Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming (Paperback)

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The origin point of the climate crisis -- Great Britain's switch from the water wheel to coal and steam power -- was not the result of an effort to make energy cheaper. Rather, Malm argues here, the change gave the owners of the mines absolute control over energy production, no longer tied down by nature or by the needs of laborers. A brilliant and convincing analysis of the near hegemonic power of capital, wherein Malm argues that only a total system change can end its reign of ecological destruction.

— From Tony


How capitalism first promoted fossil fuels with the rise of steam power

The more we know about the catastrophic implications of climate change, the more fossil fuels we burn. How did we end up in this mess? In this masterful new history, Andreas Malm claims it all began in Britain with the rise of steam power. But why did manufacturers turn from traditional sources of power, notably water mills, to an engine fired by coal? Contrary to established views, steam offered neither cheaper nor more abundant energy--but rather superior control of subordinate labour. Animated by fossil fuels, capital could concentrate production at the most profitable sites and during the most convenient hours, as it continues to do today. Sweeping from nineteenth-century Manchester to the emissions explosion in China, from the original triumph of coal to the stalled shift to renewables, this study hones in on the burning heart of capital and demonstrates, in unprecedented depth, that turning down the heat will mean a radical overthrow of the current economic order.

About the Author

Andreas Malm teaches human ecology at Lund University, Sweden. His work has appeared in journals such as Environmental History, Historical Materialism, Antipode and Organization & Environment. He is the author, with Shora Esmailian, of Iran on the Brink: Rising Workers and Threats of War, and of half a dozen books in Swedish on political economy, the Middle East and climate change.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781784781293
ISBN-10: 1784781290
Publisher: Verso
Publication Date: January 12th, 2016
Pages: 496
Language: English