Language, Climate Change, and Cities beyond Capitalism

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Appeals to the economy are often used to shut down substantive action on climate change. But exactly what is meant by the economy is rarely made explicit. In this paper, I draw on previously published research in ecological, feminist, and Marxist economics to argue that appeals to the economy are really appeals to capitalism. It is not an unchangeable set of economic laws that prevents climate action; rather, it is a set of stories and social relationships specific to capitalist ways of organizing economic activity. In theory, we can construct new laws and promote non-capitalist ways of organizing. But in practice, this is difficult because capitalism has enormous cultural power supported by the advertising industry and a lack of cultural depictions of alternatives to capitalism. Cities can undermine this cultural power by rethinking their advertising policy and using it to promote pro-social and pro-ecological ways of living rather than mass consumption. Cities can also produce cultural artefacts that name capitalism and alternatives to capitalism. In this way, cities can take on a radical educational role, helping their citizens to understand how they fit into both capitalist and non-capitalist modes of production, and organize for new economic structures that support substantive climate action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-188
Number of pages18
JournalThe Journal of City Climate Policy and Economy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2024

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© University of Toronto Press, 2023. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the University’s Research Publications and Open Access policy.

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