COMMENT AND ANALYSIS: The politics and economics of climate change [Erik Swyngedouw]

The Marxist analysis is based on the view that any form of social organisation and dynamics has to be understood by looking at the social ways through which the physical environment is transformed.

This often is forgotten by Marxists; that fundamentally Marxism is a historical materialism, meaning that it tries to understand the socio-physical ways in which society is organised and in which society is changed. In capitalism then, the social transformation of the physical environment takes very specific forms, to the extent that capitalism is based on the continuous reinvestment of surplus in the production process. Any kind of capitalist economy necessarily needs an expansion and a deepening of the physical resource base to sustain its activity.

So in that sense – a growth economy, and capitalism is by definition a growth-based economy – necessitates the continuous expansion and the mobilisation of physical resources. In that sense, climate change, or in other words the transformation of oil and other fossil resources into atmospheric CO2, is an integral part of the dynamic of capitalism. You cannot possibly begin to understand the climate predicament without understanding the socio-ecological dynamic of capitalism.

I would argue that Marxism offers the best entry into that analysis.



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