Erik Swyngedouw
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Capital’s natures
A critique of (urban) political ecology
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Urban political ecology has over the past few decades matured into a thriving and sophisticated perspective across a range of academic disciplines, policy networks and activist organisations. In this chapter, I argue that there is nonetheless nothing inherently critical or progressive about the current state of ‘Political Ecology’, urban or otherwise, neither as a practice nor as a theoretical perspective. I shall make a case for the need of a ‘Critique of (Urban) Political Ecology’. It is, I maintain, through a ‘Critique of Political Ecology’ that the intellectual gaze might shift to identifying the mechanisms through which new and progressive political-ecological configurations can be forged. The first part of the chapter focuses on a critique of the political ecology of capitalism as an urban socio-physical process. In the second part, the focus will shift to a critique of the discursive-imaginary configuration of the political ecology of capitalism. The conclusion will concentrate on the central importance of traversing the fantasies upon which both the material and imaginary sustainability of the infernal socio-ecological dynamics of capitalism are predicated and that inform much of contemporary environmental or ecological activism. Shifting the gaze in ways that radically re-imagines our view of the socio-ecological situation we are in, I contend, is vital to configuring a strategy and forms of speaking and acting that are performative with respect to enacting progressive socio-ecological transformations.

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