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Contextual Citation

"Anthropogenic implicates an actor that doesn’t exist. There is no Anthropos, no humanity as a unified actor. So, if not anthropogenic, what? In a word: capitalogenic."

- Jason Moore [1]


Jerome Roos:

"As one recent study has shown, 71 percent of global emissions can be traced back to the activities of just 100 mega-corporations. If anything, this indicates that we are confronted not by a Malthusian crisis of over-population, as many liberal environmentalists in the Global North continue to argue, but by a clear-cut Marxian crisis of unbridled over-accumulation, which has brought about an “irreparable rift” in the metabolic interaction between humanity and the rest of nature. What we are living through, in short, is the Capitalocene — a distinct geological epoch in which the capitalist formula of “accumulation for accumulation’s sake” has penetrated into every nook and cranny of the planet’s biophysical environment, to the point where the survival of the capitalist system has come to constitute an existential threat to the survival of humanity as a whole." (


Jason Moore and Raj Patel:

We need an intellectual state shift to accompany our new epoch. The first task is one of conceptual rigor, to note a problem in naming our new geological epoch the Anthropocene. The root, anthropos (Greek for “human”), suggests that it’s just humans being humans, in the way that kids will be kids or snakes will be snakes, that has caused climate change and the planet’s sixth mass extinction. It’s true that humans have been changing the planet since the end of the last ice age. A hunting rate slightly higher than the replenishment rate over centuries, together with shifting climate and grasslands, spelled the end for the Columbian Plains mammoth in North America, the orangutan’s overstuffed relative the Gigantopithecus in east Asia, and the giant Irish elk Megaloceros giganteus in Europe. Humans may even have been partly responsible for tempering a global cooling phase 12,000 years ago through agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Hunting large mammals to extinction is one thing, but the speed and scale of destruction today can’t be extrapolated from the activities of our knuckle-dragging forebears. Today’s human activity isn’t exterminating mammoths through centuries of overhunting. Some humans are currently killing everything, from megafauna to microbiota, at speeds one hundred times higher than the background rate. We argue that what changed is capitalism, that modern history has, since the 1400s, unfolded in what is better termed the Capitalocene. Using this name means taking capitalism seriously, understanding it not just as an economic system but as a way of organizing the relations between humans and the rest of nature." (

Jason Moore on the Exhaustion of Cheap Natures and the Crisis of Capitalism

Jason Moore:

"How does capitalism work through the web of life? How can we begin to understand capitalism not simply as an economic system of markets and production and a social system of class and culture, but as a way of organising nature?

I’ve argued that this is a co-produced relation, that capitalism makes nature and the web of life makes capitalism. But how do we come to terms with planetary ‘state shifts’ like climate change – dramatic, abrupt, and irreversible moments of planetary change?[1] That is, how do we understand the tendency towards both planetary crisis and accumulation crisis as two moments of a self-forming whole. We have an immediate problem because the way of thinking about these questions in the modern world, after five centuries of colonialism and scientific revolution and everything else, puts society in one box and nature in another. They interact – sort of – but they are very much in different spheres. The answer to these fundamental questions has to begin by acknowledging that the planetary state shift recognised by earth system scientists requires an intellectual and political state shift: a radical shift in how we think about the relations between humans and the rest of nature.

Crucial to my thinking has been a family of ideas that seek to show how capitalism, from its early modern origins, has been not only a mighty producer of changes in the web of life, but also a product of that web of life, and of the totality of transformations between what is usually called society and nature. This means that modernity never masters or possesses nature. Capital not only never subsumes nature, but it has few effective mechanisms for managing its own nature in any given era. The web of life is unruly, rebellious, and has a way of continually upsetting the best laid plans of states, of capitalists, of scientists and engineers.

This is important because the new liberal craze for turning over global natures, including human natures, to market-oriented management represents an important break in the history of capitalism. Longstanding patterns of state and imperial governance of nature have produced a set of conditions of production which I call Cheap Nature. The Four Cheaps – labour power, food, energy and raw materials – are necessary to launch and sustain great bursts of capital accumulation. Today, capital is seeking profitable investment opportunities in a world in which there are really no more significant frontiers of Cheap Nature. These are not significant enough, in my view, to relaunch another golden age of capitalism.

The exhaustion of the Cheap Nature model is happening at a time when, thanks to climate change, the very mechanisms of cheapening labour, food, energy and raw materials are not only breaking down – they are reversing themselves. The reversal will be, like planetary state shifts, dramatic, irreversible – and non-linear. This is most evident in the relationship between climate change and the agricultural model of historical capitalism – the Cheap Food model – based on producing more and more calories with less and less labour time. It’s a model that’s breaking down because we have reached the moment where the enclosure of the atmospheric commons is now supressing yield growth in the world’s four big cereal crops – and because terrestrial enclosures of every kind are now being challenged by agrarian and food justice movements of every kind.

How do we reconcile the dynamics of planetary crisis and world accumulation? The essence of capital in the modern world is that it produces more capital than it can reinvest profitably. This is the surplus capital problem. What’s been missed in Marxist political economy is the centrality of Cheap Nature. The truly epoch-making expansions of the modern world have turned on much more than new machines, new markets, and new economic organisations; they been able to soak up surplus capital because new domains of Cheap Nature have been opened up by states and empires." (

More Information

Key essay

* Article: The Capitalocene, Part I: on the nature and origins of our ecological crisis. By Jason W. Moore. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 2017, Vol. 44, No. 3, 594–630


"This essay, in two parts, argues for the centrality of historical thinking in coming to grips with capitalism’s planetary crises of the twenty-first century. Against the Anthropocene’s shallow historicization, I argue for the Capitalocene, understood as a system of power, profit and re/production in the web of life. In Part I, I pursue two arguments. First, I situate the Anthropocene discourse within Green Thought’s uneasy relationship to the Human/Nature binary, and its reluctance to consider human organizations – like capitalism – as part of nature. Next, I highlight the Anthropocene’s dominant periodization, which meets up with a longstanding environmentalist argument about the Industrial Revolution as the origin of ecological crisis. This ignores early capitalism’s environment-making revolution, greater than any watershed since the rise of agriculture and the first cities. While there is no question that environmental change accelerated sharply after 1850, and especially after 1945, it seems equally fruitless to explain these transformations without identifying how they fit into patterns of power, capital and nature established four centuries earlier."