Theory and Society

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 285–318 | Cite as

Metabolic rift or metabolic shift? dialectics, nature, and the world-historical method

  • Jason W. MooreEmail author


In the flowering of Red-Green Thought over the past two decades, metabolic rift thinking is surely one of its most colorful varieties. The metabolic rift has captured the imagination of critical environmental scholars, becoming a shorthand for capitalism’s troubled relations in the web of life. This article pursues an entwined critique and reconstruction: of metabolic rift thinking and the possibilities for a post-Cartesian perspective on historical change, the world-ecology conversation. Far from dismissing metabolic rift thinking, my intention is to affirm its dialectical core. At stake is not merely the mode of explanation within environmental sociology. The impasse of metabolic rift thinking is suggestive of wider problems across the environmental social sciences, now confronted by a double challenge. One of course is the widespread—and reasonable—sense of urgency to evolve modes of thought appropriate to an era of deepening biospheric instability. The second is the widely recognized—but inadequately internalized—understanding that humans are part of nature.


Environmental sociology Marx Political ecology Social theory World-ecology 



Special thanks to Henry Bernstein, Phil Campanile, Jennifer Casolo, Sharae Deckard, Phil McMichael, Mike Niblett, Christian Parenti, Raj Patel, Alan Rudy, Dale Tomich, Richard Walker, and Anna Zalik for conversations on metabolism and dialectics. I am especially grateful to Diana C. Gildea and my students at Binghamton University (and elsewhere) for ongoing conversations about the “singular metabolism” of the capitalist world-ecology: Jay Bolthouse, Alvin A. Camba, Joshua Eichen, Benjamin Marley, Roberto José Ortiz, Andy Pragacz, Kyle Gibson, and Christopher Cox.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyBinghamton UniversityBinghamtonUSA

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