Terricide – Lefebvre, Geopolitics and the Killing of the Earth

This is my abstract for the August 2013 Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers) annual conference. It will be part of the sessions organised by Nigel Clark, Kathryn Yusoff and Arun Saldanha on ‘Geo-Social Formations: Capitalism and the Earth’.

Terricide – Lefebvre, Geopolitics and the Killing of the Earth

In a few places in his four volume study De l’État, Henri Lefebvre briefly discusses the idea of terricide—the killing, destruction or death of the earth. His sources are the poet Jean-Clarence Lambert and, less directly, the philosopher Kostas Axelos. Lefebvre locates the tensions in the international state system, and suggests that while reason of state might be attributed to each of the members, rationality does not characterise the system taken as a whole. His immediate context, writing in the mid 1970s, would seem to be the superpower conflict of the Cold War, but here and elsewhere there are hints that this might be linked to other issues—environmental degradation, modern technology, growth over development, the state mode of production and capitalism more generally.

How might Lefebvre’s spur to consider the potential destruction of the earth help us in rethinking geopolitics? Geopolitics is all-too-often seen as a synonym for global politics, international relations writ large, without much thought given to the globe, much less the world or the earth. But if geopolitics was to return to its etymological roots, as a politics of the earth, it might productively link with discussions of geopower and geophilosophy. This paper brings Lefebvre, Lambert and Axelos into those discussions.

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6 Responses to Terricide – Lefebvre, Geopolitics and the Killing of the Earth

  1. Simon Dalby says:

    Stuart: This is all very reminiscent of the “exterminism” debate of the early 1980s sparked by E.P. Thompson’s essay “the logic of exterminism” Rudolf Bahro’s reply in particular linked nuke and war concerns to ecology. See the NLB edited volume on Exterminism in 1982! Simon

    • stuartelden says:

      Thanks Simon – very useful. I’d intended to spend a bit of time looking at similar debates from the time Lefebvre and Lambert were writing, but this looks a very useful start. Will check this out.

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