Political Theory

The Geology of Survival: Thinking Historically about Technology and Politics in the Anthropocene

Kyle Haines UC San Diego Center on Global Justice


It is tempting to sort responses to the recognition of planetary change along old lines, as contests between romantic naturalists and Promethean technologists. Today, instead, we face a growing 'survivalist' response without an articulated opposition, figured Planetary Boundaries and ‘insurance’ like climate geoengineering. Pushing back against the novelty that drives calls for climate geoengineering, I summarize traits shared between survivalists and theorists of the Anthropocene, including globalizing threats, reliance on worst-case predictions, the reevaluation of old moral limits, and the reduction environmental crisis to technocratic problem-solving. Finally, I show that our era lacks the suspicion of technology that accompanied the nuclear example used by the survivalists, making calls for technocracy and global experiments more tempting than when they first populated best-seller lists. The Anthropocene may be new but, in contrast to survivalist discourse, history is still a source of critical insight for the construction of the new world it foretells.


Thumbnail image of Haines_APSA2020_The Geology of Survival.pdf


Log in or register with APSA to comment open_in_new
Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy open_in_new – please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here open_in_new .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy open_in_new and Terms of Service open_in_new apply.