Things Taken as Given?: Economy, Governance, and Moral Ordering Workshop

A June 2022 Birmingham Research Institute for History and Cultures (BRIHC) workshop, organised by Kate Skinner and Simon Yarrow.

Book covers for Fossil Capital and Anthropocene or Capitalocene?

The conference explored the constraints that deeply shape our economic imaginations and how these might be overcome in order to answer the current climate and economic crises.

A key feature of the workshop was the keynote lecture given by Milinda Banerjee (St Andrews) titled ‘Against the Capitalocene: From Subaltern Community to Multispecies Democracy’. Dr Banerjee argued that the current ecological crisis – global warming, environmental degradation, sixth mass extinction – is a crisis of capitalism: a result of the unbridled commodification of human and nonhuman beings. The Capitalocene era marks the triumph of abstract monetary value, of profit-accumulation, over other values and ontologies. Simultaneously, from Dalit and Adivasi movements in India, to Indigenous politics from the Americas to New Zealand, subaltern-community activism has been at the forefront of the global battle against capital. To pursue the long genealogies of this politics, Dr Banerjee drew an arc from early modern Indo-Islamic frameworks of multispecies constitutionalism, through colonial-era peasant discourses about value, labour, capital, and community, to contemporary Bhutanese conceptualizations of multibeing demos. Dr Banerjee concluded that subaltern community forms, rather than middle class activism or welfare state policies, offer the most durable pathways to overcome the capitalist value form and commodity form, and thereby activate multispecies democracy.