Scholastic fallacies? Questioning the Anthropocene

Sighard Neckel, Harry Blatterer (Translator), Norbert Ebert (Translator)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The view that we live in the Anthropocene is increasingly gaining currency across scientific disciplines. Especially in sociology this is said to requires a paradigm shift in analysis and theory formation. This paper argues that such a conclusion is premature. Owing to a scholastic fallacy – the uncritical transposition of the concept from the natural to the social sciences – ‘Anthropocene’ lacks analytic clarity and explanatory power evidenced by: a normative overreach that erroneously imagines an idealised world citizenry with collective action capacities; an obfuscation of the unequal distribution of ecological pathologies caused by capitalism; a normative indeterminacy concerning modes of redress; and an abstract ecological universalism offered as moral panacea. The paper suggests that sociology needs to address the Anthropocene’s heterogeneity marked by contradictory regional interests and inequalities, which neither appeals to social justice or ‘one humanity’ nor an escape into a dissolution of ontological differences between actors and artefacts can redeem. To that end, sociologists are asked to undertake a critical reconstruction of the concept.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThesis Eleven
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Anthropocene
  • environment
  • globalisation
  • post-growth
  • sociological theory


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