Living in bubbles: Peter Sloterdijk's spherology and the environmental humanities

Hannes Bergthaller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


Everyday parlance assumes that the public is constituted as a "sphere," a "rounded" space encompassing all citizens within a singular horizon of rationality. When the environmental crisis is referred to as a "global" crisis, this is usually taken to entail the imperative to match the public to the planetary sphere, with the health of the planet as the ideal "res publica " around which a global polity must be assembled. This paper provides an outline of the alternative topology of public space which Peter Sloterdijk developed in his Spheres trilogy (1998-2004) and sketches its implications for the environmental humanities. According to Sloterdijk, contemporary world society is best understood as "foamy" or "froth-like": its structure is that of an aggregation of immunological "bubbles," i.e. small-scale spheres of shared concerns and risks, which are mutually constitutive but mutually impermeable. With its attempt to provide a "thick description" of the forms of human inhabitation in their material and semantic specificity, Sloterdijk's spherology makes an important contribution to the environmental humanities.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSpaces in-between
Subtitle of host publicationCultural and Political Perspectives on Environmental Discourse
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9789004299368
ISBN (Print)9789004298842
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Aug 7
Externally publishedYes


  • Air conditioning
  • Immunity
  • Individualism
  • Peter Sloterdijk
  • Public sphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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