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  • #DIFFERENTIATE #SPECIATE: On Jairus Victor Grove’s Savage Ecology
  • Chase Hobbs-Morgan (bio)
Jairus Victor Grove. Savage Ecology: War and Geopolitics at the End of the World. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019. 346 pp. $28.95 (pb). ISBN: 9781478004844.

Georges Bataille began the first volume of The Accursed Share as such: “No one can say without being comical that he is getting ready to overturn things. He must overturn, and that is all.”1 Whatever else it does, Jairus Victor Grove’s Savage Ecology overturns many things without comically announcing as much. The result is a darkly explosive work. [End Page 500]

While writing The Accursed Share, Bataille was “embarrassed” to be composing an economic opus which “qualified economists” would not likely accept.2 Bataille’s embarrassment stemmed from the fact that he was known as a fiction writer, and yet here he was attempting to overturn economic thinking. Per Bataille, such thinking had conventionally understood economics in a restricted sense, by considering the production and exchange of commodities in isolation from the broader world, as if “the economy” and the world were separable.

Throughout The Accursed Share Bataille overturned convention by insisting that we consider a more “general economy” in which not only production and exchange but the entire “circulation of energy on the Earth”3 became the object of analysis. For Bataille, what counted as economic must expand dramatically such that “a human sacrifice, the construction of a church or the gift of a jewel were no less interesting than the sale of wheat.”4 Not just accumulation, but expenditure was an economic activity. Only by overturning a mode of thinking which had restricted the meaning of the economy to its discrete moments could Bataille come to explore what he thought was a more realistic understanding, a general economic theory.


I gloss the opening pages of The Accursed Share to make the following claim: Grove’s Savage Ecology does for our thinking about global politics since 1492 what Bataille did for economic thought in 1949. Grove’s work allows us to see that much of our thinking about the apocalypses of war, capitalism, colonialism, and ecology has been “right” even as it has remained restricted. Here, Grove’s central argument takes shape: we must understand the world since 1492 under the aegis of the “Eurocene,” a project through which essentially European “forms of life” came to dominate. Grove understands a form of life as “not quite race and more than culture or style… those ways of being in the world—always lived collectively—without which one would no longer be who or what one is” (2). In the Eurocene, “the apocalypse before us is one of a great homogenization” (278). Grove’s concern is with protecting and proliferating many existing and not-yet-existing forms of life which the apocalypse of the Eurocene has long sought to eliminate.

The result of this initial overturning is a set of daring claims that ought to enrich and trouble anyone who desires to think through contemporary global politics. Savage Ecology is an extraordinarily rich text. Running one’s eyes across its pages is like moving one’s body through a pool of water inhabited by bioluminescent critters: wading through Savage Ecologies uncovers a wonderous diversity of thought that one might not have expected. There is much more to learn from, struggle through, and critique in Grove’s text that I can portray in this review. Each of these moments, in my experience, is highly generative.


Savage Ecology argues that the last 500 years of global politics have emerged from and then been dominated by a Euro- and then Euro-American form of life, especially their elites. The conceptual building blocks which Grove uses [End Page 501] to sustain this investigation can be glimpsed in the following small passage: “This book is an attempt to make a certain kind of ecological sense out of five hundred years of geopolitics and its warlike means. Here I develop a martial genealogy for what I am calling the Eurocene” (5). Of special importance here and throughout the text are the following concepts: ecology; the Eurocene; and geopolitics. A few words on how...


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pp. 500-505
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