Contextualising Complex Systems: Modes of Production and Social-Ecological Metabolism

  • Eoin Flaherty


This chapter takes forward questions of the social properties of systems, arguing that a full appreciation of social context – in its broadest historical sense – is always needed when dealing with ‘human’ variables. We introduce Marxian historical materialism, and the concept of ‘mode of production’ as a device to typify social systems as historical entities with their own internal logics, defining characteristics, and complex trajectories of development. Having established a general context, we introduce a strain of Marxian ecological thought which has sought to recover the concept of ‘metabolic rift’ from Marx’s work. This concept deals with the drivers of resource inequalities resulting from social changes induced during the transition to capitalism, which persist to this day in various forms. Our review argues that this more middle-range approach to social-ecological metabolism lends itself more readily to application.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Eoin Flaherty
    • 1
  1. 1.SociologyUniversity College DublinDublinUK

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