Political Theory in a Closed World: Reflections on William Ophuls, Liberalism and Abundance
This paper takes as a starting point William Ophul's claim that the last 450 years amount to an 'era of exception' in terms of resource availability. Ophuls suggests that it is no accident that this exceptional era of abundance coincides with the birth and development of liberalism - that liberalism, in other words, would not/could not have occurred without the conditions provided by this era of exception. Some of the ways in which this suggestion might be critically examined are discussed, and attention is drawn to one of its more interesting implications: if liberalism depends on abundance, what kind of political theory do we need if we are entering a new era of scarcity ('peak oil/peak everything')?
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