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.