Special edition on The Capitalist Ecological Crisis


“The Anthropocene Biospheric Crisis: Rethinking Strategies for Value and Class Struggles”



“Labour is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values as labour, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature,” thus says Marx in Critique of Gotha Program (1875). More than a century ago, Marx already stressed on the central role of nature as the source of use values, more so than labour. Methodologically speaking, Marx’s analysis shows us how historical materialism must situate problematising nature in relation to problematising use values and work. Ironically, the latter is much less studied among progressive, critical academics and activists alike when dealing with environmental and ecological issues. Despite their frequent citings of Marx, crucial Marxian tenets such as ‘value’ and ‘work’ tend be overshadowed by the overly-popular—to a point of them being turned into common sensical jargons—terms of ‘exploitation’ and ‘enclosure’. In praxis, such analyses risk self-degeneration into demonisation and melancholia (Brown, 1999;  Traverso, 2017). ‘Capitalism’ is becoming an epithet for ‘evil’, instead of understanding it as a rational object that needs to be put under analytical scrutiny. As such, the affordable conclusion of such analyses is distorted into ethico-moralist cries, as material strategic planning for historically-situated class struggles in seizing the means of value production become more and more mute.

The present Call for Paper endeavours to situate itself in the interventions done by thinkers in the tradition of Marxism that aim to overcome the Cartesian dualism, which sees human and nature as two separate entities; and capitalism as their externalisation. These thinkers, in their respective dosage, set out to investigate not simply of what capitalism has done to nature, as it paradoxically sets capitalism apart from the very nature its exploits. On the contrary, they embark on how capitalism works with nature, a view that takes capitalism as part and parcel with nature in a relation what István Mészáros (1995) calls the ‘social metabolic reproduction’; a notion fitting to times in which the human body and medical engineering too are intertwined and materialised in such massive ways during the global pandemic.  

Accordingly, their analytical focus is no longer in writing with the “inks of blood and fire” about the consequences of capitalism to nature, food, indigenous people, the ecosystem, and the biosphere. Quite the opposite, they seek to explore how capitalism operates, by making use of and putting nature to work (Moore, 2015; 2016; 2017; 2018), to extract surplus value and to conserve the sustainability of the “ecology” of capital accumulation. In fact, even more controversially, on how the nature itself becomes the precondition for the sustenance of capitalism—or, hopefully, for the fight against it. 

In the midst of analyses and studies that are flocking to save mother earth and our future grandchildren while contradictively demanding the United Nations, the states, and the Corporate Social Responsibility to assume these tasks, this Call goes against the tide in hopes for contributors to prepare themselves in building an alternative fountain of idea. The present Call expects intellectual contributions—from academic, praxis, or policy-relevant research—on the issues of the ecological crisis, environmental degradation, and biospheric destruction in general by deploying Marxian central concepts of ‘value’ and ‘work’. Simultaneously, it takes into consideration other notions of ‘modes of production’, ‘real abstraction’, ‘reproductive work’, ‘crisis of accumulation’, and of course the increasingly popular ‘metabolic rift’. The all too popular application of Marxian ideas, such as ‘exploitation’, ‘imperialism’, ‘ideology’, and ‘expropriation’, are of course not restricted, however it is expected that their mobilisation is to be faithful, or at least refers to, the motivation and intention of Marx when spelling out the terms. However, Jurnal IndoProgress remains open to various interpretations—critical and orthodox alike—to the works and ideas of Marx, so long as it is done in the corridor of scientific investigation and for the sake of advancing the working-class struggle to seize the means of value production. 

We expect aspiring contributors to also animate, mainstream, and develop studies around the theme of ecology in the light of Marx’s thinking. We are keen to publish work that establishes dialogues with theories of crisis and the contradiction between capitalism and nature: From the thesis of James O’Conor’s (1991; 1996) ‘second contradiction’,  in the Capitalism, Nature, Socialism journal, to John Bellamy Foster’s (2004) notion of the ‘metabolic rift’; alongside theories of Marxist ecofeminism, ranging from Mariarosa Dalla Costa’s (2003) ideas of ‘commoning’, Silvia Federici’s (2018; 2020) concept of ‘reproductive infrastructure’, all the way to the Promethean spirit of xenofeminism like those of Helen Hester and co.; or with the more globally-minded works of Jason W. Moore (2015; 2016; 2017; 2018) in ‘capitalist world-ecology’, Brett Clark and John Bellamy Foster’s (2019) ‘ecological imperialism’, and Malcolm Ferdinand and Angela Davis’ (2021) ‘decolonial ecology’. We also welcome epistemological interventions around the theme of ecology, especially those who seek to establish positions among the debates between proponents of the anthropocene and capitalocene; or even Donna Harraway’s (2015; 2016) ‘cthulucene’ and Timothy Morton (2016) ‘dark ecology’.

Besides theoretico-academic debates, this Call is also aware of the praxeological and strategic implications of social analyses, both in the sense of social movement and public policy dealing with the present biospheric crisis. Correspondingly, for those interested, we encourage aspiring contributors to engage critically with the so-called “progressive” proposals that have become mainstream (among academics and activists) such as the Green New Deal (GND), Degrowth, and Post-Work. Certainly, the expected contributions should propose ways to overcome and elude to the many traps of normative-cliché conclusions, political correctness, motivational advice, or even moralist narratives. Particularly, we are looking forward to curate contributions that are able to evaluate in a Marxian way the reformist inclination of the GND proposal, the neo-primitivist impulse of Degrowth, and the Promethean optimism (to master over nature with technology) dear to Post-Work programs. Last but not least, this Call invites authors to elaborate on other topics and themes around the crisis of ecology/biosphere, to creatively draw connections with other problems (i.e., of spirituality, gender, race, science, indigeneity, organisation, security, etc.), or to experiment with Marxian ecological thinking by using ways of reasoning drawn from disciplines outside the social-humanities. 


Submission

Jurnal IndoProgress (JIP) is a bilingual (English and Indonesian) journal focusing on Marxist theory and praxis. We invite academics, researchers, and activists to submit articles on the topic of “The Anthropocene Biospheric Crisis: Rethinking Strategies for Value and Class Struggle.” We accept theoretical contribution, empirical observation (5,000-8,000 words) and book reviews 1,500-2,000 words).

Send your 200-300 words abstract (in APA) to indoprogressjournal@gmail.com at the latest by July 31 2021, 11:59 Western Indonesian time (+7 GMT). Selected writers will join our workshop in September 2021.


Referred Works

Bastani, Aaron, Fully Automated Luxury Communism: A Manifesto (Verso, 2019).

Brassier, Ray, “Prometheanism and its Critics,” in Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian, ed. #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader (Urbanomic, 2014)

Brown, Wendy, “Resisting Left Melancholy,” boundary 2, 26, 3, 1999.

Clark, Brett & John Bellamy Foster, “Ecological Imperialism and the Global Metabolic Rift: Unequal Exchange and the Guano/Nitrates Trade,” International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 50, 3-4, 2009.

Costa, Mariarosa Dalla, “The Native In Us, The Earth We Belong To,” The Commoner, 6, 2003.

Donegan, Moira, “How Domestic Labor Became Infrastructure,” The Atlantic, 14 April 2021.

Federici, Silvia Re-enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons (Kairos, 2018).

Federici, Silvia, Beyond the Periphery of the Skin: Rethinking, Remaking, and Reclaiming the Body in Contemporary Capitalism (Kairos, 2020).

Ferdinand, Malcom, A Decolonial Ecology: Thinking from the Caribbean World (Wiley, 2021).

Foster, John Bellamy & Brett Clark, “Ecological Imperialism: The Curse of Capitalism,” Socialist Register, vol. 40, 2004

Foster, John Bellamy & Paul Burkett, Marx and the Earth: An Anti-Critique, Brill, 2016.

Haraway, Donna, “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin,” Environmental Humanities, vol. 6, 2015.

Haraway, Donna, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Duke Univ. Press, 2016).

Hester, Helen, “Promethean Labors and Domestic Realism,” e-flux, 2017.

Marx, Karl, Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875)

Mészáros, István, Beyond Capital (Merlin Press, 1995)

Moore, Jason W.,  “Cheap Food and Bad Climate: From Surplus Value to Negative Value in the Capitalist World-Ecology,” Critical Historical Studies, 2, 1, Spring 2015.

Moore, Jason W., “Putting Nature to Work; Anthropocene, Capitalocene, and the Challenge of World-Ecology,” in Cecilia Wee, Janneke Schönenbach, and Olaf Arndt, ed., Supramarkt: A micro-toolkit for disobedient consumers, or how to frack the fatal forces of the Capitalocene (Irene Books, 2015).

Moore, Jason W., “The Capitalocene, Part I: on the nature and origins of our ecological crisis,” The Journal of Peasant Studies, 45, 2, 2018.

Moore, Jason W., “The Capitalocene, Part II: accumulation by appropriation and the centrality of unpaid work energy,” The Journal of Peasant Studies, 44, 3, 2017.

Moore, Jason W., Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (Verso, 2015).

Moore, Jason W., ed., Anthropocene or Capitalocene: Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (Kairos, 2016)

Morton, Timothy, Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence (Columbia Uni Press, 2016).

O’Connor, James “On the two contradictions of capitalism,” Capitalism Nature Socialism, 2:3, 1991.

O’Connor, James, “The second contradiction of capitalism,” in T. Benton, ed., The Greening of Marxism. (The Guilford Press, 1996)

Pollin, Robert, “De-growth vs A Green New Deal,” New Left Review, 112, Jul-Aug 2018.

Saito, Kohei, “Marx’s Ecological Notebooks,” Monthly Review, 67, 9, 2016.

Schutz, Eric A., “Planetary Eco-Collapse and Capitalism: A Contemporary Marxist Perspective,” Forum for Social Economics 49, 3, 2020).

Singh, Neera M., “Environmental justice, degrowth and post-capitalist futures,” Ecological Economics, 163, 2019.

Srnicek, Nick & Alex Williams, Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work (Verso, 2015).

Traverso, Enzo, Left-Wing Melancholia: Marxism, History, and Memory (Columbia Uni Press, 2017).

Žižek, Slavoj, “Censorship Today: Violence, or Ecology as a New Opium for the Masses,” Lacan.com, 2008.

Žižek, Slavoj, “Nature and its discontents,” Sub-Stance, 37, 3 2008.