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The Imperial Mode of Living


Everyday life and the ecological crisis of capitalism. By Ulrich Brand and Markus Wissen

Verso 2021

SKU: AD-5815 Category:


Everyday life and the ecological crisis of capitalism. By Ulrich Brand and Markus Wissen

Verso 2021

Our Unsustainable Life: Why We Can’t Have Everything We Want

With the concept of the Imperial Mode of Living, Brand and Wissen highlight the fact that capitalism implies uneven development as well as a constant and accelerating universalisation of a Western mode of production and living. The logic of liberal markets since the 19thCentury, and especially since World War II, has been inscribed into everyday practices that are usually unconsciously reproduced. The authors show that they are a main driver of the ecological crisis and economic and political instability.

The Imperial Mode of Living implies that people’s everyday practices, including individual and societal orientations, as well as identities, rely heavily on the unlimited appropriation of resources; a disproportionate claim on global and local ecosystems and sinks; and cheap labour from elsewhere. This availability of commodities is largely organised through the world market, backed by military force and/or the asymmetric relations of forces as they have been inscribed in international institutions. Moreover, the Imperial Mode of Living implies asymmetrical social relations along class, gender and race within the respective countries. Here too, it is driven by the capitalist accumulation imperative, growth-oriented state policies and status consumption. The concrete production conditions of commodities are rendered invisible in the places where the commodities are consumed. The imperialist world order is normalized through the mode of production and living.


  • The highly readable book by Brand and Wissen exposes an internal contradiction fraught with consequences: the imperial mode of living undermines its own operating conditions. Currently, the dominant reaction to this fact consists of desperate attempts to secure the exclusivity of this mode of living even under altered conditions.

     Stephan Lessenich,  Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
  • The facts of the “imperial mode of living” are nothing new. The merit of the authors lies in showing its related problems broadly, well founded in theory and substantiated by empirical material.

     Joachim Hirsch,  Frankfurter Rundschau
  • To fight the ecological crisis, the realm of political economics ought to be included as well, because it would clearly show the problems with the global North’s globalised norms of production and consumption. 

     Jutta Bichl, Paolo Freire Zentrum, Austria

Additional information

Weight 0.240 kg