It gets tiresome to see any and all attempts at innovation in relation to marxism shot down in the name of Marx’s theories. Not that anyone can really produce a rival theory. The question is a tired one, and the dogmatism of marxists counterproductive.
That is why I have adopted a different approach that is historical architecture and chronology rather than analytical theory. It is very hard to analyze history into a theory, but relatively easy to use systems analysis of detect a concealed dynamic. We can adopt a postdarwinian view of evolution and consider the issue of teleology by inspection.
It is virtually impossible to analyze such a complicated systematics, despite the fact that we can roughly categorize its dynamism. That is why historical materialism ends up too limited to be master theory. Economics is better taken ad hoc as a construct of economic agents, a set of economic relations inside a larger historical system. It is futile to try and reduce civilization to the theory of historical materialism.
That leaves the question, what is capitalism? Wallerstein’s suggestive idea of capitalism arising in the sixteenth century fits our chronology very well, but our model is about relative transformations: capitalism arises with civilization in the Neolithic, but becomes an increasing tenacious process over the course of civilizations arising in the wake of Sumer especially. We see that slavery is one of the gestating forms of proto-capitalism.
In the final analysis we cannot fully resolve the issue of ‘what capitalism is’ and ‘when it arose’. The transformations of economy in the early modern, but especially the Industrial Revolution, show the modern remorphing of a powerful new player that we call capitalism. Note the equivocation however over the relative transformation effect. Capitalism coexists with civilization, but shows a powerful relative transform at the climax of the modern transition: this is a typical and classic ‘eonic emergent’ in our language: the timing is spectacular as is the instant challenge from the left. And we can argue that this economic domination of the whole cultural sphere is a novelty in itself, and an instant pathology that drives the modern revolutionary to an extended critique of his own democratic revolution and recasting this in terms of the categories of socialism/communism. The analysis of Marx/Engels is far more useful in this bare constructivist approach before it gets formalized in terms of a set of theories.
The issue then is a complex description of an economic system, always with the given element of free agency. Not just historical materialism, but the whole field of mathematical economics, goes out the window due to this factor of free agency.
So the issue here is the constructivist historical approach which is not fixated in theories which always confuse the issue with misapplied theory mongering over systems too complex for theories.
The final task then is a construction of a social field with an economic system that is definably postcapitalist. This is much simpler that the endless confusion over historical materialism and its rivals and competitors.
The issue of ecology simply jumps aboard and rides easily with this broader view. In fact, we see that the gestation of Romantic movement in counterpoint with the Enlightenment shows the powerful current of ecological thinking is embedded in modernism itself. It is a fallacy to try and make all these ‘exceptions’ to the marxist canon heretical deviations: the issue is not the marxist canon but the larger field of modernism itself.