By Kieron L Jones, on 21 December 2011
Beneath the present financial crisis, modern global capitalism faces deeper anxieties. Climate change threatens irreparable damage to ecosystems and human societies, while rising prices of energy, food and commodities indicate that the expansion of supply and improvements in resource productivity are not keeping pace with the growth of global demand, particularly in the emerging economies. At the same time consumption growth in the industrialised world has gone into reverse, as historically low savings ratios are raised, debts are repaid and average household income declines. At a deeper level indices of social wellbeing indicate an inchoate dissatisfaction with the patterns of consumption of the long boom, where public and cultural goods of various kinds – including equality and social cohesion – have been traded off against private material demand.
These (contested) challenges to contemporary capitalism ought to provide a political opening for ‘progressive’ forces. Yet social democratic parties, in the UK and elsewhere, have struggled to benefit from the crisis. The failures of office have been accompanied by an inability sufficiently to distinguish a progressive version of capitalism from a conservative one. In this context there would appear to be a unique opportunity for ‘green’ politics, whose critique of the environmental limits to growth and the costs of consumption now look prescient. Yet the ingrained utopianism of green political thought, and the weak social base of environmental movements, have historically prevented their emergence as a transformative political force. Could a synthesis of the green and social democratic political traditions offer a more convincing political prospect?
In his first lecture as Visiting Professor in UCL Political Science and the UCL School of Public Policy, Michael Jacobs will offer some reflections on the nature of the current crisis and the challenges it raises for progressive political economy and political theory. Andrew Simm (new economics foundation) will act as discussant.
Michael Jacobs is Visiting Professor in UCL Political Science and the UCL School of Public Policy. Author of The Green Economy and The Politics of the Real World and editor of Greening The Millennium: The New Politics of the Environment, he was Special Adviser at the Treasury and 10 Downing St for six years until 2010.
Andrew Simms, new economics foundation
Professor Wyn Grant, Professor of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick
The event will be chaired by Professor Paul Ekins, UCL Energy Institute.
Organised by UCL Public Policy
5pm, 1 March 2012
Sir David Davies Lecture Theatre
Followed by a drinks reception in the Roberts Foyer
To register for this event or to read more about UCL Public Policy, please see our website.