Open main menu

John Bellamy Foster

Sociology professor and Marxist writer

John Bellamy Foster (born August 15, 1953) is a professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and also editor of Monthly Review. He writes about political economy of capitalism and economic crisis, ecology and ecological crisis, and Marxist theory.


Interview with Left Voice (2017)Edit

A Resistance Movement for the Planet - Full Interview (July 02, 2017), Left Voice.
  • We are in an emergency situation in the Anthropocene epoch in which the disruption of the Earth system, particularly the climate, is threatening the planet as a place of human habitation. However, our political-economic system, capitalism, is geared primarily to the accumulation of capital, which prevents us from addressing this enormous challenge and accelerates the destruction. Natural scientists have done an excellent and courageous job of sounding the alarm on the enormous dangers of the continuation of business as usual with respect to carbon emissions and other planetary boundaries. But mainstream social science as it exists today has almost completely internalized capitalist ideology; so much so that conventional social scientists are completely unable to address the problem on the scale and in the historical terms that are necessary. They are accustomed to the view that society long ago “conquered” nature and that social science concerns only people-people relations, never people-nature relations. This feeds a denialism where Earth system-scale problems are concerned. Those mainstream social scientists who do address environmental issues more often than not do so as if we are dealing with fairly normal conditions, and not a planetary emergency, not a no-analogue situation. There can be no gradualist, ecomodernist answer to the dire ecological problems we face, because when looking at the human effect on the planet there is nothing gradual about it; it is a Great Acceleration and a rift in the Earth system. The problem is rising exponentially, while worsening even faster than that would suggest, because we are in the process of crossing all sorts critical thresholds and facing a bewildering number of tipping points.
  • Right now alternative energy is still treated as a supplement rather than a substitute for fossil fuels within the energy industry as presently constituted. The rapid growth of alternative energy should not therefore be seen as a radical break with the domination of fossil fuels. That still needs to occur.
  • We are on a runaway train headed over the climate cliff as we stoke the engine with more coal to increase its speed.
  • Unless we change ourselves as individuals and our culture—the way we relate to the earth—we can’t expect to make the overall changes in society that our necessary.
  • Marx once said that workers (and this would perhaps go for consumers even more) are in their purely economic action in a capitalist society always the weaker side, and therefore they need to organize politically.
  • Socialists have all too often failed to take ecological issues seriously enough. However, this is not a fault of socialists alone, as the fault applies even more to the liberal tradition taken as a whole. But whatever we choose to say about socialism in the twentieth century, it has to be emphasized that no one can be truly socialist and indeed Marxist in the twenty-first century and fail to acknowledge the full severity of the planetary ecological crisis. We are either at the forefront of the struggle to protect the earth as a place of human habitation (and as a home for innumerable species) or we are on the side of the system’s creative exterminism of the Earth system as we know it.
  • Capitalism imposes its laws of motion on the environment, irrespective of the biogeochemical cycles of the planet and the earth’s metabolism, so that it creates rifts or ruptures in the biogeochemical cycles of the Earth system, disrupting ecosystem relations in ways that transcend the mere scale-effects of economic growth. It is this problem of the metabolic rift that is our deepest challenge. Sustainability is more and more compromised at ever higher levels—a continually accelerating threat to civilization and life itself.
  • We are already facing growing catastrophes due to climate change. It is too late to avoid soaring temperatures, scarce water, and extreme weather. That ship has in many ways already sailed. The earth is going to be much less hospitable to human beings in the future.
  • What we need is courage and determination in facing up to seemingly insurmountable odds. What we have to do is not so difficult on the face of it, if we just look at the direct ecological measures that we need to take. What makes it seem like an insurmountable problem is the monstrosity of global capitalist society.
  • With Trump neofascism has entered the White House—its aim is a different way of managing the capitalist economy. It is both a break with neoliberalism and at the same time its successor on the right—a sign of the deep crisis of our times. Not only does the administration stand for climate denialism and has declared environmentalist enemies of the people, it is also threatening to undermine liberal democracy, and is attacking the racially oppressed, immigrants, women, LGBTQ people, environmentalists, and workers. The resistance movement to this thus needs to be a defense of humanity itself in all of its aspects.

External linksEdit