Theory for the Anthropocene

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* Book: McKenzie Wark. Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene. Verso,2015



"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." (


By Maria Chehonadskih:

" McKenzie Wark has now given us the 90-minute study guide to this epoch of man-made nature. His Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene popularises and translates philosophical and theoretical concepts into a journalistic form. The book is fascinating, just like ‘Kant in 90 minutes’, and it is an easy read. Wark’s aim is to twist, shake and displace various concepts from their origins and construct an intriguing story in the process, and in this respect he is quite successful.

‘Disparate times call for disparate methods,’ begins Wark, with a pun. Our era is the culmination of a man-made armageddon – the anthropocene. The long and devastating reign of capitalist modernity has brought disillusionment with any ‘majoritarian’ conception of history. However, Wark refuses a nihilistic Kojèvian discourse of the ‘end of history’. On the contrary, to face up to disparate times is to encounter the anthropocene as the paradoxical beginning of real history – a ‘molecular’ history of forgotten or repressed forms of knowledge, practices and discourses. (Preface, XI, XV-XVI). The advent of the anthropocene relieves us of any remaining delusions concerning a historical ‘grand plan’ and forcibly reorients our thinking toward ‘low theory’ and the pragmatic task of ‘mitigating’ the effects of the anthropocene era (Preface, XVI). Wark’s disparate times, then, imply the over-familiar Deleuzean project of ‘becoming minoritarian’. Yet he jettisons whatever fragile sense of revolutionary transformation this concept once implied, since the theory of the anthropocene assumes the continuation of capitalism. Consequently it is unclear why Wark invokes Marx’s notion of real history beginning at capitalism’s end, with its obvious communist agenda. Perhaps here we have the key to Wark’s ‘disparate methods’ – effectively his technique is to turn everything into its opposite." (


Why unearthing Bogdanov and his Tektology makes sense in the age of the Anthropocene

McKenzie Wark:

"Why Bogdanov? Firstly, for his revival of the utopian imagination in the light of Marx. He understood the emotional power of a promised land, but unlike Gorky was not tempted by 'God Building'. He was more interested in opening the imaginative faculties to thinking about this world. His utopia, even though set on Mars, is practical.

Secondly, for Proletkult. Bogdanov initiated a mass movement in 1917 that tried to become a counter-power to the state, but whose mission was proletarian culture. How could the people learn to organize themselves and their world? How could the literary classics of the past, even Shakespeare, be a way of learning what organization is? Proletkult was about learning forms of self-organization that can exist outside of capital and the state.

Thirdly, his tektology. How can al organizational tasks, whether the organzing of labor's relation to nature, or the organizing of different kinds of labor with each other, share and develop knowledge? Bogdanov thought that after the revolution, the real organizational work was just starting, and that the real question was labor's relation to nature.

We don't have that luxury. We are going to have to figure out a new relation between labor and nature while capitalism -- or whatever this mode of production is -- still lumbers along, turning everything into the commodity. But I think Bogdanov is a useful guide to thinking and organizing otherwise. After all, as I show in Molecular Red, he almost figured out anthrogenic climate change." (