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1. Jason W. Moore:

"The world-ecology perspective argues that humans are a part of nature, such that capitalism does not act upon nature but develops through the web of life. In this view, the modern world-system is a capitalist world-ecology, joining the accumulation of capital, the pursuit of power, and the production of nature in dialectical unity."


2. Emanuele Leonardi:

" the essential reference of such a global conversation (Leonardi and Pellizzoni, 2019) is represented by Jason Moore, a Marxist sociologist known above all for having developed the analysis of the world-system proposed by Giovanni Arrighi and Immanuel Wallerstein in the direction of an in-depth approach to environmental issues. This led to world-ecology, a proposal according to which capitalism does not have an ecological regime but is itself an ecological regime, that is, a specific way of organizing nature. Beyond any residue of Cartesian dualism, the concept of world-ecology refers to an original mixture of social dynamics and natural elements that make up the capitalist mode of production in its historical development, in its tendency to become a world-market. In this framework, the capitalist theory of value imposes space as flat and geometric, time as homogeneous and linear, nature as external, infinite, and free.

In particular, the notion of abstract social nature allows us to better understand the specific terms through which "nature" is internalized in the valorization process as an enabling yet invisible limit—that is, a necessary condition for capital and wage labor to meet, but not a factor directly involved in the act of creating value. Moore identifies the epochal transition from land to work as the primary source of productivity, which took place during the long sixteenth century, the conditio sine qua non for the internalization of nature into value. What does this mean? It means that, for valorization to occur, the vital activities of which nature is an expression must be transformed in such a way as to conform to the logic of value. A framework emerges that, schematically, we can summarize as follows: abstract social labor—that is, wage-labor organized by capital and measured in discrete units of labor time—is the only source of value located in the sphere of production. However, for the mechanisms of value-creation (which Moore defines as the area of commodification or accumulation by capitalization) to be set in motion, it is necessary that a large amount of unpaid (and therefore unwaged) labor be made available to capital. Moore calls this movement accumulation by appropriation: it defines the sphere of abstract social nature in which the elements traditionally relegated to the sphere of reproduction (housework, slave work, environmental “free gifts”) converge. These subjects of reproduction, it is worth reiterating, can function as a condition for value only on the condition that they are “accounted for” as infinite and free (again: enabling yet invisible).

To sum up:

- Capitalist technics seek to mobilize and to appropriate the (unpaid) “forces of nature” so as to make the (paid) “forces of labor” productive in their modern form (the production of surplus value). This is the significance of the production of nature; nature is not a pre-formed object for capital, but a web of relations that capital reshapes so as to advance the contributions of unpaid biospheric “work” for capital accumulation. Capital, in so doing, is reshaped by nature as a whole. (Moore, 2014, p. 295)

A good example of Moore's argumentative strategy is represented by coal: through WE it is possible to accurately reconstruct how the social relations that emerged starting from the sixteenth century transformed coal from simple rock into fossil fuel, as well as the set of biological, physical and geological knowledge necessary to make the very concept of “fuel” conceivable/usable. It follows that the development of production based on coal would have been inconceivable apart from the value relations established in early modernity: “the prejudice of green materialism tells us that ‘coal changed the world.’ But is not the reverse formulation more plausible? New commodity relationships transformed coal (at the same time activating its epochal power)” (Moore, 2017, pp. 53-54)."



Jason W. Moore and Raj Patel:

"Our view of capitalism is part of a perspective that we call world-ecology. World-ecology has emerged in recent years as a way to think through human history in the web of life. Rather than begin with the separation of humans from the web of life, we ask questions about how humans — and human arrangements of power and violence, work and inequality — fit within nature. Capitalism is not just part of an ecology but is an ecology — a set of relationships integrating power, capital and nature. So when we write — and hyphenate — world-ecology, we draw on older traditions of “world-systems” to say that capitalism creates an ecology that expands over the planet through its frontiers, driven by forces of endless accumulation.

To say world-ecology is not, therefore, to invoke the “ecology of the world” but to suggest an analysis that shows how relations of power, production and reproduction work through the web of life. The idea of world-ecology allows us to see how the modern world’s violent and exploitative relationships are rooted in five centuries of capitalism and also how these unequal arrangements — even those that appear timeless and necessary today — are contingent and in the midst of unprecedented crisis. World-ecology, then, offers something more than a different view of capitalism, nature and possible futures. It offers a way of seeing how humans make environments and environments make humans through the long sweep of modern history.

This opens space for us to reconsider how the ways that we have been schooled to think of change — ecological, economic, and all the rest — are themselves implicated in today’s crises. That space is crucial if we are to understand the relationship between naming and acting on the world. Movements for social justice have long insisted on “naming the system” because the relationships among thought, language and emancipation are intimate and fundamental to power. World-ecology allows us to see how concepts we take for granted — like Nature and Society — are problems not just because they obscure actual life and history but because they emerged out of the violence of colonial and capitalist practice.

Modern concepts of Nature and Society were born in Europe in the sixteenth century. These master concepts were not only formed in close relation to the dispossession of peasants in the colonies and in Europe but also themselves used as instruments of dispossession and genocide. The Nature/Society split was fundamental to a new, modern cosmology in which space was flat, time was linear and nature was external. That we are usually unaware of this bloody history — one that includes the early-modern expulsions of most women, Indigenous Peoples and Africans from humanity — is testimony to modernity’s extraordinary capacity to make us forget.

World-ecology therefore commits not only to rethinking but to remembering. Too often we attribute capitalism’s devastation of life and environments to economic rapaciousness alone, when much of capitalism cannot be reduced to economics. Contrary to neoliberal claptrap, businesses and markets are ineffective at doing most of what makes capitalism run. Cultures, states and scientific complexes must work to keep humans obedient to norms of gender, race and class. New resource geographies need to be mapped and secured, mounting debts repaid, coin defended. World-ecology offers a way to recognize this, to remember — and see anew — the lives and labors of humans and other natures in the web of life."


More Information

  1. World-Ecological Surplus
  2. World-Ecological Regimes
  3. Jason Moore

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