Dow, ‘Canada’s Carbon Capitalism: In the Age of Climate Change’

Dow, ‘Canada’s Carbon Capitalism: In the Age of Climate Change’

November 1, 2019


This historically and critically informed dissertation investigates the question why Canada has become one of the world’s leaders in promoting fossil fuels through its unconventional hydrocarbon industry in spite of the science and growing awareness of climate change. Using a critical historical political economy approach that encompasses both ecological or biophysical scientific realities and historical materialism, I examine this contradictory developmental trajectory as embedded in both the historical structures of everyday life and within Canadian and the wider global political economy.

This dissertation argues that Canada’s current situation should be understood in a broader context as a morbid symptom that is embedded within the current global organic and leadership crises, since current leadership appears to support the contradiction of supporting carbon-based globalized social reproduction and preventing climate change. In doing so, this dissertation critiques both fields of international and Canadian political economy for largely sidestepping the importance of energy and energy systems in the production and reproduction of the global political economy. Using the conceptual lenses of carbon capitalism, petro-market civilization, and social reproduction, I demonstrate that energy or energy systems are just as foundational and inseparable from labour, technology, capital and war in the making and remaking of the global political economy. I show how growing energy demand, the peaking of conventional oil, potential energy insecurities, and a debt-based monetary system perpetuates and is dependent on unlimited growth.

Moreover, I argue that the Canadian state and economy has become increasingly locked-in by disciplinary neoliberalism and the new constitutionalism – which are reforms, policies and laws that entrench capitalist social reproduction and make it more difficult to alter capitalist patterns of energy-intensive development. As a result, the current world order and global political economy is organized into a vicious cycle of path dependency whereby production and social reproduction require evermore fossil fuels. This could potentially be the largest paradox in human history as climate science suggests that humanity should be attempting to limit the production and consumption of greenhouse gases.

I conclude by attempting to create a new pathways and objectives forward for social forces of resistance in current webs of power to form a post-modern prince movement in Canada that would seek to work collectively in rebuilding a new world towards decolonialization, promoting and establishing alternative modes of living and development that will replace the current fossil fuel-based dependency, monetary-debt system, mass consumption, and unlimited growth in Canada.


Canada’s Carbon Capitalism: In the Age of Climate Change

Dow, Matthew. (2019). Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. Department of Politics. York University.