Decolonising Green Marxism: capitalism, decolonialism and radical environmental politics

30 Sep

Tuesday 22 October

12.00 – 2.00

University of Birmingham (Muirhead 429)

Is capitalism harming nature? Current debates, and especially the engagement between John Bellamy Foster and Jason W. Moore, have highlighted difficulties associated with this question. If capitalism is harming nature, then is it also part of nature? Capitalism is made of human relations. Are some humans part of capitalism, and ‘others’ part of nature and victims of capitalist expansion? This seminar seeks to wrestle with the difficult questions that this raises, in an attempt to consider the relationship between capitalism, nature, and those who are at risk of being obscured from view in Marxist and anti-capitalist analysis – indigenous populations, the post-colonial world, and/or the ‘periphery’. It presents initial contributions to a forthcoming forum that will be published in 2020, both in Capital and Class (in English) and Eutopía (in Spanish).



José Pablo Prado Córdova (University of San Carlos of Guatemala)

Overcoming the metabolic rift: A human-based conservation paradigm in Guatemala

Nature conservation practices in the Global South are fraught with uncertainty due to fragile environmental governance and conflict stemming from their subaltern position in global capitalism. This paper explores conservation discourse in Guatemala, in light of ethnoecological theory and David Harvey’s moments for the transition towards a post-Capitalist society. This is located in an environmental regime characterized by its verticality, lack of scientific substantiation, and proclivity to privilege exchange value at the expense of widening the metabolic rift. This regime spawns several ecological rifts: (i) between conventional scientific parlance and traditional ecological knowledge; (ii) between utility-inspired natural resource management and local land husbandry practices; and (iii) between nature as a reservoir of resources and nature as the sustenance for life. The paper goes on to explore ways in which dissident groups are paving the way for a grassroots-oriented conservation science, with the potential to bridge the metabolic rift.


Yuliya Yurchenko (University of Greenwich)

Humans, nature, and dialectical materialism

Capitalist relations are the crucial object of social critique due to their innate tendency to accelerate the metabolic rift and alienation. Yet, I argue, our focus should stretch beyond capitalist relations. Indeed, both ecocidal and conservationist tendencies have occurred in multiple historical forms of social relations, including socialist societies such as the USSR. These are phenomena that reiterate the social, rather than purely capitalist, relations as the driver of environmental destruction. Metabolic rifts occur due to the malfunctioning of human-human/human-nature relationships, and it is the elimination and prevention of that malfunctioning that must be the aim of radical environmental politics and policies for the future – not merely (the necessary) elimination of capitalist relations. This paper contributes to the symposium in three complementary ways. First, it critiques the application of dialectical readings of human-nature relations as articulated in the Foster-Moore debate. Secondly, it re-articulates that reading through the lens of the dialectical biospheric analytics of late Soviet ecology. And third, via the latter, and invoking the dialectical thought of Evald Ilyenkov, it moves away from Eurocentric epistemologies of Green Marxism.


DiscussantEmma Foster (University of Birmingham)

Emma Foster is a lecturer in international politics and gender at the University of Birmingham. Emma’s research examines constructions of gender and sexuality within environment, development and population policy at the international level. Emma has published in a variety of journals – including Globalisations, BJPIR, and Gender, Place and Culture – as well as contributing to a number of edited collections.


The event is hosted by CSE/Capital and Class Midlands at the University of Birmingham, with support from the University of Birmingham School of Government Internationalisation Fund


All welcome!

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