Capitalism and the Earth – Punctum Books


I am excited to announce that the ever-brilliant Nigel Clark, Arun Saldanha and Kathryn Yusoff are editing a book entitled Capitalism and the Earth to be published with Punctum Books next year.

It will build particularly on the two sessions Nigel, Arun and Kathryn have put together at the upcoming RGS-IBG conference in London on the theme of Geo-Social Formations: Capitalism and the Earth (the second of which I will chair).

The book will bring together a number of critical geographers committed to thinking through the relationship between capitalism and the earth philosophically and politically, in ways that critically engage with debates around the Anthropocene – taking them seriously whilst troubling them conceptually. The book will contain contributions from the three editors, Kai Bosworth, Noel Castree, Stuart Elden, Lesley Head and Chris Gibson, Kevin Surprise, Jan Zalasiewicz and myself (and perhaps a surprise special guest).

The collection is sure to make an important contribution to a growing set of debates around the philosophical and political stakes of Geo-Social relations in light of the Anthropocene and the emerging climate catastrophe. Earlier this Spring I had the good fortune to attend, back to back, the Critical Climate Change Scholarship Workshop at the University of Minnesota (organized by Jessi Lehman and Sara Holiday Nelson) and the five Anthropocene sessions at the AAG (organized by Elizabeth Johnson and Harlan Morehouse), both of which played a key role in focusing these discussions and producing a genuine intellectual community working on these issues (with the forthcoming book’s editors and a number of others, such as Stephanie Wakefield [CUNY], also taking part at both events).

Elizabeth, Harlan, Jessi and Sara have done a great job in keeping momentum from these sessions going with the wonderful GeoCritique blog which features a news feed and commentaries on related themes by the site’s editors and guest contributors, such as Arun’s recent work on Geo-Communism. Kathryn Yusoff, in her new capacity as reviews and open-site editor at Society and Space has also done great work in organizing the recent set of on-line interventions around the Anthropocene, 400ppm: Exit Holocene, Enter Anthropocene.

The sessions on Geo-Sociio Formations: Capitalism and the Earth at the RGS-IBG and the panel discussion I have put together there on Thinking the Anthropocene with Nigel, Kathryn alongside Angela Last and Jan Zalasiewicz will provide a further opportunity for some of the issues to be thrashed out and for future collaboration to emerge. Elizabeth, Harlan and I are also drafting a call for papers around the Geo-Social and Geophilosophy for next year’s AAG which will appear soon. Harlan, Kai Bosworth and I also plan to collaborate on an extended on-line review of Ben Woodard‘s excellent On an Ungrounded Earth: Towards a New Geophilosophy in the coming months, to which he has generously agreed to provide a written response.

It is also great to see that Punctum Books, a brilliant Brooklyn-based open-access press, will be putting the book out. They are leading the charge of quality open access publishing and already have a great record of related publications including last year’s superb Making the Geologic Now: Responses to Material Conditions of Contemporary Life, edited by Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse (of Smudge Studios / F.O.P) and On an Ungrounded Earth. The press has also played a central role in the development of debates around object oriented ontologies/philosophies and ‘speculative realism’ through Leper Creativity, a collection of essays on Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials, and the journals O-Zone: A Journal of Object Oriented Studies and Speculations: A Journal of Speculative Realism (although this phrase is increasingly redundant, seemingly more a mechanism of capture and dismissal than indicative of any common trajectories of thought).

For my part, I am particularly interested in developing some ideas around Geophilosophy and the politics of planetary thought in relation to broader debates on the Geo-Social and climate crisis on the one hand, whilst on the other, exploring the geopolitical and philosophical importance of emerging extra-planetary geographies. I have included below the abstract for my contribution to Capitalism and the Earth where I hope to make some initial tentative steps in this direction.

Capitalism and The Extra-Planetary Condition

Social science scholarship has increasingly turned its attention to the complicated, mutually constitutive relationship between the earth’s systems and human social formations, a trend to which frequent reference to the anthropocene bares witness. However, this literature has for the most part not only understood human social be bound to the earth but to principally take shape on the earth. This paper will argue that the relationship between social formations and the earth is neither limited to the terrestrial surface of the earth nor the planet as a whole, including its atmosphere. It will rather examine the ways in which human social formations are tied to the earth through an extensive and expanding network of extra-planetary relations. Indeed, it will be argued that the system of orbiting satellites now constitutes an integral part of social relations on earth but further of the earth’s systems, amounting to a novel extra-planetary strata that expands socio-geological relations – and hence the anthropocene – beyond the bounds of the earth’s atmosphere.

But what relation does capitalism have to this cosmic anthropocene? Whilst orbiting satellites have been integral to human-earth relations and the global economy for over half a century and space exploration was a key part of the so-called Cold War ‘space age’ the recent emergence of commercial space exploration marks a new development in relations between capitalism and the earth. The dominance of speculative extraction points to the expansion of the existing capitalist economy into the cosmos with new forms of astral-accumulation emerging to compliment the existing mineral basis of the capitalist economy and the wider energy economy it relies upon. But might this be a sign not of the confident extension of capitalism in to the cosmos but an indication that capitalism is an earth-bound social formation that has exhausted its mineral basis and met its planetary limitations?

The further question arises as to what political significance the expansion of capitalist economics into the cosmos might entail. Will it see the emergence of what some have referred to as ‘astropolitics’ – a field of supposedly realist determinism complimenting an earthly and earthy geopolitics – and the extension of existing concepts of territory, sovereignty, citizen and property into a new extra-planetary frontier and an intensification of existing inequalities on earth? Or rather will a new politics accompany these new spaces of intervention defined by new political formations in planetary and extra-planetary space?

This paper will argue that these questions are not confined to the realm of science fiction even if they have been largely overlooked within the critical social sciences and excluded from respectable philosophical and political discussion. Rather, these are questions that have important bearing on key questions about the existing and future nature of social relations and the ways in which they are bound to the earth’s systems and indeed the cosmos, that deserve critical attention as the commercial space age rapidly accelerates.

6 thoughts on “Capitalism and the Earth – Punctum Books

  1. Very interesting stuff, looking forward to the book and perhaps the conference too if I can make it. Jason W Moore has been writing some interesting critical stuff on the use of the Anthropocene as an idea over on his new blog, which is worth checking out

    There’s also a great little talk by Simon Marvin I was at late 2012 titled (Inter)Planetary Urbanism: On and off World Urbanism – maybe of interest and there’s an audio recording here:

    • Thanks for this. I couldn’t make the Urban Worlds event and hadn’t known Simon had spoken about this – fascinating. Will try to check this out soon. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Pingback: Terricide and Geo-metrics | Progressive Geographies

  3. Pingback: Earth, Terricide, Geo-metrics | Progressive Geographies

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