From Carbon Democracy to Carbon Rebellion: Countering Petro-Hegemony on the Frontlines of Climate Justice


  • Theo LeQuesne University of California, Santa Barbara



Petro-Hegemony, Carbon Democracy, Climate Justice, Blockadia, Social Movements


This essay combines salient instances of climate justice activism in key battlegrounds against the fossil fuel industry in the United States and Canada with theoretical interventions in studies of corporate power, grassroots democracy, and counter hegemony. It explores Timothy Mitchell's Carbon Democracy and the term’s relevance to understanding the conditions in which climate justice activists must combat the entrenched interests of fossil fuel companies.  It suggests that Carbon Democracy is a helpful concept for understanding how fossil fuel dependency both shapes and distorts democratic governance. Drawing upon insights in three case studies - activism against Chevron in Richmond California, the Water Protectors and the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, and the First Nations-led fight against the Trans Mountain Pipeline in British Columbia - the essay supplements Carbon Democracy with two more terms: Petro-Hegemony and Carbon Rebellion. These reveal three power relations, namely consent, compliance, and coercion, upon which fossil fuel companies depend and in which climate justice activists must strategically intervene to move beyond conditions of Carbon Democracy. I show that dual power is a logic of strategic intervention that climate justice activists are successfully using to intervene in all three of these relations to reign in corporate power and assert their own sovereignty. 

Author Biography

Theo LeQuesne, University of California, Santa Barbara

PhD Student, Global Studies


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How to Cite

LeQuesne, T. (2019). From Carbon Democracy to Carbon Rebellion: Countering Petro-Hegemony on the Frontlines of Climate Justice. Journal of World-Systems Research, 25(1), 15–27.



Symposium: Corporate Power and Local Democracy