Theory for the Anthropocene
NBN SeminarNew Books in Big IdeasNew Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books Network October 10, 2016 Carla Nappi
McKenzie Wark’s new book begins and ends with a playful call: “Workings of the world untie! You have a win to world!” Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene (Verso, 2015) creates a conversation between work from two very different Soviet and American contexts. After guiding readers through the work and theories of Alexander Bogdanov, whose focus on the importance of labor in organizing knowledge forms a central thread through the book as a whole, Wark traces some of those notions in the writing of novelist and utopian Andrey Platonov. The second half of the book extends the conversation into science studies, beginning in a chapter that considers the work of Feyerabend, Haraway, Barad, and Edwards in light of Bogdanov and Platonov’s approaches to labor and knowledge, and continuing into a chapter devoted to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy. The result is a fascinating treatment of the centrality of labor and the importance of the not-necessarily-human to understanding and theorizing the Anthropocene. (As Wark reminds us, Labor is the mingling of many things, most of them not human.) The entire book is highly recommended, and for the STS-minded among us the third chapter of the book would make an especially useful assignment in a discussion group or seminar devoted to contemporary theory and/in STS.