The Anthropocene: Journey of a Concept


  • Victor Anderson


The concept of ‘the Anthropocene’ has travelled a long way in a short time. This chapter discusses its journey from its origins in geology, through biology and social science, to its implications and uses in politics. The story of the Anthropocene’s journey sheds some light on the relationships between natural and social science, and on different political responses to the ecological predicament we all now find ourselves in. The first four sections of this chapter each correspond to a stage in the journey: the emergence of ‘Anthropocene’ as a concept in geology; the idea of ‘Anthropocene’ as a stage in the evolution of the biosphere; the way in which the idea of ‘Anthropocene’ was taken up in social science; how ‘Anthropocene’ arrived in political discourse, and what has been happening to it there. The final section discusses the relationship between ‘Anthropocene’ and capitalism.