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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)


Politics and the Anthropocene - Prof Duncan Kelly

The Anthropocene is both a problem of modern politics, and a problem for politics. It is a problem of modern politics, for although there is no fixed agreement upon when exactly the Anthropocene might have emerged stratigraphically, the two most relevant proposals for its modern development, the industrial revolution and the nuclear age, are coterminous with the origin and fraught evolution of modern, representative politics. Yet the Anthropocene is also a problem for politics. For although it seems unlikely that any kind of politics as we have known it, democratic or otherwise, could unilaterally deal with all the globally connected problems thrown up by environmental threats in the modern age of the Anthropocene, without politics, there is nothing that might authorize, legitimate or constrain any choices peoples might make about how best to proceed in its wake. The Anthropocene, in other words, raises questions both about how we consider the responsibility of modern politics for having brought about the challenge of the Anthropocene, and raises questions about the practice of politics, because only through political action can claims about responsibility be understood and developed. The seven classes for this course consider various dimensions of this relationship between politics and the Anthropocene, primarily from the perspective of the overlapping intellectual histories of modern political and economic thought. Likely topics for consideration will be, the competing temporalities of the Anthropocene and modern politics; questions of economic growth amid finite resources; issues of debt and indebtedness; the centrality of capitalism and colonialism; problems of value and political/humanistic versus scientific argumentation.

Further information can be found here