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2 Critical Hist. Stud. 1 (2015)

handle is hein.journals/chstd2 and id is 1 raw text is: 

Cheap Food and Bad Climate: From Surplus

Value to Negative Value in the Capitalist


Jason  W. Moore,   Binghamton  University

Capitalism, understood as a world-ecology that joins accumulation, power, and
nature in dialectical unity, has been adept at evading so-called Malthusian dy-
namics through an astonishing historical capacity to produce, locate, and occupy
cheap natures external to the system. In recent decades, the last frontiers have
closed, and this astonishing historical capacity has withered. This withering is
perhaps most evident in capitalism's failure to offer a new, actually productive,
agricultural model-as  agrobiotechnology failed to deliver on its promissory
notes. Moving from bad to worse, a second set of contradictions is now mediated
through climate change. Climate change, one among  many  ongoing  biospheric
shifts, is interwoven with the totality of neoliberal agriculture's contradictions
to produce a new  contradiction: negative value. This signals the emergence of
forms of nature that are increasingly hostile to capital accumulation and that can
be temporarily fixed (if at all) only through increasingly costly, toxic, and danger-
ous strategies. The rise of negative value-whose accumulation has been latent
for much  of capitalist history-therefore suggests a significant and rapid erosion
of opportunities for the appropriation of new streams of unpaid work/energy. As
such, these new limits are qualitatively different from the nutrient and resource
depletion of earlier, developmental crises of the longue dure Cheap Food model.
These contradictions, within capital, arising from negative value, are today en-
couraging an unprecedented  shift toward a radical ontological politics, within

Special thanks to William H. Sewell Jr. and four anonymous reviewers, and to Diana C. Gildea,
Christian Parenti, Richard Walker, Harriet Friedmann, Henry Bernstein, Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Phil
McMichael, Joshua Bichen, Ben Marley, Jay Bolthouse, Vishrut Arya, Manuel Francisco Varo, Alvin
Camba, Roberto J. Ortiz, and Christopher Cox for conversations and correspondence on this article and
its themes.

Critical Historical Studies (Spring 2015). 0 2015 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

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