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Social theory, energy and capitalism

Instructor(s): Neil Brenner
Fall 2022

This interdisciplinary Ph.D. seminar considers some of the major theoretical approaches to energy as a formative dimension of global capitalism, with a particular emphasis on its political-institutional mediations, its spatial expressions, and its environmental dimensions, from the microbiological to the planetary scales. The seminar devotes particular attention to the problematique of “fossil capital” (Andreas Malm) and to the energetic dimensions of the Capitalocene, an epoch of historical time in which the dynamics, contradictions and crisis tendencies of capital have fundamentally reshaped planetary conditions. Part One considers various approaches to theorizing such issues. Part Two considers the historical-geographical dynamics of fossil capital as energy regime, politico-spatial project and socio-environmental force. Part Three considers contemporary debates on energy transitions and the historical political geographies of prospective “green” transitions. The seminar will cover key texts in this field in depth, introducing doctoral students to foundational perspectives, debates, methods and horizons for research, offering useful foundations for more specialized research.

SOCI 50131 | CCCT 50131