Ecological Finitude as Ontological Finitude: Radical Hope in the Anthropocene

The vulnerability we confront in the Anthropocene is what Jonathan Lear has called ontological vulnerability: the possible collapse of our world, that is, the collapse of the taken-for-granted way of life that guides and orients us in our everyday practices. In this paper, we take up Lear’s claim that in the face of the impending collapse of one’s world, a peculiar form of hope, radical hope, is called for. According Lear, radical hope means holding on to a “commitment only to the bare possibility that, from this disaster something good will emerge.”

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Critical Theory of the Contemporary: Election 2016, Environmental Nationalism, and Palestinian Shame

In addition to its main focus on nature and the Anthropocene, Telos 177 (Winter 2016) features a special section of topical writing, introduced here by Russell A. Berman, that continues our ongoing commitment to setting forth a critical theory of the contemporary. Telos 177 is now available for purchase in our store.

After a rancorous and ugly presidential campaign, in which vitriol and name-calling replaced discussion and policy, one moment stands out for its dignity: President Obama’s grace and generosity when he welcomed the president-elect to the White House. Above the fray and with a Lincolnian refusal of malice, he modeled a possibility of reconciliation and healing, as if citizens might genuinely respect each other, despite profound differences. That utopia will likely remain elusive, but the president’s bearing provides a lesson in civic virtue. Democracy can be coarse. He showed how it can be better. That legacy will be important.

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Telos 172 (Fall 2015): Political Critiques of the Anthropocene

Telos 172 (Fall 2015) is now available for purchase in our store.

Rapid climate change today is attributed to the profligate use of fossil fuels, and this consumption of hydrocarbon energy has worldwide, albeit uneven and discontinuous, cultural and economic patterns to it. Nonetheless, it is more than plausible to spin up the frameworks for a universal history of humanity based upon modern society’s increasing combustion of the planet’s biotic prehistory as fossil fuel energy. As the carbon of antediluvian plant matter is burned to light homes, run factories, and propel vehicles, the history of the present becomes materially universalized as the exhausted energy of the distant past released along with its soot, smog, and smoke.

Thus, noxious by-products of production and consumption ironically become the crown of commodified creation at the end of history, whose ultimate historical ends, as Fukuyama reaffirms, are tied to the “endless accumulation” of wealth. Little did he know, this outcome also would entail nonstop increases in greenhouse gases and rapid climate change; but, environmentalists, historians, sociologists, and technologists are more than willing now to seize upon this curious outcome for the crisis narratives of a universal history framed by the concept of “the Anthropocene.”

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