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

Author Replies # Posted on February 18, 2014 at 17:28

Reflection on Jason Moore Discussion and Skype Seminar, 18th February 2014

The element of the reading, discussion and seminar which most interested me about Jason Moore’s work and the group’s responses to it was the tension (both positive and negative) between the political context of Moore’s work, and the apparently a-political analysis which gets him to his conclusions. That is to say that Moore explicitly takes his starting point from a broadly Marxist position while presenting the process of his analysis as a neutral one, arguing that capitalism – and in particular neoliberalism – will fall on its own terms, through its cannibalistic tendencies, and erosion of the Four Cheaps, rather than that capitalism will fail by other measures, such as social equity or environmental justice. The distinction between total collapse and failure according to explicitly stated political measures is an important one which I would argue that Moore blurs.

Much of his analysis is very convincing; however, I would argue that the politicisation of the argument could go much deeper. When arguing that capitalism will collapse it seems important to understand what that collapse might look like, and who will be affected. As Moore’s – and myriad others’ – work shows us, all environmental problems are social and all social problems are environmental; therefore a further exposition of the social and environmental (and world-ecological) nature of the collapse which Moore posits would seem to be critical.

For example, Moore argues that we will see the end of Cheap Food but during the discussion he emphasised that this is not because of a calorific lack, or a lack of land, but because of the capitalist system. However, if the issue at stake is providing cheap food to the proletariat then in that case it would be possible to redistribute access to food and remain within the capitalist system. Whilst it may be the case that Moore would argue that such a redistribution is not possible within the neoliberal capitalist system there are many other scholars who would propose that it is. It would be interesting to understand further how Moore would respond to shifts within the capitalist system, perhaps through reforms that move away from financialisation and neoliberalism towards new and different structures within a continuing capitalist paradigm. How would this fit into his argumentation? Does he think such reform is possible? And if not, why not, given the variety in existing structures within the global neoliberal capitalist system?

These questions return to the issue raised above because they require a consideration of what the funamental aims of the analysis are in a political / philosophical sense. It would be helpful to Moore’s analysis to understand his political assumptions for example with regards social justice, environmental justice and bioethics. This would help to locate his analysis more clearly within a political framework, and perhaps therefore help to understand what kind of collapse he envisages, and what it’s world-ecological consequences would be.