Economic growth, progress, industry and, erm, stuff have all come in for a sharp kicking from the green left and beyond in recent years. Everyone from black-hoodied Starbucks window-smashers to farmers' market heirloom-tomato-mongers to Prince Charles himself seem to be embracing 'degrowth' and anti-consumerism, which is nothing less than a form of ecological austerity. Meanwhile, the back-to-the-land ideology and aesthetic of locally-woven organic carrot-pants, pathogen-encrusted compost toilets and civilisational collapse is hegemonic. Yet modernity is not the cause of climate change and the wider biocrisis. It is indeed capitalism that is the source of our environmental woes, but capitalism as a mode of production, not the fuzzy understanding of capitalism of Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Derrick Jensen, Paul Kingsnorth and their anarcho-liberal epigones as a sort of globalist corporate malfeasance. In combative and puckish style, science journalist Leigh Phillips marshals evidence from climate science, ecology, paleoanthropology, agronomy, microbiology, psychology, history, the philosophy of mathematics, and heterodox economics to argue that progressives must rediscover their historic, Promethean ambitions and counter this reactionary neo-Malthusian ideology that not only retards human flourishing, but won't save the planet anyway. We want to take over the machine and run it rationally, not turn the machine off.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Phillips provides one of the few voices to outline what I call a "climate-stabilized modernity". Today we have denialists on the right, and on the left many who would seek to undermine modern society altogether. In contrast Phillips calls for a centrist and democratic activism designed to maintain and extend the best of civilization, while rapidly installing the infrastructure of a post-carbon world.
His use of the "democratically planned economy" concept needs study and perhaps revision. Intensively planned economics can become stifling, but that is not to say governments cannot or should not attempt to tailor market activities to foster low-carbon outcomes. Definitely a nexus for vigorous debate.
Overall an important addition to the literature related to climate action. Highly recommended.
Phillips does an excellent job of critiquing the hair shirt Malthusian Green Austerity that has come to dominate the environmental movement. In a breezy yet well researched style, Phillips challenges the conventional wisdom that the standard of living of the working classes of the developed world have to be slashed to "save the planet". He also calls for the left to return to it's pro growth and pro progress roots. Well worth reading
(Review has been edited by a less frenzied, chagrined reviewer who wrote one in complete haste). Zero Books goes into murky territory, publishes Occupado-style primer that careens from left to center and back again, but is a strong polemic. Phillips has serious social science chops, but seems to be in the dreamy phase where all of humanity's problems can be managed to a wonderful betterment. Although the book initially enraged me, with its highly debatable assertion that humans have marvelous control over their political economy, and has some deeply disturbing tendencies to the "ecomodernist" Breakthrough Institute greenwashers, Phillips has the gift of courage and dedication, and he skewers much of the Jensenite ilk with panache. Phillips is not a righty, he is not a greenwasher, as I charged before, and he takes on extremely relevant and serious topics with verve, so he should be read widely with appreciation and engagement, as kind of a more cantankerous and...
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