The University of Arizona

Conquest, Domination and Control: Europe’s Mastery of Nature in Historic Perspective

Philipp Pattberg


This article contributes to the broadening agenda of critical globalisation(s) research by analysing one of the most fundamental ideological foundations of the current global transformation in a historical perspective: the ideology of "domination over nature" that was implemented in Europe from 1500 onwards. Humans have always shaped and altered their environment according to their needs and aspirations. However, it is the distinct ideology of mastery and domination over nature that underlines this unprecedented enterprise. An ideology in this context is understood as a codified justification for social practices, codified in concrete as well as highly abstract systems of rule. The question I seek to answer in this contribution is why Europe – a backward civilisation up to the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance – was the birthplace of the distinct ideology of mastery over nature, globalising itself through exploration, discovery, and trade to nearly every corner of the planet.

Key words: ideology of mastery, human-nature relations, ecological imperialism, historical political ecology

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