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Beyond Green Capitalism: Social–Ecological Transformation and Perspectives of a Global Green-Left

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Abstract

Given certain reactions to the ecological crisis as part of the multiple crisis of capitalism (like the so-called energy transition in Germany), a new mode of development might emerge which can be called green capitalism. This would shift the terrain of social critique and emancipatory social struggles. The paper introduces the debate on “social–ecological transformation” which emerged as a radical part of a more comprehensive debate on “great” or “societal transformation” and highlights its core issues: the issue of a necessary attractive mode of production and living for all, the role of pioneers of change and changing political and economic institutions, the acknowledgment of shifting social practices, the requirement for alternative imaginaries or “stories” of a good life as part of a contested process which is called “futuring.” As an example for alternative imaginaries, the current debate on “degrowth” is outlined and evaluated. The second part of the paper focuses more concretely on issues around the formation and existence of a global green-left. After mentioning a crucial problem for any global alternative—i.e., the structural feature of economic and geopolitical competition which historically divided the global Left and pulled it into compromises at national or regional scales—four requirements or characteristics of a global green-left are highlighted: to weaken and change capitalistically driven competition and competitiveness, to push a social–ecological transformation in democratic ways and not at the back of ordinary people (like conservative and liberal proposals for transformation tend to do), to link more systematically green issues with labor issues and, finally, to transform the overall dispositive of political action from a “distributive” to a “transformative Left.” One dimension of such an enhancement, it is concluded, is a broader understanding of the “economy” itself by acknowledging the demands and achievements of a “care revolution” which will be crucial for an alternative mode of production and living.

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Notes

  1. Of course, there are also conservative or NIMBY (not in my backyard) approaches.

  2. Given this constellation, Mitchell argues, it is hard to imagine that liberal democracy will be able to overcome the fossilist mode of production.

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Correspondence to Ulrich Brand.

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This article is based on two lectures I held at Remnin University (Beijing) and Fudan University (Shanghai) in April 2015. I would like to thank the Beijing office of Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and here especially Lutz Pohle and Sun Wei, my hosts at Remnin and Fudan Universities as well as Prof. Huan Qingzhi from Peking University. During the manifold discussions in China, I got a lot of food for thought which already entered into the arguments developed in the last part of this article.

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Brand, U. Beyond Green Capitalism: Social–Ecological Transformation and Perspectives of a Global Green-Left. Fudan J. Hum. Soc. Sci. 9, 91–105 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40647-015-0096-5

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