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Civilization on a Crash Course? Imperialism, Subimperialism and the Political-Ecological Breaking Point of the Modern/Colonial World-System

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For more content, please see Journal of Developing Societies.

Modern/colonial civilization has already breached several planetary boundaries and its ecological footprint is overwhelming the Earth’s carrying capacity. The ecological space for the growth of modern urban civilization is at its breaking point. We conduct two case studies, of Russia and Brazil, to show that the aspirations of semi-peripheral “emerging economies” to catch-up, clone and compete with the West within the hegemonic terms of an ecologically unsustainable and socially stratifying civilizational model requires their systematic practice of internal colonialism and regional subimperialism. Playing catch-up with the North and its unsustainable mode of political economy demands the present-day rehearsal, in accelerated, compressed and subimperial modes of the structurally violent practices that have underpinned the North’s “rise” to planetary dominance. Yet in striving to catch-up and join in the overconsumptive and exploitative lifestyle of economic cores, large “emerging economies” like the BRICS are in an economic, political and military crash course against the hegemonically-entrenched Northern core powers they aspire to emulate, in what looks like an increasingly volatile scramble to grab whatever dwindling ecological space is left in a rapidly degraded planet.

Affiliations: 1: Westminster College Salt Lake City, Utah ; 2: Westminster College Salt Lake City, Utah ; 3: Westminster College Salt Lake City, Utah


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