The Entropy of Capitalism and the Food System

Following the review of his book I have posted on this website before, below is an interview I recently recored with Robert Biel. In this interview, we explore some of the themes already presented in the book, such as the idea that capitalism lives off environments that are incompatible with itself (an idea often featured in literature on the commodification of the commons, which traces back to Rosa Luxemburg). However, the discussion also centres on a more recent work which Robert presented at a conference, in which he undertook a groundbreaking application of the concept of entropy to trace a link between capitalism and the physical condition of the soil. As capitalism promotes a shift to mechanized agriculture that reproduces the standard of control experienced in factories, the use of chemical fertilizers depletes soil structure. To make up for the ensuing loss of fertility, even more fertilizer tends to be applied, in a spiral that is surely unsustainable. Showing his eye for architectural issues (Robert is, after all, a political economist working at UCL’s School of Architecture, i.e. the Bartlett), he envisages a new integration of urban landscapes into the web of food production through extensive use of urban agriculture. This, it seems, may open promising routes to take some pressure off rural agriculture, and gradually reintroduce organic methods.