Without a Popular Movement We Don't Stand a Chance: Andreas Malm on Climate Change

Malm, Andreas; Landstrom, Rasmus
Date Written:  2018-02-05
Publisher:  Climate & Capitalism
Year Published:  2018
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX21996

An interview with the author of "Fossil Capital and The Progress of This Storm", who says there are reasons to be hopeful but significant progress will require a global movement of unprecedented scale.



Malm presented his dissertation Fossil Capital in 2014, at Swedens' Lund University. The book is a tome of 797 pages in total, and a breakthrough in the debate on climate change. I read it myself when it was newly published, and it gave me an epiphany. In it Malm claims that, even by the mid 19th century it was far from given that the global economy would come to be dominated by fossil fuel. Based on a massive amount of empirical data, Malm showed that the eventual breakthrough of coal power was not due to its efficacy as a power source, but because it made controlling the workforce much easier. While hydro power - which at the time was both cheaper and more energy-efficient - was tied to certain locations of rivers in open landscapes, steam engines could be set up in towns and cities, where there an infrastructure of schools, poor houses and police forces was already in place. This in the long run made it easier for capitalists to exploit the work force and guarantee their profits.

The conclusions of the dissertation were revolutionizing: capitalism and the fossil economy are much more intertwined than we had hitherto imagined. Thus Malm's worked opened for research within the field now known as Capitalocene - his research inspired Naomi Klein in her writing This Changes Everything.

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