De Martino and the Anthropocene: the end of a world


  • Francesco Remotti University of Turin



Anthropocene, Cyclic time, Linear time, Progress


Ernesto De Martino’s sensitivity to “The End of the World” leads one to reread his notes, his reflections within the problem now synthetically defined as “Anthropocene”. Has De Martino thus laid the foundations for an anthropology of the Anthropocene? The answer formulated in this paper is certainly negative. For De Martino, the theme of the end of the world is attributable to traditional conceptions of history (whether cyclical or linear), that is, to conceptions that allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the inexorable cycles of nature or that instead place the end, equally inexorable, at the end of a linear historical path. Against these two conceptions, De Martino strongly asserts the principle of the “infinity of human history”, which only Western civilisation with its inimitable progress has been able to conceive and realise. We are thus at the antipodes of the critical culture of the Anthropocene and of the concerns that two of De Martino’s contemporaries (Claude Lévi-Strauss, author of Tristes Tropiques, and Aurelio Peccei, founder of the Club of Rome) had far-sightedly manifested.