A Change of Cene (part 1)

Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism, ed. Jason W. Moore (Oakland: PM Press)

This blog is mostly about books and articles that I’ve found helpful for thinking about the Anthropocene. I don’t usually bother writing about books here unless I like them: life’s short. There are things I like about Anthropocene or Capitalocene? as well, along with things that I don’t. But the frustrating thing about it is that it advertises itself as a radical diagnosis of “the problems of Anthropocene thinking.” If someone had heard of it but hadn’t read it, they might well end up with the impression that there now exists a systematic book-length critique of “the Anthropocene” from a critical or leftist point of view. And that isn’t the case.

Heaven knows that the Anthropocene can seem as if it’s everywhere in environmental studies at the moment. Claiming to pour cold water on that enthusiasm from a politically advanced standpoint makes for a good sales pitch. But the reality is that—despite its merits—Anthropocene or Capitalocene? has little to say about the first word in its title, and what it does have to say is very poorly informed about the existing literature.

If you publish a book attacking a theory, or a concept, or even—as in this case—a word, you invite a rejoinder from people who are sympathetic to that theory or concept, or to some or all ways of using that word. I want to spend both this week’s post and next week’s (the one after next, as it turned out) on a fairly detailed review of the collection, mainly so as to try to discourage the idea from taking root that there’s now been a methodical critique of “the Anthropocene” from the left.  Continue reading “A Change of Cene (part 1)”


Sphere of Influence

P. K. Haff, “Purpose in the Anthropocene: Dynamical role and physical basis,” Anthropocene (forthcoming)

This is the latest in a series of papers that Peter Haff has published in the last couple of years on the Anthropocene and the “technosphere.” I don’t think that those two concepts necessarily go hand in hand; in some formulations they can even be at odds with one another. But Haff seems to me one of the most exciting and creative thinkers currently working under the sign of “the Anthropocene.” Continue reading “Sphere of Influence”

Facing Left (part 3)

Part 1; part 2

Here’s the last part of my extended response to Ian Angus’s landmark Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System. In this post I want to offer some of the “amplifications” that Angus solicited from his readers at the start of the book.

There’s always more that could be said. Everybody’s publisher sets them word limits, and the main text of Angus’s book comes in at a crisp 200 pages. Still, I’d like to suggest three ways in which his discussion could usefully be taken further. Continue reading “Facing Left (part 3)”

Facing Left (part 2)

Last week’s post was the start of a response to Ian Angus’s Facing the Anthropocene. I think it’s a terrific book, and although there are differences between his study and mine (his book is about the Earth System science version of the Anthropocene; mine is about the stratigraphic version of the Anthropocene) I hope that the two are more or less complementary and mutually illuminating. Still, I want to take seriously Angus’s declaration that he “looks forward to receiving responses, amplifications, and, of course, disagreements” (p. 20). I’ve got two disagreements to point out; they’re disputes with only small moments in the book, but I think they point to deeper conceptual divergences. In another post (given my self-imposed 2000-word limit), I’ll add three suggested amplifications.

The first disagreement has to do with temporality, and it’s centred on a chapter of Facing the Anthropocene called “Capital’s Time vs. Nature’s Time.” That opposition seems too simple to me. Continue reading “Facing Left (part 2)”