Linking class, imperialism and climate: is there an “imperial mode of living”?

Issue: 175

Sascha Radl and Nora Schmid

A review of The Imperial Mode of Living: Everyday Life and the Ecological Crisis of Capitalism, Ulrich Brand and Marcus Wissen (Verso, 2021), £16.99

Over the past decade, Marxists have published many valuable works on capitalism and ecology.1 Yet, there are only few accounts that delve into the role of imperialism. Ulrich Brand and Markus Wissen’s The Imperial Mode of Living: Everyday Life and the Ecological Crisis of Capitalism, originally written in German and recently translated by Verso, is one of the exceptions. In this book, Brand and Wissen attempt to understand how global power dynamics relate to the climate crisis and inequalities between the Global North and South. Their central concept, the “imperial mode of living”, suggests “that everyday life in the capitalist centre is essentially made possible by shaping social relations and society-nature relations elsewhere, that is, by means of (in principle) unlimited access to labour power, natural resources and sinks (ecosystems such as rainforests and oceans )…on a global scale”.2

A key point of reference is, accordingly, dependency theory, which sees capitalist development at the core of the global system as the result of the exploitation of the periphery. Brand and Wissen attempt to enhance this theory’s understanding of the political ecology of exchange relations. In particular, they analyse mass consumption in the Global North and argue that its hidden social and ecological costs are externalised and displaced to the Global South. This idea of externalisation is also developed by Stephan Lessenich in his Living Well at Others′ Expense: The Hidden Costs of Western Prosperity. However, in contrast to Lessenich, Brand and Wissen aim less at criticising individual consumption and more at the global capitalist structures in which individuals are embedded. According to them, overcoming capitalism internationally is the only solution to the ecological crisis.

Since the book was first published, the notion of the imperial mode of living has been discussed at several international conferences.3 Among its proponents are Marxists such as Marcel van der Linden and John Smith.4 However, Brand and Wissen, professors in Vienna and Berlin respectively, aim at a broader political audience; in Germany, their ideas met with the approval of activists from the Fridays for Future climate campaign and key figures in the left-wing Die Linke party. The imperial mode of living is an attractive concept because it tries to explain the seeming passivity of the working class in the Global North—where workers supposedly consume greatly and live a good life—in the face of the climate crisis, and it brings into focus the suffering of the Global South. In strategic terms, it leads to a combination of various political activities: autonomous political practices, the construction of left governments and individual self-reflection. Brand and Wissen promise an alternative to sometimes tiresome and difficult revolutionary class politics.

We think that The Imperial Mode of Living is an important contribution to the debate on the climate crisis, but we do not share its premisses and political implications. In the following pages, we will first discuss class and consumption, and then North-South relations and the role of geopolitics. Finally, we will address Brand and Wissen’s thoughts on strategy.

The class character of “mass” consumption

Mass consumption is the basis of the imperial mode of living and plays a prominent role in Brand and Wissen’s analysis of capitalism. Their starting point is Fordism, between the 1950s and 70s, when, for the first time in history, patterns of consumption were generalised among the population of the Global North. Neoliberal globalisation—dealt with in more detail in the next part of this article—meant “a new deepening” of this trend and its expansion to other countries, including China.5 Brand and Wissen draw on the Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci to argue that the persistence of the imperial mode of living stems from “specific, widely shared conceptions of the ‘good life’ and societal development”.6 The working class, attracted by material benefits, explicitly shares these conceptions: “It is the wealthy and the owners of the means of production in the centres of capitalism that especially profit from this arrangement, as well as, secondarily, a large portion of wage earners”.7 The result is a popular “class compromise”.8

The first problem with this view is that it runs the risk of generalising what Stefanie Hürtgen calls a “middle-class imagined average existence” that fails to accurately reflect common living conditions in the Global North, either after the Second World War or today.9

Central for Brand and Wissen is the automobile sector; at times, the imperial mode of living seems to be synonymous with an “automotive mode of living”.10 They mention different degrees of consumption among classes, but it remains a side issue, and they underestimate the actual extent of this inequality.11 A closer look at Fordism reveals that even “in 1970, nearly half (48 percent) of all households in Britain did not regularly use a car”.12 In France, car ownership climbed from 4 percent of the population in 1950 to just 20 percent in 1965, and in Germany from 1 percent to 16 percent over the same period.13 Similar tendencies were at work in the United States, despite consumerism being more widespread there. Mike Davis describes how considerable inequalities continued to pervade the “golden age” of US capitalism:

Perhaps a quarter of the US population—especially white, semi-skilled workers and their families—were raised to previously middle-class or skilled-worker thresholds of home ownership and credit purchase during the 1950s. Another quarter to third, however, including most black people and all agricultural laborers, remained outside the boom, constituting that “other America” that rebelled in the 1960s.14

So, the purchase of cars was still far from being at mass consumption levels (understood as a majority of workers being involved) during Fordism, and patterns of consumption during neoliberalism do not look much different. To take Germany as an example, overall car ownership crossed the 40 million mark in the mid-1990s. Since then, expansion has significantly slowed down. Moreover, according to the report Mobility in Germany, 53 percent and 37 percent of households in the two lowest socio-economic thresholds, respectively, still own no car.15 Some 53 percent and 47 percent of those who own a car in both groups have one that is older than 10 years, hardly evidence of a consumerist paradise.16

Later, Brand and Wissen cite a study from a German sustainability foundation, the Wuppertal Institute, which concludes that those “lifestyle communities…with the best education and income and the highest environmental consciousness exhibit, ironically, the highest resource consumption”.17 This statement is actually surprisingly reserved. In 2020, Oxfam reported that consumption of the world’s richest 1 percent emits twice as much carbon dioxide as the poorest 50 percent.18 However, underlining the responsibility of the rich for the climate crisis must not stop here; we must also ask why they have the ability to cause this destruction. The answer lies in the capitalist relations of production, which are unfortunately completely left out by Brand and Wissen. Capitalists amass wealth because, due to their ownership of the means of production, they can rely on the labour of others. Working-class people, constrained by lower income and lack of free time, have few alternatives to buying ecologically damaging products from these same capitalists.19 As Marx writes in the Poverty of Philosophy, the consumer’s “judgment depends on his means and his needs. Both of these are determined by his social position, which itself depends on the whole social organisation”.20 The ability of the rich to destroy the planet is therefore directly linked to the inability of the working class to consume ethical and sustainable products.

Brand and Wissen are seemingly aware that “capitalist accumulation always contains production and consumption”.21 Yet, they avoid saying to what extent both parts are needed in the more theoretical parts of their book. Their empirical analysis suggests that consumption is more important to their conception of the imperial mode of living. However, to assume accumulation is really driven by the desires of individuals, reflected in the use-values of products, means accepting unnecessary neoclassical premises. The view promoted by most Marxist political economists, on the other hand, is expressed well by Guglielmo Carchedi:

The capitalist is interested in the product’s use-value only inasmuch as it has (or rather, is) an exchange-value. In its turn, exchange-value is important for the capitalists only inasmuch as they can realise a profit.22

Theoretically, Brand and Wissen try to avoid the neoclassical trap by pointing out that popular desires are shaped by socially constructed ideology. However, they do not explain who produces it or how it relates to workers. Moreover, surveys cast doubt on whether ideology has any impact at all; some 70 percent of people in Germany agree that products that are particularly harmful to the environment should be banned, 61 percent are willing to use their car less, and only 16 percent think that capitalists are doing enough to fight the climate crisis.23

So, Brand and Wissen focus on the phenomenon of mass consumption, which only appears to be the most pressing issue because they isolate exchange relations from the social relations of production and class. Once these latter two are re-established as part of a social totality, the importance of mass consumption as a discrete phenomenon disappears and, with it, the supposedly common mode of living of people in the Global North. What sets Brand and Wissen apart from neoclassical economists and those on the left who criticise individual consumption is merely the introduction of ideas about ideology, which actually raise more questions than they answer.

Global North versus Global South?

According to Brand and Wissen, the imperial mode of living deeply affects parts of the Global South, destroying socio-ecological living conditions. Before coming to how exactly countries embracing the imperial mode of living are linked to those being dominated by it, we will address a methodological issue. Brand and Wissen take the national context—class compromises in the Global North—as their starting point and only then introduce international relations. Economic and geopolitical competition between states—imperialist conflicts—are touched upon; however, they mostly appear as something to “be added on to analysis as a mere after-thought”, as Colin Barker remarked when criticising theories that “treat the world market as a sum of a set of national economies”.24 This methodological nationalism is particularly evident in Brand and Wissen’s views on Fordism and China.

Though concerned with Fordism in the Global North, Brand and Wissen explicitly isolate it from what happened in the “Pax Sovietica”—the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence—at that time, and the Cold War plays no real role in their account.25 They are thus unable to show how inter-imperialist rivalries shaped Fordism continuously.26 In this way, they implicitly dismiss alternative explanations of the “golden age” of US capitalism that do not rely on mass consumption, such as Michael Kidron’s theory of the permanent arms economy, without any justification.27

Similar problems are at work in their analysis of China. As demonstrated by the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) bloc of developing economies, capitalist development is viewed as coupled with adopting the imperial mode of living. China is “the new global centre of capital accumulation” and “an outstanding example of capitalist expansion and appropriation”.28 Nonetheless, Brand and Wissen do not mention how China’s rise—bringing capital accumulation, militarisation and ecological destruction with it—has been driven by international dynamics. In their analysis, international competition is mostly treated as an outward determinant and thus China only collides with other states after being dependent on externalisation:

The more the Global South becomes industrialised or intensifies the neo-extractivist development model, the greater the number of countries that themselves begin to rely on the externalisation of their socio-ecological costs, thus competing with the Global North both economically and ecologically.29

There are two major problems here. First, it remains unclear what exactly competition means in this context. Geopolitics appears to be reduced to economics, with the overall aim being to maintain the class compromise at home, which is a fraught claim. Moreover, if all classes in the Global North and the BRICS countries tend to benefit from the imperial mode of living, Brand and Wissen seem to be implying that imperialist conflicts are between nations as a whole and not between ruling classes. Workers, integrated into the imperial mode of living, would have something to lose from the defeat of “their” country in inter-imperialist struggles.

Second, the analysis of China does not seem to be supported by dependency theory, which is, as already mentioned, at the heart of the notion of the imperial mode of living.30 According to Brand and Wissen, China has developed its own imperial mode of living and is accordingly imperialist or “imperial”. By contrast, most scholars working in the dependency theory tradition suggest that the whole framework can only be maintained as long as China is not on par with the Global North and certainly not, as Brand and Wissen write, “the new global centre of capital accumulation”.31 The problem here is that methodological nationalism is incompatible with an analysis of how China has been held back by imperialist powers as emphasised by other dependency theorists. Properly applying the dependency theory framework would enhance the consistency of the argument but would also be unconvincing. This is not only because we think, though for different reasons, that China in fact is an imperialist country.32 It is also more fundamentally because of the faulty view of North-South relations implied by dependency theory.

Explaining the link between the imperial mode of living and dependency, Brand and Wissen argue:

Capitalism reaches its economic and social productivity in the centres—and increasingly in the “emerging countries”—by virtue of the fact that labour power and nature are first valorised and monetised elsewhere, and values and matter are then transferred to the centres. Through this mechanism, the various living conditions are linked with one another through the global exchange of commodities—not only in terms of end products, but also in terms of the intermediary and primary products such as raw materials.33

The argument thus consists of two main points. First, living conditions in the Global North, and also partially in the BRICS, are inversely related to those in the “periphery” and the Global South. Second, this is due to economically and ecologically uneven exchange and, more generally, the externalisation of costs to the periphery. It could be added that the overall result is, in the words of the economic historian and dependency theorist Andre Gunder Frank, the “development of underdevelopment”.34

We have already highlighted that Brand and Wissen’s analysis of the Global North ignores the relations of production and considers class hardly relevant at all. If these factors are reintroduced, both their conception of mass consumption and their claim that Global North and South living conditions are inversely related is called into question. Today, the majority of the world population is part of the international working class; global capitalism is more complex than a zero sum game, in which the losses of one half of the world system are the gains of the others.

Wages of workers in the Global South usually amount to only a small share of the final price of a product sold in the Global North. For instance, the iPhone 7 has labour costs of $5, and the overall manufacturing costs of $100 Nike trainers are only $25.35 In both examples, the lion’s share of what consumers pay is profit in the hands of capitalists, which nowhere in the world trickles down to the popular classes. Indeed, cheap essential products do not guarantee better living conditions for workers in the Global North because falling costs of reproduction could also give capitalists a chance to lower wages. To speak of a “benefit” for those buying cheap products disregards the situation of most wage earners.36 Moreover, people in peripheral countries also have access to cheaply produced goods; Egyptian workers living in slums in Cairo do indeed buy clothes imported from China. Thus, according to the theories associated with the imperial mode of living, these workers also live at the expense of others and must have an interest in maintaining the “imperial” order. Succintly put, Brand and Wissen fail to offer a convincing mechanism that explains how living conditions of the popular classes in the Global North directly result from exploiting the Global South.

A related question is whether uneven exchange and externalisation prevent the improvement of living conditions in the periphery. Unfortunately, Brand and Wissen are not concerned with the African continent, where about 85 percent of the population lives on less than $5.5 per day.37 The problem is that, compared to regions such as East Asia, Africa has a marginal role in the world market. German foreign direct investments in Africa amounted to only 1 percent of its total stock in 2018 and heavily focused on just four countries: South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and Morocco.38 Sub-Saharan Africa increased its share of global exports to Germany from 1 to 1.3 percent between 2005 and 2020, and its imports decreased from 1.2 to 0.9 percent over the same period.39 These numbers are similar for other richer countries that have greater involvement in African markets, such as France and China.40

Most dependency theorists would counter that exporting primary products is the problem; Africa is home to 30 percent of the world’s mineral reserves, 8 percent of oil reserves and 7 percent of natural gas reserves.41 However, the Chinese economy did not look much different at the beginning of the country’s rise: “Almost 90 percent of Chinese exports in the mid-1980s consisted of primary products or manufactured items that were based on natural resources or used low technology”.42 The Gulf states also show how extractive industries and trade with the Global North can create growth. In both cases, overall living standards have improved but inequality has increased.

This certainly does not mean that the African continent is spared from massive socio-ecological destruction; in order to explain why, we will come back to the role of imperialism in the next part. Regardless of the causes, however, it would be a mistake to solely highlight the consequences of the climate crisis in the Global South since this risks disregarding the horrifying consequences everywhere on the planet. In the Tunisian coastal town of Gabès, for instance, phosphate and chemical industries destroy ecosystems and pose a deadly threat to humans.43 At the same time, the recent flooding in Germany in July 2021, occurring in a region where the ground is heavily scarred by surface mining, cost the lives of more than 180 people and destroyed whole villages.44 Again, class relations, not a North versus South antagonism, are key to understanding the impact of climate change. Capitalists are responsible for the crisis and can benefit from intensifying conflicts, but it is workers and the lower classes that suffer.

Geopolitics and the state

According to the Environmental Performance Index, which gives some indication of the wellbeing of nature, seven of the ten lowest ranked countries are located in Sub-Saharan Africa whereas Western European countries occupy the top ten.45 If this is not due to externalisation of environmental costs and of uneven exchange, what else could explain the divergence? Brand and Wissen would generally agree that the main response to the climate crisis of governments in the Global North is adaptation to warming and natural disasters, paired with regulation and developing “green” technologies.46 China and some BRICS countries are implementing similar measures, but most Global South states lack such capacities. In Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, Christian Parenti explores why: “In the case of climate change, the prior traumas that set the stage for bad adaptation and destructive social responses are Cold War-era militarism and the economic pathologies of neoliberal capitalism”.47 This offers a useful starting point.

Since the 1980s, Africa has gone through several waves of structural adjustment, but the neoliberal experiment has not revived sustained profitability and has often fuelled conflicts that can be traced back to the Cold War and colonialism. This provides the context for the dominance of predatory capital and, if the situation deteriorates, for further imperialist intervention. This vicious circle of neoliberal reform and economic crisis decreases the ability of states to cope with climate change. Simultaneously, ecological destruction reduces the chance of economies revitalising, conflicts subsiding and state capacities being rebuilt. Instead, we are seeing interaction and reinforcement between these negative factors; Sudan and Mali are among the countries currently experiencing these processes.48

This brings us to a fundamental contradiction in how the ruling classes respond to the climate crisis. Their “solutions” presuppose state revenues that ultimately originate in capital accumulation.49 They thus hope to deploy capitalism against capitalist destruction. A consequence is that those who assert themselves in global economic competition will more likely be able to shield themselves against the crisis while, if Squid Game has taught us anything, the rest will lose. In his valuable critique of the imperial mode of living, political scientist Thomas Sablowski mentions higher labour productivity as an important cause of the dominance of the Global North.50 Yet, on this basis, imperialism has also actively contributed to the inability of most parts of the Global South, particularly in Africa, to create the conditions for long-term investments and to assert themselves politically.

This does not mean that neoliberalism and wars could be derived from the immediate interests of capital fractions for cheap inputs. Both are more about grand strategy and geopolitics, which, of course, continued after the Cold War, even though they are ignored throughout the work of Brand and Wissen. From the perspective of US foreign policy, neoliberal structural adjustment in Africa sustains the liberal world order. Political threats such as Nasserism and Pan-Africanism were successfully eliminated and durably replaced by authoritarian pro-West regimes. As outlined above, capital is still hesitant when it comes to exploiting the African labour force, and none of the dictatorships have been forced to contain the widespread cronyism that ensures some stability but contradicts the logic of neoliberalism.

It is surprising that Brand and Wissen do not foreground a very drastic form of imperialist social and ecological destruction in the Global South: the infamous “War on Terror”, proclaimed after the end of the Cold War and fought out by Western militaries and their proxies in Africa and the Middle East. As journalist Somini Sengupta notes, Afghanistan is the latest country where “the hazards of war collide with the hazards of climate change, creating a nightmarish feedback loop that punishes some of the world’s most vulnerable people and destroys their countries’ ability to cope”.51 As if this was not enough, the military also has a more direct environmental footprint. According to Marxist climate theorist Ian Angus, the permanent arms economy during the Cold War was a key factor in initiating the Anthropocene due to, among other factors, armed conflict and nuclear weapons testing.52 Moreover, a recent study by the Costs of War Project concluded that “the US Department of Defence is the world’s largest institutional user of petroleum and correspondingly, the single largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world”.53 Environmental sociologist Kenneth A Gould correctly calls militarisation “the single most ecologically destructive human endeavour”.54

Which way forward?

Brand and Wissen write that the imperial mode of living is “contradictory” and “contested” but avoid analysing the history of struggles that might evidence this claim.55 They only offer some positive references to the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s (which they see as having been co-opted) and the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico, who “opposed the deepening and expansion of the imperial mode of living that had been pursued through neoliberalism and globalisation”.56 Brand and Wissen still formulate a political strategy, which comes close to the “radical reformism” of political scientist Joachim Hirsch.57 They warn against proposals that merely modernise capitalism and leave the imperial mode of living untouched. Instead, progressive activities outside of the state—from land struggles in the Global South to new environmental movements, “right to the city” activism and urban gardening should be combined with struggles inside the state. Building solidarity also requires making externalisation “visible” by “sharing the insight that one’s privileges are based on exploitation and destruction, not only ‘at home’, but also ‘elsewhere’”.58

Similar ideas are widespread among the radical left in the Global North, and it is certainly a strength of Brand and Wissen that they consider it imperative to overcome capitalism internationally. However, their strategy abandons revolutionary class politics and the self-activity of the working class on unjustified grounds.

Brand and Wissen are guided by research questions that mirror the post-1945 Frankfurt School by trying to explain the passivity of the popular classes, and both find similar answers. In the Dialectic of Enlightenment, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno argue that “the consumers are the workers and salaried employees, the farmers and petty bourgeois. Capitalist production hems them in so tightly, in body and soul, that they unresistingly succumb to whatever is proffered to them”.59 As we have noted, for Brand and Wissen capitalism is stabilised through mass consumption, and the system remains unquestioned “as long as the wealth of the upper class appears to the subaltern classes to be a redeemable promise of happiness”.60 At the same time, in partial contrast to Horkheimer and Adorno, Brand and Wissen see overcoming capitalism as feasible and desirable. So, where does the power of the majority of the people to do so come from?

Certain passages imply that money might play an import role:

While some people can avoid this mode of living by buying regional or seasonal products, others only have a limited ability to act, especially when it comes to the organisation of their daily work live, the things they consume or the social relations in which they live.61

Brand and Wissen recognise that this path is currently not open to the majority and that it reproduces capitalism. Most parts of the book suggest instead that power lies in great numbers: a diverse crowd of people who are self-reflectively engaged in radical politics. As they later emphasise, this diverse movement could also include the working class.62 However, the latter is seen as simply one group among many others. Even if it were possible to bring down capitalism solely on the basis of large numbers—despite unresolved class contradictions—nothing new would emerge.

In classical Marxism, by contrast, capitalist relations of production, carelessly neglected by Brand and Wissen, provide the working class with a unique power to overcome capitalism and build a new order through their own struggles. Workers’ struggles carry the “germ form” of a democratic alternative to destructive growth and the capitalist state.63 Brand and Wissen would counter that contemporary capitalism impedes the self-activity of workers—as similarly suggested by Marcel van der Linden—leading them to prioritise other social groups. Yet, as we have outlined above, workers do not benefit from socio-ecological destruction. They do not participate in mass consumption, and the arguments in favour of inversely related living conditions in the core and in the periphery are weak. International solidarity is possible. In fact, international solidarity is the precondition for enhancing the living conditions of all workers.

Taking seriously the self-activity of the working class, however, is incompatible with a strategy that relies on social transformation through the state.64 Brand agrees in many respects with the Green New Deal as proposed by Bernd Riexinger, former chairman of Die Linke, which would include major socio-ecological reforms and massive state investments.65 Brand is only noticeably dissatisfied where it does not address the global aspects of the imperial mode of living.66 Yet, he misses a decisive point—as already mentioned, states need capital accumulation. In order to be successful, a Green New Deal, like any other long-term transformation through the state, must enhance the competitiveness of capital and ensure assertiveness on the international stage. This undermines genuine (eco-)socialism.

We do not suggest that socialists should reject the progressive reforms implied by a Green New Deal, but in the current situation they would not be a big step forward. In “A Question of Tactics”, Rosa Luxemburg wrote that “it is not what but how that is important”.67 Actively fighting for reforms from below has the potential to strengthen the class struggle. Reforms from above via a left-wing government promote passivity and tends to weaken the struggle. In this respect, the alternative to Brand and Wissen’s strategy is, in the words of Marx, “a revolution against the state itself, this supernaturalist abortion of society; a resumption, by the people for the people, of its own social life”.68 It is, moreover, the only strategy appropriate to the urgency of solving the climate crisis, which is unfolding rapidly and unpredictably.69


Brand and Wissen have written an important book on global capitalism and the climate crisis, and it has also shaped our own thinking. However, as we have shown, its main premises stand on shaky ground. Without mass consumption, uneven exchange and externalisation, the imperial mode of living loses its foundation. Instead, we have emphasised the centrality of the relations of production and class, and international rivalries and geopolitics, as starting points to understanding the global implications of the climate crisis. Brand and Wissen write that the externalisation of socio-ecological costs is becoming “less and less effective” because an increasing share of the population aspires to be part of the imperial mode of living.70 This almost has a whiff of doomsday atmosphere. The reality is that capitalism will not break down by itself; fortunately, however, international working-class solidarity is as possible as ever before.

Sascha Radl is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh.

Nora Schmid is currently writing her master’s thesis on the Sudanese Revolution at the University of Kassel in Germany.


1 We would particularly like to thank Joseph Choonara, Toma El-Sarout, Martin Empson, Yaak Pabst, Camilla Royle and Nabil Sourani for crucial comments on our draft. Some of the more fundamental Marxist works on the climate crisis are Angus, 2016, Empson, 2019, Foster, 2000, and Malm, 2016.

2 Brand and Wissen, 2021, pp39-40.

3 See, for example, SOC21, 2020.

4 Smith, 2020.

5 Brand and Wissen, 2021, p105.

6 Brand and Wissen, 2021, p61.

7 Brand and Wissen, 2021, p49. Elsewhere, they state more clearly that differences do exist but still maintain that a majority in the Global North is part of the imperial mode of living: “Of course, there are great differences, which depend mainly on income. But overall, most people in this country live at the expense of nature and the labour force of other regions.”—Brand and Wissen, 2018.

8 Brand and Wissen, 2021, p90.

9 Hürtgen, 2018.

10 Brand and Wissen, 2021, p152.

11 See especially Brand and Wissen, 2021, pp53-54.

12 McCarthy, 2015. For more extensive data on Britain, see Leibling, 2008.

13 Gurney, 2005, p957.

14 Davis, 1984, p11.

15 The report relies on status groups, which consider the income and size of households.

16 See the “Mobilität in Tabellen” website created by the Bundesministerium für Digitales und Verkehr (Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport)—

17 Cited in Brand and Wissen, 2021, p60.

18 Oxfam, 2020.

19 For a similar argument, see Huber, 2020, pp23-43.

20 Marx, 1963, p41.

21 Brand and Wissen, 2021, pp50-51.

22 Carchedi, 1991, p8.

23 Midwer, 2020; Umwelt Bundesamt, 2021.

24 Barker, 1978, p32.

25 Brand and Wissen, 2021, p95.

26 Stefan Link argues: “Whether, how and where Fordism took hold was the result of fierce conflicts over the global industrial order. From Henry Ford’s populist ideology of mass production, inter-war post-liberals (that is, fascists and Stalinists) extracted heady promises of political and economic resurgence. During the 1930s, they sought to challenge the US by emulating it, using US technology to support military and industrial expansion at home.”—Link, 2020, p216.

27 Kidron, 2018.

28 Brand and Wissen, 2021, p119.

29 Brand and Wissen, 2021, p132.

30 A similar point is made by Klaus Dörre, but he does not see any contradictions within the overall approach and questions the usefulness of classical theories of imperialism—Dörre, 2019, p254.

31 Minqi Li has described a scenario in which a major crisis stops China’s rise: “If such a scenario emerges, China will then be trapped in the layer of semi-periphery, consistent with the historical laws of motion of the capitalist world system that have so far operated.”—Li, 2021.

32 See, for example, Budd, 2021.

33 Brand and Wissen, 2021, pp46-47; see also Brand and Wissen, 2021, pxxiii.

34 Frank, 2010.

35 Sharma, 2016; Kish, 2014.

36 Brand and Wissen, 2021, pp53, 62-64.

37 Aguilar, Jolliffe and others, 2019.

38 Glitsch, Godart and others, 2020, p5.

39 Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie, 2021, pp9-10.

40 Stein and Uddhammar, 2021.

41 African Natural Resources Center, 2016, p3.

42 Silva-Ruete, 2006.

43 Al Jazeera, 2013.

44 Henley, 2021.

45 Wendling, Emerson and others, 2020, p4.

46 Brand and Wissen, 2021, chapter 7.

47 Parenti, 2012, p8.

48 For a brief overview on the impact of the climate crisis in both countries, see Ahmed, 2019.

49 For the link between state action and capital accumulation, see Block, 1977.

50 Sablowski’s critique deserves more attention than we could give it here—see Sablowski, 2018.

51 Sengupta, 2021.

52 Angus, 2016, pp54-58, 141-142.

53 Crawford, 2019, pp1-2.

54 Gould, 2007, p331.

55 Brand and Wissen, 2021, p42.

56 Brand and Wissen, 2021, pp103-104; Brand and Wissen, 2021, p131.

57 Hirsch, 2005, pp229-233.

58 Brand and Wissen, 2021, p202.

59 Horkheimer and Adorno, 2002, p106.

60 Brand and Wissen, 2021, p61.

61 Brand and Wissen, 2021, p53; see pp60-61.

62 Brand and Wissen, 2019.

63 In the English translation of Lenin’s The Dual Power, early workers’ council democracy is described as “so far weak and incipient” (Lenin, 1974, p38). The German version, however, is much closer to the Russian original, using instead the term “Keimform” (germ form)—Lenin, 1959, p39. Council democracy is a political germ that is carried by the working class. Among others, Simon Sutterlütti and Stefan Meretz use this label for autonomist practises. However, we think the term is too meaningful to be deprived of its Leninist heritage.

64 Brand and Wissen, 2021, pp205-206.

65 Riexinger, Becker and others, 2021.

66 Brand, 2021.

67 Luxemburg, 2007, p485.

68 Marx, 1975, p486.

69 Molyneux, 2020.

70 Brand and Wissen, 2021, p75.


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