Malm believes there can be a “flow” based industrial civilization but that capitalism “opted” for fossil fuel because its give leverage against workers. He like Meikins Wood and Brenner focuses on Britain not giving attention to capitalist development in colonies and merchant capital expansion. For Malm capitalism starts at one location and envelops the world in its logic, similar to Enlightenment conceptions of history, Malm just reverses this and sees it as a catastrophe. “Malm shows little interest in other drivers of extinction and eco-system breakdown”. The problems is not industrialisation and “global regime of economic and ecological violence” but rather capitalisms energy regime. There’s no broader discussion of technology other than as instruments of social domination and having unintentional environmental effects. He praises carbon storage technologies but reject non-modern existing technologies like agroecology, restorative agriculture, and permaculture.
Malm takes humanity for granted and does not ask the question: “what is humanity?”. His sharp distinction between man and nature also showers that he’s not taken the question of anthropogenesis seriously. It excludes does who’re traditionally seen as closer to nature, reproducing a “Christian” dualist view of the world. And even more so it reproduces the categories of abstraction that might be related to commodity exchange. His policy proposals show a clear disregard for existing practices and forms of life that might have another relation to “nature” than fossil capital. The global south is seen as a possible instigator of social revolution, but at the same time the existing ecofriendly technologies are rejected. We need amodern technologies as much as we need modern ones. “[T] epic reduction of agency to human intentionality, which is meant to spur us into action, diverts our attention from the ‘non-intentional’ conditions of agency.”
He does not engage with how our imperial mode of living must be uprooted and what that would entail. Social democratic policies like a Green New Deal run up against the problem of capitalist profitability needed for a tax base. This problem is not confided but neither is the inherent problems of a Green New Deal concerning resource extraction and destructive growth.
Malm furthers a ecological “Leninism” where the state should be the one that stops capitalism. Its a form of tragic instrumentalism where we cannot escape the grasp of the state and are thus unable to produce a pluralist politics. In the same vein Malm does not consider the conditions of Leninism, there is the will but nothing about the class composition in which he rose. Malms rejection of mutual aid is also deeply troweling as this is some of the most successful revolutionary movements base.
We must rather turn to a salvage communism, learning to live in the ruins of capitalism and reject capitalist modernity while not succumbing to national-ethnic culture. Amílcar Carbel as another form of ecological hero is an interesting proposal. He studied land, and made connections between contemporary agronomy and local technologies, show where the colonisers were vulnerable to attack, making possible a guerilla movement. “Cabral provides us with an image of the ecological revolutionary: they engage in militant inquiry, situate themselves in relation to both land an people, and connect technologies without presuming the superiority of the most ‘modern’. And they pursue a strategy that is both militant and sensitive to the task of suturing the metabolic rifts caused by exploitation and extractivism. This is a politics appropriate to the rubble of the ongoing catastrophe, but considered not merely as a space of ruin and victimhood, but as territories of survival and resistance.