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The Collapse of Western CivilizationA View from the Future$
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Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231169547

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231169547.001.0001

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Market Failure

Market Failure

(p.35) 3 Market Failure
The Collapse of Western Civilization

Naomi Oreskes

Erik M. Conway

Columbia University Press

This chapter analyzes the two inhibiting ideologies of the Western civilization: positivism and market fundamentalism. Twentieth-century scientists saw themselves as the descendants of an empirical tradition often referred to as positivism. This philosophy held that through experience, observation, and experiment, one could gather reliable knowledge about the natural world, and that this knowledge would empower its holder. A key attribute of the period was that power did not reside in the hands of those who understood the climate system, but rather in political, economic, and social institutions that had strong interest in maintaining the use of fossil fuels. Historians have labeled this system the carbon-combustion complex. Market fundamentalism was a two-pronged ideological system. The first prong held that societal needs were served most efficiently in a free market economic system, while the second maintained that free markets were the only manner of satisfying material wants.

Keywords:   Western civilization, positivism, market fundamentalism, carbon-combustion complex, free market

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