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The Culture Hack Curriculum

The Culture of the Anthropocene

Culture can be defined as a social domain that emphasizes the practices, discourses and material expressions of a community. In the age of the Anthropocene however, it is important for us to have a much more nuanced understanding of culture. In the last half a century, we have seen new social and cultural systems emerge – globalization, neoliberalism and social dictatorships. All of which gave warrant to rampant resource extraction and ecological destruction and exponential economic inequality and poverty

It is therefore incredibly important that we fully understand the nuance and complexity of the cultural systems that have birthed and sustained the Anthropocene. In contrast to its traditional Enlightenment definition where culture meant the evolution of the human condition, we can see that Culture is not your friend

Therefore, a more contextually relevant definition of Culture is the normative values and belief systems that coordinate human activity

Through these normative values and belief systems, culture determines how we understand ourselves and our place in the world. The culture of the Anthropocene creates systems of meaning that are inherently dualistic, creating distinctions between social, political and ecological categories e.g. nature/culture, subject/object, knower/object-to-be-known, human/non-human, self/other.

All of us contribute to and are affected by culture, yet some, more than others have a disproportionate responsibility and benefit. Therefore, culture is both constructed and emergent, as well as visible and invisible simultaneously. We can identify the values of a particular culture simply by making empirical observations within its context, by looking at the social, political and ecological outcomes produced by its cultural system.

Understanding that culture delineates a set of distinctions, assumptions, norms and beliefs about the world is the key point here. This understanding can help us to develop ways to critically assess our cultural systems and find ways to evolve them beyond Anthropocentrism.


  1.  The Anthropocene is our current geological epoch, following the Holocene. It is characterized by planetary exploitation historically driven by white European minorities (Yussof, 2018) and the economic model of capitalism (Moore, 2016; Malm, 2016) which has led to unprecedented environmental changes including global warming and biodiversity loss. See overview here: Anthropocene (Global Social Theory).   
  2.  Globalization describes the growing interdependence of the world’s economies, cultures, and populations, facilitated by cross-border trade, technological development, and flows of capital, people and information . Read more about global flows, or the legacies of colonialism: Colonial global economy (Connected Sociologies Curriculum).
  3.  Neoliberalism is a recent iteration of capitalism (an economic system developed in the 16th century) that has ushered in an era of financialisation and governance of corporations instead of states, as well as the ongoing capitalist prioritization of economic growth, profit-maximization and an ethos of individual responsibility. See an overview here: Neoliberalism (Global Social Theory).
  4.  Social dictatorships describe the dictatorial rule of minorities – whether ideological, linguistic, ethnic, or religious. See an overview here: Social Dictatorship (UIA).
  5.  The Enlightenment describes a European intellectual movement in the Late Modern period (17th, 18th and 19th centuries) where the ideology of rationalism (the use of reason to gain knowledge) was developed.
  6.  For example, the USA cultural context prioritizes the normative category of whiteness and perpetuates white vs not-white binaries, through incarceration and impoverishment: in 2010, 40% of prisoners were black despite black communities making up 13% of the entire population, and 60.7% of household wealth belonged to white households while black households owned only 3.8%.