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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Gaia, human-earthbound war and animism as deconstructors of the political theology of the moderns

The Gaia hypothesis has the merit of taking us out of the simple dichotomy between shallow and deep ecology - although Lovelock flirts with Hardin's ideas that the human species is pollution and opens room for Ward's ideas that humans can constitute a cybernetic system capable to be coupled with Gaia to regulate it for our benefit. To be sure, to see the planet as a cybernetic system gives agency to everything - yet agency is thought within a regulatory system and as therefore roughly as a function, like that of an organ within a body. The non-human doesn´t appeal as such - as another - but as part of a regulatory mechanism. Humans are understood as part of the regulatory system and therefore as playing a role together with the non-human, both parts of a cybernetic system. Nature and humanity, the beacons of the political theology of the Moderns, are placed together as sources of agency, even though there is no non-human agency beyond its functionality.

Something similar can be said about Latour´s proposal of a war declaration of the earthbounds on the humans. Such a war is meant to collapse the categories of humanity and nature as the source of agency and the locus of the lawlike and the inanimate respectively. Both parts are composed by humans and non-humans and the cause is not something centrally human, it is around the idea of Gaia and being part of it - the earthbounds are the people of Gaia. Still, the appeal of the non-human is nothing but the appeal of the brothers-in-arms (or enemies): the non-human doesn´t connect to us but as military parts where no one can be indifferent. The war makes everything military - in that case, humans and non-humans are not considered but as part of a cause - and part of a war effort.

Animism itself can be taken in similar vein. It does ascribe to non-humans an interiority and therefore an agency by means of which we can engage in all sorts of diplomatic relations with them. The other is partner in the great banquet of life and materials on earth. They are not nature separated from agency, but a pack of intentionality associated with physical equipments. However, there is a sense in which the non-human appears as an alter-ego, as a projection of me - it is all too human, as Meillassoux would diagnose of any variety of subjectalism. I don´t feel the appeal of the other in the non-human, what appeals me is what is something like me yet other. As such, animism is also a deconstructive tool to be applied to the political theology of the Moderns. It is not per se an alternative political theology - at least if it is not reconstructed or revamped so that the emphasis is clearly on the other who appeals and less on my alter ego.

All this takes me back to a question we formulated today in the Anarchai Group meeting: is there a Lévinasian political ecology? And this takes me back to my conversation with Adriana Menassé, about to be out in Stoa.


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