Reply To: Mon 17 Feb: World Systems, History and Ecology

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Sarah Rodrigue-Allouche # Posted on February 18, 2014 at 16:26

The three articles written by American scholar Jason W Moore are all fascinating and I would have needed much more time and space to reflect on the ideas he advances. “Capitalism as world-ecology” appears to me as the most striking concept that Moore elaborates on. Moore considers capitalism in a holistic way and according to him capitalism is much more than an economic or a social system, since it determines the whole relationship between human and extra-human nature. Moore argues against the traditional binary division between “Nature” and “Society”: “Capitalism as world-ecology is therefore a protest against, and an alternative to, the Cartesian worldview that puts nature in one box, and society in another” (Moore, 2011: 119).
The paradigm shift Moore suggests us to adopt with this concept of “capitalism as world-ecology” is intertwined with the need of a new vocabulary in order to better our understanding of environmental issues that Moore discusses. Indeed, the notions of “ecology”, “nature” and “environment” have been so overused that they have lost their substances, which is why Moore proposes the Greek term of Oikeios in order to palliate to our linguistic deficiencies. The world-ecology we now live in has been generated by the logic of endless accumulation that dictates human’s relations with extra-human nature. In “Cheap food and bad money” (2012), Moore underlines that food surplus and overproduction have been critical to the birth and development of capitalism but that the era of cheap food has come to an end. Neoliberalism by producing the conditions for the end of cheap food, since no agricultural revolution seems possible in a world where the biotech regime has only led to the superweed effect, killed the basic condition for its own survival.
Being very concerned with the issues of food safety and food security, I think it is very interesting to read Moore’s perspective on food and his way of understanding how things work through the lens of world-system theory enabling him to consider capitalism as a system that rules the whole world, humans’ relation to nature and even one could argue human’s spirituality (cf David Loy, The Religion of the Market). In his interview, Moore stated that he does not fear for food scarcity and distances himself from the views of journalist Paul Roberts expressed in his famous book “The End of Food” (2008). For Moore, the only issue is the end of cheap food, something the neoliberal system cannot produce anymore. However, one could rightly ask what kind of food has capitalism been producing? Is it really food or rather chemical substances tasting like food? The food grown within the capitalist world-ecology has not much to do with the food that was enjoyed in pre-capitalist world-ecologies. The need of a new vocabulary is indeed here crucial since the capitalist world-ecology has produced a certain type of reality.