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Politics Talk: Anthony Burke, Power after Power: World Politics and Thing-Systems in the Anthropocene

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Wolff Conference Room, Room D1103, Albert and Vera List Academic Center 6 East 16th Street, New York, NY 10003, Room D1103

This paper reiterates the authors’ call for a new political practice and conceptual paradigm of ‘Planet Politics’ by focusing on the challenge that the Anthropocene poses to the concept of power in political theory and international relations. We argue that IR’s twin poles of anarchy and hierarchy are both anachronistic in an epoch in which ‘social nature’ is rebounding brutally on humanity with uncontrollable force, and dangerous because of the way they have, when translated into practices and institutions, deepened the appalling ecological crisis facing the Earth. We develop an alternative theory of power exercised in complex and distributed ways across “thing-systems” that ineluctably connect society and nature. Drawing on the new materialism, we argue that power in the Anthropocene expresses not merely relations between people or governments, but functions across entangled domains of institutions, ecologies and things that are connected to more than human intention and influence. Power thus is shared and distributed rather than a relation of strategic effect or domination. We in turn develop an account of human responsibility for such entanglement that is relational and futural, a strongly eco-centric ethos that honors the radical interdependence of things, societies and ecosystems, and sustains them through timelines that extend from hundreds to millions of years.

Anthony Burke is professor of International Relations and Political Theory at UNSW Australia, Canberra. He is a Senior Fellow of the Earth System Governance Project and has research interests in global environmental politics, international security studies, critical social theory and the posthuman. He was the founding editor and remains publisher of the Borderlands journal. His books include Uranium (Polity 2017), Ethics and Global SecurityA Cosmopolitan Approach (with Matt McDonald and Katrina Lee-Koo, Routledge 2014), and Beyond Security, Ethics and Violence: War Against the Other (Routledge 2007). His articles include “Humanity After Biopolitics” (Angelaki, 2011) and “Planet Politics: A Manifesto from the End of IR” (Millennium, 2016).

Presented by The New School for Social Research.

Event Type

Lectures and Panel Discussions


General Public


Humanity, Society, Social Justice, International and Global, Politics, Policy and Government


The New School for Social Research







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