Power to the People (part 2)

Part 1

Andreas Malm’s lack of enthusiasm for cliometrics is a striking example of the historiographical unfashionability of Fossil Capital that I’m exploring in these two posts. He writes: “the inability to explain the transition [to steam] has been partly rooted in the obsession with counting nowadays so characteristic of the discipline of economic history” (p. 94). There are cultural and social factors that can’t be reduced to numbers, he says. He’s right, of course, and—again—he explores some of those factors brilliantly. But his thesis also involves a specific economic claim, where more “counting” would be welcome.  Continue reading “Power to the People (part 2)”


Power to the People (part 1)

Andreas Malm, Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming (London: Verso, 2016)

I’ve been very slow to read and blog about Malm’s indispensable book, almost entirely because of my own idleness but partly for another reason. Fossil Capital is a central contribution to the discourse on the Anthropocene, much though Malm himself dislikes the word. It’s rightly sparked a lot of discussion; even so, there’s certainly more to be said about it. It’s a book of large-scale political theory, yes, but it’s also the book of a PhD thesis. It’s an excellent book about the history of capitalism, but it’s a sensational book about the history of the British cotton industry, circa 1825–1850.  Continue reading “Power to the People (part 1)”

New Papers from the Anthropocene Working Group (no. 8)

Jan Zalasiewicz et al., “Scale and diversity of the physical technosphere: A geological perspective,” Anthropocene Review 4:1 (2017), 9–22

This is no longer actually a very new paper, but it’s an enjoyable one. It starts from Peter Haff’s conception of the technosphere, which I wrote about at length here. It asks: how big is the technosphere? The headline estimate is: human-originated technology has a total mass of about 30 trillion tonnes.  Continue reading “New Papers from the Anthropocene Working Group (no. 8)”