Book Review – Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations

McGee, J. (2016), Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction, by Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg, published by Cambridge University Press, 2015, 243 pp., £21.99, paperback. Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law, 25: 395–397. doi:10.1111/reel.12180

Law is not an autonomous system of social ordering. In order to understand the law we have, we need to understand the wider political economy in which such law was created and operates. It is this political economy which both enables and sets limits upon what law can achieve.

The last 30 years have seen the rise of neoliberalism, a particular set of ideas that has become the background condition for much public policy discourse in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.1 Neoliberalism is a political philosophy that seeks to maximize the role of markets in society.2 According to neoliberal theory, markets are largely self-regulating and are fundamentally based upon the dispersed decisions of a multitude of individual actors, including privately owned actors such as corporations. From the neoliberal perspective, it is this dispersed decision making of individual actors, including civil society and corporations, that is best suited to creating knowledge to coordinate human interaction, maximize individual freedom and guard against the potentially tyrannical power of the State.3 Continue reading


Recent Commentary on Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations

Our new book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction has been a feature of a number of recent analyses of the climate crisis.

For instance, world-renowned ecologists Anne and Paul Ehrlich recently wrote an article entitled “Faith-Based Economics: The Corporate World and the Survival of Civilization” which critiqued business assumptions of economic growth and neglect of environmental limits. Here they noted:

Corporations are the most organized segment of society that actually believes the message of faith-based economics, although cracks have appeared in the façade. For example two business professors, Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg, have just published a book, (Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction) that provides a detailed and well-documented account of how corporations are destroying civilization by keeping that faith: the standard business-school/Wall Street message that climate disruption, a result of market success in turning natural resources into stuff and waste, can only be cured by business as usual. Faith-based economics requires continued exploitation of natural resources and continued growth of the global economy. As Wright and Nyberg say:

“…corporate capitalism frames business and markets as the only means of dealing with the crisis, rejecting the need for state regulation and more local democratic options. In essence, the prevailing corporate view is that capitalism should be seen not as a cause of climate change but as an answer to it. A problem brought about by overconsumption, the logic goes, should be addressed through more consumption.” Continue reading

Corporations and Climate Change

My talk on ABC Radio National’s Ockham’s Razor program aired on November 22. In the lead-up to the Paris Climate Talks, I examine how environmental destruction has become a business opportunity by exploring the complex relationship between the corporate world and climate change, and the central role of corporations in shaping political and social responses to the climate crisis.

The transcript is below and you can hear the podcast of this episode here.

Continue reading

Profit over planet: capitalism and creative self-destruction

Recently, Daniel Nyberg and I did an interview with Catherine Zengerer on radio station 2SER’s “On the Money” show about our new book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction.

The interview is a good outline of many of the core arguments in our book. As the summary accompanying the interview outlines:

With climate change an impending reality it seems the world has a problem with overconsumption. But according to two business professors we are failing to address the very cause of climate change – capitalism.

Neoliberal economists argue that climate change – a market problem, is addressed by a market solution. But according to Professor Christopher Wright and Professor Daniel Nyberg more consumption is not the solution in a society where the environmental model is often traded off for a business model. Can we have our cake and eat it too?

You can hear the full interview (about 10 minutes) here.

Capitalism’s catastrophic failure to address climate change

Daniel and I did an interview with Catherine Zengerer on 2SER’s The Wire show. You can hear the interview here.

In their new book, Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Process of Creative Self Destruction, Professors Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg say we are failing to address the elephant in the room when it comes to climate change – capitalism. They place companies which claim to value the environment, while at the same time refusing to abandon profitable policies that contribute to its annihilation, under the microscope and say “business as usual” is hurtling us towards climate catastrophe.

Corporations and ‘climate change’ – do they help or hinder?

I did a radio interview on AM station 4CA Cairns about our new book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction earlier in the week, which you can listen to here. What is surprising in these media interactions is the lack of familiarity of interviewers and the general population as to the scale and severity of the climate crisis humanity now faces. The sorts of radical emissions reductions now required to avoid dangerous climate change are greeted with bemused surprise!