ASTK15731U COURSE: Power and Critique in the Anthropocene

Volume 2017/2018

Master students: 7.5 ECTS

Bachelor students: 10 ECTS


The aim of this course is to provide an in-depth analysis of the challenges that the Anthropocene poses to political discourse, in particular with regard to questions concerning power and critique.


As a descriptor invoked across the disciplines, the Anthropocene highlights the advent of a new epoch in which human and nonhuman agency have meshed to such an extent that it is no longer possible to consider one without the other. The entanglement poses several basic questions: Is critique possible without human autonomy? Is power sharable across the human/nonhuman divide? How to construct a political community in which the voice of the nonhuman must weigh just as much of as the voice of the human?


The course examines these (and other) questions in four steps. (1) Diagnosis of how and why the Anthropocene challenges existing conceptualizations of power and critique. (2) Reconceptualization of power and critique based on a close study of key texts in both contemporary social science and the history of political thought. (3) Consideration of important critiques of these texts and their contributions. (4) Explication of the politics that follows from a reconceptualization power and critique in the Anthropocene.


This course enhances the students’ ability to think critically and to combine complex theories with insights from the contemporary political world. Emphasis will be on the ability to present a coherent argument, and to discuss and evaluate competing claims. The course will be relevant for students interested in working with complex issues in politics and elsewhere.

Learning Outcome

The objective of the course is to enable the students to:


  • Describe the challenges that the Anthropocene poses to political discourse, in particular with regard to power and critique.


  • Present and analyze key contributions to the reconceptualization of power and critique in the Anthropocene.


  • Apply reconceptualizations of power and critique to discussions about the institutions and culture of democratic politics.


  • Evaluate the validity of the various arguments about power and critique in the Anthropocene.

The following is a preliminary reading list. Other materials will be added before the beginning of the semester.


Bennett, Vibrant Matter (2010).

Connolly, Facing the Planetary (2017).

Forst, “Noumenal Power” (2014).

Klein, This Changes Everything (2014).

Latour, “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam” (2014).

Nietzsche, Will to Power.

Purdy, After Nature (2015).

Spinoza, Ethics.

Tsing, Mushroom at the End of the World (2015).

This course presupposes an interest in interdisciplinary work and familiarity with political theory broadly conceived.
This course will consist of a combination of lectures, student presentations and discussions, and possibly talks by guest lecturers.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester

Students will be encouraged to discuss with the course convenor their ideas for written assignments from conception to advanced planning stage; A portion of one session will be devoted to discussing the results of the mid-term evaluation, which will be administered via a questionnaire distributed in advance; There will be regular general discussions of the expectations regarding assignments. Feedback on graded assignments will be available on request. 

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Oral synopsis exam.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment


• Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course’s goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings

• Grade 7 given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings

• Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner.’