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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Essential Reading: Carl Schmitt’s Land and Sea

Writing at the Claremont Review of Books, Aaron Zack reviews the new English translation of Carl Schmitt’s Land and Sea, now available from Telos Press. Purchase your copy in our online store and save 20% by using the coupon code BOOKS20.

Telos Press’s new edition of Carl Schmitt’s Land und Meer: Eine weltgeschichtliche Betrachtung (Land and Sea: A World-Historical Meditation) provides an essential guide for understanding sea power. . . . Schmitt provides an intriguing analysis of the link between the sea and the modern project’s culmination in creative, free-thinking individuals moving and acting within a liberal, global order . . .

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Telos 177 (Winter 2016): Rethinking Nature in the Anthropocene

Telos 177 (Winter 2016) is now available for purchase in our store.

While the term Anthropocene was used in the USSR already in the 1960s to refer to the late Quaternary era, it rose to prominence more recently when introduced by Eugene F. Stoermer and Paul J. Crutzen. As the very word indicates, this is an epoch when humanity has taken center stage in the sense that its activities now have a major, global, and lethal impact. The shadow of human-caused global destruction and mass death haunts this epoch, and indeed, humanity’s newly acquired capacity for devastation is one of the Anthropocene’s most marked traits. While mass extinctions are hardly new phenomena and while the specter of the extinction of humanity due to some sudden catastrophe was there even before human beings were aware of it in scientific terms, the actual capacity of humanity to extinguish itself along with a large swath of other species on the planet is new, and the stakes of human action are higher.

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Land and Sea, Air and Fire

“If, in addition, one imagines not only that airplanes fly through the airspace over land and sea but also that radio waves from transmissions from all lands circle the globe uninterruptedly through the atmospheric space, then it would be easy to believe now not only that a new, third dimension has been achieved but also that even a third element has been added, the air, as a new elementary domain of human existence. To both the mythic beasts, Leviathan and Behemoth, a third would be added, a great bird. But we must not be overhasty with such consequential propositions. Indeed, if one thinks of the mechanized technical means and energies with which human power is exercised in airspace, and if one recognizes the explosive motors by means of which air machines are moved, then it appears that it is the fire that is the additional, genuinely new element of human activity.”
—Carl Schmitt, Land and Sea: A World-Historical Meditation

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On the Legacy of September 11

The aftermath of the War on Terror rages on despite bipartisan assurances that “major combat operations are over” and that “the war is coming to a close.” This ongoing conflict has produced, and continues to produce, prodigious human casualties and economic hemorrhaging. Tim Luke’s words regarding September 11, 2001, are in many ways as timely today as they were nearly fourteen years ago.

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Primitivism as the New Opium for the Masses? Reading Zerzan Through Žižek

Is humanity’s need to control nature ultimately working against us? Are the modern ecological crises we face today the inevitable result of the accelerating technologization of society? Can we conclude that what appears to be widespread anomie, as evidenced, for example, by the now almost monthly school shootings in the United States, and the genocidal totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century both have their “premises, dynamics, or preconditions” (169) in industrialization’s alienation of mankind from nature? In “Why Primitivism?” John Zerzan hopes to convince us that the answers to these questions are yes. Through a nuanced critique of both modernity and the thoughts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries’ canonized intellectual Left, Zerzan draws the conclusion that we should look far back into human pre-history to find solutions to the problems that face humanity in the present. In this post, I will explore the primitivist position and provide a critique of Zerzan’s thought using Slavoj Žižek’s explorations into ecology’s ideological character.

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