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The Climate of History in a Planetary Age

For the past decade, historian Dipesh Chakrabarty has been one of the most influential scholars addressing the meaning of climate change. Climate change, he argues, upends long-standing ideas of history, modernity, and globalization. The burden of The Climate of History in a Planetary Age is to grapple with what this means and to confront humanities scholars with ideas they have been reluctant to reconsider—from the changed nature of human agency to a new acceptance of universals.

Chakrabarty argues that we must see ourselves from two perspectives at once: the planetary and the global. This distinction is central to Chakrabarty’s work—the globe is a human-centric construction, while a planetary perspective intentionally decenters the human. Featuring wide-ranging excursions into historical and philosophical literatures, The Climate of History in a Planetary Age boldly considers how to frame the human condition in troubled times. As we open ourselves to the implications of the Anthropocene, few writers are as likely as Chakrabarty to shape our understanding of the best way forward.

296 pages | 2 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2021

Earth Sciences: Environment

History: Environmental History, History of Ideas

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory


“With his new masterwork, Chakrabarty confirms that he is one of the most creative and philosophically-minded historians writing today. The oppositions he proposes between the global of globalization and the global of global warming, between the world and the planet, between sustainability and habitability are illuminating and effective for thinking and acting through our highly uncertain and disoriented times.”

François Hartog, author of 'Chronos'

“One of the first thinkers to reckon with the concept of the Anthropocene and its relation to humanism and its critics, Chakrabarty forges new territory in his account of the planetary. If globalism was an era of human and market interconnection, the planetary marks the intrusion of geological forces, transforming both the concept of ‘the human’ and its accompanying sense of agency. This is a tour de force of critical thinking that will prove to be a game changer for the humanities.”

Claire Colebrook, Pennsylvania State University

"Historian Dipesh Chakrabarty confronts the ‘planeticide’ by calling for a humanistic and critical approach to the Anthropocene. . . . Ever alert to the holistic and far reaching vision upheld by ‘deep history,’ the Chicago professor re-raises the old question of the human condition in the new framework of the geobiological history of the planet."

Arquitectura Viva

"The Climate of History in a Planetary Age, by Dipesh Chakrabarty, is in my judgment the most compelling and encompassing book by a humanist on the complexities and asymmetries of the Anthropocene to date."

The Contemporary Condition

“For Chakrabarty, ‘global’ does not refer to the entirety of the world, but rather to a particular mode of thought. . . . In critiquing the global, Chakrabarty offers another mode of thinking that can perhaps provide the philosophical grounding for a truly ecological approach. He terms it the ‘planetary.’ Chakrabarty argues the ‘planetary’ is not a unified totality, but rather ‘a dynamic ensemble of relationships.’ While the global mode of thought retains the centrality of the human observer, the planetary mode of thought decentres the human and its apprehension of the world. The human becomes only one node within a much more complex and multivalent system of actors, both human and non-human.”

Christopher McAteer | Green European Journal

"In The Climate of History in a Planetary Age, University of Chicago historian and theorist Dipesh Chakrabarty provides an expansive, but hardly exhaustive, overview of the Anthropocene, focusing on how historians, in particular, have grappled with the conditions of a world under physical duress. As humans have become a 'geological force' in this new epoch and the earth has itself become an archive, with human behavior imprinted in the fossil record and ice caps, we are at the cusp of a new understanding of the agency of humankind and other terrestrial beings. This 'planetary' understanding can, in turn, offer a new ethical paradigm for inhabiting this afflicted present, and can apply to remote pasts and possible futures. Such, at least, is the hope expressed in Chakrabarty’s book."

The Hedgehog Review

"Immensely clarifying and illuminating. . . . while Chakrabarty frequently invokes research produced by natural scientists, his argument carves out an important space for humanists in interpreting and responding to the consequences of anthropogenic geological agency."

Isis Journal

"This book provides a thought-provoking, complex discussion of how climate change challenges the humanities, history, and the human sense of time but presupposes a command of intellectual history. . . . Overall, Chakrabarty outlines the overlapping of different histories once thought to be distinct. The planet itself, he argues, is a 'humanist category.'"


"Environmental humanists... tend to treat 'globe' and 'planet' as synonyms; Chakrabarty shows the critical and generative importance of the distinction. Evoking geological time is de rigueur; he shows what it means to dwell with that time without displacing it onto world historical time. Rapturous treatments of multispecies agency abound; he challenges the latent anthropocentrism and even paternalism of some new materialisms."

American Literary History

"The Climate of History in a Planetary Age is a breathtaking book. Chakrabarty challenges us to reimagine the human from a planetary perspective, a deep history—an infinite horizon of human history—in order to come to terms with the climate crisis that human actions have precipitated."

The Book Review India

"Chakrabarty’s approach to the Anthropocene is a rich collage of intellectual influences primarily from India, Europe, Australia and North America. The book is an exemplary illustration that the magnitude and scope of the Anthropocene is not only challenging. For many academics, it is an inviting opportunity to take stock of one’s lessons learnt through research and personal experience. At this stage of the academic debate, the Anthropocene offers plenty of room for thematic manoeuvres. Chakrabarty displays a version of such intellectual playfulness in an overall sense-making attempt."

British Journal for the History of Science

"It's no overstatement to think of this book as having clanged the bell for a new normal in the humanities and social sciences when it comes to telling the story of ourselves, that is, when it comes to human history. Responsible history should today be geological even when recounting the human record. Chakrabarty raised a series of open-ended, difficult questions about a range of core concerns in the humanities and social sciences from how we can understand ourselves and society to how we ought to think about political economy and morality."

Environmental Philosophy

"Our academic engagements with law and development and social sciences more broadly must attempt to make sense of the rifts between the global and the planetary, even if such endeavours transcend and disrupt disciplinary confines and assumptions... The objective should be to displace the ideological supremacy of human species, Euroamerican and universalistic cosmologies, and simultaneously further the plurality of human-nonhuman relations, minority thought and just political action. Chakrabarty's book is one essential step in this direction."

Review of European, Comparative and International Environmental Law

"In contrast to most of the interventions that we can read about the ecological catastrophe, Chakrabarty does not rush to give us solutions, but rather seeks to sharpen the problem... By locating this difficulty at the intersection of the two great critical events of our history, decolonization on the one hand and global warming on the other, and by identifying the problematic node from these two distinct figures of totalization that are globalization and planetarization, Chakrabarty inscribes himself in an original way in a body of contemporary research in which the legacy of the critique of colonization and ecological awareness are mixed... Chakrabarty is an Aufklärer, and in this book as in the previous one, a single question is at work: how to inherit the Enlightenment? How to prolong the cosmopolitical project?"


"Chakrabarty’s argument about what postcolonial studies has to offer the environmental humanities goes well beyond the established appeals to inequality that constitute climate justice discourse . . . As such, this book comes highly recommended for anyone working in the environmental humanities."


Table of Contents

Introduction: Intimations of the Planetary

Part I: The Globe and the Planet

1 Four Theses
2 Conjoined Histories
3 The Planet: A Humanist Category

Part II: The Difficulty of Being Modern

4 The Difficulty of Being Modern
5 Planetary Aspirations: Reading a Suicide in India
6 In the Ruins of an Enduring Fable

Part III: Facing the Planetary

7 Anthropocene Time
8 Toward an Anthropological Clearing
Postscript: The Global Reveals the Planetary: A Conversation with Bruno Latour

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