My dissertation uses the "peak oil" movement as a lens to analyze the convergence of apocalyptic environmental thinking and libertarian political culture in the recent United States. The "peak oil" movement was a twenty-first century American social movement of Americans who came to believe that oil depletion and other environmental problems would lead to the imminent collapse of global industrial society. Dedicated adherents developed a rich subculture, primarily online, and prepared themselves for the "post-carbon" future by conserving energy, changing occupations, and even purchasing land. Drawing on surveys of over 1,500 participants, ethnographic research, discourse analysis of peak oil websites and literary analysis of subcultural fiction, my research reveals a group of mostly white, male, liberal Americans struggling with the perceived threat of economic, environmental and geopolitical decline while the country undergoes a broad shift in political culture: the continued rise of libertarian ideals, accelerated by the influence of Internet technology. I view this apocalyptic subculture in the context of petroleum dependence, eco-apocalyptic discourses, the environmental discourse of "limits to growth," white masculinity, climate change, and the influence of conservative individualism on American political culture.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2013. Major: American Studies. Advisor: Elaine May. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 293 pages.
Peak Politics: Resource Scarcity and Libertarian Political Culture in the United States.
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