Ecological Imperialism and Marx's Capitalism Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

" (Capital, p. 915)

Ecological damage is grounded in resource depletion and density of population. You can have 10,000 over a 1000 acre land and this might not hurt the ecological balance but when you have the same number of people on 10 acre land, the balance is seriously disturbed as water, minerals, and other resources of a very small area are constantly being used up. This is what happened during the colonization process. Only some nations were constantly being robbed of their natural resources while nothing was coming from European countries. It must always be a two-way flow of resources because when its one-way, it leads to multifarious environmental and ecological problems. It is for this reason that Accion Ecologica argues "it's time to shut off the tap" to stem the "unjust flow of energy, natural resources, food, cheap labour and financial resources from the South to the North." (No More Plunder, 1999)

Marx has serious reservations about capitalism. He did not believe in one country specialization in one thing and mastering it while others did something different. He felt that all countries could start producing whatever they wished to and whatever could be more productive and profitable. He felt that capitalist powers were deliberately trying to keep other countries down by making them focus on agriculture and such other non-productive fields while they themselves were specializing in industry-based manufacturing. In his 1848 speech on free trade, Marx highlighted this practice clearly: "You believe perhaps, gentlemen, that the production of coffee and sugar is the natural destiny of the West Indies. Two centuries ago, nature, which does not trouble herself about commerce, had planted neither sugar-cane nor coffee trees there." (Poverty, 223) He also knew that the main strategy of capitalist countries was to rob other nations of their natural resources and this was closely tied to the imperialist times when British, French and Dutch powers engaged in massive loot and plunder and completely robbed indigenous nations of their wealth. Marx made a point in this connection when he said, "The treasures captured outside Europe by undisguised looting, enslavement and murder flowed back to the mother-country and were turned into capital there... For example in India the monopolies of salt, opium, betel and other commodities were inexhaustible mines of wealth." (914-930)

We have now seen how political imperialism and capitalist forces are closely connected with ecological imperialism. The concentration of people, the continuous loot, the depletion of resources from one particular part and by establishing only a one-way flow of wealth, capitalist countries and imperialist powers created a serious ecological situation for indigenous people. This has always been their way of keeping certain nations down. It was only when some nations were able to identify this brutal strategy that they managed to stand against imperialist powers. But unfortunately most of these nations are the ones who were either never colonized or colonized for a small period. All other nations such as West Indies and India have suffered seriously in the aftermath of colonization and are still experiencing the after-shocks.


Karl Marx, Capital, volume 1 (New York: Vintage, 1976), p. 896; Malthus to Ricardo, August 17, 1817, in David Ricardo, Works and Correspondence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952), vol. 7

Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).

Karl Marx, the Poverty of Philosophy (New York: International Publishers, 1963)

Acci n Ecol gica,…

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