Ethnographies of Accommodation and Resistance
Edited by Rob Lambert and Andrew Herod
This chapter illustrates how ecological degradation is deepening the experience of precarity under contemporary capitalism. Connecting ecological degradation with social and economic insecurity, we want to suggest, is important, for the reach of capitalist-produced precarity extends far beyond work and living conditions. Thus, as Sweeney (2012, p._13) has averred, the ‘same economic system that abuses and commodifies the environment also abuses people, animals, and all organic life’. This is because nature and capitalism are inexorably entwined, with capitalism impacting ecosystems in ways that are different from those under other modes of production (Smith 1984). Hence, nature provides the raw materials which the capitalist labour process converts into commodities in the search for profit, with any associated environmental destruction frequently viewed as an ‘external cost’ that is usually not included in the price of securing these raw materials from the Earth. Equally, various locations on the Earth’s surface serve as repositories for such commodities after they are discarded because their use value has been exhausted or, often more frequently, because they cannot be sold at a profit. The nature of the class system under capitalism means that such dumping places are usually close to poor neighbourhoods or, in the case of toxic and e-waste, are often relegated to the Global South. Given how interconnected are capitalism and nature, the ecological precarity that capitalism is presently generating is a dramatic indicator of an economic system very much in crisis.
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