Alex StonerFollow

Journal Title/Source

Current Perspectives in Social Theory

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Journal Article


Sociology and Anthropology


This chapter explores the domestication of Marx’s critique of political economy within Marxist-oriented environmental sociology, and treadmill of production (ToP) theory, in particular. The aim is to explicate the theoretical resources for a rigorous critique of capital-induced planetary degradation. Shortcomings of ToP theory pertaining to the conceptualization of capital and value are identified. The reasons for these shortcomings, including how they might be addressed, are elaborated by reconsidering key aspects of Marx’s critical theory of modern capitalist society. The chapter contributes to current discussions in both critical theory and environmental sociology by demonstrating the continued relevance of Marx’s critical theory for understanding the political-economic, social, and ideational dimensions of planetary degradation. In contrast to ToP theory, which critically examines the production of wealth by counterposing finitude and limits against the expansionary tendencies of economic growth, the critical theory approach advanced in this chapter conceptualizes the acceleration of environmental degradation following World War II in terms of a ToP of value, whereby the necessity of the value form is continuously established in the present. The chapter discusses how Marxian critical theory facilitates a critical examination of the widespread growth of environmentalism as concomitant with the spread of neoliberal capitalism.