SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

Rethinking Prosperity: Climate Crisis, Consumption, Renewal

Professor Emerita Kate Soper (London Metropolitan University)

Date: 22 October 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 22 October 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Djam Lecture Theatre (DLT)

Type of Event: Seminar

Echoing the growing calls for a redeļ¬ned ‘prosperity without growth’ in addressing the climate crisis, my talk is focussed on the need for left critics to rethink their disparagement of the political importance of consumption, and to overcome their general reluctance in recent times to imagine post-capitalist ways of living. Though approving their resistance to any treatment of the Anthropocene as an inevitable outcome of human industrial activity, I argue that they should be as critical of capitalism’s success in promoting the consumerist lifestyle as the only one worth having as they have been of the ‘naturalisation’ of its reliance on fossil fuels. I also insist on the need to counter or qualify the concepts of modernisation and development associated across the left-right divide with the commitment to technology-driven growth. I offer instead an alternative hedonist approach that seeks to sever the link between progress and economic expansion while opposing the cultural regression and social conservatism that have hitherto often gone together with economic backwardness. Overall, I argue that it is only if richer societies accept a less expansionary, more reproductive material style of living in exchange for more free time and cultural and recreational provision for enjoying it that the worst abuses of the environment can be corrected, runaway global warming can be kept in check, and exploitation and inequality, within the nation state and globally, can begin to be more effectively addressed.

Kate Soper is Emerita Professor of Philosophy and a former researcher with the Institute for the Study of European Transformations at London Metropolitan University. She had a long association with Radical Philosophy and was a regular columnist for the US-based journal, Capitalism, Nature, Socialism. She has also been an editorial collective member and writer for New Left Review. She is a translator, among others, of Noberto Bobbio, Michel Foucault, Cornelius Castoriadis and Carlo Ginsburg. Her own books include: Troubled Pleasures: Writings on Politics, Gender and Hedonism; What is Nature? Culture, Politics and the Non-Human; Citizenship and Consumption (co-edited); and The Politics and Pleasures of Consuming Differently (co-edited). She was lead researcher in the research project on ‘Alternative Hedonism, and the Theory and Politics of Consumption’ funded in the ESRC/AHRC Cultures of Consumption Project, 2004-6. Most recently, she has been involved in a number of research projects on climate change and sustainable consumption, most recently as a Visiting Fellow at the Pufendorf Institute, Lund University, Sweden. Her book on alternative hedonism is forthcoming with Verso.

Facebook Event: events/789097631511720/

All welcome, no need to book but please do arrive early to be sure of a seat.

Organiser: Feyzi Ismail (