Considering examples from Benjamin, Marx, and Hobbes, “Anthropocene Air” reflects on the conceptual difficulty that the atmosphere, the Earth’s gaseous envelope, poses for a materialist account of history. Against the backdrop of the systemic condition definitive of the Anthropocene—the amplifying feedback loop between surplus value and the surplus energy derived from fossil fuels, which effects a rift in the biospheric carbon cycle—I track a metaphoric drift in materialist invocations of air toward ideality and ahistoricity: atmosphere as allegory of the outside. The atmospheric figures discussed in this essay—air as what remains still or as what gives way; air as the medium of remembrance or as the element of a haunted forgetting—fail to capture the decisive temporality of the Anthropocene: the delayed and disaggregated effect of fossil capitalism, the accumulation of greenhouse gases, the acidification and heating of the oceans, the “long tail” of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

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