The Progress of a Plague Species, A Theory of History (215-238)

Michael F. Duggan

ABSTRACT: This article examines overpopulation as a basis for historical interpretation. Drawing on the ideas of T.R. Malthus, Elizabeth Kolbert, John Lovelock, Lynn Margulis, and Edward O. Wilson, I make the case that the only concept of ‘progress’ that accurately describes the human enterprise is the uncontrolled growth of population. I explain why a Malthusian/Gaia interpretation is not a historicist or eschatological narrative, like Hegelian idealism, Marxism, fundamentalist religion, or ‘end of history’ neoliberalism.  My article also includes a discussion of the ideas and prescriptions of contemporary commentators like physicist, Adam Frank, and the philosophers, John Gray, and Roy Scranton. What makes my article distinctive is bringing together ideas of population theory through a lens of sociobiology and post-humanist philosophy. Through this interpretive synthesis, I form a basis for recasting history as the record of the growing imbalance of our species in light of the unprecedented crises of the environment that are its byproduct. I conclude with the idea that regardless of whether the world is dying or simply going through a fundamental chaotic transformation, the role of the critical-rational historian remains the same: to tell the truth as best as she or he can know it.

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