Skip to main content


Log in

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

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences Aims and scope Submit manuscript


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  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.


  • Biesecker, Adelheid, and Sabine Hofmeister. 2010. (Re)productivity: Sustainable relations both between society and nature and between the genders. Ecological Economics 69(8): 1703–1711.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brand, Ulrich, and Markus Wissen. 2013. Crisis and continuity of capitalist society–nature relationships. The imperial mode of living and the limits to environmental governance. Review of International Political Economy 20(4): 687–711.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brand, Ulrich, and Markus Wissen. 2015. Social–ecological transformation. In International encyclopedia of geography. People, the earth, environment, and technology, ed. Noel Castree, Michael Goodchild, Weidong Liu, Audrey Kobayashi, Richard Marston, and Douglas Richardson. Hoboken: Wiley/Association of American Geographers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brand, Ulrich, Christoph Görg, and Markus Wissen. 2011. Second-order condensations of societal power relations. Environmental politics and the internationalization of the state from a neo-poulantzian perspective. Antipode 43(1): 149–175.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Demirović, Alex. 1997. Demokratie und Herrschaft. Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gallas, Alexander, Lars Bretthauer, John Kannankulam, and Ingo Stützle (eds.). 2011. Reading poulantzas. London: Merling Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gramsci, Antonio. 1991. In Prison notebooks, German Edition (Gefängnishefte), ed. Klaus Bochmann and Wolfgang Fritz Haug. Hamburg/Berlin: Argument.

  • Hirsch, Joachim. 1994. Politische form, politische Institutionen und Staat. In Politik, Institutionen und Staat. Zur Kritik der Regulationstheorie, ed. Josef Esser, Christoph Görg, and Joarchim Hisch, 157–212. Hamburg: VSA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Huan, Qingzhi. 2014. Development of the red-green environmental movement in china: A preliminary analysis. Capitalism Nature Socialism 22(3): 45–60.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kallis, Giorgos. 2011. In defence of degrowth. Ecological Economics 70(5): 873–880.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Klein, Dieter. 2013. Das Morgen tanzt im Heute. Transformation im Kapitalismus und über ihn hinaus. Hamburg: VSA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marx, Karl. 1977[1867]. Capital. A critique of political economy, vol. I. New York: International (quoted from the German edition, Marx-Engels-Werke 23, Berlin: Dietz).

  • Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. 1969 [1845–1846]. The German ideology. New York: International (quoted from the German edition, Marx-Engels-Werke 3, Berlin: Dietz).

  • Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. 1998 [1848]. The communist manifesto. In The communist manifesto now, socialist register, ed. Leo Panitch and Colin Leys, 240–268. London/New York: Merlin Press.

  • Mitchell, Timothy. 2011. Carbon democracy. Political power in the age of oil. London/New York: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

  • Revelli, Marco. 1999. Die gesellschaftliche Linke. Jenseits der Zivilisation der Arbeit. Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rilling, Rainer. 2014. Transformationals futuring. In Futuring. Perspektiven der Tranformation im Kapitalismus und über ihn hinaus, ed. Michael Brie, 12–48. Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schneider, Francois, Giorgos Kallis, and Joan Martinez Alier. 2010. Crisis or opportunity? Economic degrowth for social equity and ecological sustainability. Journal of Cleaner Production 18(6): 511–518.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thie, Hans. 2013. Rotes Grün. Pioniere und Prinzipien einer ökologischen Gesellschaft. Hamburg: VSA.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ulrich Brand.

Additional information

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.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Brand, U. Beyond Green Capitalism: Social–Ecological Transformation and Perspectives of a Global Green-Left. Fudan J. Hum. Soc. Sci. 9, 91–105 (2016).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: