The Tight Dialectic: The Anthropocene and the Capitalist Production of Nature

Susan W.S. Millar, Don Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In this essay we examine the case of Kivalina, Alaska, twice threatened with destruction, in order to understand the importance of the specifically geological concept of the Anthropocene. We argue that the Anthropocene is best understood as part of what Neil Smith called a “tight dialectic” between the history of geography (the production of environmental knowledge) and historical geography (the production of nature and space) as this dialectic is played out within capitalist modes of production. We focus on the relationship between contemporary geo-engineering and both intentional and unintentional geographical engineering, to make the basic argument that humans have no choice but to produce nature—to engineer environments. The only question is how we shall do so.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-93
Number of pages19
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • environmental knowledge
  • geo-engineering
  • the Anthropocene
  • the production of nature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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