Political Theory

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



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.


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