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Green Vulcans? The political economy of steel decarbonisation

Copley, Jack

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Studies of the political economy of decarbonisation have begun to move beyond the price-centrism of neoclassical economics to explore the role of profits in propelling, or failing to propel, a green transformation. This article pushes this argument further, claiming with Marx that the focus on profits is useful insofar as it leads us to a broader analysis of the capitalist dynamics of competition, overaccumulation, and crisis that any green transition will have to reckon with. This is illustrated through an historical study of the steel industry – a prodigious carbon emitter that must be urgently greened. This article traces the interwoven patterns of crisis and technological change in steelmaking through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, before drawing out certain core themes that then serve as a lens through which to analyze the prospects of steel decarbonisation today. Since its modern birth, technological revolutions in steelmaking have generated and in turn been conditioned by crises of overaccumulation and restructuring. These same forces are shaping the drive to decarbonise the industry today, as vital green investments are obstructed by reoccurring cycles of overcapacity and weak profitability. Greening steelmaking, and capitalism more generally, means wrangling with this boom-and-bust logic and its political ramifications.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 18, 2024
Online Publication Date Jul 7, 2024
Publication Date Jul 7, 2024
Deposit Date Jul 9, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jul 9, 2024
Journal New Political Economy
Print ISSN 1356-3467
Electronic ISSN 1469-9923
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 1-14
Public URL


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