Mon 17 Feb: World Systems, History and Ecology

Start Forums Courses Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History Mon 17 Feb: World Systems, History and Ecology

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February 17, 2014 at 13:52 #11610
 Daniel

Student organiser: Sanna Karlsson and Mirabel Joshi

Reading:
Moore J.W. 2012. Cheap Food & Bad Money: Food, Frontiers, and Financialization in the Rise and Demise of Neoliberalism, Review: A Journal of the Fernand Braudel Center 33(2-3).
Moore J.W. 2011. Ecology, Capital, and the Nature of Our Times: Accumulation and Crisis in the Capitalist World-Ecology, Journal of World-Systems Research 17(1), 108-147.
Moore J.W. 2010. The End of the Road? Agricultural Revolutions in the Capitalist World-Ecology, 1450-2010, Journal of Agrarian Change 10(3), 389-413.

Instructions: Read the text and follow instructions given by the student organisers. A 1 page reflection according to instructions given by the student organisers must be submitted on 18 feb 18.00 in discussion forum. You must also comment a fellow students text before 19 feb18.00.

17 Feb 14.15-16.00 Student-led pre-seminar
17 Feb 16.00-17.00 Luftrummet, Geocentrum, Villavägen 16. Mind & Nature seminar. “Accumulation and Crises in the Capitalist World Ecology”. By Jason W Moore (Assistant Professor of Environmental History, Umeå University) Mind & Nature open lecture.

February 18, 2014 at 00:29 #11612
 nik.petek@arkeologi.uu.se

<title=”The Anthropocene: Collaborating with or going against world ecology”>
During the discussion with Jason Moore, he clearly stated that the Anthropocene works under a Cartesian paradigm. With this he meant that nature and humans are seen as completely separate from each other, as living in different spheres, rather than in the same one. Nevertheless, they still affect each other. He also limited the Anthropocene to the last two hundred years, implying humans only had a major effect on their natural surroundings during that time.

I personally think these are, to some extent, misleading claims since the study of the Anthropocene has vastly expanded since it started. His claims are justified, however, when referring to the beginnings of studies looking into how humans have impacted and shaped nature and the environment. Albeit the initial studies see humans as disassociated from nature, they are still as equally valuable as world ecology studies. My reasoning comes from the fact that humans are agents and they actively choose to reshape the environment (be it for better or worse). They might see themselves as “on top of nature” rather than within, widening the divide between themselves and the environment. Their actions will, hence, be shaped accordingly. A classic example of this would be the green grabbing of land in Africa (e.g. Tanzania or Kenya) for national parks, evicting inhabitants, and trying to return these lands to a state before the modern Homo invasion. But Homo has been living in this area longer than anywhere else in the world. This is am example where humans have actively chosen to shape this environment and have seen themselves as living in a separate sphere. This should also then be studied in such a way.

More importantly, the study of the Anthropocene is improving and now sees humans as bounded together within/with an environment, as part of an oikeios. Since the rise of material culture theory (which basically theorises how humans interact with the world through objects and how objects change human perception) and phenomenology in the 1980s in archaeology, the discipline has become more focused on human-environmental relationships, and how humans live in an environment. This is visible in the rise of landscape archaeology, historical ecology, and the fact that people like Tim Ingold are major contributors to these discussions.

As other disciplines studying the Anthropocene, like palaeoecology, work closely with archaeology, they have come to accept this theoretical shift. This shift allows for the study of the Anthropocene within a world ecology. It also gives it the advantage that it provides an anthropocentric view on the past environmental changes, and gives additional qualitative and quantitative evidence. If we are to study the oikeios then we need to choose a point of departure to study the relationships within it. As humans are going to play a (deterministic?) role in the changing oikeios, it is particularly valuable to provide the anthropocentric view on the topic.

The studies of the Anthropocene are definitely worth considering when studying the world ecology and when talking about the world historical method. They, in my opinion, can collaborate and can complement each other. Furthermore, it gives humans a more active role in the environment compared to the world ecology/world historical method. From Moore’s explanation today, it seemed that humans are only passive participants in the changing environment and that the system (in this case capitalism) is to blame. I strongly disagree with this point. Even before the existence of any world ecology, like capitalism or feudalism, people massively effected their environments as shown in the pollen and archaeological record.

The research of the Anthropocene, then, has a lot to contribute to the study of world ecologies and vice versa.

February 18, 2014 at 12:17 #11613
 gaoyongliang@yahoo.com

As a GEH (global environmental history) student, Moore’s articles are confusing to me in three senses.

First and foremost is the language. As had been discussed yesterday, Moore interchanges some concepts without defining them in specific contexts, which makes me uncertain and have to question the legitimacy of the usage. For example, nature (ecology), oikeios (antroposcene), historical method (imagination), etc. Take “nature/ ecology” as an instance, for what we had discussed, they are both broad and ambiguous concepts, although in some cases they can be interchanged. Still, if Moore could set a specific context for the concepts, it would be easier for readers to evaluate and comment on his work. Nevertheless, I appreciate Moore’s proposal of new language in order to avoid the misunderstanding of the mutually shared concepts.

Second, the trans-disciplinary issue. Moore’s articles at a first glimpse seem all center on ecology, food, or environment-oriented topics from a historical perspective. In my opinion, however, Moore’s work, in fact, is focused either on economical history or political history rather than GEH. As a consequence, this causes a problem for me, which is to recall my insufficient knowledge in economics and politics to explain environmental phenomena. This is exhausting and frankly speaking, the text is hardly understandable. Like what we fiercely discussed: some believe that the finical circuit is ruled by hegemonies and consequently the cheap food majorly flow to the hegemonies. Some worry that one day capitalism would lead to not only the end of cheap food but the end of food. Others refute that the world is based on the capitalist system. Not until another system would emerge and could replace capitalist, would the debate worth of discussing. Personally, the debate strikes me as it virtually reflects Moore’s diverse perceptions on GEH. If only Moore could explain how his multiple insights (like economics and politics) are corresponded to environmental studies, I should be able to better understand the articles.

Last but not least, Moore’s articles are more or less theoretical interpretations to me. Wherever I read between the lines, I seldom find proofs to support the arguments. The cheap food interpretation, for example. Should Moore exemplify how world food has become cheaper or does it merely occur in the hegemonies? Or compared to which historical period has the food become cheaper? If Moore can provide me with more facts and figures, the articles would become more clear.

February 18, 2014 at 13:33 #11614
 Sabbath Sunday

Seminar 2, Mon 17 Feb:
World Systems, History and Ecology
Reflections by Sabbath Sunday

I will base my reflections on J. W. Moore’s articles on the above theme with regard to Immanuel Wallerstein’s perceptions who was the first to develop a theoretical framework to understand the historical changes involved in the rise of capitalism up to the modern day world systems. Both authors agree that ‘the world is one unit connected by a complex of network economic exchange relationships.’ J. W. Moore goes on to refer this phenomenon as an ‘oikeios’ which is a Greek terminology that means ‘belonging to one household and also being related to each other.’ Thus, the universe should be regarded as a family of interrelated units which include; ‘flora, fauna, geological and biospheric configurations ie cycles and movements.’ However, according to J.W. Moore, the expected harmonic relationship has been altered in time and space by historical changes which have been characterized by successive socio-ecological shifts relying on capitalistic demands.

The history of capitalism and its impact on world ecology has been well tackled by both Immanuel Wallerstein and J.W. Moore, tracing it right way from around 1500 to the present. It was still the nature-society relationship that saw the collapse of feudalism and the growing of capitalism in Europe. This was a mere change of system to ensure continued economic growth. However, the so called civilisation and capitalism combined, ignored nature as a ‘historically variant webs of life’ but even went further to look for new frontiers to sustain accumulation with cheap products, leaving behind trails of exhausted and disused ecosystems. Capitalism discards the notion of ‘oikeios’ but rather, only regards the ‘extra-human nature as an external entity which is only a source of wealth and power. The process of human-ecological history that run through the period 1450-1750 up to the present day has been characterized by globalization of world resources, developmentalism, finacialism and accumulation whose negative results on ecology, have been registered in climate change, agro-ecological exhaustion, diseases etc.

In conclusion, my reflection goes to the shifting of capitalism from frontier expansion of a direct socio-ecological hegemony to the present day finance hegemonies. While the former seemed to have been halted by the end of colonialism, the latter still makes no difference on affecting ecology. Colonial empires plundered their frontiers for cheap resource extraction through agriculture, mining, and slave labour, but the modern states have only mutated into a new system of neocolonialism by hiding behind world financial bodies like IMF and World Bank to continue sustaining the aims of obtaining cheap products. However, according to Immanuel Wallerstein the strong modern states or core states have only facilitated a ‘skewed development in which economic and social disparities between sections of the world economy have increased instead of providing prosperity for all.’ It is thus predicted that ‘a worldwide economic crisis is imminent and that the capitalist world economic system will collapse, giving way to new revolutionary changes’.

February 18, 2014 at 14:58 #11615
 anna.shoemaker@arkeologi.uu.se

I think like many people who were at the seminar with Moore, the most interesting thing about the discussion to me was his response to the question “what is the future of capitalism”? In his writings, Moore continually poses the question of the possibility of the neoliberal world system being able to re-establish the conditions for a new long wave of accumulation despite the exhaustion of the four pillars of capitalist production (cheap energy, raw materials, labor power, and food relative to the previous era). Is the depletion of “cheap ecology” a signal or epochal crisis to capitalism as world-ecology? When asked the question in person his response was capitalism is done for, and the next three decades (most of my adult life-span) will be determined by the end of the four cheaps, and made exponentially more volatile due to climate change. This is a pretty heavy statement, and while Moore may be simplifying the trajectory of the future, such a narrative demands attention.
According to Moore the imminent future will see a reorganization of relations of humanity and nature (the oikeios) in the post-“Capitalpocene”. Nature can no longer be construed as external, time cannot be understood as linear, and space is not flat. Moore also stressed that we need to approach this paradigmatic moment armed with the knowledge that social justice and environmental justice are one in the same.
As a student of archaeology, I began to ask myself, what is the significance of Moore’s declaration to my discipline? One possible offering of archaeology to this impending world reorganization is through the examination of how human environment relations have been configured over the longue duree and outside of global north perspectives. Archaeology can begin to examine the possibility of humans perceptually organizing nature prior to the Capitalpocene and without being ultimately and essentially compelled towards endless expansion. This in itself is an incredibly enormous task, and a thorough and enlightened discussion of the topic is certainly beyond the scope of my PhD. However, what I can get behind and approach in my own studies is an examination of societal perceptions of food prior to the Capitalpocene. Moore made the point that food is not cultural or social, and it is also not simply a natural phenomena, but that it is every one of those parts and more. For my thesis I am examining changing human settlement and landscape dynamics in the Amboseli basin Kenya, over the last 500 years. Today the Amboseli is largely enclosed as a National Park and conflicts over the four cheaps between pastoralists, agriculturalists (both subsistence farmers and agro-industrialists), conservationists, and those in the tourist sector encompass these dialectical relations and tensions between environment and human, and they are certainly structured along capitalism as world-ecology. I hope to educate myself on capitalist perceptions of the all-encompassing food concept so I can compare and contrast such notions with realities that may have existed prior to the Capitalpocene in the Amboseli.
I’ve always been inspired by a past for future approach to archaeological studies (archaeology as activism!), and especially inter-disciplinary collaborations. I’m was further motivated to knowledge share when Moore said if we want to understand climate change, we have to understand how global interest rates are set – what I’m taking from Moore is that we need to understand how capitalism functions to understand our future. So if anyone cares to comment back at me with your ideas about perceptions of food in the Capitalpocene, I’m anxious to hear!

February 18, 2014 at 15:19 #11616
 berglund_k@hotmail.com

Seminar 2 Jason Moore. 17 Feb 2014.
As the second seminar attended in the course Current themes and debates in Global Environmental History, Jason Moore’s different ideas and concepts about capitalism as a world ecology was discussed. Moore rightfully argues that a crucial phenomenon to understand if one seeks apprehension of current global environmental challenges (e.g. questions around food, energy, depletion of natural resources) is capitalism. Thus, not only biophysical aspects is central to environmental history, but also dimensions such as global financial markets, interest rates and power dynamics between states, capital, producers and areas (Moore, 2011:113).
Moore argues that capitalism is the current world-ecological regime. In this regime the accumulation of capital and the production of nature are joined as an organic whole where we can move beyond the “social” and “environmental” binary into a dialectic bundle of human and extra-human nature (Moore, 2012:227-228). The Cartesian divide of capitalism and nature can therefore be transcended in favor of capitalism in nature (Moore, 2011:108).
For me, the most interesting part of this engaging seminar was Moore’s explicit critique of capitalism and his distinctive way of stating that “capitalism is done”, as a response to the question what the fate of capitalism might be. Preconditions for a continued accumulation of surplus and the capitalist world system are what Moore calls ‘the four cheaps’ – cheap food, labor, energy and raw materials (Moore, 2010:233). This has laid the ground for the agricultural revolutions that has sustained capitalism as a world system. Today, Moore argues that we see the end of the four cheaps, which thus marks the end of capitalism. What is interesting with this, of course, is what will come next, what will ‘replace’ capitalism. It might be something worse, it might be something better, but Moore stated that we are now facing a profound moment of choice where our actions spell the direction the future path will embark on. I agree with this to a certain extent. I do not think that the world will simply cease to exist, or that humanity will come to an end, I believe that what we do today will impact the possibilities for the future, how ‘bad’ the situation will be. In this way we are facing a crucial moment in time of history. But on the other hand, Moore’s distinctive answer of saying that capitalism is doomed might be somewhat simplified. Capitalism is still the current world order, and it will not disappear overnight. People of power and economic incentives will fight extremely hard to sustain the capitalist world order to keep beneficial positions. And even though the four cheaps might be running out, can’t capitalism keep on going for quite some time still? As discussed in class, ecological limits are to a large extent in fact socio-political limits, and therefore we can continue to deplete natural resources extensively. The question is just whether you are lucky enough to be part of the few percent of the world that can afford to buy ourselves out of a worsening environmental situation. As Moore said in the end of the seminar, we have to define our own world-ecologies. What is important, and what kind of world do we want?
Although critique of capitalism and our economic system’s impact on the environment is not something new to me, Moore’s perspective of seeing capitalism as the defining structure of our time, as an ‘capitalocene’, has definitely broadened my perspective on the world’s current ecological crisis and on environmental history. Once again, the importance of transcending the nature/culture binary has been emphasized, and even though this is something we have come across multiple times during the course of the program, this seminar has given me a different perspective on why it might be of importance.

February 18, 2014 at 15:28 #11617
 nisa.dedic@gmail.com

SEMINAR 2, 18th february 2014. Nisa Dedic
Overcoming the nature/human binary has almost become a mantra in my head since I’ve begun with my studies in environmental history. I do not know whether the sharp division was even more enforced in my new academic milieu, since to me it was a closed deal that there is nothing natural about humans and nothing natural about nature either. A naive constructivist approach, I suppose. In my reflection I will mainly focus on the historical-ecological method and historical practice/theory as ways of understanding/changing the capitalist world-ecology. Moore diagnoses two wide fields of practicing environmental history: one that focuses on biophysical conditions that enabled socio-environmental transformations and the other that focuses on consequences of human activity upon biophysical nature. Both of these practices are according to Moore still entrenched deep within the Cartesian mind/body divide, which he translates into his frame as »nature and capitalism«. Moore proposes a historical-ecological methodology that would write history as »capitalism in nature«; in other words, capital accumulation and production of human and extra human nature should not be understood as discrete phenomena but dialectically bound emergences. In this way environmental history could understand urban decay, debtocracy in the same bundle of flows as for example soil depletion.
Throughout my reading of Moore’s texts I was bothered by the question how does this proposed methodology translate into historical practice. I acknowledge that capitalism should not be understood in an asynchronic perspective; Moore’s syntagm historical capitalism is productive precisely because it understands capitalism and the master processes that are produced/producing in the capitalist world ecology (class, urbanization, agricultural revolutions etc.) as a flux not as »invariable structures«; yet at the same time Moore employs Marx’s general law of underproduction as the underlying tension of capital accumulation that pushes different stages of historical capitalism on the verge of signal or epochal crises, as a constant of capitalism. I am not opposing that the limit of capital is capital itself, yet I do not agree that the general law of underproduction can function as the organizing principle of practicing history. When a capitalist hegemony reaches a limit of exhaustion, when it basically endangers the conditions of further capital accumulation, a signal or epochal crisis emerges. Various strategies are employed by capitalists to continue capital accumulation: plunder/production duo as Moore calls it and accumulation by dispossession (Harvey) for example. This methodology practices history as cycles of accumulation and crises and searches for patterns in historical capitalism in accord with the questions what is cumulative, cyclical or novel, in other words, when quantitative change becoms qualitative. I accept the dialectic emergence of human and extra human nature that gravitates around the commodification of everything in the capitalist oikeios, but I cannot agree at practicing history as locating cumulative and cyclical moments in the capitalist world-ecology. It is hard to put my finger on what bothers me in Moore’s article but what I missed in them is a reflection on how historical practice itself is produced in the capitalist oikeios, and indeed it has to be since »no domain of human experience is off limits« (Moore:2011, p.135). This is why I find the concept of oikeios circular; oikeios is defined as the »fundamental ontological relation between humans and the rest of nature« (ibid., p.127), in turn historical master processes are expressions of this fundamental relation, and the fundamental relation emerges in capitalist world-ecology. What is the position of theory in this producing/produced dialectic? Can we practice historical theory that is not in accord with the capitalist oikeios then? Moore distinguishes the part/whole historical practice and I believe that the historical-ecological methodology simply would work better for understading master processes in specific historical, material contexts than at practicing grand history of cycles and qualitative leaps.

February 18, 2014 at 15:51 #11618
 fszys1990@gmail.com

Reflection (17 February) by Yaqi Fu

“Cheap food” I think is one of the most interesting topics and ideas in Moore J.W.’s three articles. In “Cheap food and Bad Money”, he poses the concept of “four cheaps” which means cheap food, energy, raw materials and labor. While his focus is mainly on the issue of cheap food, He agrees with the claim that “the ‘end of cheap food’ has arrived”. This prediction seems quite horrible to most of us. What’s the foundation of such judgment? Until the time we get out off the benefit of “cheap” food, how did it happen once in history?

According to Moore J.W., capitalism is bound with cheap food, for “Every great wave of capitalist development has been paved with ‘cheap’ food” (The End of the Road, 389). To achieve cheap food, it’s necessary to have an agricultural revolution. In the history of capitalism as he viewed, after certain agricultural revolution, there would be some food surplus in at least certain range of countries and these countries were preferably to gain hegemony in the wave of capitalism. I think the logic is like what I interpret above. From this logic maybe the last hope of cheap food lies on the burst of agricultural revolution. Moore J.W. puts this hope on the era’s greatest economic ‘miracle’ China and his answer to this hope is apparently pessimistic. As he said “there is little to suggest that China is on the brink of an agricultural revolution that will not only feed the world, but lead capitalism to a new golden age” (The End of the Road, 402)

I feel his logic is a little misleading and dangerous. Is agricultural revolution so powerful as the nuclear weapon in North Korea that will not only save the world, but lead capitalism to a new golden age? Actually I can not believe it and do not want it. If the world is becoming more and more democratic or towards such direction, the responsibility of cheap food is neither proper to be still put on certain countries, nor possible on the miracle of a revolution. Even the pursue of cheap food is suspicious for it reveals the mechanism of neoliberalism or historical capitalism that “redistribution from poor to rich” (Cheap food and Bad Money, 234). Surplus then becomes cheap and fosters rich, while “making a famine where abundance lies”.

Maybe it arrives the time to stop the pursue of cheap food and do not want some radical changes as well. What we need is to reflect ourselves twice, or even three or more, to make sure fairness and justice when we do anything anywhere, to prepare to live a simple life as one can and to suppress the lust of enjoyment in our mind growing as revolution.

February 18, 2014 at 16:26 #11628
 Sarah Rodrigue-Allouche

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.

February 18, 2014 at 17:28 #11632
 archie.oj.davies@gmail.com

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.

February 18, 2014 at 22:41 #11633
 Sanna Karlsson

I was not able to submit this in time since I did not have login access for some reasons. It is now sorted so here is my reflection.
Hopefully my late submission does not cause any problem for you who are to comment it!

Reflection on Seminar: World Systems, History and Ecology

What I found interesting, or rather perplexing, in our discussion with Moore was that I did not seem to get a straight answer on solutons to the envrionmental and financial problems which capitalism has lead us to today. We spoke of the Anthropocene and how climate change has accelerated by the Industrial Revolution. This was due to an efficiency in production of foods, clothing and such, leading up to an overproduction and overconsumption of natural resources. As far as we all can agree on the latter, Moore did not consider the Antrophocene to be a concept that would make us more alert to deal with the current climate change than using a vocabulary such as world-ecology and oikeios. His answer then is to understand capitalism in a historical perspective with the ecological touch. I do think he has a point in this, but still believe the explanation of the Antrophocene could make a lot of people more aware of the actual acute environmental problems we are in today. According to Moore, speakers of the Anthropocene are usually people who speak much but act little. What I would have liked to hear was in what way Moore acted on the climate change, and not only spoke of it? It seemed he mostly focused on a new way of defining capitalism and not how this in practice can change climate change, which I consider people speaking of the Antrhopocene give suggestions to (less carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere for example). I refrained from asking him this since I did not think I could ask it in a good way just then. Why I consider this to be important, is that all of us in the class discussed the different concepts without getting to a solution. Perhaps I was to focused on how this might help in the environmental issues, like a quick answer, than really understand how Moore tried to explain the role of captalism in envrionmental problems.
As I liked the discussion both with the class and with James Moore, it was especially how we dwelled into the different concepts from Moores articles, all of us having different angles of looking at it, bringing our different disciplines of former studies to the conversation. I also think that Moore was trans-disciplinary in his approach of his articles and in his discussion. This is definitely something I bring with me to my future job or career. To have a broad understanding of how things works together in the bigger picture. How one discipline easily taps into another and necessarily so in order to solve many problems, not at least as it comes to environmental issues. Another thing I take with me is a yearning to understand capitalism in more depth, and how this affect all levels of society, also in light of how Moore describes it.

February 19, 2014 at 09:59 #11635
 gaoyongliang@yahoo.com

Reply to Sanna’s post:

I agree with you that what matters is how people act to environmental problems rather than speak of it. First, however, we must point out the environmental problems and realize how the problems are connected with other disciplines in order to find out the complexity of the environmental problems. In Moore’s cases, the environmental problems are majorly linked to finical and capitalist issues. Besides, you point out that not only the discussion we had but also Moore’s articles concern little about solutions to the environmental problems. In my opinion, it is the complexity of the problems that makes the solutions hard to decide. Since the problems are so complex to solve, why don’t we begin with simplifying the problems instead of solving them directly, which are hardly to achieve?

I’m so happy that you’re considering working in environment field. If you virtually determine to work in that field and hope to change the world into a better place. I suggest you start from a small picture instead of a big one since environment is already a big concept. If you start with small issues, one day you may achieve big ones.

The biggest reward in our program, in my point of view, is that we all have different academic background. Every time I discuss with you, I absorb new knowledge from you. It’s really a nice learning experience and I like the structure of this course, especially the discussion part. By the way, Sanna, you did a good job as a student organizer.

February 19, 2014 at 11:00 #11639
 Sabbath Sunday

Reply to Kristina by Sabbath

Thank you Kristina for your thoughtful reflection on J.W. Moore’s perspectives and the main theme ‘World systems, History and ecology’. I agree with you that it was the evolution of capitalism or rather the individualistic and institutional greed for the accumulation of property and financialism in the guise of development, which created the so called ‘world systems’. This was nothing but the systems of socio-economic hegemonies (capitalocene) whose aim was to plunder Mother Nature in search of the ‘four cheaps’. In due process (historical process), man-made ecological systems came into existence due to the ‘rush’ for new frontiers at the expense of natural environment.

As students of environmental history, I notice your concern about the order of things much as I do, which is also supported by Moore on his reaction about the fate of capitalism. He said that ‘capitalism is done’, in other words the system has already reached its limits. Moore chooses to emphasize this in his metaphoric titles and expressions like ‘end of the four cheaps’ and another article entitled ‘The end of the road’. However, to bring the whole issue to our current experience, capitalistic world systems are mutating in that the end of colonialism and ‘the four cheaps’ has gradually been replaced by financial hegemonies in the process of prolonging degradation of environment. The usual suspects now are the World Bank and IMF which are controlled by powerful states disguising as development partners. The result of this has been climate change, agro-ecological exhaustion, crop diseases and chronic indebtedness among the poor states.

According to Immanuel Wallerstein who is actually the pioneer scholar to develop a theoretical framework to understand the historical changes involved in the rise of capitalism up to the modern day world systems, these strong modern states or core states have only facilitated a ‘skewed development in which economic and social disparities between sections of the world economy have increased instead of providing prosperity for all.’ It is thus predicted that ‘a worldwide economic crisis is imminent and that the capitalist world economic system will collapse, giving way to new revolutionary changes’. Moore himself supports these changes, according your reflection that ‘we have to define our own new world-ecologies’ for future survival of both human and extra human nature. Thank you for your reflection Kristina.

February 19, 2014 at 11:15 #11640
 nik.petek@arkeologi.uu.se

Reply to Sabbath Sunday’s post

What you have written is a great and concise summary of all of Wallerstein’s and Moore’s points on the effects of capitalism on the world ecology. While I to (a great extent) agree with all of the points, due to my socio-economic and political stance, I nevertheless seem many problems with their theoretical methodology. (I will particularly refer to Moore, as I only know of Wallerstein’s writing in passing).

I completely agree with studying the environment and everything in it as an oikeios, as I come from a historical/archaeological background and am completely aware of the constant changing relationships. Furthermore, I believe that phenomenology (a philosophical branch that maintains we only know the world through our relationships with it) can further enlighten the study of world ecology. I think, though, that Moore himself does not elucidate to a reasonable extent these relationships between human and extra-human nature and how they were cooperating/relating to each other, neither does he particularly elaborate how they changed through time. We need to remember that if we are doing a world historical study of the oikeios that we need redefine each concept/notion/idea as we move along through history, which might get confusing.

Another thing we should also be aware, is that ‘world’ studies may or do lose attention to detail and might miss plenty of ‘local’ ecological changes. As an example from science, palaeoenvironmentalist are getting a different picture trying to determine the weather patterns of East Africa in the past 2000 years when looking at a regional vs global scale.

February 19, 2014 at 13:09 #11649
 Sarah Rodrigue-Allouche

Reply to Anna S. by Sarah R.
Thank you for your very interesting comments and the insight that your research in archaeology provides you. I agree with you that the discipline of archaeology can help us understand the relationships between humans and nature, and thus humans’ organization of nature, outside of the western world. Moore’s ideas that nature can no longer be construed as external are essential to the field of archaeology and environmental history in general. Your research in the Amboseli basin in Kenya will probably benefit from your readings of Jason W. Moore. Indeed, capitalism as world-ecology and the logic of endless accumulation shape stakeholders’ conflicts even in the most remote areas of the world todays. This reminds me of a lecture by Dr. Anneli Ekblom within the “Global environmental history” program at the beginning of the year when she highlighted that today the western ideas of progress and advancement shape the whole world’s mentality, even the tiniest Mozambique villages where she conducts her fieldwork. It seems that we can’t escape this system of capitalism as world-ecology wherever in the world we find ourselves.
About the future of capitalism, I surely agree with Moore that capitalism has come to an end. It is no longer possible to live within the current scheme we are in. Although Moore argues we have reached the “end of cheap food” and not the end of food per se, I would defend the idea that food in itself has come to an end. It is not food that we are eating in the “Capitalocene” but some kind of mixed chemicals that taste like food. The current capitalism as world-ecology system has led the breadbaskets of the world to produce more and more grains in order to achieve higher surplus quantities and larger cheaper amounts of calories for westerners leading to decreasing health and overweight issues and the reign of low price satisfaction in the fast-food nations. But the biotech regime embodied by greedy corporations such as the murderous Monsanto can no longer sustain this cheap food policy. Biotechnology in agriculture has only led to the “Superweed Effect” Moore writes about. Weeds have grown more resistant to pesticides, whereas crop yields have not increased and cheap prices even for GMO food will no longer be achievable.
I would argue along with Paul Roberts, author of the thought-provoking book “The End of Food” that food as a social, cultural and natural phenomenon, has now reached an end. I deeply believe that the whole system as we know it should be torn down if we want to be able to sustain ourselves on the long-term. We should get out of the capitalism as world-ecology system if we really want to save ourselves and the planet we live on. Capitalism is not sustainable, literally. I hope your research in Kenya will benefit from the insights of world-systems theory articulated by scholars such as Moore or Wallerstein. Probably, by stepping out of the capitalism as world-ecology perspective and by realizing that is just one more lens we wear, the apprentice archaeologist you are will be able to understand much more!

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