Re-financing fossil fuels: Neoliberal Reforms and the Continuation of Carboniferous Industry

Fossil fuels continue to be the material basis of the global capitalist economy despite increased pressure to create transparency (e.g., the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) and cleaner energy sources. Financialization is a useful way to examine the relationship between money, raw materials and social relations. Foundational authors like Arrighi (1994) and Krippner (2011) analyzed financialization from the perspective of world-historical cycles of accumulation while others like Bunker and Ciccantell (2005) began to link financialization to material extraction. In more recent years, a number of scholars have linked finance, agriculture and land grabs (Clapp 2014; Clapp and Helleiner 2012; Clapp, Isakson and Visser 2016; Fairbairn 2014; Gunnoe 2014, 2015). Various institutional and financial instruments continue to make extraction not only possible but likely (Hatcher  2015; Lohmann 2012). Yet, some have identified limits to the lens of financialization (Christophers 2016).


From numerous recent bankruptcies in the US coal sector to other forms of financialization, ways to restructure financing for fossil fuels continue in what some see as a post neoliberal era. Meanwhile, even many of the most ecologically minded insist that clean technology can use fossil fuels as transition fuels in the near future. As neoliberal economics persist in expanding a fossil fuel-based economy, it is vital to understand the trajectory and changing geography of extraction, processing, transport, use and waste in the 21st century global capitalist society.


We invite papers that address shifting financial trends that promote, alter, perpetuate and lock-in fossil fuel extraction and carboniferous production while continuing destructive practices against human and nonhuman nature. We welcome papers from fields including environmental sociology, political ecology, ecological economics, historical geography, environmental history, and political economy.


Some questions that may be addressed and suggested areas include:

  • How – and with what effects – does finance perpetuate fossil fuel lock-in?

  • How are we to understand the intersections of geographies of place, politics of development, and investment strategies?

  • How do firms and states address the relative depletion of some extractive regions? What technological changes (capital and technological developments), regional shifts, and energy source substitutions (e.g., natural gas for coal) shape the global political economy of fossil fuels?

  • How do local ecological justice struggles relate to financial relations?


As time is short, we invite abstracts of no more than 300 words submitted to Paul Gellert and Tamra Gilbertson by Monday, Dec 12th. Participants will be notified by Wednesday, Dec 14th and will need to register at by Thursday, December 15th.



Arrighi G . 1994.  The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times. London: Verso.

Bunker, S. G.  and P.S. Ciccantell. 2005. Globalization and the Race for Resources: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Christophers, B. 2016. “The limits to Financialization. Dialogues in Human Geography 5(2): 183-200.

Clapp, J. 2014. Financialization, distance, and global food politics. Journal of Peasant Studies 41(5): 797–814. doi:10.1080/03066150.2013.875536

Clapp, J., and E. Helleiner. 2012. “Troubled futures? The global food crisis and the politics of agricultural derivatives regulation.” Review of International Political Economy 19(2): 181–207. doi:10.1080/09692290.2010.514528

Clapp, J., S.R. Isakson, and O. Visser. 2016. “The complex dynamics of agriculture as a financial asset: Introduction to symposium.” Agriculture and Human Values. doi:10.1007/s10460-016-9682-7

Fairbairn, M. 2014. “Like gold with yield”: Evolving intersections between farmland and finance. Journal of Peasant Studies 41(5): 777–795. doi:10.1080/03066150.2013.873977

Gunnoe, A. 2014. The political economy of institutional landownership: Neorentier society and the financialization of land. Rural Sociology 79(4): 478–504. doi:10.1111/ruso.12045

Gunnoe, A. 2015. “The Financialization of the US Forest Products Industry: Socio-Economic Relations, Shareholder Value, and the Restructuring of an Industry.” Social Forces. Advance access doi: 10.1093/sf/sov108.

Hatcher, P. 2015. Regimes of Risk: The World Bank and the Transformation of Mining in Asia. Palgrave MacMillan.

Huber, M. 2013. Lifeblood: Oil, Freedom, and the Forces of Capital. University of Minnesota Press.

Krippner G. 2011. Capitalizing on Crisis: The Political Origins of the Rise of Finance. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.


Mitchell, Timothy. 2011. Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil. London: Verso.


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