Marxism and Existentialism in the Age of the Anthropocene

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:10
Oral Presentation
Brad HORNICK, Simon Fraser University, Canada
Marxist critiques of existentialist and absurdist philosophical positions pivot on the problem of the abstraction and mystification of historically specific conceptions of alienation. Humans are not alienated in general by a cosmic purposelessness and indifference of the universe, but are alienated in a particular and immediate form within a particular historical specificity. Existential angst and crisis is not a fundamental dimension of existence, and inherent in the nature of general consciousness, but arise within practical life when the exercise of fundamental freedoms are confounded, or foreclosed, as a result of reified social conditions.

Within the historical specificity of the Anthropocene, two converging and potentially intractable factors portend imminent planetary omnicide – the destructive trajectory of bio-physical processes, and the persistence of underlying and large causal socio-economic forces (ie. imperatives within the system of capitalism). This is why climate and capitalist crisis is “existential”: as it is about the potential "no exit" from “terminal” collapse, and coming to terms in a universal sense, with our ambivalent personal and collective desires to retain or challenge foundations of meaning, purpose, and existence. What might Marxists learn from philosophies of nihilism in the age of the Anthropocene, that might lead to new forms of agency, and practical transcendence over growing forms of defeatism and immobilization?