Facing the Planetary

Entangled Humanism and the Politics of Swarming

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: Published: February 2017

Environmental Studies, Politics > Political Theory, Sociology > Social Theory

In Facing the Planetary William E. Connolly expands his influential work on the politics of pluralization, capitalism, fragility, and secularism to address the complexities of climate change and to complicate notions of the Anthropocene. Focusing on planetary processes—including the ocean conveyor, glacier flows, tectonic plates, and species evolution—he combines a critical understanding of capitalism with an appreciation of how such nonhuman systems periodically change on their own. Drawing upon scientists and intellectuals such as Lynn Margulis, Michael Benton, Alfred North Whitehead, Anna Tsing, Mahatma Gandhi, Wangari Maathai, Pope Francis, Bruno Latour, and Naomi Klein, Connolly focuses on the gap between those regions creating the most climate change and those suffering most from it. He addresses the creative potential of a "politics of swarming" by which people in different regions and social positions coalesce to reshape dominant priorities. He also explores how those displaying spiritual affinities across differences in creed can energize a militant assemblage that is already underway.


"... theorists will find plenty to unpack here. Recommended. Graduate students through faculty." — R. J. Meagher, Choice

"Connolly’s analysis of planetary calamities and proposal for a politics of swarming merit attention. The book effectively integrates a variety of sources, including from political theory, social theory, philosophy, theology, economics, geology, biology and paleontology, and covers a wide range of topics, reinvigorating discussion regarding not only the current ecological problems, but also what can be done given the prospect of a seemingly apocalyptic future." — Nikhilendu Deb, LSE Review of Books

"The book’s central objective, to face the planetary, is a welcome additional to ranks of thinkers bringing the ecological into the political, joining the call of long-standing advocates like Latour, whose Gaia lectures influence Connolly here. Moreover, the politics of swarming is a potentially innovative heuristic for contemporary activism, for the way it challenges the politics of the past that so often pervades an uncertain future." — Declan Mcdowell-Naylor, Political Studies Review

"Facing the Planetary is a timely book. It underscores what is daily becoming ever more obvious."
  — David W. Orr, Perspectives on Politics

"William Connolly aspires to make us see our fragile and beautiful planet from the temporal distance the Anthropocene imposes. He does so by plunging, with intellectual courage, theoretical sophistication, and deeply felt appreciation for the human and nonhuman forces that tie human destines to what he calls 'the planetary.'" — Nidesh Lawtoo, Postmodern Culture

"Bill Connolly’s Facing the Planetary buzzes with a swarm of innovative concepts, testing both the limits and the creative powers of contemporary political theory to address the fragility of the human condition in the Anthropocene." — Anatoli Ignatov, Contemporary Political Theory

"From Prelude to Postlude, Connolly engages mythic frames in order to think in temporalities that are geological and abrupt, at spatial scales that include intimate entanglement, socially mobilized movement, and tectonic spans." — Mary L. Keller, Reading Religion

"A most important work, both for its timeliness and for its breadth—for the breadth of its sources, ranging from the Book of Job, through modern philosophy, to the latest climate science; for the breadth of the planetary forces taken into consideration, too numerous to mention; for the breadth of the obstacles it identifies to adequately addressing the Anthropocene, including sociocentrism, human exceptionalism, geogradualism, religious and secular dominionism, and the 'two cultures' separation between the humanities and earth sciences." — Eugene W. Holland, author of Nomad Citizenship: Free-Market Communism and the Slow-Motion General Strike

"The theory that emerges from Facing the Planetary accepts the force of the human impact on contemporary geological, biological, and meteorological forms and forces while insisting that the world also periodically wreaks havoc for its own reasons and cannot therefore be made subject to human (in)action. The range of William E. Connolly's encounter with past and present political theory and contemporary evolutionary, ecological, and climatic science is impressive and reflects the intellectual powers of one of our major American political theorists." — Elizabeth A. Povinelli, author of Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

William E. Connolly is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor at Johns Hopkins University where he teaches political theory. He is a former editor of Political Theory and one of the cofounders of Theory & Event. His recent books include The Fragility of ThingsA World of BecomingCapitalism and Christianity, American Style; and Pluralism, all also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Prelude: Myth and the Planetary  1
1. Sociocentrism, the Anthropocene, and the Planetary  15
2. Species Evolution and Cultural Creativity  37
3. Creativity and the Scars of Being  63
4. Distributed Agencies and Bumpy Temporalities  89
5. The Politics of Swarming and the General Strike  121
6. Postcolonial Ecologies, Extinction Events, and Entangled Humanism  151
Postlude: Capitalism and the Planetary  175
Acknowledgments  199
Notes  201
Bibliography  217
Index  225
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6341-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6330-9
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