Review: Anthropocene or Capitalocene?

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I’m going a different route with this review, since this is a heady volume of academic scholarship, but one that is extremely relevant to our times of economic and environmental upheaval. This book was one of the most refreshing pieces of academic literature I have read in months. Moore and co. cut to chase and immediatly deconstruct the damage capitalism has wrought.

Just by title alone, ANTHROPOCENE OR CAPITALOCENE seems to be heavy piece of scholarship and it is, but editor Jason W. Moore does an excellent job with walking newcomers through the concept of “Anthropocene.” He then leads to the conclusion of his fellow contributors as well as himself, which is the concept of the “Capitalocene.” Yet, what is this second concept? Well, Moore and the rest strive to unpack this and redefine what our current epoch means for humanity.

The various scholars who are joined in this anthology are not to affirm Moore’s premise, but to instead bring a variety of different perspectives that help form the idea of “Capitalocene” and give it flesh. Of the essays here, I particularly enjoyed Moore’s own on cheap nature and world-ecology and McBrien’s essay on the Necrocene concept held a fine mirror to capitalism and it’s fruit or lack there of. The idea of “accumulating extinction” is a rather bitter pill for humanity to swallow.

What I love most about the theme of this book is how it does not sit idly by and instead dives straight to the issue of capitalism. It is this economic system(which all the authors question and show how it is much more than that), has irreparably changed how we view not only nature, but ourselves. Capitalism is not only a system of economics, but a way we deal with the world and everything in it. Consumer capitalism especially has warped how we treat our fellow persons and by extension animals and the rest of the natural world.

What Moore and the other contributors are attempting to draw out is that we are at a stage in our history where humanity has been swallowed by our means of creating civilization. To borrow what Pope Francis calls a “technocratic materialism”, this has redefined what it means for us to be human and it is literally killing us. We only have to look at the nearest oil spill or factory or dump. Capitalism isn’t sustainable, but humanity is. It is only by reevaluating these ideas can we create something new and find a new way out from the bonds of capital.

This is recommended for anyone with an interest in either the effects of capitalism or the Anthropocene and has an academic bend to them.

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