Friday, April 13, 2018

Has (even Marxist) political ecology really transcended the metabolic rift?

A brief article advocating for stronger engagement with the concept of metabolic rift in political ecology that I authored together with several colleagues was just published in Geoforum. In this article, we address several of the criticisms of metabolic-rift scholarship that have been made in political ecology by explicating some basic aspects of the concept's underlying materialist dialectic and contrasting this with some of the predominant post-modernist theorization in political ecology. The article details are provided below.

Has (even Marxist) political ecology really transcended the metabolic rift?

Brian M. Napoletano, Pedro S. Urquijo, Jaime Paneque-Gálvez, Brett Clark, Richard York, Iván Franch-Pardo, Yadira Méndez-Lemus, Antonio Vieyra

Geoforum 2018 92:92-95
DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2018.04.008

Abstract
Marx’s concept of metabolic rift has emerged as an important category in ecological Marxism, but has received relatively little attention in political ecology. This appears to reflect a combination of confusion regarding the conceptual basis of metabolic rift and theoretical antagonisms between its materialist dialectic and dominant post-humanist approaches in hybridist political ecology. In this essay, we argue that stronger engagement with metabolic-rift scholarship in political ecology could strengthen work in both areas. We briefly outline the possibilities for such engagement by first clarifying some of the conceptual confusion regarding the metabolic rift and its material-dialectical approach to human alienation and the socio-ecological contradictions and crises of capital accumulation and human development within capitalism. We then briefly discuss some of the key points of contention between this approach and dominant hybridist paradigms in political ecology. We conclude that, despite these conflicts, the concept of metabolic rift could provide essential critical contributions to political ecology's explanatory and emancipatory efforts.