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Captive Futures


Today, a “High-carbon Energy compleX” (HEX) of fossil-fuel enterprises and their allies hold the future captive, attempting to indefinitely preserve global reliance on carbon- emitting energy. Emergent social forces offer alternative futures, from ‘climate capitalism’ to energy democracy and more. Public collective action in the United States of America represents a potential pivotal force in this world-historical crisis, capable of helping initiate a break from catastrophic futures and opening up more democratic and humane alternatives. Studies of public opinion in the United States, framed by a critical analysis of social power that foregrounds the contours of domination and possibilities of resistance, may therefore be essential. This study attempts this through a 2-phase method: Qualitative research on the beliefs of climate-focused scholars across the country (n=22) and quantitative research using a national survey of public perception (n=1065). I demonstrate that the US public is already highly concerned about climate change and supportive of strategically necessary democratizing and redistributive policy solutions. However, both the public and experts show only weak support for social movement action and repertoires of contention1 capable of delivering these solutions. I argue that the most pressing need for intervention by social scientists and activists today is not the production of concern or action divorced from power analysis, but instead the cultivation of power analysis, building public capacities for power-literate strategy to guide collective action toward democratic and ecologically vibrant futures.

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