Social Imaginaries

Volume 2, Issue 2, Autumn 2016

Trajectories of Modernity

Ingerid S. Straume
Pages 53-69

Challenges of the Anthropocene
Between Critique and Creation

The Anthropocene refers to the geological epoch where human activities have turned into a geological factor. The paper discusses some of the questions that emerge with this concept, related, especially, to antireductionism, transdisciplinarity and the modern notion of freedom. An important dimension is the eco-philosophical critique of modern knowledge systems and what is seen as exploitative and dominating forms of knowledge. In this literature, capitalist expansion, colonization and fossil fuel consumption are seen as historically connected and supported by scientific forms of rationality that have proven to be harmful. While sharing many of these eco-philosophical concerns, I argue that the sciences may still harbour the resources necessary to recreate themselves in response to contemporary challenges. One example is Terrence Deacon’s autogenic theory of life, where the relationship between life and non-life is seen as continuous and historical, not abstract and metaphysical. The notion of Anthropocene has also inspired many artists who work, sometimes together with scientists, at creating new forms and significations. Taking this as an opening for greater social transformations, the paper discusses how the Anthropocene can become part of a social movement while maintaining creativity, complexity and commitment to reason.