Skip to main content
Intended for healthcare professionals
Restricted access
Research article
First published online October 11, 2018

The Politics of Nature: New Materialist Responses to the Anthropocene


In order to explore some of the divergences within new materialism and elucidate their relationship to actor-network theory, this article will develop Latour’s theory of agency and then compare it to those new materialists who uphold a ‘flat ontology’ that includes technological tools (Jane Bennett) and those who uphold an animate/inanimate distinction (Tim Ingold and Eduardo Kohn). In light of the ecological crisis called the Anthropocene, the dissolution of the animate/inanimate distinction will be defended in order to address both polar bears and glaciers, coral reefs and clown fish. Though Latour himself has defended such a dissolution, his political proposals to address the ecological crisis revert back to the modern and dualist position he has himself critiqued for so long. Using the gains of actor-network theory, while differentiating a new materialist ecological politics from that of Latour, will be shown to be necessary in order to find a solution to the crisis of the Anthropocene.

Get full access to this article

View all access and purchase options for this article.


Amsterdamska, Olga (1990) Surely you’re joking Monsieur Latour. Science, Technology, & Human Values 15(4): 495–504.
Barad, Karen (2007) Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.
Bennett, Jane (2010a) A vitalist stopover on the way to a new materialism. In: Coole D and Frost S (eds) New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency and Politics. Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 47–69.
Bennett, Jane (2010b) Thing power. In: Braun B and Whatmore SJ (eds) Political Matter: Technoscience, Democracy, and Public Life. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 35–62.
Bennett, Jane (2010c) Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke University Press.
Bennett, Jane (2015) Systems and things: On vital materialism and object-oriented philosophy. In: Grusin R (ed.) The Nonhuman Turn. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Brey, Philip (2014) From moral agents to moral factors: The structural ethics approach. In: Kroes P and Verbeek P (eds) The Moral Status of Technical Artefacts. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 125–142.
Bunge, Mario (1979) Causality and Modern Science. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Callon, Michel and Law, John (1997) After the individual in society: Lessons on collectivity from science, technology and society. The Canadian Journal of Sociology / Cahiers canadiens de sociologie 22(2): 165–182.
Collins, Harry (2010) Humans not instruments. Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science 4(1): 138–147.
Collins, Harry and Yearley, Stephen (2010) Epistemological chicken. In: Pickering A (ed.) Science as Practice and Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 301–326.
Connolly, William E (2013) The ‘new materialism’ and the frailty of things. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 41(3): 399–412.
Conty, Arianne (2013) Techno-phenomenology: Martin Heidegger and Bruno Latour on how phenomena come to presence. South African Journal of Philosophy 32(4): 311–326.
Crary, Jonathan (2013) 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. New York: Verso Press.
Descola, Philippe (1993) Les lances du crepuscule. Paris: Plon.
Descola, Philippe (2005) Par-delà nature et culture. Paris: Gallimard.
Descola, Philippe (2011) L’écologie des autres. Versailles: Editions Quae.
Dolphijn, Rick and Van der Tuin, Iris (2012) New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies. London: Open Humanities Press.
Galloway, Alexander R (2013) The poverty of philosophy: Realism and post-Fordism. Critical Inquiry 39(2): 347–366.
Gratton, Peter (2014) Speculative Realism: Problems and Prospects. London: Continuum.
Haraway, Donna (1998) Deanimations: Maps and portraits of life itself. In: Galison P and Jones A (eds) Picturing Science Producing Art. New York: Routledge Press, pp. 181–207.
Harding, Sandra (2008) Sciences from Below: Feminisms, Postcolonialities, and Modernities. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Harman, Graham (2014) Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Political. London: Pluto Press.
Hodder, Ian (2012) Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Ingold, Tim (2008) Globes and spheres: The topology of environmentalism. In: Dove M and Carpenter C (eds) Environmental Anthropology: A Historical Reader. Oxford: Blackwell.
Ingold, Tim (2011) Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. New York: Routledge.
Johnson, John [Bruno Latour] (1988) Mixing humans and nonhumans together: The sociology of a door-closer. Social Problems 35(3): 298–310.
Khong, Lynette (2003) Actants and enframing: Heidegger and Latour on technology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part A 34(4): 693–704.
Kohn, Eduardo (2013) How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Kohn, Eduardo (2015) Anthropology of ontologies. Annual Review of Anthropology 44: 1–35.
Latour, Bruno (1993) We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Porter, Catherine. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Latour, Bruno (1994) Pragmatogonies: A mythical account of how humans and nonhumans swap properties. American Behavioral Scientist 37(6): 791–808.
Latour, Bruno (1996) Pursuing the discussion of interobjectivity with a few friends. Mind, Culture, and Activity 3(4): 266–269.
Latour, Bruno (1998) How to be iconophilic in art, science and religion. In: Jones, Galison (ed.) Picturing Science Producing Art. New York: Routledge, pp. 418–440.
Latour, Bruno (1999) Politiques de la nature: comment faire entrer les sciences en démocratie. Paris: La Découverte.
Latour, Bruno (2002) Morality and technology: The end of the means. Theory, Culture & Society 19(5–6): 247–260.
Latour, Bruno (2003) What if we talked politics a little? Contemporary Political Theory 2: 143–164.
Latour, Bruno (2004a) Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Latour, Bruno (2004b) Why has critique run out of steam? From matters of fact to matters of concern. Critical Inquiry 30: 225–248.
Latour, Bruno (2004c) Whose cosmos, which cosmopolitics? Common Knowledge 10(3): 450–462.
Latour, Bruno (2005) What is given in experience? Boundary 2 32(1): 222–237.
Latour, Bruno (2007) Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Latour, Bruno (2008) Ecologie et démocratie: pour une politique de la nature (Agora Conference, 18 January). Available at:
Latour, Bruno (2011a) Gaia global circus. Available at: (accessed 20 September 2018).
Latour, Bruno (2011b) Waiting for Gaia. Available at: (accessed 20 September 2018).
Latour, Bruno (2012) Enquête sur les modes d’existence: une anthropologie des modernes. Paris: La Découverte.
Latour, Bruno (2013a) Facing Gaia (Gifford Lectures). Available at: (accessed 20 September 2018).
Latour, Bruno (2013b) Biography of an inquiry: On a book about modes of existence. Social Studies of Science 43(2): 287–301.
Latour, Bruno (2014) Agency at the time of the Anthropocene. New Literary History 45: 1–18.
Latour, Bruno (2015a) Face à Gaïa: huit conferences sur le nouveau régime climatique. Paris: La Découverte.
Latour, Bruno (2015b) Make it Work / Theater of Negotiations. Available at: (accessed 20 September 2018).
Latour, Bruno and Lépinay, Vincent Antonin (2008) L’économie: Science des interets passionnés. Paris: La Découverte.
Law, John (1999) After ANT: Complexity, naming and topology. In: Law J and Hassard J (eds) Actor Network Theory and After. Oxford: Blackwell.
Morton, Timothy (2010) Interviews: Graham Harman, Jane Bennett, Tim Morton, Ian Bogost, Levi Bryant and Paul Ennis. Speculations 1(1): 84–134.
Povinelli, Elisabeth A., Coleman, Mathew and Yusoff, Kathryn (2017) An Interview with Elizabeth Povinelli: Geontopower, biopolitics and the Anthropocene. Theory, Culture & Society 34(2–3): 169–185.
Prigogine, Ilya (2008) Les lois du chaos. Paris: Flammarion.
Salmon, Gildas and Charbonnier, Pierre (2014) The two ontological pluralisms of French anthropology. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 20: 567–573.
Sayes, Edwin (2014) Actor-network theory and methodology: Just what does it mean to say that nonhumans have agency? Social Studies of Science 44(1): 134–149.
Shapin, Stephen (1988) Following scientists around. Social Studies of Science 18(3): 533–550.
Stiegler, Bernard (2013) What Makes Life Worth Living: On Pharmacology. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Viveiros de Castro, Eduardo (2009) Métaphysiques Cannibales. Paris: PUF.
Viveiros de Castro, Eduardo (2015) The Relative Native: Essays on Indigenous Conceptual Worlds. Chicago: Hau Books.
This article is part of the Theory, Culture & Society special section on ‘Questioning New Materialisms’ (TCS 35(7–8), December 2018), edited by Charles Devellennes and Benoît Dillet.


Arianne Conty is a continental philosopher working in the fields of the philosophy of technology and the philosophy of religion. Her research has been focusing on theories of subjectivity and processes of individuation in relation to technology and to the Anthropocene. Her articles have been published in many reputable journals, such as Politics, Religion & Ideology, Techné, Philosophy Today, South African Journal of Philosophy, La Deleuziana, Literature & Theology, Medieval Mystical Theology and Religion and the Arts.

Cite article

Cite article

Cite article


Download to reference manager

If you have citation software installed, you can download article citation data to the citation manager of your choice

Share options


Share this article

Share with email

Share access to this article

Sharing links are not relevant where the article is open access and not available if you do not have a subscription.

For more information view the Sage Journals article sharing page.

Information, rights and permissions


Published In

Article first published online: October 11, 2018
Issue published: December 2018


  1. agency
  2. Anthropocene
  3. Bruno Latour
  4. matter
  5. new materialism
  6. politics of nature
  7. technology

Rights and permissions

© The Author(s) 2018.
Request permissions for this article.


Published online: October 11, 2018
Issue published: December 2018



Arianne Françoise Conty
American University of Sharjah, UAE


Arianne Françoise Conty. Email: [email protected]

Metrics and citations


Journals metrics

This article was published in Theory, Culture & Society.


Article usage*

Total views and downloads: 4894

*Article usage tracking started in December 2016


See the impact this article is making through the number of times it’s been read, and the Altmetric Score.
Learn more about the Altmetric Scores

Articles citing this one

Web of Science: 28 view articles Opens in new tab

Crossref: 22

  1. ‘Storied Matter’ & the Human Response In: Joy Williams’s The Changelin...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  2. Enjoying climate change: Jouissance as a political factor
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  3. Elements of power: Material-political entanglements in Australia's fos...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  4. Emotions and securitisation: a new materialist discourse analysis
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  5. Social Interaction with Non-anthropomorphic Technologies
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  6. Animism in the Anthropocene
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  7. COVID-19: Understanding Novel Pathogens in Coupled Social–Ecological S...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  8. Securing participation in global pork production networks: biosecurity...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  9. Invisibility, Colors, Snow: Arctic Biosemiotics and the Violence of Cl...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  10. Future fashion, biotechnology and the living world: microbial cell fac...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  11. Dataficação da vida
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  12. Beyond representation? A material-ecocritical reading of Derek Mahon’s...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  13. Mediating process for human agency in science education: For man’s new...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  15. After the “Age of Wreckers and Exterminators?”
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  16. Becoming with a police dog: Training technologies for bonding
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  17. Doing justice to the agential material*
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  18. Domains of Objects, Rituals of truth: Mapping Intersections between In...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  19. The Morphology of Marronage
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  20. Sustainability, feminist posthumanism and the unusual capacities of (p...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  21. Mountain Bike Trail Building, “Dirty” Work, and a New Terrestrial Poli...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  22. Physical Culture
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar

Figures and tables

Figures & Media


View Options

Get access

Access options

If you have access to journal content via a personal subscription, university, library, employer or society, select from the options below:

Alternatively, view purchase options below:

Purchase 24 hour online access to view and download content.

Access journal content via a DeepDyve subscription or find out more about this option.

View options


View PDF/ePub

Full Text

View Full Text