CFP AAG 2019, Washington DC, April 3-7, 2019
Finance and environmental crises: Disaster capitalism beyond the Shock Doctrine

Organizers: Jenny Goldstein (Cornell University), Shaina Potts (UCLA), Sarah 
Knuth (Durham University)
Sponsored by: Economic Geography Specialty Group

Twenty years following the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis and a decade after the 
2008 subprime mortgage-led crisis, what have we learned about the ways in which 
financial failures-cum-opportunities such as currency devaluations or debt 
crises intersect with environmental crises and/or less spectacular ecological 
transformations? In the decade since publication, Naomi Klein’s “disaster 
capitalism” thesis in The Shock Doctrine (2007) has become a widely-referenced 
and useful starting point for understanding how capital catalyzes “disasters”, 
usually—if not necessarily—localized and short-term, and then uses such events 
to further entrench and expand neoliberal policies. We seek papers that 
consider the ongoing salience of and/or go beyond the disaster capitalism model 
for understanding the iterative relationship between financial practices and 
environmental crises, in and beyond moments of acute financial turbulence 
(Christophers 2017, Ekers and Prudham 2015, Peet 2011). Environmental 
degradation and devaluation today, for instance, are not simply occasions for 
the spread of standard neoliberal policies to new spaces: they are equally 
significant as moments for the invention of novel financial practices and new 
forms of value creation or extraction (Knuth, Potts, and Goldstein 
forthcoming). Many questions about the relationship between finance, economic 
crises, and environmental crises remain (Bigger and Dempsey 2018, Ouma et al. 
2018). Participants might consider—but are not limited to—topics including:

The role(s) of the financial sector in causing, shaping and/or taking advantage 
of environmental crises. What are the explanatory pitfalls/advantages of 
problematizing finance, versus taking on specific financial industry players 
(e.g., pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, private equity, financialized 
insurance companies) and their geographies?
The temporal and spatial scales at which we consider such questions: what have 
we learned about how acute financial crises are displaced into environmental 
crises, and what important questions remain?
Alternately/additionally, how might further considering the neoliberal era’s 
longer-running crisis of overaccumulation, and return of a state of generalized 
financial volatility, deepen our analysis of the finance-environment nexus?
Relatedly, most applications and/or elaborations of the disaster capitalism 
thesis have explored relatively acute and localized crises, such as hurricanes, 
earthquakes and tsunamis, war/terrorist attacks, or toxic exposures (albeit 
with increasingly sophisticated understandings of how longer-term 
processes/politics such as austerity structure and are reified in such events, 
e.g. Fox Gotham and Greenberg 2014). Recently, some scholars have used the 
framework to consider more long-term, systemic destabilizations, notably 
climate change and its effects (Johnson 2017, Fletcher 2012). How is/isn’t 
disaster capitalism useful in interrogating such posited states of generalized 
“Anthropocene” volatility?
Racialized finance capitalism and environmental disaster (Pulido 2016, 
Ranganathan 2016): what have we learned about how financial players exploit and 
deepen racial capitalism’s ‘everyday’ disasters and states of precarity, in and 
out of more visible and acute events? What must we still ask, and how might we 
Disaster capitalism’s entangled political and cultural economies: how do 
perceptions of and narratives about crises and disaster (Roitman 2014), whether 
environmental or financial, facilitate finance capital’s expansion into new 
markets, arenas, classes, and products?
The role, and ongoing salience, of austerity politics in disaster capitalism: 
how might the relationship between austerity politics and “natural” disasters 
be changing as finance capitalism and neoliberalism themselves evolve/see 
Ongoing methodological issues, and/or strategies for overcoming them: how are 
researchers and engaged scholars confronting the difficulties of exploring 
transnational financial networks and large-scale processes, very concrete and 
local effects of environmental crisis and transformations, and often 
(deliberately) opaque linkages between these levels? How do such choices matter 
in shaping/delimiting possibilities for critical scholarship and partnerships?

As we are interested in organizing a paper and a related panel session, please 
send 250 word paper abstracts *or* expressions of interest to be a panel 
participant to Jenny Goldstein 
(<>), Shaina Potts 
(<>) and/or Sarah Knuth 
(<>) by October 22. 
Accepted participants will need to register for the conference by October 25 to 
be included in the session.


Bigger, P., Dempsey, J. 2018. The ins and outs of neoliberal natures. 
Environment and Planning E 1(1-2): 1-19

Christophers, B. (2017). Climate change and financial instability: Risk 
disclosure and the problematics of neoliberal governance. Annals of the 
American Association of Geographers, 107(5), 1108-1127.

Ekers, M., & Prudham, S. (2015). Towards the socio-ecological fix. Environment 
and Planning A, 47(12), 2438-2445.

Fletcher, R. 2012. Capitalizing on chaos: Climate change and disaster 
capitalism. Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organization 12(1/2): 97-112

Fox Gotham, K., Greenberg, M. 2014. Crisis Cities: Disaster and redevelopment 
in New York and New Orleans. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Johnson, L. 2017. Catastrophic fixes: Cyclical devaluation and accumulation 
through climate change impacts. Environment and Planning A 47: 2503-2521

Klein, N. 2007. The Shock Doctrine: The rise of disaster capitalism. New York: 

Knuth, S., S. Potts, J.E. Goldstein. 2018. In Value’s Shadows: Devaluation as 
Accumulation frontier. Environment and Planning A. Forthcoming.

Ouma, S., L. Johnson, P. Bigger. 2018. Rethinking the financialization of 
‘nature’. Environment and Planning A 50(3) 500-511

Peet, R. 2011. Contradictions of finance capitalism. Monthly Review 63(7): 18-32

Pulido, L. 2016. Flint, environmental racism, and racial capitalism. Capitalism 
Nature Socialism 27(3) 1-16

Ranganathan, M. 2016. Thinking with Flint: Racial liberalism and the roots of 
an American water tragedy. Capitalism Nature Socialism 27(3)

Roitman, J. 2014. Anti-Crisis. Durham: Duke University Press.


Jenny Elaine Goldstein
Assistant Professor
Faculty Fellow, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future
Department of Development Sociology
Cornell University

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