Contingencies of the Anthropocene: lessons from the 'Neolithic'
The emerging Anthropocene concept contains two conceptual challenges: its developing narrative tends to present a teleological view of history as linear and deterministic, which is at odds with evidence of evolutionary and historical contingency; and the species category at its core sits uneasily with both the causal details of historical changes and the complexity of conceptualizing human-nature relations. We can learn from the ways similar challenges have been dealt with in the long debate over the origins of agriculture. A body of critical and empirical scholarship now conceptualizes agriculture in more dynamic, contingent terms, but has dealt less well with the second, more difficult, challenge. To realize the Anthropocene's potential to suggest restorative and less fatalistic approaches to the future, we need to work as hard on the concepts as on their constitutive empirical evidence.