Publication Details

DiMuzio, T. (2010). Capitalizing a future unsustainable: global energy and the fate of market civilization. XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology: Sociology on the Move, Gothenburg, Sweden, 11-17 July (p. 121). United States: International Sociological Association.

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XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology


Liberal capitalist polities are being held up as the ultimate civilizational achievement precisely at a point in time when the energy intensive built environments & rampant & senseless consumerism of these societies are threatened by ecological devastation & the coming end of cheap & abundant fuel. Throughout the twentieth century this pattern of high energy consumption social reproduction was largely shaped by the global energy industry & the industries it spawned and/or allowed to flourish. Yet due to a number of foreseeable, if not entirely predictable, future obstacles & challenges, this blueprint of development seems doomed to failure. However, despite some recognition of these challenges & the recent worldwide collapse in capitalization, it appears as though investors are continuing to capitalize this unsustainable future. In this paper I use a power theory of value approach to critically assess how far & in what ways the global energy industry is continuing to shape & reshape the terrain of social reproduction & governance towards an unsustainable future. In the first section of this paper I historicize the emergence of a more fully globalized market civilization by putting it in the context of the discovery of fossil fuel energy & how this resource has been integral to the “modernization” project of the twentieth century. In the ensuing sections, I outline the power theory of value of Nitzan & Bichler and argue that this perspective can help us account for the rise of a petro-market civilization. This sets the stage for a final section which offers an analysis of the oil & gas industry vis à vis the alternative energy sector of the global economy.