World-Ecological Regimes

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McKenzie Wark on Jason W. Moore's concept:

"The concept Moore offers for thinking this is the world-ecological regime. Moore: “capitalism does not have an ecological regime; it is an ecological regime.” (158) This is a version of David Harvey’s spatial fix theory from Limits to Capital, combined with Arrighi on how Dutch, British and American capitalist formations are organizational revolutions of territorial power (and one might add, information). “Each long wave of accumulation was made possible by organizational revolutions that gave the new hegemonic power ‘unprecedented command over the world’s human and natural resources.’” (160)

Each world-ecological regime is undermined not just by anti-systemic movements and competition from rivals, but rather these have to be seen as always and already social-ecological contests. Thus Arrighi was dealing only in partial totalities. Moore mentions in passing Harvey’s point that financial expansion was often connected to accumulation by dispossession, which in Moore’s terms is the appropriation of cheap natures. Here cheap information appears once again as a category that could do with some more thought. Capital has to know something about what it is going to dispossess.

The strength of Moore’s perspective is to think the oikieos as historically specific dialectical relations of social forms and natural terrains, each internalizing the other. Then to think a more specific series of historical formations, the world-ecological regimes, through which the commodity form sustains and expands itself through the appropriation of cheap natures. This produces both under-production constraints specific to the exhaustion of particular resources and moments of peak appropriation, as well as the more familiar over-production crises in which capital accumulation fails as the value composition of capital rises. Moore is particularly interesting on the complex role of cheap nature in attempts to lower the value composition of capital.

Any particular worldview comes with certain affordances. In Moore, I think it’s the way capital functions, as in Lukacs, as the bad totality, a failed metaphorical doubling of the world. But if it is to be a totality, Moore has to insist that there’s only the historically determined viewpoint from within. Strangely, despite a passing reference to anti-systemic movements, the point of view of Moore’s thinking is always that of capital itself. We do not proceed here from the labor point of view. Certainly the labor of producing verifiable knowledge about the nonhuman world gets very short-shrift. Certain data from the earth sciences enters – has to enter – any social thought today, and to Moore’s credit he is one of the few who clearly knows this. But for him this can only be interpreted from within the point of view of capital itself." (

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