DMU researcher and social scientist Simon Dyson shares thoughts and resources on the 2016 book Fossil Capital, offering a systems-thinking perspective on the historical emergence of the drivers of climate change…

As an academic I take part in reading group with fellow social scientists. We had begun reading The Progress of this Storm by Swedish sociologist Andreas Malm, a book critical of much contemporary social theory, but especially of the work of Bruno Latour and the notion that nature and society cannot be separated because they are always comprised of hybrid objects. For Malm, is it important to recognise that whilst nature and society are made up of the same substance, society has emergent properties, and only by understanding the relations between society and nature can we come to grips with global warming.   This led me in turn to Malm’s earlier book on climate warming, written from his PhD thesis. Andreas Malm’s 2016 book Fossil Capital is nearly 500 pages long and meticulously referenced.  Although well outside my own area of expertise (sociology of health) as a sociologist myself I was concerned that such an important book might not reach the audiences, which in my opinion it deserves.

I’ve therefore tried to summarize the book across two Panopto recordings (45 minutes and 35 minutes respectively). It is mainly a summary of Malm’s own arguments with just a few brief elaborations or explanations of my own where I think this might help in understanding Malm’s points.


In the first recording I cover the Malm’s historical account of the rise of the steam engine and of nineteenth century England as the homeland of global warming.

In the second recording, I outline Malm’s account of how and why China came to be the “chimney of the world” in the early twenty-first century and what this might mean for prospects of avoiding the sixth mass extinction on earth.


Meanwhile Malm himself has promised to examine the relationship between climate warming and the British Empire in a subsequent book Fossil Empire. However, the urgency of the need for action on climate warming seems to have diverted him, as a forthcoming book is entitled How to Blow Up a Pipeline .