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Journal Articles Law and Critique Year : 2020

An Apocalyptic Patent

Alain Pottage
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It was originally suggested that the Anthropocene began in 1784, the date of James Watt's patent for the rotative steam engine. Patent dates are interesting artefacts. They owe their existence to the chronopoietic technique of patent jurisprudence, which generates temporal sequences out of synchronous states of knowledge. This may not be geological time, but it informs the experience of time that is proper to the culture whose deposits of Pu-239 now mark the onset of the Anthropocene. Patent jurisprudence makes a crucial contribution to what might be called the ethos of the Anthropocene: the sense of society as having an inexhaustible capacity for innovation, for endless self-renewal. And, as it turns out, the steam engine yields some interesting insights into this mode of enchantment.


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hal-03982789 , version 1 (10-02-2023)



Alain Pottage. An Apocalyptic Patent. Law and Critique, 2020, 31 (3), pp.239-252. ⟨10.1007/s10978-020-09278-4⟩. ⟨hal-03982789⟩
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