“It is broadly about what’s going on in the world … about the climate crisis and what we should do about it,” Saito said in an interview with the Guardian. “I advocate for degrowth and going beyond capitalism.”
Kohei Saito’s book Capital in the Anthropocene has become an unlikely hit among young people and is about to be translated into English
The climate crisis will spiral out of control unless the world applies “emergency brakes” to capitalism and devises a “new way of living”, according to a Japanese academic whose book on Marxism and the environment has become a surprise bestseller. The message from Kohei Saito, an associate professor at Tokyo University, is simple: capitalism’s demand for unlimited profits is destroying the planet and only “degrowth” can repair the damage by slowing down social production and sharing wealth.
In practical terms, that means an end to mass production and the mass consumption of wasteful goods such as fast fashion. In Capital in the Anthropocene, Saito also advocates decarbonisation through shorter working hours and prioritising essential “labour-intensive” work such as caregiving.
‘I was as surprised as everyone else’
Few would have expected Saito’s Japanese-language solution to the climate crisis to have much appeal outside leftwing academia and politics. Instead, the book – which was inspired by Karl Marx’s writings on the environment – has become an unlikely hit, selling more than half a million copies since it was published in September 2020.
As the world confronts more evidence of the effects of climate change – from floods in Pakistan to heatwaves in Britain – rampant inflation and the energy crisis, Saito’s vision of a more sustainable, post-capitalist world will appear in an academic text to be published next year by Cambridge University Press, with an English translation of his bestseller to follow…
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