Politics of Apocalypse

Artwork: Colnate Group, 2022 (cc by nc)
Artwork: Colnate Group, 2022 (cc by nc)

We live in a time of profound global change. The dissolution of the previous world order, which was essentially based on the hegemony of the West, is progressing, leading to ever new conflicts and crises. What might replace the old world order is uncertain. “Multipolarity” seems to be the future, and, as the recent BRICS summits underscore this, it’s already here. As a result of these developments, will the Global South play a greater role in the future?

And more broadly, what will become of anti-colonial and anti-capitalist struggles for democratic forms of social, spatial, economic, and ecological justice?

One thing is clear: As the hegemonic order crumbles, the ruling classes in the West are painting the end of the world on the wall. And they are mobilizing against this “doom”: they want to “save the world,” that is: their world. In this context, the threat of climate collapse is not entirely inconvenient. After all, those who have significantly caused it, i.e. the most developed countries (often identified as “the West”), can now also offer themselves as indispensable saviors – and declare a greening of the colonial capitalist economic model as the new universal norm. This mission impossible is being pursued all the more relentlessly as the “great systemic rival” China makes rapid progress in the field of “green technologies” and “green energy.”

No wonder, then, that the idea of the “climate apocalypse” is gaining ground and developing an ambivalent political potential: on the one hand, alarming emergencies that call emancipatory movements onto the scene and sometimes open up unexpected leverage. On the other hand, alarmists who fuel social polarization, desolidarization, and right-wing mobilization; and who make both authoritarian and capital-conformist crisis strategies, such as green capitalism, appear as “solutions” without alternatives. Not only in the West, of course.

In short, depending on one’s perspective, the idea of the end of the world and the possibility of abolishing a world based on colonial and capitalist conquest are either complementary or mutually exclusive. With the dossier Politics of Apocalypse, BG aims to address the ambivalence of end-of-the-world narratives in an analytical and differentiated way. We want to explore the emancipatory potential of global upheavals in times of multiple crises, without closing our eyes to reactionary and authoritarian tendencies.

Articles included in the dossier:

Philosopher Déborah Danowski challenges Western-centric narratives of the End of the World and explains why we should adopt the perspective of indigenous peoples to address the climate crisis and to truly understand what it means to “save our world.”

Political theorist Lukas Stolz argues that, in the face of ecological collapse, it is high time to question everything that has brought us to this point, and to exchange the ways of thinking under the banner of supposed progress for alternatives nurtured by the dispossessed.

Decolonial scholar Christine Okoth argues that artistic acts of world-making that deploy aesthetics of extractive solidarity in the Global South reconfigure resistance to colonial-capitalist world-making, which has occurred at the expense of both the worlds of the expropriated and exploited and the earth as such.

Scholar-activist Tatjana Söding analyzes how the notion of the End of History is being mobilized again today to defend the supremacy of fossil capital, which is preparing to lead the development of so-called “green future markets.”

Activist Jennifer Kamau and anthropologist Florin Poenaru give us food for thought on how to expand our understanding of climate and migration struggles, given that the environmental apocalypse for the oppressed of the Global South has been underway for more than five hundred years.

Researcher Carola von der Dick argues that in the face of several major environmental thresholds – known as ecological tipping points – the challenge is to conceive of social tipping dynamics: fundamental and accelerated societal changes that affect the socio-ecological Earth system.

Writer and labor activist Slave Cubela argues that we can overcome the the dilemma of knowing about the impending collapse of the Earth’s ecosystem, but literally doing nothing about it, if we begin to articulate the unimaginable and re-explore the possibilities of the articulable. (Available only in German.)

Note: Would you like to publish an article on these topics? Then please contact us at info(at)berlinergazette(dot)de.

6 comments on “Politics of Apocalypse

  1. I don’t like to use multipolarity this way. Just a thought. It is a fascist dictator tool, used by Putin etc.

    I really agree with Kavita:

    “Multipolarity is the compass orienting the Left’s understanding of international relations. All streams of the Left in India and globally have for long advocated for a multipolar world as opposed to a unipolar one dominated by the imperialist USA. At the same time, multipolarity has become the keystone of the shared language of global fascisms and authoritarianisms. It is a rallying cry for despots, that serves to dress up their war on democracy as a war on imperialism. The deployment of multipolarity to disguise and legitimise despotism is immeasurably enabled by the ringing endorsement by the global Left of multipolarity as a welcome expression of anti-imperialist democratisation of international relations.”


  2. @AGF: Thank you for raising this point.

    1) The use of the term “multipolarity” appears in the paragraph where we describe what is going on, not how we wish things to be. We are stating facts, not wishes. The paragraph ends with a question. This question is suggestive:
    “As a result of these developments, will the Global South play a greater role in the future?” It suggests something desirable, even utopian, but does not provide an answer. Rather we sharpen the focus of the inquiry with another question: “And more broadly, what will become of anti-colonial and anti-capitalist struggles for democratic forms of social, spatial, economic, and ecological justice?”

    2) We are aware of the fact that the dissolution of the world order leads to ever new conflicts and crises, and that this is instrumentalized by the ruling classes – around the world. This is precisely why we clearly address the reactionary tendencies underlying these narratives of the end; thus, our framework is clearly incompatible with demagogues (wherever they come from) fighting democracy against (whatever) imperialism.

    3) In all the articles we present in this dossier, a wide range of emancipatory agendas is clearly addressed. There is not the slightest space in these agendas for fascists and demagogues.

    We think the idea that we are pandering to Putin & Co. can only come from not really reading what we write, or from making the mistake of thinking that any criticism of the West is per se pandering to Kremlin propaganda. Of course, that is what they (Putin & Co.) wish, and in the West (and some parts of the former Eastern Bloc now alinged with the West) the ruling class is trying to use this argument against us in order to silence us.

  3. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond.

    I get upset when the word “multipolarity” is used without this reduction or critic.

    So many people dying for this “anti-imperial” “against US-led world” – people get hanged, executed (Iran)… etc.

    I know you don’t support Putin etc.

    But it really is disappointing how prominent “progressive” left are abusive to the Ukrainians and people inside authoritarian states.

    I am starting to read text more and more from an angle how “Russian propaganda-ist” pr or apologist phrasing are reappearing in text of the left.

    I am prob taking this too serious, but I learned from Ukrainians here.

    your work is amazing, thank you so much

    PS: I often think where is the solidarity of the left with people inside these states? from a safe position of the west, north Koreans for example…

    PPS: The situation in Palestine is also part and so extremely horrendous!

  4. @AGF:

    1. We would agree that progressive leftists are not “the measure of all things” and deny/neglect a number of issues and problems. I am not sure, however, that we share the observation that progressive leftists neglect people in authoritarian states per se. Rather, there seems to be an almost automatic support for any resistance in authoritarian states, because they are also fighting for us – for our free world. This is where progressive leftists and representatives of the ruling class in the West have much in common. At the same time, the problems “at home” are neglected. Thus, support for anti-authoritarian struggles abroad becomes an alibi that legitimizes not having to deal with local, regional, national social struggles in the same sharp way. An example of this is the discourse around AI and China, which paints a super-totalitarian picture: it hides the fact that very similar things are happening in free societies as well.

    This promotes double standards and depoliticization, because our solidarity with those struggling abroad tends to be symbolic, while solidarity that goes beyond that would be fighting the enemy at home, as the comrades from the solidarity clinics in Greece taught us.

    2. You say “Russian propagandists! PR or apologist phrases are reappearing in texts of the left”. But first we have to note that the Kremlin started remixing positions, phrases, etc. derived from the progressive left in the West (and the Global South) for its own propaganda. Partly this was compatible with their own (always shifting, always adapting) position; partly it was to bring “us” into their world; partly it was to create a basis for countering the argument of illegitimate actions (predatory geopolitics including invasion, oppression of minorities, dirty deals, corruption) by playing it back to the West.

    So we would be careful with the above claim. Just because they are using and abusing our positions, it does not mean that our positions are invalid. We just need to be more cautious about how to articulate them.

    Of course, there are positions on the left that support the Kremlin and Putin & Co. But that is something else, because the problem is out in the open, there is nothing to decipher.

    3. The problem of how the left in the West deals with Ukraine is too big to be dealt with here. Suffice it to say that the left in the West is far from united on this issue. Thus, we can not accuse the left in the West as a whole of having failed on this issue. Yes, it has disoriented many of us and divided us to some extent. However, not everyone has become a zombie as a result, there are enough people who have remained vigilant and engaged without falling for the cheap polemics that ultimately have nothing but the disintegration of any political engagement as their goal, that constantly want to urge us to position ourselves “appropriately” as quickly as possible, to choose sides. Unfortunately, and here we agree with you, in the course of this polemical rush of ideological polarizations, the “ordinary people suffering on the ground” are all too often forgotten in favor of supposedly serene impulses at the imaginary playing table of geopolitics.

  5. Thank you for engaging, Zombie-ism is truly something to be avoided. I am happy that you are optimistic. I disagree that the prominent international western left understands the situation of people inside authoritarian regimes. Quite often they hop on right wing movements, media or militias, who then receive a lot of support while grassroots movements are not even lifted to attention and people rot in prisons in China, North Korea, Russia, Belarusia, Iran etc

  6. Did you see the call for the Sydney Biennale which opens soon? Their concerns intersect yours.

    “Catastrophe is a fantasy of power. It over-determines sociopolitical attention and crisis-temporalities. It diverts resources and agency towards the maintenance of dominant systems. A hegemony of catastrophe and a catastrophic hegemony. In this world, an ethos and aesthetics of collective celebration offers a gift to shrug off the apocalyptic normal as a governing rubric and totalising event-structure. ”


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