Concrete Natures; Concrete Possibilities

Michael Ekers
Alex Loftus
  King's College London


In this paper we consider the political possibilities in thinking more concretely about the production of space and nature. While recent debates have emphasised Marx’s critique of the violence of abstraction, we wish to consider the concrete as the product of many determinations. We will do this through revisiting Neil Smith’s discussion of the production of nature, considering the ways in which the second nature that Smith argues is produced through capitalist social relations mirrors Sohn Rethel’s discussion of the process of real abstraction. Nevertheless, in developing such a framework, Smith loses the historical and geographical depth and specificity that is necessary for thinking through alternatives to the capitalist production of nature. Turning to Diane Elson’s discussion of the value theory of labour we see possibilities for reconsidering how the "political problem is to bring together...private, concrete and social aspects of labour without the mediation of the value forms, so as to create particular, conscious collective activity directed against exploitation”. An environmental politics that moves beyond the abstractions of the Anthropocene and the Capitalocene needs an understanding of such concrete possibilities at its heart.

society-nature relations - abstract labour - concrete labour - anthropocene