Cavanagh: Resilience, class, and the antifragility of capital

Abstract: Critical scholarship on the concept of resilience has so far eluded synthesis with that on the concept of antifragility, or the ways in which diverse entities, organisms and complex systems may benefit from disorder. Yet this distinction is crucial for understanding both the overarching political and ecological stakes of our contemporary historical-geographical moment: the ostensibly nascent Anthropocene. Indeed, whilst ecologists may be perfectly correct to empirically describe ecosystems as exhibiting resilience, attempts to extend this signifier to intertwined ecological and political-economic phenomena elide a politics of both articulation and frequent contradiction between resilient ecologies and antifragile patterns of capital accumulation. Examining the latter, in particular, I reflect on the politics of class in what we might call moments of capital’s ‘opening’, which complement well-known moments of the ‘stretching’ and ‘deepening’ of marketisation and commodification. In short, such moments speak directly to the ways in which new opportunities for compounding growth are synthetically emergent precisely from the social and ecological crises of capitalism themselves. This is not to say, of course, that antifragility equates with omnipotence; only that the seeds of capital’s destruction must be consciously planted, cultivated and harvested with extreme prejudice. If our pursuit of resilience is to be just as well as sustainable, in other words, it must be revolutionary rather than merely transformative.

Keywords: Capital, resilience, antifragility, complexity, Marx, Schumpeter

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Published 7. October 2016 - 13:16 - Updated 1. December 2016 - 11:46