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Ecology and the Politics of the Future in the 1970s

Ecology and the Politics of the Future in the 1970s
1 Devonshire Place, Room 208N
Time: Apr 23rd, 4:00 pm End: Apr 23rd, 6:00 pm
Interest Categories: United States Studies, Science/Technology, Political Science, History (FAS), Historical Studies (UTM), Historical and Cultural Studies (UTSC), Environment, 1950-2000
Lecture by Caleb Wellum, Ph.D. candidate in History, U Toronto

The Centre for the Study of the United States F. Ross Johnson - Connaught Speaker Series 2013-2014 presents:

Caleb Wellum

Ecology and the Politics of the Future in the 1970s

The 1973 OPEC Oil Embargo against the United States triggered long lines at American gas stations, and signaled the end of cheap oil in the American and global economies. High crude oil prices riled American consumers and fuelled conspiracy theories, while exacerbating stagflation and the painful economic recessions of the 1970s. The potential for a more scarce energy future also ignited a heated debate about the nature and future of America’s energy system, and the potential for its disintegration. Economists and pundits feared the erosion of America’s domestic economy and political power abroad. This paper examines discourses of the energy future that used the language of ecology to predict socioeconomic catastrophe unless America abandoned the ideal of economic growth in favour of the massive social reorganization needed to support a steady state economy. Such ecological discourse relied on a politically and affectively potent politics of anticipation that demanded action now to save the future. By the end of the decade, however, neoliberal imaginaries of the energy future began to emerge that also adopted this anticipatory stance, but posited the unregulated free market as a panacea for America’s energy and economic woes. Exploring these conflicting discourses allows for a deeper understanding of the anticipatory and affective dimensions of neoliberalism, which is often reduced to a set of economic principles that cannot explain its political power on their own.
Caleb Wellum is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. His dissertation is entitled “Energizing the Right: Economy, Ecology, and Culture in the 1970s American Energy Crisis.” His research focuses on cultural history and the politics of anticipatory discourses. In particular, his work links the history of neoliberalism to debates about energy, ecology, and economy that surrounded the energy crises of the 1970s. This work is supported in part by a CSUS Graduate Research Grant and the Gerald Ford Presidential Library. Wellum has presented at NiCHE workshops, and the American Studies Association conference. Before coming to Toronto, he earned his BA (Hon.) and MA from McMaster University in Hamilton.

This event is organized by the CSUS Graduate Student Workshop
This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. To register for this event, please go to: http://munkschool.utoronto.ca/events/

For further information, please contact the Centre for the Study of the United States at (416) 946-8972.

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