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Paradigm Dressed as Epoch: The Ideology of the Anthropocene

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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.
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Keywords: Anthropocene; earth management; environmental politics; geoengineering; ideology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2015-02-01

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  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2016) of 1.279.
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