24. Multitudes 24 : Spring 2006

Multitudes : Spring

Partagez —> /

Majeure : Ecopolitique now !

Moscovici (entretien avec Erwan Lecoeur). Créer une nouvelle forme de vie.
It is through « making » nature that we know nature ; we shape it as we live. Nature is not something external to us. Nor is ecology a science : it is a social and political movement.

Edoardo Viveiro de Castro. Une figure humaine peut cacher une affection-jaguar. Réponse à une question de Didier Muguet.
How can one be a Westerner ? Amerindians don’t understand our dualist split between nature and culture, and they do very well without it. They think and live in continuity.

Raphaël Bessis. La Syntaxe des mondes. Une lecture de Par delà nature et culture de P. Descola.
In Par delà nature et culture (Beyond Nature and Culture, 2005), Philippe Descola attempts to articulate, by means of a classification of the forms of symbolic ecology, the elementary pieces in a kind of syntax of composition of the world. He selects four fundamental schemas or ontological matrices – animism, naturalism, totemism and analogicism – from the vast array of anthropological monographs, with the goal of articulating a critique of naturalistic reason. The goal of the present article is to bring to light this epistemological revolution.

Raphaël Larrère. Une éthique pour les êtres hybrides : de la dissémination d’Agrostis au drame de Lucifer.
In this article, Raphaël Larrère compares Agrostis, a genetically modified plant, and Lucifer, a clone of a bull. Based on these two examples, he reflects on the sociological and philosophical consequences of the introduction of artificial components into our environment. What both of these examples share is the belief in the Promethean power of genetic engineering. The border between nature and artifice is fading away, but a radical difference remains : the creation of a plant organism raises the issue of the risk of proliferation and inopportune interaction with other ecosystems, and thus the principle of precaution, whereas the creation of an animal, a being with feelings, is an ethical or moral issue : it involves a decision on the life or death of a living being. If one denies the ethical dimension of these questions, one gives free rein to the monopolistic projects of global agro-business, or the Pentagon’s Promethean rhetoric of the « creation » of the soldier.

Jorge Riechmann. Biomimesis » : éléments pour une écologie industrielle.
The concept of Biomimesis is founded on the idea of the imitation of Nature at a time of reconstruction of human productive systems. Biomimesis is a strategy of reinsertion of human systems in natural systems. It rests on the hypothesis that evolution has identified, over time, optimal solutions, and that living beings have reached functional perfection which can be studied or imitated. The goal is to reintegrate the technosphere into the biosphere. The study of the latter can be a source of ideas for changes that should be made in the former. In the natural cyclical economy, every waste product of a process is converted into the primary matter of another process: cycles are closed. On the contrary, the capitalist industrial economy is linear, with respect to the fluxes of matter and energy: resources are disconnected from waste products, and cycles do not close. The idea of Biomimesis is closely linked to the principle of precaution, and that of sustainability.

Emmanuel Videcoq. D’une pensée des limites à une pensée de la relation.
This essay presents a critical overview of the ideological corpus of the ecological movement, as it has been actualized in the various Green parties. « Environmentalism » relies on a nature-culture dualism, and defines human beings as external to Nature, hence arguing that « human activities » are the cause of damage to the environment. This goes hand in hand with a radical critique of economic rationality, according to which the possibility of a political ecology emerges out of the obsolescence of the economic vision of the world. In fact, I argue that ecological thinking amounts to a heterogeneous ideological construction, which cannot overcome the important gap between theoretical claims and real practices. Lacking a coherent project, these projects are necessarily limited in their impact. From this realization, we can see the necessity of a second era of political ecology, which takes up new objects such as the production of science, and brings together Latour’s critique with Félix Guattari’s hypothesis of a generalized ecology which would add new relations to existing relations. The critique of « productivism » should not be confused with the critique of « antiproduction » which limits the expansion of life, since the goal of political ecology is to give rise to new forms of life.

Isabelle Stengers. Faire avec Gaïa : pour une culture de la non-symétrie.
Nature always refers to something inasmuch as it relates to something else. This « something else » is highly variable. The role of Nature as the respondent of judgements which are both hierarchical and moral is always present in modern science, without thereby being deducible from modern science. Today it presents new contrasts, new oppositions which involve multiple natures, interlinked and historical, which does not result in anything like a neutral Nature. The best example, linked to the idea of Gaia, is the greenhouse effect. Our interventions, even if they take place over a very short period of time, might disturb situations which arose over very long periods. Gaia is a new figure of Nature which must be respected because we are dependent on her, not in the sense that she must be respected as a goddess, but in the sense of her sensitivity. Now, a Nature that could thus be defined once and for all, with an identity that could be opposed to humanity’s, does not exist. Nature in the other sense does not exist objectively either, but is more interesting because it participates in human historicity. It exists in the sense in which it forces us to think, negotiate, take into account, imagine, take note without saying that Nature, too, thinks, negotiates, takes into account, imagines, and takes note. We must think and imagine with something that does not do so. This is the beginning of a culture of non-symmetry. If Nature as Gaia teaches us something, it is that we must take care : the fact the current regimen of interdependence suits us is in no way a privilege of this regiment. Gaia has no innate reason to care about us ; rather, we must care about her. Non-symmetry, then, is this interesting situation in which Nature interests us while we do not interest her.

Catherine Larrère. Éthiques de l’environnement.
For approximately a quarter of a century, moral reflection has turned to a new object: the environment. Environmental ethics has emerged primarily in the United States out of considerations on Nature in the wild state – the wilderness – and the duty to preserve it. As such, it divides into two trends. The first seeks to develop a general theory of moral value, an abstract, universal principle qualifying individual entities, such that the intrinsic value of living entities deserves our respect. The second, first formulated by an American forester, Aldo Leopold, is an ethics of the biotic community: how Nature can be a community of which we are members, and in within which it is possible for us to conduct ourselves well.

Frédéric Neyrat. La Vie dans les sphères.
Singular and collective individuations are only possible within what Peter Sloterdijk calls « spheres », « insulations », « prosthetic » environments which allow for mediations between individualities, as well as the forms of protection which are required for the flourishing of life. Now, our era is undergoing a major crisis of modes of inhabiting, a fragilization and even a destruction of existential territories. Collective « spheres » have exploded, under the pressure of capitalist globalization and techno-scientific modernization. This text analyzes the attempts at mega-spherological substitution, namely Biosphere or Noosphere, as well as subjective returns to autistic microspheres. The latter are shown to be dangerous while the former are ambiguous. On this view, political ecology should take into account this danger, and this ambiguity.

Jean-Jacques Wittezaele, L’Écologie de l’esprit selon Bateson
Bateson argues that the behavior of an individual cannot be understood in abstraction from the relations between that individual and others. The « ecology of mind » is the entire organization of the communication network between human beings and the environment, which also exists in animals and even in large-scale ecosystems. The world of ideas is not restricted to the human world, but belongs to any of these information-processing circuits, whether it be a forest, a human being, or an octopus. Information lies in the differences that make a difference. For Bateson, mental processes emerge from the interaction between the elements of a system. Thinking is the activity of a brain belonging to an agent within a system, itself interacting with an environment. Mental events, behavior and interaction form a complex network of conflict and cooperation, just like the trees, plants and animals forming the ecological whole of a mountain.

Jean Zin. Bonnes feuilles de L’Écologie à l’ère de l’information, Erès, début 2006.
The idea that living beings are nothing other than exchanges of energy is a reductionist one. Rather, living beings are characterized by reproduction, evolution, regulation and adaption – or most generally, information and reaction. Ecology is inseparable from information, both biologically and historically. Political ecology emerged in reaction to the dead end of energy-based, quantitative economics and its productivism, suggesting instead a qualitative vision of regulation through information. The information age radically transforms our world and our representations. The information we receive determines our responsibility: this is the basis for the principle of precaution. Political ecology is the feedback of industrial modernity ; it is a the critique of the negative dimensions of progress, its degradations and pollutions. Information technology is indispensable for shifting towards a reduction of material consumption, in favor of immaterial production. Information is at the heart of political ecology at all levels – biological, historical, political and economic – and as such as it truly is a new paradigm, contrasting with mechanical « laws of history » or even thermodynamic equilibrium.

Bernard Stiegler. De l’économie libidinale à l’écologie de l’esprit. Entretien.
This interview is articulated around the following theses: (1) capitalism must first be understood as a « libidinal economy » ; (2) this libidinal economy is exhausted by the hyper-industrialization of contemporary capitalism : industrially treated desire leads to the destruction of desire ; (3) whence the necessity of inventing a new form of public authority which can reactive, stimulate desire. Ecological damage is indeed the consequence of a symbolic poverty, a poverty of the forms of life and practices. The only response to such damage is to propose a genuine ecology of mind.

Yann Moulier Boutang. L’Irruption de l’écologie ou le grand chiasme de l’économie politique.
The question of energy lies at the origin of the ecology movement. This article shows how that question can be answered, by embedding the economy in the ecology. The image of pollination illustrates the new conception of the economy that is called for by the ecology of the future. Bees generate honey, a product that can be put on a market; but their most useful work is the pollination of plants. This calls for a rethinking of the entire program of the old political economy, resting on the notion of scarcity. The early ecology movement, confronted with industrial capitalism, was dominated by the economy of the material world. Today’s ecology movement (in its second phase) shows how a chiasmus has formed. The world of political economy appears as an interlinkage of complex systems of different ecologies where the human ecology ceases to be the center. The sphere of mind – of relations between ideas and cooperation between brains – has undergone undeniable growth and constitutes the other half of the chiasmus. Its economy brings forth new forms of efficiency and organization, like networked computers. Cognitive capitalism is the other and the mimetic rival of second-phase ecology. It can accept to give up mastery of the biosphere if it becomes master of the noosphere. The contradictions inherent to cognitive capitalism are then added to those of industrial capitalism.

Frédéric Neyrat. Biopolitique des catastrophes.
Catastrophe now forms part of our daily lives, as though the apocalypse could hit us every morning. Yet this crazed relation to the world is legitimate, constructed and not imaginary, entirely coherent with the postmodern socius. A biopolitics of catastrophe has come into being, in the attempt to include this new given and thereby conjure away the risks that, for Ulrich Beck, compose the measuring-stick of our post-progressive societies. However, by its very practices, this biopolitics seems to block the advent of an ecopolitics that could act on the causes and not the effects of the injury that we are already suffering.

Starhawk. Une présence païenne à la Nouvelle Orléans après Katrina.
A pagan presence in New Orleans after the hurricane Katrina. In the neighbourhoods still abandonned by official urgency services, activists works with the returned dwellers to clean and grow plants with bio-methods open to everybody ; they also analyse the reasons of the disaster. Starhawk wrote several letters on their action.

Sandra Laugier. Le modèle américain de la désobéissance civile, de Thoreau à nos jours.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) simultaneously worked out an understanding of ecology, of nature and of disobedience by moving to Walden Pond. The choice of « life in the woods » was a return to lost nature, but also a withdrawal from society. Civil disobedience then reveals itself for what it still is today, a specific technique of environmental struggle and a model of relation to society as conversation and democratic expression: a natural circulation of speech where no one is a minority, where no one is without voice, and where every claim must be heard, without prior justification or articulation according to rules of language or principles of participation.

Yves Frémion. Le Premier Mouvement écologiste de la planète. Bonnes feuilles de Provo, Nautilus, à paraître en 2006.
Provo was the first ecology movement, before the appearance of the green parties. They were all inspired by its treatment of the three main lines: the environment, social solidarity and citizenship/democracy. Pollution was the first question of the Provos: automobile pollution, industrial water pollution. Cars were denounced as engines of death, striking innocent bystanders in the city without adequate repression. The Provos refused to approach economic questions through any other filter but that of social solidarity. They were not only in favor of massive reductions in labor-time, but of the very disappearance of labor. Work no longer structures life… They were pacifists, anti-militarists by nature, condemning all war and believing that non-violence is a sufficient answer. Collective organization, particularly in cooperatives, and the communal existence encouraged by squats, was their natural way of living. Politics begins with the individual. This marks a break with capitalism, with social democracy and with Marxism. Neither right or left politics opens the path through which the new ecological and pacifistic ideas of solidarity can emerge.

Didier Muguet. Réflexions à partir d’Écologie et socialisme.
Since ecology has become politics, the attempts at synthesis, differentiation or the overcoming of differences between green and red have been unavoidable for most attempts to conceptualize an ecological paradigm within an overall politics of social transformation. By reactivating the usual obstacles of a certain Marxist tradition along with the limits of a denunciation of commodification, the recent attempts at « eco-socialism » offer us a chance to go back to what remains the ongoing project of a political ecology seen from the viewpoint of the processes of collective subjectivation, and not from pre-existing knowledge separated from the world of existence. The goal is to redefine the question of the common as a creation yet to come, as a composition of practices, a coherency of the uses of the world.

André Gattolin. De la nécessité d’un nouvel écosystème politique.
Over the course of its history, political ecology has undergone an increasingly pronounced split between its ideal finalities and the means it uses to get there. Its forms of praxis and initial modes of organization, founded on activism, experimentation and diversified, networked forms of social embodiment, have broadly given way to normalized practices and institutionalized forms, such as the major international NGOs and the green parties. Faced with the new challenges of globalization and the multitude, political ecology bears witness to a lack of adaptation that could threaten its future. It must therefore offer itself a new political ecosystem, able to reactivate its resources and permit the establishment of dynamic links to neighboring political cultures and forms of social incarnation that do not necessarily belong to its original biotope. This overall restructuring implies the development of a dynamics of « deterritorialization-reterritorialization » in two dimensions: one spatial (the topos), involving the geographical levels to which its reflection, organization and intervention seek to apply themselves; and the other thematic (the topics), referring to specific fields of thought and of human activity which it must appropriate in order not to be confined to an environmental approach.

Jacques Robin / Félix Guattari. Révolution informatique, écologie et recomposition subjective.
Information and control technologies are not only on the order of the technosciences, but also intervene in the production of subjectivity. One cannot separate these transformations from the political upheavals that are underway. The primacy of information as a new category alongside that of energy accentuates the production of new subjectivities and may transform society into a society of communication. But this concept is not enough, unless it is associated with an « existential function » that can account for the overall disorientation of subjective coordinates. The problem of subjective recompositions should be posed by a reorientation of the processes of information, telematization, etc., according to other value systems on the level of mental ecology, all the way to planetary scales. We are copilots with nature in context. The amazing aspect of this symbiosis is the radical transformation of the relationships between the two. Ecology is a great turning-point, on the condition that it be joined to the social and economic dimensions, along with every form of otherness, to create a soft ideology that leaves room for new knowledge.

Bernard Heidsieck. John Giorno de 1976 à 2006.
What is left of John Giorno’s performances, once shock, repetition, gestures and technology have faded away ? Its essential dimension : rhythm.

Mineure : Fernand Deligny

Graziella Vella. Étranger le proche.
Throughout his different attempts Deligny never ceased outwitting the function of education. He preferred the verb « to permit », an infinitive allowing him to sidestep the majority posture expected from one who knows the model and its failures. By his tracing of maps among other things, he replaces the gaze that sees nothing but sad deficiencies in these others (autistic children, psychotics, madmen, etc.) with a gaze that could encounter the force and singularity of different relations to the world. How does this position upset the way that anthropologists address themselves to others and establish the relations between heterogeneous worlds ? To what extent could these experiments among the singular inhabitants of the Cevennes constitute an antidote to the standardization that too often speaks, sees and feels in the anthropologists ? Practical and political questions brought up to date by the phrase « nearby stranger »…

Béatrice Han (kia-ki). Deligny et les cartes.
An « other » way of living the outside of ourselves, a way of learning about « the Other » with his own words, Deligny’s work breaks with all the frames, the discourses and structures of institutions. It is on that « path » that we met, in the « maps »: « maps » traced by the autistic « wander lines », because they seek to reveal a « human » way of being that is immanent to space; and because they have no need whatsoever of any reference to any subject, whatever.

Doina Petrescu. Tracer là ce qui nous échappe.
Deligny¹s contribution to the contemporary thinking of community is to map the (impossible) topos of a community which can be hardly described by words (as many contemporary thinkers have witnessed) but can be traced by lines. Deligny¹s use of lines differ from any other form of mapping exactly because they do not pretend to represent anything other than our own ignorance about what is mapped. Rather than a negative thinking, it is an active form of negative mapping of what is common within the members of an « impossible community ».

Jean-Louis Comolli. Un cinéma hors de lui.
Deligny’s thinking is a thought that tries to open, to open the words and make them come back to the gestures from which they perhaps emerged, and to which they no doubt refer. In order to say unheard-of things about cinema, Deligny had to forge a new language whose manifesto-term is camera-ing. What’s the use of cinema ? To see again in order to see, to redouble the system of repetition characteristic of the autistic children. What is Deligny’s camera-ing ? Bringing cinema to what’s outside it.

Emilia M. O. Marty. Garder son petit chapeau bleu.
A tale about Peter’s adventures, a little boy whose boat is rocked by time and space in the land of the Neducators.


Rada Ivekovic. Banlieues, sexes et le boomerang colonial.
The decolonization of France is not over yet. Blind to what was coming (back), France is now badly hit by the boomerang : linguistic isolation, postcolonial studies in slumber, deafness towards the boys and girls of the suburbs (riots, Islamic veil): words are cruelly lacking for institutions to make sense of what’s happening. At a loss, they can only multiply distortions in media coverage and repression/selection at the borders.