Ecology, Capital and History

Convened by Fred Murphy and Steve Knight

The MEP’s Ecosocialism Study Group will devote the spring 2019 term to a close reading of Jason W. Moore’s Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital and selected essays applying Moore’s world-ecology framework. Moore argues that the sources of today’s global turbulence have a common cause: capitalism as a way of organizing nature, including human nature.

FRED MURPHY and STEVE KNIGHT have co-led the Ecosocialism Study Group since 2016. Both are active in DSA’s climate justice work. Fred studied and taught historical sociology at The New School for Social Research. Steve reviews books for Marx & Philosophy and is active in faith-centered environmental groups.

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Capitalism: Causes, Conditions, Consequences … and Beyond

Capitalism: Causes, Conditions, Consequences … and Beyond

The Ecosocialism Group convened with Fred Murphy and Steve Knight

8 Sessions

The Marxist Education Project’s Ecosocialism Study Group — now completing its third year — devotes the winter 2019 term to Nancy Fraser and Rahel Jaeggi’s Capitalism: A Conversation in Critical Theory. Join us for a close reading of this new work, which shows how different historical regimes of capitalism have relied on institutional separations between economy and polity, production and social reproduction, and human and non-human nature. Interaction between these domains is periodically readjusted in response to crises and upheavals. Such “boundary struggles” can help us better grasp capitalism’s contradictions and elaborate strategies for moving beyond it. Supplementary readings will be drawn from related work by David Harvey, Silvia Federici, and others.


FRED MURPHY and STEVE KNIGHT have co-led the Ecosocialism Study Group since 2016. Both are active in DSA’s climate justice work. Fred studied and taught historical sociology at The New School for Social Research. Steve reviews books for Marx & Philosophy and is active in faith-centered environmental groups.

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Capital, Energy and Power

A 10-week Study Group with Fred Murphy and Steve Knight

Throughout the history of capitalism, energy sources and especially fossil fuels—coal, oil and natural gas—have been critical to the system’s economic viability. The crises associated with climate change are rooted in capital’s insatiable need to burn fuels in order to accumulate wealth and maximize profits. Competition and greed for readily extractable energy resources have fueled wars and evoked popular resistance, especially in the Middle East. This study group will explore the history and political economy of oil, energy and capitalism. We will read George Caffentzis’s recently published No Blood for Oil! and related work by Michael Klare, Andreas Malm, Timothy Mitchell, and others.

FRED MURPHY has co-led several MEP study groups on Marxism, science, nature, and ecosocialism. He studied and taught historical sociology at the New School for Social Research.

STEVE KNIGHT has been a co-leader of MEP eco-socialist study groups since 2015. He is also a climate activist with the DSA and faith-centered groups, and reviews books on eco-socialism for Marx & Philosophy

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Small Is Necessary

Shared Living on a Shared Planet
with author Anitra Nelson

A presentation and discussion with activist-scholar Anitra Nelson, whose new book Small is Necessary: Shared Living on a Shared Planet (Pluto Press) argues for ‘eco-collaborative housing’, i.e. smaller homes with shared spaces and facilities.

Houses and apartments in countries like the US, Canada and Australia grew larger in the 20th century even as household sizes shrank. This has made housing less environmentally sustainable and it contributes to the housing affordability crisis. Since the US mortgage fiasco triggered the Global Financial Crisis many countries have experienced skyrocketing house prices. Meanwhile, the withdrawal of state support for social and public housing means that private ownership or rental are the only options.

Small is Necessary advocates not only for smaller dwellings in compact settlements but for shared spaces and facilities. Anitra presents a range of practical options from co-living in a household to co-housing and eco-villages. She weighs the pros and cons of the tiny house movement and assesses the potential and limits of radical squats along the way. She considers the future of eco-collaborative housing managed by various different drivers—governments, market developers, and sharing economy initiatives, and grassroots communities.

Anitra has had ten years’ experience living in two different Australian housing collectives, but her new book is research-based, especially drawing on ecological footprint studies.

The author will sign books at the end of the program.

Anitra Nelson is an activist-scholar whose research interests focus on housing and community-based sustainability, environmental justice and non-monetary futures. She is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia). She was a Carson Fellow at the Rachel Carson Centre for Environment and Society at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (2016–2017) and was a Visiting Scholar at the New School for Social Research (2012). She is a co-editor of Life Without Money: Building Fair and Sustainable Economies (2011) and Housing for Degrowth: Principles, Models, Challenges and Opportunities (forthcoming).

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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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Science, Politics, and Culture in the Anthropocene

Science, Politics, and Culture in the Anthropocene
Fred Murphy and Steve Knight
A Reading Group, September 25 through November 20
9 sessions remain

“Thinking the Anthropocene,” say Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, authors of Shock of the Anthropocene, “means taking the measure of industrialization and commodification, which have derailed the Earth beyond the stable parameters of the Holocene, and of the need to give our freedom different material foundations; it means mobilizing new environmental humanities and new political radicalisms (movements for common goods, transition, degrowth, eco-socialism and many more) in order to escape the blind alleys of industrial modernity.” This study group will take up three recent works on the scientific, political, and cultural implications of global warming and the crisis of the Earth system: Birth of the Anthropocene, by Jeremy Davies; Shock of the Anthropocene; and Richard Smith’s Green Capitalism: The God That Failed.

Fred Murphy has co-led several MEP study groups on Marxism, science, nature, and ecosocialism. He studied and taught historical sociology at the New School for Social Research.
Steve Knight has participated in and co-led MEP study groups on ecosocialism since 2015. His review of Shock of the Anthropocene is forthcoming in the journal Marx & Philosophy.

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No Blood for Oil!

An author presentation with discussion, co-sponsored with Autonomedia

No Blood For Oil!
Essays on Energy, Class Struggle and War 1998–2016
George Caffentzis

The oil industry is at the center of the major struggles of our time, but is Marxist theory able to explain its behavior? The oil industry presents a paradox to Marxist theory. How is it that oil companies employ relatively few workers and invest in a relatively large amount of machinery, but still are the largest and most profitable companies on the planet? It should be otherwise, if profits come from exploiting worker’s labor. In his book, No Blood for Oil, George Caffentzis shows how Marxism resolves this paradox and accounts for the peculiar role that the oil industry plays in contemporary capitalism as generator of ecological devastation, war and exploitation. Come to discuss the struggle over the exchange of blood for oil.

George Caffentzis is emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Southern Maine. He has taught courses on oil and class struggle in many venues in Africa, South America and Europe. He is a co-founder of the Midnight Notes Collective and is the author of In Letters of Blood and Fire: Work, Machines, and the Crisis of Capitalism (2013) and Exciting the Industry of Mankind: George Berkeley’s Philosophy of Money (2000).

“The papers in this collection are weapons we use to deconstruct the politics of war and oil, to uncover the multilayered class meaning of contemporary energy policy, and are the treasure that gives us a different sense of alternatives. Caffentzis’ critical understanding dissolves the fatalism of peak-oil arguments and posits our struggles to reclaim the commons as the real limit of capitalist use of energy.” — Massimo de Angelis, author of The Beginning of History

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Creating An Ecological Society

Towards a revolutionary transformation

Why Capitalism Must Go to Save the Earth
Capitalism is the problem and creating a new society is both possible and essential.

Fred Magdoff is Professor Emeritus of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Vermont. Among his recent books are What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism (with John Bellamy Foster) and Agriculture and Food in Crisis (edited with Brian Tokar).

no one turned away for inability to pay

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Integrating Social and Natural Systems

Integrating Social and Natural Systems:
Implications for Sustainability and Resilience in a Changing World

Seven more sessions with Rebecca Boger
February 9 to March, 23, 2017
Thursdays, 7:30 to 9:30 pm

Although people around the world are increasingly living in cities such as New York City, we still exist in and are dependent on the natural environment. Whether we live in rural or urban places, we are greatly influencing Earth system processes, such as how water cycles between places, how soils are intricately linked to the movement of water, exchange of gases, and growth of plants even on Manhattan rooftop gardens, and how the composition of the atmosphere affects incoming and outgoing energy, which then impacts global climate change. To move toward sustainable and resilient societies, we need to realize that social and natural systems are interconnected and that both need to be considered when implementing change. Without considering the connectedness of natural and social systems, we run the risk of harming the environment or people even when intentions may be good. Focusing on the urban context, this course will focus on key concepts in Earth system science (water, air, soil, and life) and systems thinking. Gaining a perspective of how we exist in the natural world even in built environments influences the framing of questions and then how these questions might be answered in order to understand ways we can become sustainable and resilient societies.

Rebecca Boger has a background in geospatial technologies, marine science, and science education. 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.

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Marxism, Science and The Anthropocene

A Study Group convened by Fred Murphy and Steve Knight
September 21 – November 23

This ongoing study group considers how Marxists and other critical thinkers address the nexus of capitalism, science, threats to human existence on planet Earth, and the fight for climate justice and ecosocialism. For the Fall 2016 session we will take up works by Andreas Malm (Fossil Capital), Jason Moore et al. (Anthropocene or Capitalocene?), and Ian Angus (Facing the Anthropocene).

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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