A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things

with Jason W. Moore

Nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives: these are the seven things that have made our world and will shape its future. In making these things cheap, modern commerce has transformed, governed, and devastated Earth. Jason W. Moore presents a new book authored with Raj Patel, A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things.

Bringing the latest ecological research together with histories of colonialism, indigenous struggles, slave revolts, and other rebellions and uprisings, Moore and Patel demonstrate that throughout the history of capitalism, crises have always prompted fresh efforts to restore the seven cheap things – regardless of the cost to working people and the environment. At a time of crisis in all seven cheap things, they propose radical new ways of understanding—and reclaiming—the planet in the turbulent twenty-first century.

Jason W. Moore teaches world history and world-ecology at Binghamton University, and is coordinator of the World-Ecology Research Network. He is the author of Capitalism in the Web of Life and numerous award-winning essays in environmental history, political economy, and social theory.

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Day 4, Session 4—Approaching Science from the Left

Approaching Science from the Left: Uses and Abuses of Knowledge in the Planetary Crisis
Rebecca Boger, Stuart Newman, Dave Schwartzman, moderated by Fred Murphy

As awareness has grown – among both working people and the global capitalist class – about the scope and complexity of the multiple crises facing the planet and its biosphere, a wide gamut of solutions and palliatives have been put forward across the physical and biological sciences. These range from dystopian geoengineering projects to genetic modification schemes to renewable and sustainable forms of energy use and agriculture. With this closing panel we aim to open a conversation among scholars and activists about how scientific knowledge and practice can help point the way forward, as well as about how science is abused in efforts to preserve and extend capitalist power over labor and resources.

Rebecca Boger has a background in geospatial technologies, marine science, and science education. Before coming to Brooklyn College, she worked for an international science and education program, GLOBE, where she worked with teams of scientists and educators to develop classroom materials, conduct workshops, and facilitate international collaborations. She continues to work with GLOBE to develop online training materials and a citizen science network. At Brooklyn College, CUNY, she teaches geospatial technologies and works with anthropologists and archaeologists in Barbuda on socio-ecological resilience research, community based mapping, and environmental modeling. In the NYC area, she works with NYC Parks and Gateway National Recreation on historical mapping and trends analysis of marshes and shoreline. She continues her education work with a greater emphasis on sustainability, resilience, and climate change topics where she is helping to build an urban sustainability program and online materials.

Stuart Newman is a professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York. He has contributed to several scientific fields, including biophysical chemistry, developmental biology, and evolutionary theory. He has been a critic of genetic determinism in biology and an opponent of eugenic applications of biotechnology since his student days in the 1960s. Newman was a founding member of the Council for Responsible Genetics and is a columnist for Capitalism Nature Socialism.

David Schwartzman is Professor Emeritus, Howard University (biogeochemist, environmental scientist, PhD, Brown University). An active member of the DC Statehood Green Party/Green Party of the United States. Website with his older son Peter Schwartzman is www.solarUtopia.org. Publications include: Life, Temperature and the Earth (2002), several recent papers in Capitalism Nature Socialism (CNS). Member of the following Advisory Boards: Science & Society, Capitalism Nature Socialism, Institute for Policy Research & Development.

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Day 3, Session 3: Prometheus in Ruins? Uses and Abuses of the Hero Who Stole Fire

A presentation and discussion with Anthony Galluzzo
Mechanical Prometheanism was for long the signature myth of Western modernization. Both capitalists and socialists embraced the Greek myth of Prometheus’s theft of fire from the gods as shorthand for Progress — technological determinism and human domination of the natural world — while neglecting the ethico-political dimensions of the myth. Prometheanism achieved its apotheosis during the twentieth century, when futurism and productivism shaped capitalism and state socialism alike. Today the taste for such techno-scientific drive to mastery has waned, at least among many Marxists and ecosocialists coming to grips with the environmental costs of industrial modernization. But as planetary civilization and the planet itself confront ecological collapse, techno-utopianism is making a come-back, from the cyber-libertarian solutionists of Silicon Valley to the ostensibly left accelerationists who seek to revive Prometheus — without ever asking which Prometheus they want to revive. This talk will trace the history of Promethean ideology, beginning with the Godwin/Malthus debates of the 1790s, through its current revival within certain precincts of the left, particularly as it intersects with the ecological crisis and Anthropocene theory today. We will contrast this to alternative Prometheanisms, from the Shelleys through Marx to present-day ecosocialist currents.

Anthony Galluzzo is a lecturer at NYU. He studies radical transatlantic literary culture of the 1790s and its afterlives in socialism, utopian fiction, and the gothic novel. He has contributed several articles to Jacobin and other journals. His home base is in Brooklyn, where he grew up.

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Marxism, Science and the Anthropocene

A Study Group convened by Fred Murphy and Steve Knight
Tuesdays, April 12 through June 7, no class May 17

This group will read and discuss classic and contemporary works in the Marxist tradition that address the nexus of capitalism, science, nature, and climate change. The central text will be McKenzie Wark’s Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene, along with selections from Engels’s Dialectics of Nature and work by Donna Haraway, Carolyn Merchant, George Caffentzis, Jason Moore and others. As Wark has noted, “the Western Marxist tradition typically disqualified the sciences as fetishes of the particular, unable to grasp the totality. But climate science in particular takes as its object totality in a quite different sense: the totality of metabolic processes that take place on a planetary scale, and in particular the contribution of collective human labor to those processes. Given what we now know about climate change, the nexus of labor, techne and nature seems like an important one.”

Steve Knight is involved in eco-advocacy as a member of 350NYC, a GreenFaith Fellow working with faith communities, and a certified energy efficiency auditor for multifamily buildings. He has been interested in Marxian analysis and ecosocialism since 2004, when he studied Capital with David Harvey.

Fred Murphy studied and taught historical sociology at The New School and has co-led several MEP courses. His adolescent dream of a career as a research chemist was diverted by the sixties radicalization, but he has never lost interest in the sciences.

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