Green capitalism: A dangerous liaison

Date of Completion

January 2001


Sociology, Theory and Methods|Political Science, General|Environmental Sciences




Capitalism goes green, not just for appearance, but by calculation. This dissertation explores if and how the greening of capitalism has altered in any way the basic structure of capitalism and how far capitalism can even legitimately be connected to greenism. ^ Green capitalism is explored through two perspectives—a Foucaultian critique on the problematization of the ecological crisis and a Marxist analysis on the modus operandi of green capitalism. On the one hand, this dissertation examines the inextricable elements of social power, knowledge, and values, in identifying what we call “the ecological crisis.” It highlights the disciplinary mechanism capitalism exercises on green movements, the capillary mode of power that defines ecological degradation exclusively in terms of capitalist discourses. On the other hand, this dissertation explicates green capitalism as constructed in a specific process following the straining nexus of capital-nature-labor which replaces the traditional antinomy between capital and labor. It studies the extent to which the greening of capitalism gratifies capitalist imperatives that demand the radical extension of privatization into previously unclaimed spheres of nature. In short, this study addresses the question, “whither capitalism, faced with ecological limits?” ^ The capitalist accommodation of greenism proves, paradoxically, the imminent catastrophe of capitalism. This dissertation clarifies how greenism remains in complicity with the sustainability of capital against nature, not of man in nature. Environmentalism prods capitalism to a reflective recognition of its own limits, while ecologism dilutes everyday struggles in the fantasies of back-to-nature claims. The illusion that capitalism can be either enlightened or ignored constitutes a familiar formula of reformism: the voluntary future for a given past. This dissertation contends that the advance of greenism itself mirrors the capitalist response to ecological challenges; that green capitalism, far from solving the nature question, is a recipe for its aggravation; and that capitalism paves the way for its death knell by greening itself. The dissertation envisions the green society—ecologically viable, socially just, and politically feasible—through the displacement of capitalism, not through a greenism that either attempts to sublimate the indomitable practices of capitalism, or applies a green cosmetic onto the addictive system. ^