Journal Title/Source

Paragrana: Internationale Zeitschrift für Historische Anthropologie

Publication Date




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Document Type

Journal Article


Sociology and Anthropology


The concept of the Anthropocene reflects a particular meaning of the “human” as it exists in society, and a specific understanding of freedom, which only became possible at the close of the twentieth century. Whereas Enlightenment thinkers such as Kant, Rousseau, and Adam Smith attempted to grasp the potential for humanity to be changed through society in a self-conscious process of attaining freedom, the “Age of Man” today appears entirely disconnected from human agency. Indeed, the Anthropocene is associated not with the flourishing of life but with the sixth mass extinction. Drawing insight from classical and contemporary critical theory, this paper seeks to explicate the emancipatory potential within the concept of the Anthropocene, and the ways in which this potential is blocked by material circumstances that masquerade as “freedom.”