The Anthropocene event in social theory: On ways of problematizing nonhuman materiality differently

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Signalling that ‘humanity’ has radically changed the Earth’s environmental parameters, the Anthropocene currently generates debate across the socio-cultural sciences. In this context, neo-Marxist and new materialist approaches stand out for the way they oblige social theory to catch up with new material realities. We share the conviction that the Anthropocene might constitute a genuine event for social theory and practice. However, we argue that the search for alternative ways of problematizing and ‘dramatizing’ our eco-political predicament confronts these approaches with unresolved issues of scientism and economic totalization. Looking for another path, we turn to Science and Technology Studies (STS), and especially Actor-Network Theory (ANT). We relay the long-standing focus on nonhuman agency characteristic of this field via Isabelle Stengers’ argument that we must ‘accept’ the reality of Gaia’s intrusion into collective historicity. The challenge posed by Stengers, we suggest, requires the development of an art of immanent attention to the politics of varied matters as they unfold across diverse ecologies of practice. Extending further than the present preoccupations of Euro-American social theory, other areas within and across environmental history, activism and politics offer sites of resistance as well as experimentation whose conceptual possibilities and practical efficacies have yet to be explored. Slowing down theory sufficiently to learn from these multiple sites, we argue, is the starting point for an approach more adequate to the problems posed by the Anthropocene event.
TidsskriftThe Sociological Review
Udgave nummer6
Sider (fra-til)1195-1211
StatusUdgivet - 2019

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