Capitalism, Growth, and Ecological Crisis (L4117A)

30 credits, Level 6

Autumn teaching

For decades, scholars and activists have been pointing to the apparent contradictions between the insatiable demands of a capitalist economy and the delicate balance and finite limits of ecological systems.

This module examines these contradictions and how they’re tied to questions of cultural value, social justice and political practice.

Front and centre is the notion of economic growth, so often taken to be an unquestionable feature of a healthy economy and society. What are the roots of this attitude? Is it sustainable in the face of rapidly worsening ecological crises? What possible alternatives might there be to the growth paradigm and the political economy it supports?

We’ll explore:

  • ‘green growth’ and the increasingly popular – but widely contested – notion of ‘degrowth’
  • different approaches to the relationship between society and nature
  • eco-politics (rooted variously in, e.g., Marxist, feminist, decolonial, and social movement literatures)
  • the relationship between theory and practice – how does a given understanding of the causes of ecological crisis impact on political values and visions, and vice versa?

We will also think critically and creatively about what all this might mean for us, in our own daily lives, existential commitments and future projects.


100%: Seminar


100%: Written assessment (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 30 hours of contact time and about 270 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2024/25. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: