Color-coded satellite image of deforestation in Bolivia

Economy, Technology, and the Anthropocene

Instructor: Ajay Singh Chaudhary
BISR Central
68 Jay Street, #425
Brooklyn, NY 11201

“Goldman Sachs doesn’t care if you raise chickens,” Jodi Dean once quipped. One could add: the earth doesn’t care either. As the implications of climate change become more pressing and obvious by the day, and with the staggering incapacity of “business-as-usual” to respond accordingly, many people feel at an impasse about what can be done or in which direction to go. Are we at the beginning of a “post-capitalist” age of abundance and automation, beyond romantic notions of resistance or escape, in which long-delayed dreams of human emancipation are finally possible? Or is this really the final, irreversible collapse, with human life as we know it becoming an increasingly untenable proposition? Are the two ideas indeed diametrically opposed? What can we learn by studying the tensions, and possible points of overlap, between “post-capitalist” ideas, on the one hand, and catastrophism, on the other?

In this class, we’ll consider two recent theoretical trends that address these questions. First, we will survey some “accelerationist” and  “post-capitalist” writings about economics, technology, and society. Might contemporary transformations in technology and engagements with new social and infrastructural forms unravel some of the most vexing questions of social, economic, and political practice? Second, we will examine recent writing on the “Anthropocene.” This term, coined originally by chemist Paul Crutzen and biologist Eugene Stoermer to denote the contemporary geologic age as one in which the dominant mode of global ecological transformation is human-made, has been taken up and transformed in a vast array of scientific, social scientific, philosophical, and interdisciplinary work. How can we attend to these distinct but interrelated sets of ideas, while thinking through new forms of economic organization, technological transformation, and climate-driven mass migration, catastrophe, and resource conflict? How and why is individual action insufficient? How should we understand concepts like “degrowth” and “ecomodernism,” and also, perhaps, what is missed in debates between the two? In this class, we will explore these new literatures, in conversation with some of the “old,” “historical,” and “new” materialisms they rely on. Readings will include selections from Andreas Malm’s Fossil Capital, Nick Srinicek’s and Alex Williams’ Inventing the Future, McKenzie Wark’s Molecular Red, Jason W. Moore’s Capitalism in the Web of Life, Kathi Week’s The Problem With Work, Timothy Mitchell’s Carbon Democracy, and shorter contemporary essays on political economy and “ecosocialism,” as well as brief foundational excerpts from Epicurus, Baruch Spinoza, Karl Marx, Donna Haraway, Shulamith Firestone, and others.

Course Schedule

Thursday, 6:30-9:30pm
October 17 — November 07, 2019
4 weeks


Registration Open

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