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Paradigm Dressed as Epoch: The Ideology of the Anthropocene

Jeremy Baskin

Environmental Values 24 (2015): 9-29. doi: 10.3197/096327115X14183182353746


The Anthropocene is a radical reconceptualisation of the relationship between humanity and nature. It posits that we have entered a new geological epoch in which the human species is now the dominant Earth-shaping force, and it is rapidly gaining traction in both the natural and social sciences. This article critically explores the scientific representation of the concept and argues that the Anthropocene is less a scientific concept than the ideational underpinning for a particular worldview. It is paradigm dressed as epoch. In particular, it normalises a certain portion of humanity as the ‘human’ of the Anthropocene, reinserting ‘man’ into nature only to re-elevate ‘him’ above it. This move promotes instrumental reason. It implies that humanity and its planet are in an exceptional state, explicitly invoking the idea of planetary management and legitimising major interventions into the workings of the earth, such as geoengineering. I conclude that the scientific origins of the term have diminished its radical potential, and ask whether the concept’s radical core can be retrieved.


Anthropocene, ideology, geoengineering, environmental politics, earth management

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: The Dying Planet Index: Life, Death and Man’s Domination of Nature. Clive L. Spash

How to Get Out of the Multiple Crisis? Contours of a Critical Theory of Social-Ecological Transformation. Ulrich Brand

Moral-Material Ontologies of Nature Conservation: Exploring the Discord Between Ecological Restoration and Novel Ecosystems.Mick Lennon

How to Deal with Hybrids in the Anthropocene? Towards a Philosophy of Technology and Environmental Philosophy 2.0. Magdalena Hoły-Łuczaj, Vincent Blok

Democracy and Agonism in the Anthropocene: The Challenges of Knowledge, Time and Boundary. Amanda Machin

Should Naturalists Believe in the Anthropocene?. Morgan C. Tait

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