The Treadmill of Accumulation

The Treadmill of Accumulation: Schnaiberg’s Environment and Marxian Political Economy,” [PDF], Organization and Environment, vol. 18, no. 1 (March 2005), pp. 7-18. DOI:10.1177/1086026604270442

Allan Schnaiberg’s “treadmill of production” model has formed the single most influential framework of analysis within environmental sociology in the United States. Schnaiberg’s work is often characterized as “neo-Marxist,” but its actual relation to Marxian political economy has been left obscure. The following article examines Marx’s treatment of the treadmill as the crudest historical expression of the capitalist mode of production; the roots of Schnaiberg’s analysis in Baran and Sweezy’s conception of monopoly capital and Gabriel Kolko’s conception of political capitalism; the later divergence of the treadmill theory and Marxian political economy; the disappearance of the explicit critique of capitalism in the joint work of Schnaiberg and Kenneth Alan Gould; and the reconvergence of these traditions in the current phase of environmental sociology characterized by the debate with ecological modernization. The treadmill model demonstrates that the choice between barbarism and civilization is not simply a question of the organization of the human relations within society but also a question of the organization of the human relation to the environment.


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