Adorno Studies 3 (1):47-63 (2019)

Harriet Johnson
University of Sydney
The Anthropocene has been promoted as a potential geological periodization but what kind of history does it imply? It chronicles cumulative social interventions into planetary forces. Its ultimate stakes may well be the parametric conditions of our species survival. In this article, I argue that the Anthropocene compels us to rethink the tradition of universal history. Enlightenment thinkers sought to discern a continuous history of humankind tending toward an upward development. Adorno writes for disappointed times. For him, fragments of history cohere not in species advancement but in catastrophe. What was catastrophic for Adorno remains so for us: modes of production that dominate nature. Despite this, I argue that we should remain wary of the politics of catastrophe. The notion that we are on a course of destruction primes us for knee-jerk policy responses, cynical political co-option or despairing resignation. Adorno navigates a form of history that undercuts the totalizing ambitions of the tradition from which it springs. Negative universal history models ways of attending to the overall forces sweeping the planet precisely in their uneven, local manifestations.
Keywords Anthropocene   environmental political theory   environmental history   Universal History   Dipesh Chakrabarty
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The Climate of History: Four Theses.Dipesh Chakrabarty - 2009 - Critical Inquiry 35 (2):197-222.

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