Labor as Action: the Human Condition in the Anthropocene

In: Research in Phenomenology
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  • 1 Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

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The Anthropocene has become an umbrella term for the disastrous transgression of ecological safety boundaries by human societies. The impact of this new reality is yet to be fully registered by political theorists. In an attempt to recalibrate the categories of political thought, this article brings Hannah Arendt’s framework of The Human Condition (labor, work, action) into the gravitational pull of the Anthropocene and current knowledge about the Earth System. It elaborates the historical emergence of our capacity to “act in the mode of laboring” during fossil-fueled capitalist modernity, a form of agency relating to our collectively organized laboring processes reminiscent of the capacity of modern sciences to “act into nature” discussed by Arendt. I argue that once read from an energy/ecology-centric perspective, The Human Condition can help us make sense of the Anthropocene predicament, and rethink the modes of collectively organizing the activities of labor, work, and action.

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