Abstract

Nature and Power is to be understood not only as human power against nature but also as power by nature in the sense of Michel Foucault's biopouvoir (biopower) or Francis Bacon's "Naturae non imperator nisi parendo" (Only by obeying nature may we dominate nature). The fragile human attempts to get power over nature and by nature have a long history, reaching back over millennia until prehistoric times, and much of world history may be explained in part by the unstable relationship between humans and nature. The environmental approach offers a fresh look at global history. The great change that has happened in modern times seems to have been described best by Karl Polanyi (1944) in his Great Transformation, which also refers to a revolution in the human relation to nature. There are primeval symbioses of humans and nature that are the basis of environmental history until modern time. A global history of the environment may be written for a long time along the three great commons of history: woodlands, water, and pasture. The dark tune of Garrett Hardin's (1968) "Tragedy of the Commons," to be sure, does not dominate the whole melody of environmental history. There is also a lot of historical evidence for Elinor Ostrom's rehabilitation of the commons. But it is better to be cautious with dogmatic theories and sweeping judgments. In modern times Hardin may be right, at least in this or that regard. Ostrom's concept applies only to local, not to global commons. The underlying philosophy of Nature and Power is neither optimism nor pessimism but possibilism.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-8034
Print ISSN
0145-5532
Pages
pp. 325-345
Launched on MUSE
2013-08-28
Open Access
No
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