Nature as a political question: Alexander von Humboldt and power networks


The life and work of the Prussian geographer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt continues to fascinate, even today. This is partly because his figure concentrates and synthesises the movements, ideas, and even the great contradictions of the time of profound change that was nineteenthcentury Europe. One of these great contradictions is the relationship between science and power. While on the one hand science was demanding its autonomy and universal value, its purity», and objectivity more than ever before, on the other, the field was often entangled in questions of political and economic power. In an era in which European countries were intensifying their race for world control, information and knowledge about nature gave them a vanguard position when it came to managing this control. Here, we situate Alexander von Humboldt’s innovative geographical work in this context.


geography; nature; power networks; revolution; landscape

Full Text:



  • Arendt, H. (2004). Un salón berlinés. Revista de Occidente, 282, 105–116. Blumenberg, H. (2000). La legibilidad del mundo. Barcelona: Paidós.

  • Cassirer, E. (2007). Rousseau, Kant, Goethe. Filosofía y cultura en la Europa del siglo de las luces. Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

  • De Clozier, R. (1956). Las etapas de la geografía. Barcelona: Salvat.

  • Farinelli, F. (1991). L’arguzia del paesaggio. Casabella, 575–576, 10–12.

  • Hadot, P. (2015). El velo de Isis. Ensayo sobre la historia de la idea de Naturaleza. Barcelona: Alpha Decay.

  • Heinz, M. (1999). La obra Cosmos, de Alexander von Humboldt. Estudios de Filosofía, 19–20.

  • Humboldt, A. (2003). Cuadros de la Naturaleza. Madrid: Los libros de la Catarata.

  • Humboldt, A. (2011). Cosmos. Ensayo de una descripción física del cosmos. Madrid: Los Libros de la Catarata.

  • Lladó, B. (2013). Un Geranium humboldtii al jardí geogràfic. Opinió pública, burgesia i paisatge als inicis de la geografia moderna. Documents d’Anàlisi Geogràfica, 59(2), 363–374.

  • Mignolo, W. (2007). La idea de América Latina. Barcelona: Gedisa.

  • Minca, C. (2007). Humboldt’s compromise, or the forgotten geographies of landscape. Progress in Human Geography, 31, 179–193. doi: 10.1177/0309132507075368

  • Nogué, J. (2010). El retorn al paisatge. Enrahonar. An international Journal of Theoretical and Practical Reason, 45, 121–136. doi: 10.5565/rev/enrahonar.224

  • Raffestin, C. (2016). Géographie buissonnière. Ginebra: Héros-Limite.

  • Steiner, G. (2008). Els llibres que no he escrit. Barcelona: Arcàdia.

  • Wulf, A. (2016). La invención de la naturaleza. El nuevo mundo de Alexander von Humboldt. Madrid: Taurus.

Creative Commons License
Texts in the journal are –unless otherwise indicated– published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License