Following the birth of fossil fuels in the late 18th century there has been a shift for them now to have systemic dysfunctional consequences. The articles in this issue examine how Energy indeed is the root of very many problems. This special issue explores many of the implications of the fateful moment fossil fuel-based energy was initiated as all the world desired and began to obtain that ‘power’.
The Problem of Energy Theory, Culture & Society September 2014 31: 3-20, first published on July 1, 2014 doi:10.1177/0263276414536747
Energy forms and their extensive scale are remarkably significant for the ways that societies are organized. This article shows the importance of how societies are ‘energized’ and especially the global growth of ‘fossil fuel societies’. Much social thought remains oblivious to the energy revolution realized over the past two to three centuries which set the ‘West’ onto a distinct trajectory. Energy is troubling for social thought because different energy systems with their ‘lock-ins’ are not subject to simple human intervention and control. Analyses are provided here of different fossil fuel societies, of coal and oil, with the latter enabling the liquid, mobilized 20th century. Consideration is paid to the possibilities of reducing fossil fuel dependence but it is shown how unlikely such a ‘powering down’ will be. The author demonstrates how energy is a massive problem for social theory and for 21st-century societies. Developing post-carbon theory and especially practice is far away but is especially urgent.