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

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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.[1] 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.

Whether we locate the beginning of the Anthropocene around the end of World War II, with the invention of nuclear weapons, or perhaps already at the onset of the industrial revolution, an important development within this era has been the formation of a global space that can be measured and surveyed to a greater extent than ever before. The decades since the end of World War II have seen not only a marked increase in the flow of goods and people across the planet, but also the new capacity to actually see the planet as a whole from outside—most dramatically, perhaps, in the Pale Blue Dot photograph, in which Earth appears as a cosmic speck of dust. In other words, this is the era when, if we turn to the natural sciences for an understanding of the universe and our place in it, humanity has become simultaneously more important and less so; and our abode in the cosmos appears less regal, and more fragile.

Outside of the confines of more precise debates as to its technical definition and chronological boundary, the notion of the Anthropocene has entered into wider societal, political, and cultural discussions, and its effects here can be criticized. The insistence on the impact of “humanity” might obscure the divisions within our species: some have the power to make decisions and set agendas while others do not, and some have far more material resources than others. In truth, it is not some abstract collective humanity whose activities have an equal impact on the planet.[2] Furthermore, there is the risk of universal history, of the construction of teleological grand narratives whose ends are foreordained and which demand action in the present, preferably by the enlightened few who have grasped their consequences.[3]

Nevertheless, the notion of the Anthropocene has value: it challenges us to comprehend the connection between the immensity of geological time and the few generations over which certain sectors of humanity have developed planet-changing technology. The geological and historical time scales, which previously seemed almost incommensurable, have now collided: human activity has transformed the Earth and is unleashing vast atmospheric and biological changes.

Such drastic transformations would not have been possible without the intervention of early modern natural philosophy, along with metaphysical and epistemological innovations that justified and furthered such research. Although today’s scientific and technological leaders may ignore the philosophical basis of their efforts or take it for granted, the underlying principles remain in effect and demand thought. Thus, today’s philosophers, along with intellectuals and theorists in all fields, have a special responsibility to think through the concepts that their own forebears developed, concepts that have given us a double capacity: to view the Earth as a whole and to destroy it.

A topic that especially calls for thought is the nature of “nature” itself. Whatever that term may mean, it has undeniably become crucial within contemporary public and academic debates; however we may conceive of nature, our relationships to it are central to who we are and how we exist.

For example, nature could be considered simply as “the stuff” that makes up the universe in which we live. As philosopher Julian Baggini puts it in a conversation with physicist Lawrence Krauss, “I don’t think there is more stuff in the universe than the stuff of physical science.”[4] According to this widespread view, nature as conceived by modern natural science is literally the stuff that dreams are made of, even if we do not yet understand fully how. Modern science takes a mathematical-experimental approach to describing and predicting natural phenomena, which are understood as measurable and law-governed. This method has been spectacularly fertile. But is it the exclusively correct approach to nature, or should it be replaced by, or at least complemented with, other approaches? However we may answer that question, the scientists’ nature is at the very least real in a pragmatic sense: it is that which we study in search of causal explanations and predictions, that which makes possible our advanced technologies, and that which explains why they work. It is thus foundational to our way of life.

Nature, however, is also something we have to worry about, and something we need to attend to; it has become a source of guilt, anger, and confusion as we face what has been called “the end of nature.”[5] Nature, in this sense, is confined to our own planet, and to the organisms and ecosystems that are threatened by our own activities. Those activities are too often driven by a rapacious hunger for more, combined with a brutality disconnected from any real insight into what we are doing, and what the consequences are and will be: in a common metaphor, we actually rape nature, which nourishes us, provides sources of wonder and meaning, and offers a fragile abode in space. In the broad sense, a planet without organic life is no less “natural” than one with it, and pollution is as natural as its absence. But nature in the narrower sense provides both a precondition for our own existence, as well as, according to many, a vital source of its existential orientation, its meaning, or at least a source of overwhelmingly rich experiences of beauty and wonder.[6] A life without nature would be, even if it were possible, sad and desolate, and unfit for human beings. In this sense, nature is something we can potentially lose or forget. Of course, we are ourselves part of nature, and we have always interacted with our environment, so the crucial question here is not about “pristine nature” or some imagined period in which human beings lived in perfect harmony with it, but rather one of the unprecedented scope of our present activities.[7]

Finally, human nature, grasped scientifically along the lines of evolutionary biology, has become a haunting presence, continually stirring up unrest. Evolution sheds new light on hereditary differences among groups at the same time as we operate with conceptions of human rights that strive to transcend such differences. That tension raises the question of whether we should improve or remake human nature—a question that is becoming more urgent now that we have analyzed the human genome and acquired the technical capacity to manipulate and synthesize it.[8] Likewise, in a time when we can experimentally inject human stem cells into nonhuman embryos, the difference between humans and other animals has also become a highly contentious issue.[9]

“Nature,” then, has become a central source of contestation, ontologically and epistemologically as well as politically, with clashes involving religious and philosophical beliefs, political ideologies, multicultural and feminist politics, and our dominant economic system and its attendant patterns of behavior. Different incarnations of nature manage to upset a wide range of people and interests: from Islamists to radical feminists, from Marxists to libertarian capitalists, from armchair philosophers to angry revolutionaries—they can all find something highly threatening in the pretensions of advocates of scientific approaches to nature, and they often propose competing conceptions of nature of their own, which in turn can cause turmoil and outrage.

Rethinking Nature in the Anthropocene

How, then, has thinking about nature contributed to the onset of the Anthropocene? Should we conceive of nature in new ways in this new era? If so, how would such changes in our thinking be reflected in practice? These are the broad themes addressed by the contributors to this issue of Telos. As editors, we have allowed for a wide diversity of voices, of both opinions and styles of philosophizing. We believe that discussion on these critical questions may be advanced by both the broad sweep and the precise excavation, the provocative suggestion and the carefully substantiated conclusion.

The first three contributions to this special issue contain conceptual excavations, tracing some of the possible roots of our contemporary dilemmas in the emergence of early modern philosophy and the way in which some of its key thinkers considered nature, in contrast to major strands of classical and Judeo-Christian traditions.

Martin Yaffe’s contribution puts the concept of the Anthropocene into perspective by returning to key sources of ideas on the human relationship to the Earth: the Hebrew Bible and Francis Bacon. Against Lynn T. White’s claim that the human exploitation of nature is legitimated in Genesis 1, Yaffe argues that Genesis actually explores the dangers of human craft, and he observes that the Pentateuch includes laws that forestall the abuse of land, plants, and animals. In Genesis there is no “nature,” but “kinds” of creatures that are differentiated from chaos by God’s word, and that may return to chaos if man violates divine law and God withdraws his support. In contrast, Bacon claims that knowledge of the laws of natural motion gives us the power to invent new and useful techniques—techniques that can enlarge “the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible” (New Atlantis). Bacon’s works invite us to consider the possibility of replacing political judgment with scientific and technical expertise. It is in early modernity, then, that the roots of the Anthropocene are to be found.

Timothy Sean Quinn pursues this line of analysis in his own account of Bacon and Descartes. These thinkers reject the traditional supremacy of contemplative inquiry into origins, for the sake of technoscientific mastery of nature. Quinn points out Bacon’s debt to Machiavelli, who proposed to conquer Fortuna by manly virtue. In order to promote this program, Bacon purges nature of final causes, replacing them with universal mechanical laws. Descartes goes further, discreetly rejecting Christian ethics as inimical to human progress and positing that nature itself is a kind of machine. Given the absence of finality in this cosmic machine, Descartes finds purpose in the passions of embodied human beings. Philosophy now has the task of satisfying those passions by devising technology that will transform the material world. Both Bacon and Descartes envision this task as a project for generations, to be organized and funded by the authorities. Eventually, as the New Atlantis indicates, political and religious authority themselves will fade away, to be supplanted by technocracy. Yet, Quinn proposes, this modern worldview ends up making its own dream of mastery into an enigmatic project whose outcome is incalculable.

Trish Glazebrook argues that the Anthropocene is dominated by the logic of patriarchal capital, or phallogocapital, and proposes gynocentric alternatives based on care rather than capital. She argues that the scientific method inaugurated by thinkers such as Bacon provides the foundational logic that makes possible domination by phallogocapital. Glazebrook’s post-Heideggerian and ecofeminist analysis critiques the role of the scientific method in contemporary ecodestruction, presenting this method as a performative worldview: that is, experiment is a derivative expression of a world-opening that sets up knowledge as quantification and the real as what can be quantified. In phallogocapital, the real is accordingly “abjectified” into disposable resource. The first part of Glazebrook’s essay thus argues that the Anthropocene is more accurately the Androcene, as global enactment of the androcentric technics of phallogocapital, and that the logic of mastery that is born in modern science is inherently phallogocentric. The second part discusses alternative methods of knowledge acquisition, transfer, and praxis in the global South, with particular attention to women’s agricultural knowledge traditions. In Glazebrook’s view, knowledge is not necessarily phallogocapitalist, but its contemporary formulation as technoscience manifests an inherently domineering logic.

The subsequent three contributions touch upon the limits of contemporary normative discourses in relation to ecological predicaments, and hint at the possibility of the emergence of new configurations of social practices.

Sabine Wilke’s essay develops a distinctive critical perspective on modernity by applying the thought of Horkheimer and Adorno to the Anthropocene. The tradition of Critical Theory encourages us to pursue the project of justice, equity, and emancipation even in the face of the mounting environmental cataclysm. Already in Marx, Wilke notes the principles that all production is also consumption, that this process involves the appropriation of nature, and that the process requires surplus and growth. At least in its modern form, then, production seems to be unsustainable: it tends to deplete nature. However, and despite Horkheimer and Adorno’s pessimistic bent, perhaps a more eco-friendly kind of production and consumption is possible. Some relatively neglected passages in Dialectic of Enlightenment can inspire us, Wilke writes, to find “residues of freedom” in a new relationship to nature, which, in Horkheimer and Adorno’s words, can then become “the urge of existence for peace.”

Jon Wittrock discusses the notion advanced by religious naturalists that nature could be considered sacred. Even if nature can awaken a sense of awe, why would that in itself merit reverence? More importantly, Wittrock argues, we must ask not only about sacred nature but about the nature of the sacred, and what that could imply politically. The sacred is often described in terms of protective boundaries surrounding artifacts and sites as well as temporal intervals and living organisms. In this sense, the sacred is present in the contemporary politics of liberal-democratic nation-states, with their narratives, symbols, and rituals. But this in itself raises wider questions: the risk of the sacred and corresponding categories is that they are reproduced without reflection on either the delimitation of those domains that are indeed sacred, or the reasons for others’ not being so. Ultimately, we should consider not only the logics of communal gatherings and gift and commodity exchange, but also the limits of sacralization even of secular politics. In the end, if human rights can be theorized as a dynamic of sacralization, should we consider the sacralization of animals and even of wider nature, just as the dignity of humanity has functioned for norms of human rights?

Fernando Flores and B. Scot Rousse propose that “our ecological finitude is the harbinger of our ontological finitude”: that is, not only is the ecological niche in which we have flourished now in danger, but the world of meaning within which the modern, industrial way of life has made sense is facing closure. “World” here is used in the Heideggerian sense of a space within which occurrences can be significant. Developing Jonathan Lear’s concept of a “radical hope” that can sustain a community in the face of the death of its world, Flores and Rousse urge us to be on the lookout for new possibilities and practices that will arise in the “drift of historical emergence.” These possibilities originate on the margins, yet may ultimately come together into a new cultural configuration; they may take the form of technologies, conversations, politics, and moods. Today, Flores and Rousse suggest, a reconfiguration is gathering—and in order to discern and welcome it, we do not need to be creative geniuses, but must rather be receptive to the converging forces so that we may glimpse the glimmer of a new clearing.

The final two contributions engage directly with the way in which we could think nature and the human beyond both naturalism and humanism, as traditionally understood.

Thomas Alexander, like Flores and Rousse, sees our current cultural world coming to an end, along with the ecological systems we have known so far. Part of the transformation of our culture, he argues, must be a transformation in philosophy—so that philosophy does not just think about ecology using established methods, but finds an ecological way of thinking. Philosophy itself needs to be reconceived as a pluralistic ecosystem where “polyphonic” thought can thrive. A philosophy adequate to the Anthropocene, Alexander proposes, must be both “naturalistic” in a sense that does not reduce nature to what physics discloses, and “humanistic” in a sense that does not exclude spiritual experience and care for the non-human world. He proceeds to lay out four complementary voices in which nature and the human can be invoked: the scientific, the humanistic, the ontological, and the transcendental. Alexander cites a wealth of thinkers who speak in these various voices. While some of these thinkers have been monophonic, in order to find our way to a new culture that can survive and flourish in the Anthropocene, we will have to become polyphonic: we must open our ears to the diversity of voices and to what we can learn from them.

Michael Marder’s essay proposes that in a time of ecological devastation, philosophers must rethink the oikos or home. What does it mean to be at home today, or to come home? If philosophy, as Novalis says, is the urge to be everywhere at home, does this urge sacrifice real, concrete dwelling for the sake of an empty universality? In the Anthropocene, the possibility of global annihilation brings us up against the universal whole in the form of nothingness. In the face of this vulnerable and vacuous whole, Marder proposes that philosophy must choose between “eco-nomy” and “eco-logy.” Eco-nomy is a system of thought that attempts to create unity through laws that are established by a supposedly universal reason. In contrast, eco-logy accepts instability and singularity—the many ways in which the world resists human configuration. Where eco-nomy views all beings as fuel, eco-logy sees them as irreducible elements of a shared abode. Eco-logical thinking would be primarily relational, would appreciate growth in a qualitative sense, would embrace art as a way of articulating the cosmos, and would promote a sense of ethics focused on ethos as habitat. Like Alexander, Marder invites us to pursue a new, polyphonic kind of thinking—a “plurilogue.”

Fatal Politics and the Anthropocene

In sum, in response to human beings’ sudden intervention in geological history, our contributors have rethought the conception of nature that made this development possible, have explored alternative approaches, and have called for more flexible and diverse ways of thinking. In the following, we propose a perspective on the above debates that will aid in situating them conceptually in relation to each other and in relation to competing approaches. In so doing, we aim to transcend a conceptual anthropocentrism, which is, hardly surprisingly, common in modern and contemporary politics, and to emphasize that politics is not merely a question of the division of power and the struggle for resources, but also of different interpretations of beings, allowing for distinct kinds of connections between them.

Everything is connected—a cliché that has never seemed more true than in this age of global communication, trade flows, migration patterns, and ecological awareness. The last few decades saw the rise to prominence of new theoretical metaphors to make sense of the world—the rhizome, the network, the mesh.[10] But if things are indeed increasingly interconnected, how are they tied together? Mythologically, the notion of fate is often tied to the image of the thread. By invoking fate today, we raise the question: what is this thread made of? How things are tied together is a question that ties into the politics of the world, in the sense of a meaningful disclosure of things as they are. Are things linked as objects in causal chains, as fields of possibilities in mathematical theories, as subjects bound together by fealty, or as created beings fearing God and hoping for salvation? Politics is a struggle not only over the division of the known world and its bounties, but also over the conceptualization of reality, which allows for different kinds of relations between beings. The latter is fatal politics—the politics of fate. Fatal politics, then, entails the competition between models for the interpretation of beings, allowing for certain kinds of interconnection between them.

In a narrower sense of politics, fatal politics is obviously relevant to questions of citizenship and immigration, nationalism and multiculturalism, feminism and democracy. It is a question of what a community consists of and how these constituent members are interrelated: as citizens with equal rights, as ethnic compatriots ready for struggle and sacrifice, as adherents of the same religion who submit to the same god, and so on.

But in a broader sense, too, fatal politics matters. Shared narratives transmit a certain image of what beings are and how they can be interrelated. So do the media and public debates. Today, discussions on these issues are often handled under the heading of “identity politics,” which is arguably a misnomer, since what it really tends to refer to are multicultural reactions against the already prevalent identity politics of homogenizing nation-states. Furthermore, this term restricts debates on identity to issues like race, gender, sexuality, and class. Identity, however, in terms of the essence of something, or of shared traits, is a much wider and deeper question than identity politics suggests: it pertains to the question of what it means for something to be what it is, and which social practices reproduce certain ways of being, including, prominently, interpretations of what it means to be human, to be alive, to be natural, and to exist at all, as well as logics of community and exchange. Fatal politics is thus meant to be a term that renders visible these logics and their variants.

On the one hand, this perspective may serve to avoid an unreflected anthropocentrism, which perceives politics in terms of struggles for recognition and demands for rights and justice, for human beings. Fatal politics pertains not only to these questions of interhuman relations but also to the relations between human beings and the non-human and even inanimate.[11] It proceeds from the observation that communities are erected upon and reproduce a set of ecological relations that may be opened up to contestation.

On the other hand, the question of fatal politics can also serve to clarify the debate on whether ecological crises are the result of global capitalism, or rather of an underlying tendency shared between capitalism and its major competitors. Thus, critics of capitalism point to the pervasive and increasing commodification of everything that exists, which turns things, sites, labor, and time itself into commodified resources to be exploited, or at least efficiently managed. Other critics, however, retort that real socialism, too, built upon and glorified the human conquest of nature, and incorporated a logic of exploitation.[12] In one sense, this is a matter of semantics: some may argue that the Soviet Union, for example, constituted an example of state capitalism.[13] In another sense, however, the debate pertains to different logics of fatal politics: to the conceptualization of beings as commodities, or as mathematical objects or measurable processes. Furthermore, both commodification and objectification may or may not, logically, be related to pollution, to the overuse of resources, to major ecological crises, to the mistreatment of animals, and to the ravaging of human habitats.

The Anthropocene calls the contemporary logics of fatal politics into question in several ways. Politically, if agency by nation-states is found insufficient to combat environmental problems, there is a need to solve the dilemma of international collaboration, which generates problems of trust and dilemmas of cooperation.[14] Furthermore, the ritualistic, symbolic and narrative reproduction of national collective identities calls into question the organization of space and time in these particular configurations. There is also the abiding issue of the anthropocentric basis of modern and contemporary politics, where rights and notions of citizenship cover interhuman relations. Economically, there is the question whether consumer culture and commodification need to be restricted, or whether instead they can cope with ecological problems. If they cannot, a new logic of exchange may be needed, or there may be an increased need for complementary logics.

Finally, ontologically, there is the question of scientific depictions of reality, as opposed to the world of experience. Actual human existence is permeated with significant experiences that transcend a view of calculable objects and processes, not in the sense of being supernatural but rather in the phenomenological plenitude and the richness in nuances that allow the very same object or process to be viewed radically differently, and with an increase and decrease not only in emotional but also in phenomenological depth. Thus, nature as encountered in moments of extraordinary openness and receptivity to wonder, or the face of the beloved bathed in luminosity, may not be different at the molecular level from the very same elements encountered as everyday, prosaic phenomena, but they nevertheless constitute significant, and perhaps essential, components of a meaningful existence. Of course, the so-called naturalistic response would point to the sensory and neurological processes resulting in such phenomenological variation, whereas the phenomenologist would investigate the content of these experiences. Still, there is the risk of reductionism, over-simplification, or marginalization of significant realms of human experience.

To conclude, then, the Anthropocene actualizes several key tensions in the layers of what we have called fatal politics. First, politically, the notion of communities bound together by citizenship encounters the tensions of the dilemmas and limits of transnational cooperation and immigration, as well as internal multicultural challenges; in both cases, it is a question of legal and symbolic boundaries, the articulations of which may be internally incoherent, for example in tying together claims of religious toleration and multiculturalism with elements of a specific ethnic or religious heritage. Both the call for transnational cooperation and a rise in immigration may be brought on by ecological crises. Second, increased commodification and demand for capitalist growth clash with the physical and psychological boundaries of human beings, as well as the risks of resource depletion and pollution. And third, conceptualizing reality as calculable objects and processes encounters the insistence of the significance of experiential realms which appear to exceed such a view, or cannot easily be squared with it. These are the major tensions of fatal politics, which the concept of the Anthropocene appears to actualize, and which call for further thinking.

Note from the Editor

This issue of Telos concludes with a section dedicated to the “Critical Theory of the Contemporary,” designed as a space for the exploration of matters of current public concern. Foremost among them is the 2016 presidential election. Adrian Pabst, Kiron Skinner, and David Pan comment on the results. Tim Luke explores the contours of global climate change politics, and Cary Nelson presents a worrisome dossier on dire state of academic freedom at universities controlled by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Notes

1. Paul J. Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer, “The ‘Anthropocene,'” Global Change Newsletter 41 (2000): 17–18.

2. See Timothy W. Luke, “Introduction: Political Critiques of the Anthropocene,” Telos 172 (Fall 2015), esp. p. 5; and, in the same issue, Christopher R. Cox, “Faulty Presuppositions and False Dichotomies: The Problematic Nature of ‘the Anthropocene'”; Matthew Lepori, “There Is No Anthropocene: Climate Change, Species-Talk, and Political Economy.”

3. Timothy W. Luke, “On the Politics of the Anthropocene,” Telos 172 (Fall 2015), esp. pp. 141, 150.

4. Julian Baggini and Lawrence Krauss, “Philosophy v Science: Which Can Answer the Big Questions of Life?” Observer, September 9, 2012.

5. Bill McKibben, The End of Nature (New York: Random House, 1989).

6. Among many who have articulated such views, we may mention Wendell Berry, whose reflections on the American relation to the land can be found in works such as Our Only World: Ten Essays (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2015).

7. On the dangers of simplistic oppositions between the human and the natural, see Cox, “Faulty Presuppositions and False Dichotomies,” p. 60; Zev Trachtenberg, “The Anthropocene, Ethics, and the Nature of Nature,” Telos 172 (Fall 2015): 44; Manuel Arias-Maldonado, “Spelling the End of Nature? Making Sense of the Anthropocene,” Telos 172 (Fall 2015): 86–87, 92, 94.

8. Andrew Pollack, “Scientists Talk Privately About Creating a Synthetic Human Genome,” New York Times, May 13, 2016.

9. An accessible introduction to these debates, handling a broad sweep of related issues, is still provided by Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Penguin Books, 2002). A very concise take, which specifically targets Marx and Marxism but is more of a sketch when it comes to human nature as explained by recourse to evolution, is provided by Peter Singer’s A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution and Cooperation (New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2000). For an optimistic take, see Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (New York: Viking, 2005); for a more gloomy one, Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu, Unfit for the Future: The Need for Moral Enhancement (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012). On the stem cell experiments we mention, see Gina Kolata, “N.I.H. May Fund Human-Animal Stem Cell Research,” New York Times, August 4, 2016.

10. Cf. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (London and New York: Continuum, 2003); Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society. The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture, vol. 1 (Malden [MA]: Blackwell, 1996); and Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2010).

11. For a proposal along these lines see Bruno Latour, Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2004).

12. Cf. Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt, 2nd ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2012), p. 41: “Russia and America, seen metaphysically, are both the same: the same hopeless frenzy of unchained technology and of the rootless organization of the average man.”

13. Slavoj Žižek, The Fragile Absolute—or, Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? (London and New York: Verso, 2001), p. 18. Cf. also Peter Hudis, Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2013), pp. 6–34, for a succinct summary of debates concerning abstract labor and state socialism.

14. Cf. the pioneering work by Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990).

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

  • All of the ‘tensions’ described in the above essay can ultimatley be traced back to limitations within human nature itself! The next big question should be: has evolution fixed both our moral and Spiritual potential in such a way, that while we can dream of higher social goals, makes their realization impossible? And at what point will our species subject itself to the uncomfortable honesty and critical ‘self’ scrutiny of recognizing the limitations of our species; then ask how it might be possible to transcend that condition. For the whole trajectory of our ‘civilization’ appears to be leading us towards conditions necessary, to resolve the greatest mystery of all. God! Necessarily to turn our species off the slippery slope of our own self made hell!

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