Disaster Making in the Capitalocene

Shannon O’Lear, Francis Masse, Hannah Dickinson, Rosaleen Duffy

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We live in a new normal of increasing, crosscutting, and shifting patterns of disasters fueled by large-scale environmental change, from floods to wildfires to pandemics. Our intervention in this forum piece makes the case that disasters, and responses to disasters, must be understood within the context of the global political-economic system of capitalism. We situate disasters, their making, and their politics within the Capitalocene and argue that disasters and the physical processes that underpin them are not natural: they are unevenly produced through, and exacerbated by, processes inherent in the capitalist system, with uneven consequences. We suggest that the predominantly techno-managerial approaches to disasters pursued within the neoliberal state and multilateral governance institution system reveal the tensions in addressing the causes of environmental change and the new normal of disasters under capitalism. We argue that through an engagement with the Capitalocene, environmental politics could further contribute to nuanced, critical understandings of disasters and their making in ways that foreground their in/justice implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-11
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal Environmental Politics
Issue number3
Early online date17 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


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