Visiting Professorship - Nancy Fraser

Against the environmentalism of the rich. What capitalism’s history can teach us about ecopolitics.

May 5th, 2021

In the Online-Lecture of May 5th, Nancy Fraser deepened the argument of her Keynote of May 4th at the Inauguration of the Karl Polanyi Visiting Professorship. The second lecture historicized capitalism’s ecological contradiction.

“Ecological questions cannot be separated from questions of political power, on the one hand, nor from those of racial oppression, imperial domination and indigenous dispossession and genocide, on the other hand.”

Charting its passage through four socioecological regimes of accumulation, Fraser discloses a series of regime-specific impasses, never definitively resolved, but provisionally defused by temporary “fixes” that offload the damages onto subaltern communities. The effect is to uncover the pervasive entanglement of environmental despoliation with class, gender and racial-imperial domination in capitalist society. Canvassing the history of eco-resistance, she observes that efforts to protect “nature,” far from being free-standing, have almost always been integrated into broader struggles that focus as well on labor, social reproduction and political power. Unmasking single-issue ecologism as “the environmentalism of the rich,” she weighs the prospects for uniting proponents of environmental justice, degrowth, and a Green New Deal in a trans-environmental, anti-capitalist movement, whose goal could be called ecosocialism.