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Peak OilApocalyptic Environmentalism and Libertarian Political Culture$
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Matthew Schneider-Mayerson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226285269

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226285573.001.0001

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Apocalyptic Popular Culture and Political Quiescence

Apocalyptic Popular Culture and Political Quiescence

(p.103) Four Apocalyptic Popular Culture and Political Quiescence
Peak Oil

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson

University of Chicago Press

This chapter situates peakists’ sense of impending collapse in the context of the long history of American apocalypticism and highlights the ways that peakist narratives borrowed and diverted from previous millennial prophecies. It recapitulates the long history of American apocalypticism and charts the influence of one recent manifestation, eco-apocalyptic Hollywood disaster movies of the 1990s and 2000s, on peakists’ conception of environmental change. Via the genre of peak oil fiction, a close-reading of James Howard Kunstler’s post-petroleum novel World Made By Hand (2008) and debates on online forums, it connects the ‘excitement’ that many peakists felt about the post-peak world to their anti-capitalist aspirations. As solutions to ecological crises through electoral politics seem unlikely to many Americans, the prophecy of peak oil provided one means of imagining a significantly different world. Adherents saw peak oil as a transformative event that might put an end to American imperialism, capitalism, and environmental destruction and deliver a more sustainable future. This revolution would not be authored by elected politicians or social movements, but by the petroleum-dependent American way of life tripping over its ecological limits.

Keywords:   disaster movies, apocalypticism, environmental politics, political quiescence, revolution, peak oil fiction, World Made By Hand

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