issues of ecology as well. Themes of papers may include:

  • Global capital circuits and their dependency on fossil energy
  • The history of fossil fuel consumption and production
  • Urbanisation, global cities and global warming
  • Obstacles to a transition from fossil to renewable energy
  • Strategies for radical emissions reductions
  • The politics of international climate change negotiations
  • Planned economy as an emergency solution
  • Geoengineering, carbon trading and other capitalist forms of climate change management
  • Climate justice movements
  • Local environmental struggles worldwide and their links to climate justice
  • Ecologically unequal exchange and imperialism in a warming world
  • Uneven and combined development and vulnerability to climate change
  • Neoliberal capitalism as an ecological regime
  • Catastrophe as a category of Marxist thought / pitfalls of catastrophism
  • Working-class environmentalism, past and present
  • Climate change and gender
  • Peasants’ movements
  • Advances in ecological Marxist theory (second contradiction, metabolic rift, capitalism as world-ecology…)
  • Whatever happened to peak oil?
  • Climate jobs and trade union struggles
  • Revolutionary subjects in a warming world
  • Marxist perspectives on climate change science

Please register your abstracts here before May 15: