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School of Business and Management

Carbon Fetishism: Towards a Critical Theory of Climate Capitalism

When: Thursday, February 2, 2023, 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Where: Room LG6 in the Queens’ Building, Mile End campus

Speaker: Professor Steffen Böhm, University of Exeter Business School

The global climate crisis, which is now stark and clear to see, has brought together an alliance of social movements, NGOs, policymakers and progressive people within corporate sectors to instigate a transition towards ‘climate capitalism’. Climate capitalism’s response to the climate crisis is to commodify nature, in this case, carbon dioxide and a range of other greenhouse gases (GHG), buying and selling the commodity for profit.

In this paper, Professor Steffen Böhm analyses these developments through the lens of the term ‘fetishism’, which plays an important role in Marx’s understanding of the workings of capital as well as in Freud’s analyses of the human psyche. Critical theorists such as Benjamin and Adorno have been keen to synthesise Marxian and Freudian analyses for a long time, and this paper is the latest attempt to make such historical analyses relevant to today’s moment of crisis. Professor Böhm points out that what we are currently witnessing is the attempt to change capital’s accumulation as well as enjoyment practices, away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy, ‘net-zero’ and other ‘green growth’ imaginaries. This paper aims to develop concepts to help us understand and historically position these capital developments in the age of climate capitalism.

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