I also attended the last session listed in the program at the ASSA at 2:30 on Sunday, an URPE session on “Ecology, the Environment, and Energy,” chaired by Paul Cooney. He presented on “Marxism and Ecological Economics: An Assessment of the Past, Present, and Future.” Lynne Chester presented on “Energy and Social Ontology: Can Social Ontology Provide Insight?” Finally Ann Davis presented on “”‘Home on the Range:’ Integrating the Household and Ecology.” There were a lot of interesting ideas in these talks, and there was a vigorous discussion about them involving the audience.
What I want to present here is not anything in particular from the talks, but rather a remark from probably the most insightful commenter in the audience. That was my old friend, David Barkin, who has lived in Mexico for a long time and is at Metropolitan University in Mexico City. Long an expert on Mexican agriculture, he has in more recent years written a lot on ecological economics from a radical perspective.
Near the end of the session as the discussion was going on about all the papers, he brought up an idea I was unaware of previously, although it has been around for awhile. It is due to the late German Marxist political scientist, Elmar Altvater, who first became known for writing on environmental problems in the Soviet Union.
So the concept he introduced is that rather than the world being in the “Anthropocene,” we are in the “Capitalocen.e.” We may have been the former since humanity first emerged as a species and began heavily impacting the environment, including through bringing about species extinctions. But in the last several hundred years we have moved into this much more damaging system of the Capitalocene.
This is a serious and challenging idea.