Max Koch - Climate Change, Capitalism and Social Policy

Prof. Dr. Max Koch (Department of Social Work and Social Welfare, Lund University, Sweden ( ) gave an introducing lecture on the 16th of April 2013 during which he synthesizes the current debate on welfare after growth. Afterwards an interaction with two discussants of think thanks (discussants: Dirk Holemans (Oikos) en Johan Albrecht (Itinera)) and the public was foreseen. 

About the speaker  

Professor Koch joined Lund University from Queen’s University Belfast in 2008. He completed both his PhD and his Habilitation in sociology at the Freie Universität Berlin. An ongoing theme of his research has been the ways in which political and economic restructuring are reflected in the social structure with an emphasis on welfare and employment relations and in comparative perspective. More recently, he started to combine these research interests with political ecology and synergies and conflicts in climate change and social policies. Professor Koch has been a Visiting Scholar at Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Glasgow University and Programa de Economía del Trabajo, Santiago de Chile and at the GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Cologne.

His publications include Non-Standard Employment in Europe – Paradigms, Prevalence and Policy Responses (forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan, coedited with Martin Fritz); Capitalism and Climate Change – Theoretical discussion, Historical Development and Policy Responses (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); Diversity, Standardization and Social Transformation: Gender, Ethnicity and Inequality in Europe (Ashgate, 2011, coedited with Lesley McMillan and Bram Peper); Roads to Post-Fordism. Labour Markets and Social Structures in Europe (Ashgate, 2006); Arbeitsmärkte und Sozialstrukturen in Europa. Wege zum Postfordismus in den Niederlanden, Schweden, Spanien, Großbritannien und Deutschland (Westdeutscher Verlag, 2003); Unternehmen Transformation. Sozialstruktur und gesellschaftlicher Wandel in Chile (Vervuert, 1998); Vom Strukturwandel einer Klassengesellschaft. Theoretische Diskussion und empirische Analyse (Westfälisches Dampfboot, 1998). 

About the lecture

Our contemporary model of welfare production is ecologically not sustainable as the ecological costs of production and the use of energy sources are not counted. In addition, calculations show that policy scenarios in which we think a society without economic growth is the only long-term sustainable option, as environmental improvements due to technological innovation is usually undermined by economic growth.

Exploring and analysing the links between capitalist development, climate change and social policy is a new research field. In a partial response to Tony Fitzpatrick’s call ‘to turn environmentalism and social policy from distant acquaintances into firm friends’, the lecture contributes towards filling this gap. It will, first, address the historical and structural links between particular production and consumption patterns and the aggravation of climate change as an ecological and social issue ; second, discuss the policy responses to the problem that are currently on offer; third, address the distributive consequences and implications for social justice and social policy current climate mitigation policies are likely to have for different societal groups. Responsibilities and impacts may work in opposite ways to constitute a ‘double’ injustice, since the groups and populations likely to be most harmed by climate change are the least responsible for causing it and have the least resources to cope with the consequences; finally, the lecture will discuss alternative policy scenarios that may better combine the goals of carbon reduction and social equity.