Appetite for destruction: Günther Anders and the metabolism of nuclear techno-politics

Rens van Munster, Casper Sylvest

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    It is well recognized how the modern social sciences, particularly in the United States, fed off and contributed to a nuclear state associated with the military-industrial complex. But it is less known that the thermonuclear revolution also constituted a productive moment for critical theories of (nuclear) techno-politics. In this article, we recover a strand of the latter by focusing on Günther Anders (1902–1992), a German philosopher of technology for whom thermonuclear weapons symbolized the self-destructive capacity embedded in a disenchanted modernity. We stress the techno-political dimensions of Anders’ philosophy by approaching it through his concept and metaphor of metabolism. Anders sought to update Marxist thinking to the age of technology to reawaken his readers to the realities and power dynamics of the nuclear condition and the ways in which these were consistently obscured. He pondered the grotesque human ability to live with a monstrous and suicidal weapon, while highlighting the dynamics of extraction and consumption that characterized both modern ‘mass’ society and nuclear techno-politics. Anders’ quest for emancipation focused on a nurturing of the imagination of modern human beings. We stress the critical, global and activist orientation of his analysis and discuss its merits and contemporary relevance.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of International Political Theory
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)332-348
    Publication statusPublished - 1. Oct 2019


    • Günther Anders
    • Imagination
    • metabolism
    • nuclear weapons
    • technology


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    • Globality and Planetary Security

      Sylvest, C. & van Munster, R.


      Project: Research Councils

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