Université de Strasbourg

Fellows Seminar - Social metabolism and the geological foundations of capitalist accumulation

March 29, 2022
From 12:00 until 14:00
MISHA, Strasbourg

Credit: Garth Lenz

By Franck Fischbach and Éric Pineault, 2020 Fellows

Recent advances in socio-metabolic research have highlighted the material base of stocks and flows implied in the economic growth of capitalist societies (Haberl et al. 2017, Görg et al. 2019). Both mass flows and material stock accumulation of artifacts, built structures and infrastructures show a distinctive « J » type growth pattern with an inflexion point of exponential growth around 1950. Prior to 1950, those economies having experienced an industrial revolution still had growth rates that were unattainable to pre-capitalist agrarian economies with a metabolism based on the production and harvest of an ecological surplus.

We will begin by a presentation of some of the salient features of the capitalist metabolic regime based on fossil fuels and mediated by geological stocks. This will set the empirical decor for a typology of the phases of capitalist metabolism and their specific material and institutional drivers that is built around these two distinctive growth patterns, the linear pattern before 1950 and the exponential pattern after 1950. We will conclude our presentation with a discussion of how capitalist economies have reacted to their « geological contradictions » and what this means for a politics of transition and mitigation of climate change.








The day after the seminar, on 30 March 2022, a colloquium « Temps de la nature - histoire du capital », is being organised in the framework of the USIAS project. Click on the image for the programme and additional details.

Programme colloque

France 2030