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The Age of Climate Riots


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The Verso blog has an excerpt from the new afterward to Riot. Strike. Riot by theorist and poet Joshua Clover, released last month in paperback. The book sketches a unique history, showing that the riot was the primary form of mass revolt in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which then gave way to the strike in the era of industrial capitalism. Today, argues Clover, the age of the riot has returned due to fundamental shifts in the structure of capitalism. In his new afterward, Clover looks ahead to the coming era of “climate riots.” Here’s a snippet:

This dystopia is already here. The exigencies of declining living standards and life chances, the Gilets Jaunes’ end-of-the-month desperation entangled already with Macron’s ecological claim, disclose this sequence as the early history of climate riots: uprisings which, whatever their declared theme, are conditioned by threat of climate collapse and grim panic over population control. What is already apparent, and will no doubt become more so is the state’s willingness to seize this situation on behalf of capital and of its own consolidation of power, a Green Nationalism which leverages climate management regimes toward hard borders, xenophobic violence, differential citizenship, protectionist labor pacts, further intensifications of militarization and surveillance. Arguably most disturbing for those historically identified with the left is the inclination of left parties across Europe and beyond to follow this shift, whether cynically chasing votes or indulging the belief that a strong homeland is a bulwark against global finance. This political collapse discloses other axes that superpose themselves to that of right/left; in both the labor market and the sovereign nation, the axis of inclusion/exclusion will structure social conditions in the first instance. Against this, against the varied impositions of immiseration, climate riots and their cousins are likely to ascend in significance, riven by contradiction and driven by immediate requirements for survival. Thoroughfare, public square, pipeline, railway, dockside, airport, border, these will be our places.

Image: A gilets jaunes protest in Paris, Dec. 2018. Via The Connexion.