Nuclear Weapons and the Treadmill of Destruction in the Making of the Anthropocene

  • Michael Lengefeld Goucher College
Keywords: treadmill of destruction, exterminism, nuclear weapons, mutant ecology, Anthropocene


This research analyzes the human dimensions of environmental degradation and injustice in the age of nuclear weapons. Human societies are fundamentally linked to global environmental systems and are transforming ecological conditions in dramatic ways, such that the current epoch has been termed the Anthropocene. This article highlights the human health consequences, ecological transformations, and threats to biodiversity imposed by military institutions in the Anthropocene; emphasizing how these outcomes can be traced to specific interrelated sets of processes and generative conditions. I advance the treadmill of destruction theory as one useful theoretical framework for examining these socio-ecological interrelationships. The investigation focuses on the institutional foundations of nuclear war strategy and preparations for nuclear war, and their interactions with ecosystems. I provide an analysis of the American nuclear weapons production process, revealing how a treadmill of destruction emerged after World War II. This analysis of how the developmental dynamics of nuclear weapons have changed over time brings greater clarity to the Anthropocene concept and the distinct role of military institutions in shaping the new era.


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How to Cite
Lengefeld, M. (2020). Nuclear Weapons and the Treadmill of Destruction in the Making of the Anthropocene. Journal of World-Systems Research, 26(2), 203-230.
Special Issue: World-Systems Analysis in the Anthropocene