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Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene

Radical new critical theory for the twenty-first century
In Molecular Red, McKenzie Wark creates philosophical tools for the Anthropocene, our new planetary epoch, in which human and natural forces are so entwined that the future of one determines that of the other.

Wark explores the implications of Anthropocene through the story of two empires, the Soviet and then the American. The fall of the former prefigures that of the latter. From the ruins of these mighty histories, Wark salvages ideas to help us picture what kind of worlds collective labor might yet build. From the Russian revolution, Wark unearths the work of Alexander Bogdanov—Lenin’s rival—as well as the great Proletkult writer and engineer Andrey Platonov.

The Soviet experiment emerges from the past as an allegory for the new organizational challenges of our time. From deep within the Californian military-entertainment complex, Wark retrieves Donna Haraway’s cyborg critique and science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson’s Martian utopia as powerful resources for rethinking and remaking the world that climate change has wrought. Molecular Red proposes an alternative realism, where hope is found in what remains and endures.

Reviews

  • “A wonderful book ... informative and moving ... a great recovery of an instructive life and literary effort. The book makes the case for a kind of political vision and action we need to recognize and enact. A true pleasure to read.”
  • “A very imaginative, historically smart, politically generative thesis … that I think we urgently need.”
  • “A call to arms in which art and leisure, science and philosophy hack into each other in order to produce a way of thinking that works on both a pragmatic (proletarian) and a philosophical (bourgeois) level. It’s also his own version of Back to the Future (1985), in which Wark comes across as a bit of a Marty McFly, dashing back to the past to proclaim new heroes and new solutions to problems in the present – principally climate change.”
  • Molecular Red seeks to put scholarship to work. The result is a playbook for the Anthropocene, a set of moves and strategies extracted from an unexpected canon of texts formed by a mash-up of the Soviet avant-garde and the Californian high-tech imaginary. Remnants of the two great empires of the twentieth century are pitted against the rapacious insurgency of their twenty-first-century progeny, playfully named by Wark as the Carbon Liberation Front.”

Blog

  • Paul Gilroy: Race and "Useful Violence"

    This piece first appeared at Public Seminar.

    Aimé Césaire called it: the so-called west is a decaying civilization. In both the United States and Europe, where institutions are receding, a base level of race-talk and racial solidarity is revealed as metastasizing beneath them. In such dim times, I turn to the writings of Paul Gilroy as offering an anti-racist vision that is transnational and cosmopolitan, but which draws on popular and vernacular forms of hybridity rather than elite ones.

    In Darker than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture (Harvard), Gilroy offers a series of essays on the culture of what he has famously called the Black Atlantic as an alternative to race-talk but which is also outside of the various alternative nationalisms that flourish as a response. It is not reducible to liberalism, and it also attempts to fend off incorporation into the culture industry. That might be an urgent project for this “age of rendition.” (87) One in which in Judith Butler’s terms that which is grievable, or in Donna Haraway’s that which is killable, are respectively diminishing and expanding categories.

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  • Chantal Mouffe and the Crisis of Liberal Democracy

    This essay first appeared in Public Seminar



    Watching the American Presidential Primaries and now the "Brexit" vote in the UK on leaving the European Union, I am struck by how apt the political theory of Chantal Mouffe is to both situations. Both in the US and the UK, there was a contest as to whether liberal democracy would be liberal or "democratic." And if it is to be democratic, it was a contest as to what kind of demos — people — democracy is supposedly about. Or so it appeared to me, given that I was reading Chantal Mouffe at the time. Her two most recent books Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically (Verso, 2013) and The Democratic Paradox (Verso, 2005) provide a useful perspective, although perhaps a limited one.

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  • Welcome to the Anthropocene: A Reading List

    "We already live in the Anthropocene, so let us get used to this ugly word and the reality that it names. It is our epoch and our condition. This geological epoch is the product of the last few hundred years of our history. The Anthropocene is the sign of our power, but also of our impotence. It is an Earth whose atmosphere has been damaged by the 1,500 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide we have spilled by burning coal and other fossil fuels. It is the impoverishment and artificializing of Earth’s living tissue, permeated by a host of new synthetic chemical molecules that will even affect our descendants. It is a warmer world with a higher risk of catastrophes, a reduced ice cover, higher sea-levels and a climate out of control." - Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste FressozThe Shock of the Anthropocene

    2015 was the hottest year in recorded history. Scientists have confirmed that the staggering growth of global emissions this past century has caused a definitive turning point in global climate history.

    Some put forth that this climate predicament represents a new geological epoch of human origin, thus dubbing it as the “Anthropocene”. There is no doubt as to whether climate change is occurring. However, identifying the origins of this crisis presents great implications on deciding what to do next.

    Take back the planet and understand what's really going on in these new and recently published (plus soon to come) books on the history and politics of the global climate crisis.

    All of the books on our Anthropocene Reading List are 20% to 30% off (plus free shipping and bundled ebooks where available!)


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Other books by McKenzie Wark