Joff P. N. Bradley

My intent is not reactionary, nor even conservative, but simply subversive. It seems that the Utopian imagination is trapped, like capitalism and industrialism and the human population, in a one-way future consisting only of growth. All I’m trying to do is figure how to put a pig on the tracks.

(Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World 85)


As a transversal thought experiment akin to the Guattarian practice of metamodelization examined in Schizoanalytic Cartographies, this paper aspires to engineer a philo-fiction, which is to say, a sense of utopos or absolute re(de)territorialization of world, territory, Nature, and earth. Operating in-between the social ecologies of Bookchin and Guattari, and deploying Gough’s “rhizosemiotic” thought experiment methodology throughout the paper—the whole text is itself a narrative experiment aiming at the “generativity of intertextual readings” (“Rhizosemiotic Play” 119), a kind of pataphysical exercise à la Alfred Jarry—I shall think the worlds imagined by Le Guin with and alongside Deleuze and Guattari’s geophilosophical principles as found in What is Philosophy?. This is to consider the other possible worlds constructed in Le Guin’s oeuvre as changeable planes of immanence and, following Gough, a means to “generate productive and disruptive transnational agendas” (“Changing Planes” 279). This is ventured to blur the distinction between the fabulations of philosophy and the enterprise of science fiction. This view takes inspiration from Difference and Repetition in which Deleuze writes: “A book of philosophy should be in part a very particular sort of detective novel, in part a kind of science fiction” (xx). The overall direction of this paper performs a transversal reading of Guattari, Le Guin, and Bookchin, to map out the possibility of a third space of utopia thought. It intends to differentiate orthodox and heterodox forms of Marxism and their interconnections with ecology and ecosophical thinking as a prolegomenon to thinking the fabulation of a third revolution.


Preliminary Observations

A thought emerges from reading the many articles on the environment in the Guardian newspaper in the UK over the years. Every day it seems we have in-depth, committed articles by George Monbiot and others on the climate crisis. The newspaper has an active readership concerned with the question of the Anthropocene— a “little industry” as philosopher Claire Colebrook calls it in her lecture “We Have Always Been Post-Anthropocene.” Many words have been spilled by Alex Blasdel trying to make sense of Timothy Morton’s theory of object-oriented ontology (OOO) and hyperobjects. There is also much time devoted to a purified, apolitical form of fashionable accelerationism, that ultimate paean to capitalist dynamics.

Whatever accelerationism is, one thing is clear, the human (men and women and their mutual becomings)—that fragile, vulnerable, imperfect mass of flesh and bones—is no longer worth the bother as Nick Land consistently writes about in Fanged Noumena. Better to think of abstract, glistening, metallic, global processes, unfathomable algorithms, Kondratieff K-waves, autopoietic cybernetics and impersonal forces rather than the material plight of hundreds of millions of people and all living beings across the planet. A further observation comes from reading David Adam’s 2006 list of the “Earthshakers: The Top 100 Green Campaigners of All Time”—again in the Guardian. In this top 10 list of ecologists and campaigners, we find deserving inclusions such as Rachel Carson, E. F. Schumacher, James Lovelock and William Morris. Outside the top 10 we find Aldo Leopold, Thomas Malthus, David Suzuki, Gandhi, and the like. Yet, conspicuously absent is Murray Bookchin—the American social anarchist who was writing on ecology around, if not before, the time Rachel Carson first published the seminal Silent Spring in 1962. When I read this list in 2006, I was perplexed by Bookchin’s conspicuous omission and continue to think it odd. Why is this important? Because I believe a dialogue remains possible between the social ecology of Guattari and the social anarchism of Bookchin. This is long overdue and needs to be recontextualized in terms of contemporary, Anthropocene debates. While Bookchin’s political philosophy roots itself in the humanist tradition of the Enlightenment, and Guattari is situated in a more cybernetic-influenced perspective, I am of the view that an argument can be made for the construction of a transversal model, a metamodelization exercise, between such seemingly contrary and irreconcilable paradigms.


Le Guin on Bookchin

Bookchin is no grim puritan. I first read him as an anarchist, probably the most eloquent and thoughtful one of his generation, and in moving away from anarchism he hasn’t lost his sense of the joy of freedom. He doesn’t want to see that joy, that freedom, come crashing down, yet again, among the ruins of its own euphoric irresponsibility. (Le Guin, Foreword 8)

In her celebratory foreword to Bookchin’s The Next Revolution Le Guin writes that Bookchin is a thinker resolute in his conviction that changes in the care of the environment can only emerge through transformations in social relations. As we know from Bookchin’s social ecology, contemporary environmental problems are exacerbated by deeply entrenched social problems—the domination of man by man or “it’s capitalism stupid” as Benjamin Fong might say in his New York Times article. In The Next Revolution Le Guin claims that there are no “dreams of happy endings” in Bookchin’s work (Foreword 8). She writes that Bookchin was staunchly opposed to succumbing to the “ruins” of “euphoric irresponsibility.” In Re-enchanting Humanity we find a similar skepticism to the postmodern and poststructural language games of Deleuze, Foucault, Derrida, and so on. For Bookchin the joy and freedom of resistance are practices worthy of preserving. In his extensive corpus he argues consistently that it is right to contest the organization, control, and domination of life. In the nightmare of Anthropocene reality which humanity currently countenances, one imagines that Bookchin would find, as Le Guin says in the foreword, “a moment of true choice—a chance to transcend the paralyzing hierarchies of gender, race, class, nation, a chance to find a radical cure for the radical evil of our social system” (Foreword 8). Indeed, Bookchin cites utopian thinkers and futurists precisely because they invoke a sense of freedom, play, joy, and creativity. He writes in Ecology of Freedom: “[T]he utopian tradition seeks to permeate necessity with freedom, work with play, even toil with artfulness and festiveness. My contrast between utopianism and futurism forms the basis for a creative, liberatory reconstruction of an ecological society, for a sense of human mission and meaning as nature rendered selfconscious” (11).

On this reading, for proponents of social ecology or ecosophy it is imperative to rethink the human. Human societies should get their collective house in order—ridding ourselves of hierarchies and structures of domination. In this respect, for Le Guin, Bookchin’s political philosophy remains an “honest, uncompromising search for a realistic hope” (Foreword 9) because he is a thinker and ecologist willing to throw down the gauntlet to imagine the impossible—that is to say, to envisage an alternative to the runaway system of capitalism intent on ecological destruction, exhaustion, and collapse. In this way, Bookchin writes a trenchant form of ecosophy, one not premised on the pacifism and univocity of being of Arne Naess’s or Aldo Leopold’s deep ecology thinking. Indeed, it is conceptually distinct from both transcendental, liberation theology and integral ecology, the latter of which is explored in Leonardo Boff ’s Essential Care: An Ethics of Human Nature. As Le Guin acknowledges, it was Bookchin’s Post-Scarcity Anarchism that inspired the anarcho-syndicalist world of Anarres in The Dispossessed. In this novel, we find a self-reflexive critique of both the concepts of anarchism and utopianism. This is expressed in the protagonist’s “ruthlessly anarchistic critique of Anarres itself,” as John Clark argues (Clark 143). In The Dispossessed we find “an anarchist critique of anarchism and a utopian critique of the dangers of utopia” (Clark 143). Indeed, while approving of much of Le Guin’s work, Bookchin describes the society in The Dispossessed as a limited form of anarcho-syndicalism and as such it is opposed to his vision of anarcho- or libertarian communism. This is because he is reluctant to embrace an economy-centric model of society and instead entertains a society in which social and human life takes primacy—in other words, which places community before economics. Le Guin, for her part, argues that science-fiction fantasy is not so much pivotally concerned with future worlds per se; it is not predictive in that sense, but rather descriptive of the ways of the contemporary world. While we may view utopia as a critique of the present in the name of the future in some forms of literature, in utopian science fiction we can discern a critique of the future articulated in the name of the present. One suspects that Bookchin would also echo this view. Indeed, as he argues in Post-Scarcity Anarchism: “What justifies my utopian emphasis is the near total lack of material on the potentialities of our time” (30). There is however another way to think about this. This is to write against the intolerable and the image of the “shame of being human” which Deleuze invokes. In the essay “May ’68 Did Not Take Place” Deleuze describes the inhering of the possible in the event itself: “The possible does not pre-exist, it is created by the event. It is a question of life. The event creates a new existence, it produces a new subjectivity (new relations with the body, with time, sexuality, the immediate surroundings, with culture, work)” (Two Regimes 234). In the exhaustion of the present, utopia is a response and an antidote. Utopian thought, which we find expressed in Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of absolute re-(de)territorialization, examines the present and extrapolates the possibility of new libertarian and immanent utopias.

This is entirely consistent with Deleuze and Guattari, who consider utopia as the absolute Other, that is to say, an expression of possible worlds. Thus, the utopian constitutes more than a mere pipe dream. Indeed, for Deleuze and Guattari in What is Philosophy?, this is because it “designates that conjunction of philosophy, or of the concept, with the present milieu—political philosophy” (100). For them, it is through absolute re-(de)territorialization and the embrace of the forces of the Outside (of thought, apeiron) that one may begin to detail the contours of this absolute uncanny that is contrary to the stasis of the present. Their immanent sense of utopia is therefore at odds with the transcendent forms of utopia which merely react to the depressing list of twentiethcentury horrors—“world war, totalitarian rule, genocide, economic depression, nuclear destruction, massive famine, and disease” (Moylan 7). Here we arrive at a theoretical aporia because, if the remit of utopian writers is to fabulate social systems contrary to capitalist dynamics on the one hand, and for science-fiction writers like Le Guin to undermine the illusory nature of utopias on the other, the question is which path to proceed upon because there appears no discernible path at present. One way out of this petrification of thought is through Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of absolute re-(de)territorialization, as it seems to formulate a different position. This is to view science-fiction figures such as Le Guin as writing a kind of deterritorialized science-fiction space, a third space. This is a kind of metamodelization principled in accordance with the logic of Guattari’s schizoanalysis found in The Machinic Unconscious in which a dystopian discourse and utopia might be brought into transversal communication with one another. This is to afford and explore the reconceptualization of the human. My interest is how one must struggle to speak across different political philosophies or traditions even though both share a common set of assumptions, goals, and concepts. A clear example of this is between different ecological and philosophical visions. How can a dialogue be made between the philosophies of deep ecology on the one hand and the distinct social ecologies of Bookchin and Guattari on the other? One answer is to develop transversal concepts to communicate across these philosophies. This is found in Transversal Rationality and Intercultural Texts, the work of Korean-American philosopher Hwa Yol Jung, a philosopher who melds Asian and Western philosophical traditions and concepts to create an inspiring ecosophy and phenomenology. In addition to this, my goal is to further complicate this model by insinuating utopia and indeed science fiction in-between social and deep ecologies. This is why I am designating a third space, a vantage point to eke out the possibility of thinking a third revolution.


Degrowth: Bookchin, Gorz, Le Guin

At this stage, let me develop this a little further through analysis of a troika of thinkers—Bookchin, André Gorz and Le Guin—with regard to Gorz’s concepts of degrowth and Bookchin’s post-scarcity anarchism. First of all, I must make a brief comment about Gorz and his consideration of Le Guin’s work. Le Guin’s work is criticized by Gorz because it constructs Anarres as a model society impossibly free of commodity relations. As we know, on Anarres all the means of production and consumption are held in common: there is no property of any sort (hence no crime as such), nor are there traditional state structures. There is order though, as Anarres has a communal-based economy and is organized into syndicates. This society clearly resembles ideas derived from Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid and Fields, Factories and Workshops and indeed Paul Goodman’s Communitas. As the social division and labor is a necessary prerequisite for a workable community, Gorz in his Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology describes The Dispossessed as “the most striking description . . . of the seductions—and snares—of self-managed . . . anarchist society” (81). Similarly, in the doctoral thesis Anarchism and Political Theory: Contemporary Problems, Uri Gordon claims that Le Guin’s Dispossessed is perhaps “the most honest” attempt to portray, in literature at least, a functioning, anarchist society—warts and all (123). On this view, Le Guin’s manifestation thinks anarchist society as resistant to closure and as such it is rigorously animated, yet neither bound to ultimate telos nor final deathly stasis. The project is never done. From Gorz’s perspective on décroissance or degrowth, the capitalist desire for production for the sake of production is incompatible with the earth’s atmosphere and ecosystem. According to Gorz, the degrowth of material production is a necessary precondition for ecological sustainability. As such, Gorz is arguing for a form of socialism distinct from the continuation of capitalism by other means (this is similar to the critique of Scandinavian social democracies in Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek’s work). For Gorz in his Ecology as Politics, socialism cannot be a mere “extension of middleclass values, lifestyles and social patterns” (14). Indeed, Gorz notes that the industrial capitalism of the 1970s was confronting numerous concrete ecological limits.

To practice “ecological realism” then was not to refrain from consuming more and more, but to consume less and less. As Gorz says, there was no other way of conserving the “available reserves for future generations” (13). This is to argue for a break with the “economic rationality” of the 1970s and 1980s. In keeping with her unflinching stance on ecological care for the planet, Le Guin would agree with the need to counteract such rampant egotism. For Bookchin, the central criticism of Gorz is that scarcity is a social problem, not only a natural one. In his Toward an Ecological Society Bookchin draws on Marx’s “compelling demonstration” that we have come to know that the law of capitalist competition is based on the maxim, “grow or die” (294). Translated into ecological terms, and by necessity, a fully developed market economy will unrelentingly exploit nature. As Bookchin writes in The Next Revolution: “For capitalism to desist from its mindless expansion would be for it to commit social suicide” (146). As we have found, social ecologists like Bookchin envision utopia as a non-repressive or libertarian milieu. As such, anarcho-communism would be a stateless and classless utopia. Society would be decentralized and, with its citizens free of alienated relationships, Man would return to Man as Marx forecasts in the Paris Manuscripts of 1844. The ecological principles undergirding such an organic society and its social principles would affirm this utopian dimension. This is not a return to some primitive habitat or nature. We are not talking about primitive communism or prehistoric society as such because human relationships with nature are necessarily mediated by science, technology, and knowledge; philosophy is thus technics as first philosophy. Clarifying this point, Bookchin writes in Post-Scarcity Anarchism: “Either revolution will create an ecological society, with new ecotechnologies and ecocommunities, or humanity and the natural world as we know it today will perish” (23-24). Critical of the forms of “environmentalism” (“technocratic stratagems for manipulating nature”) which do little more than tinker with existing institutions, social relations, technologies, and values, Bookchin in Post-Scarcity Anarchism writes of the need for the root-and-branch transformation of everyday life: “It is plain that the goal of revolution today must be the liberation of daily life. Any revolution that fails to achieve this goal is counter-revolution. Above all, it is we who have to be liberated, our daily lives, with all their moments, hours and days” (66).


Bookchin contra Deleuze

In a similar vein to Bookchin’s view above, it is the protagonist Shevek in Le Guin’s The Dispossessed who remarks that “[y]ou cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere” (393). This statement regarding the nature of revolution echoes comments by Bookchin on the revolution of the everyday. It is here we find a clear difference of emphasis between Bookchin’s social ecology and Deleuze’s so-called “lifestyle anarchism.” In the introduction to the first edition of Post-Scarcity Anarchism, Bookchin notes that anarchism “has always been preoccupied with lifestyle, sexuality, community, women’s liberation and human relationships” (21). Later in his work, Bookchin unites ecology with anarchism to create an ecoanarchism or social ecology which would give fullest expression to the above. Again, this is why Le Guin finds much of relevance in his work. For Bookchin in Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm, the ecological world is impossible without radical democracy and social revolution. In his reading of Deleuze, Bookchin stands radically at odds with the perceived egocentric demand for “desire armed” found in Deleuze’s work or with Taoist contemplation and Buddhist nirvanas. As Bookchin says: “Where social anarchism called upon people to rise in revolution and seek the reconstruction of society, the irate petty bourgeois who populate the subcultural world of lifestyle anarchism call for episodic rebellion and the satisfaction of their desiring machines” (52). He has little time for the language of desiring machines, lines of flight, cracks, or becomings which one finds in abundance in Deleuze’s thought. Bookchin writes in Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: “[L]ifestyle anarchism today is finding its principal expression in spray-can graffiti, post-modernist nihilism, antirationalism, neoprimitivism, anti-technologist, neo-Situationist ‘cultural terrorism’, mysticism, and a ‘practice’ of staging Foucauldian ‘personal insurrections’” (15). In “Libertarian Municipalism” he continues the critique, writing with Deleuze, Foucault, and others in mind: “To leave that red button untouched and slip back into the worst habits of the post-1968 New Left, when the notion of ‘power’ was divested of utopian or imaginative qualities, is to reduce radicalism to yet another subculture that will probably live more on heroic memories than on the hopes of a rational future” (86). And, writing in Re-enchanting Humanity, Bookchin lambasts those philosophies which fail to challenge root and branch the radical reorganization of society: “Having attained the conscious level of ‘desiring production’, however, it remains unclear how a revolutionary ‘machine’ is to advance beyond a naive ‘lifestyle’ anarchism, raging with desire and a libidinal sexual politics, and try to change society as a whole” (199).


At the Level of Dogs

In his triadic ecology of the environmental, social, and mental life, it is clear that Guattari is writing to destabilize the dualisms of nature and culture, man and machine, organic and inorganic. The subject is decentralized and configured from an exteriority of components (the unconscious, the body, and so on) and Guattari names these components of subjectification. Guattari is principally interested in the possible emergence of new paradigms of ethico-aesthetic thinking and praxis. Such paradigms would transfigure the relationship between human subjectivity, the unconscious, and the context (environment) within which it engages. Subjectivity here implies the role of the unconscious in relation to the human and the natural environment. In comparison to this focus, what is conspicuously absent in Bookchin’s thought is a sustained analysis of the unconscious. With emphasis upon the creative potentiality of subjectivity or new ways of existing, Guattari is writing a different kind of utopian, futurist agenda. Such a project attempts to think the intersection of the human with cybernetics and more particularly with computer-aided subjectivity. Guattari is advancing a generalized ecology in his Three Ecologies which incorporates the “whole of subjectivity and capitalist power formations” (52). On this reading, a generalized ecology eschews a sole concern for the welfare of animals or trees and refuses to demarcate the three ecologies. Indeed, both he and Deleuze were aiming to write a kind of philosophy of Nature because they believed that the distinction between nature and artifice had become blurred. Nature is perceived more as a plurality of machinic assemblages—with Nature perpetually in-formation. Deleuze and Guattari write in Anti-Oedipus: “There is no such thing as either man or nature now, only a process that produces the one within the other and couples the machines together. Producing machines, desiring machines everywhere, schizophrenic machines, all of species of life: the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer have any meaning whatsoever” (2). In his individual work, Guattari is searching for a new kind of subjectivity and ecosophy, which can better comprehend the interactions between ecosystems, the mechanosphere, and the social and individual Universes of Reference. The problem for the reader is that there is no clear picture, as is always the case with speculative, utopian-inflected thought, of what a non-primitive communism shaped by schizoanalysis might look like in Guattari’s work. Given this problem, the folding of Guattari’s thought with utopian literature may be a path to reimagining another way of organizing society. This for Guattari demands a transversal form of conceptualization (metamodelization) and one which contains the possibility of new openings to the socius and the cosmos. What remains radical, singular, and distinct in Guattari’s work is the insistence that environmental ecology must also be machinic.

Although Bookchin cannot be easily aligned with the Luddite tradition as he is affirmative of the use of technology to liberate people from endless toil, it is equally true that a certain aspect of machinic ecology is conspicuously missing in his social anarchism. Faced with this lacuna, we are tasked with formulating a philo-fiction which can articulate a transversal struggle based on Guattari’s and Bookchin’s philosophies so as to speculatively intertwine them with the forecasting or anticipatory principles inherent in utopian, science-fiction thought. The utopian aspect of his thought emerges in the essay “To Have Done with the Massacre of the Body” in which Guattari contends that to think beyond capitalist formation (family, school, factories, army, codes, discourse, and so on) is to confront the subjugation of our desires in everyday life (Chaosophy 207). This is to write against exploitation, property, male power, profit, productivity, and so on. Guattari exhorts us to think beyond the castration of desire and the torture of the body and to unpick the mechanisms in our unconscious which reproduce enslavement—a position which Bookchin would presumably affirm. This is to unite desire, the unconscious, and the body in new arrangements beyond the status quo. This expresses a quintessential utopian impulse and one finds it aplenty in Le Guin’s work. This is to think beyond capital, exploitation, and the family as Guattari says; in other words, to redirect the nervous system to communication networks of growth, pleasure, and becoming. Simply put, it would be to return pleasures to ourselves. As Guattari says, such pleasures, “ruthlessly quashed by educational systems charged with manufacturing obedient worker-consumers” (Chaosophy 212), have the capacity to explode systems of oppression. Without explosions and cadences of a different order, we, stumbling forward into the future, remain, as Guattari says, at the “level of dogs” (Chaosophy 212).


Le Guin and Taoism

To demonstrate how deep ecologies (shaped by Chinese cosmologies) have informed utopian speculations, let me turn to Le Guin’s work in which we find an interesting amalgam of deep and social ecologies. I am arguing that this focus may contribute to the formation of a new philo-fiction or image of thought in response to dystopic representations of the Anthropocene and climate change. Extrapolating from Bookchin, Gorz, and the writings of Laozi and Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu), her utopias are mixed together to create a thought-provoking juxtaposition of social and deep ecologies, which one finds in The Dispossessed and Always Coming Home. Indeed, many writers, such as Samar Habib in Re-visiting Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, have insisted that there is a residual Taoism in Le Guin’s work. Indeed, as a contributor to a translation of Laozi, she admits this as much herself, saying that in The Dispossessed she combines early Taoist thought and Western political philosophy. Le Guin is arguing against a notion of utopia tied inextricably and exclusively to a particular Western worldview. She writes in Dancing at the Edge of the World: “Utopia has been Euclidean, it has been European, and it has been masculine” (88). And in the short story “The Day before the Revolution” in The Wind’s Twelve Quarters she reflects on this and writes: My novel The Dispossessed is about a small world full of people who call themselves Odonians. . . . Odonianism is anarchism . . . not the social-Darwinist economic “libertarianism” of the far right; but anarchism, as prefigured in early Taoist thought, and expounded by Shelley and Kropotkin, Goldman and Goodman. Anarchism’s principal target is the authoritarian state (capitalist or socialist). Its principal moral-practical theme is cooperation (solidarity, mutual aid). (285)

For Le Guin, Western forms of anarchism and those prefigured in Taoist thought are the most idealistic and interesting of all political theories. Indeed, Fredric Jameson in Archaeologies of the Future picks up on this interpretation too, claiming that Le Guin has a “Taoist agenda” (78) and that the Tao is the central reality of her metaphysics. For example, the ecologies of Urras and Anarres in The Dispossessed express ideological antagonisms between scarcity and abundance. In the novel, Keng compares the fate of her home, planet Earth, with the “paradise” of Anarres: My world, my Earth, is a ruin. A planet spoiled by the human species. We multiplied and gobbled and fought until there was nothing left, and then we died. We controlled neither appetite nor violence; we did not adapt. We destroyed ourselves. But we destroyed the world first. There are no forests left on my Earth. The air is grey, the sky is grey, it is always hot. It is habitable, it is still habitable, but not as this world is. This is a living world, a harmony. Mine is a discord. You Odonians chose a desert; we Terrans made a desert. . . . We survive there as you do. People are tough! There are nearly a half billion of us now. Once there were nine billion. You can see the old cities still everywhere. We failed as a species, as a social species. . . . Well, we had saved what could be saved, and made a kind of life in the ruins, on Terra, in the only way it could be done: by total centralization. Total control over the use of every acre of land, every scrap of metal, every ounce of fuel. Total rationing, birth control, euthanasia, universal conscription into the labor force. The absolute regimentation of each life toward the goal of racial survival. (454-55)

In this book, Odo, the libertarian leader, inspires a revolt against the “propertarian” class system of her home planet of Urras. Her followers leave Urras for Anarres to create a nonhierarchical society based on Kropotkin’s notion of mutual aid and voluntary cooperation found in Goodman’s Communitas. On Anarres, the means of production are held in common and everyone has equal access to the necessities of life. Work is voluntary and organized into small, decentralized workers’ syndicates. There is no government as such, only administrators who coordinate the work of the syndicates and syndicate federations. There is strict equality in all relations—including sexual couplings. The Dispossessed then develops two parallel stories, one on the anarchist world of Anarres, the other on the capitalist world of Urras. The protagonist Shevek gradually becomes disillusioned with both the conformism of Anarres and the selfish individualism of Urras. Shevek eventually starts an anarchist revolution on Urras, and then leaves for Anarres to rejuvenate the dysfunctioning anarchism there. Why is this important? Faced with the daunting political and ecological issues of our time—chief among them the trauma of the Anthropocene and the almost homicidal forms of Integrated World Capitalism (globalization/neo-liberal capitalism)—this paper is committed to the question of how a transversal rethinking of Guattari’s triadic ecology, Bookchin’s social ecology, and utopian thought may help us respond, in whatever small fashion, to the challenges that await us. Put otherwise, science fiction can help us to explore chaos-worlds of becoming—between for example the dialectics of change found in Asian thought and the dialectic of Aufhebung in Western metaphysics. It may help us to fabulate as Deleuze and Guattari describe in What is Philosophy? as a “mass-people, worldpeople, brain-people, chaos-people” (218)—a different order of things. Science fiction contributes to imagining how things might be otherwise. This may well suggest an altogether inhuman and indifferent processual becoming, a mutual becoming inbetween porcine (Le Guin) and canine natures (Guattari), in-between immanent and transcendent utopias.


Third Space

From its onset this paper has applied a transversal methodology or metamodelization to map out the possibility of a third space. I am naming this space a third space of utopian thought. Utopian thought can act as literature in-between tenses—past, present, and future. It can form a philo-fiction that is able to fabulate the possibility of a third revolution. My point is that the social ecologies of Bookchin and Guattari share a common middle, inclusive ground and this fecund third space demands further research and exploration. This third space can help us to crisscross the sense of a third revolution in Bookchin and third reterritorialization in Deleuze and Guattari. For Bookchin, the third revolution is an emancipatory praxis, a communalism as he calls it. In The Next Revolution he describes the third revolution as emerging at the end of hostilities in 1917, when Russian society witnessed the surging up of a desire for a third revolution—one “not to restore the past, as the Bolsheviks claimed, but to realize the very goals of freedom, economic as well as political, that had rallied the masses around the Bolshevik program of 1917” (137). The third reterritorialization in Deleuze and Guattari is a form of absolute reordering of territories and temporalities—one tied to the immediate political milieu but also invoking a futural, virtual, or utopian dimension contrary to the current ordering of the socius. As Yoshiyuki Koizumi argues: “We are heading towards a third reterritorialization” (280). This would be to escape utopias of transcendence so as to embrace immanent, revolutionary, libertarian utopias or ecosophies. This would be to invoke the possibility of a new people, earth, and ecosophy to come. It would invoke utopia once again, to risk thinking beyond the lot of our days, “the turbulent passage of our times” (Guattari Reader 262). In “Remaking Social Practices” Guattari writes of the problem of thinking a utopian space beyond poisonous spaces “heavy with thick clouds and miasmas”: The routines of daily life, and the banality of the world represented to us by the media, surround us with a reassuring atmosphere in which nothing is any longer of real consequence. We cover our eyes; we forbid ourselves to think about the turbulent passage of our times, which swiftly thrusts far behind us our familiar past, which effaces ways of being and living that are still fresh in our minds, and which slaps our future onto an opaque horizon, heavy with thick clouds and miasmas. We depend all the more on the reassurance that nothing is assured. (Guattari Reader 262)

One can find in the social ecologies and anarchisms of writers like Le Guin, Bookchin, and Guattari a manifestly utopian impulse which is affirmative and immanently directed to the world. It is “a call to life” as Guattari and Negri insist in Communists Like Us, a willingness to break the “encirclement” of the world of work and reason, which is to say, that organization of life which continues to repress, exploit, and lead to “the extinction of the world and humanity with it” (11). Guattari, Le Guin, and indeed Bookchin share the determination to stall, if not derail, the runaway mechanism of capitalism. On this point, both the social ecologies of Bookchin and Guattari share a committed view that capitalism is intractably hostile to the ecosystem. Yet, in Guattari’s work there is an attempt to unearth capitalism’s tactic of intension, that is to say, the way capitalism nestles into unconscious levels of subjectivity. The choice is less between humanism and antihumanism, social and deep ecology, the dialectic and difference, and more toward the invocation of the utopian imagination. This is to question and disrupt the runaway machine of capitalism. The construction of a technological, anarchistic utopia or dystopia for example in Le Guin’s work is one such way to imagine a different order of things. Indeed, in The Ecology of Freedom, Bookchin brilliantly anticipates the direction and thrust of both Guattari’s and Le Guin’s enterprise: The continuing substitution of rationalism for reason, of scientism for science, and of technics for ethics threatens to remove our very sense of the problems that exist, not to speak of our ability to resolve them. A look at technics alone reveals that the car is racing at an increasing pace, with nobody in the driver’s seat. Accordingly, commitment and insight have never been more needed than they are today. Whether or not the time is too late I will not venture to say; neither pessimism nor optimism have any meaning in the face of the commanding imperatives that confront us. What must be understood is that the ambiguities of freedom are not intractable problems—that there are ways of resolving them. (302)

Confronted with the runaway processes of capitalism, it seems right to search for new models of thought such as anarchism and utopia. We can concur with science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, who in a recent interview acknowledges the shared inheritance of anarchism and utopia. In the interview “The Realism of Our Time” he tells Helena Feder: “I’ve read Bookchin and I admire his work. What’s good in anarchism is the idea of a complete horizontalization of power and prosperity. . . . It’s a great long-term horizon to aim for. It’s like utopia itself.” Indeed, writing 500 years after More’s Utopia, Robinson expresses the point succinctly when he writes that utopian thought is a vital tool to rethink the plight of the planet in the wake of the Anthropocene: We’re probably not going to be able to cap the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at less than 450 parts per million, and 560 parts per million is quite possible. At that point we will be living on a quite different planet, in a significantly damaged biosphere, with its life-support systems so harmed that human existence will be substantially threatened. It has become a case of utopia or catastrophe, and utopia has gone from being a somewhat minor literary problem to a necessary survival strategy. (Robinson 9)

In the wake of the “geotrauma” of the Anthropocene (Cole et al.), the reconsideration of utopia and anarchism therefore is a “necessary survival strategy,” which is to say, one which takes the real movement of thought—absolute re(de) territorialization—to its highest level, prompting a fresh analysis of the material conditions of life, a rethinking of both exhausted, ignoble utopias and the immonde or vile world. This form of thinking invokes the heterogenesis of values and a possible exodus strategy to contest the runaway processes of capitalism. In a dialogue with Elkaim, Jimenez, and Wigley, Guattari argues for a new aesthetic paradigm to understand the post-mass media and post-capitalistic age: “I continue, therefore, to affirm this Utopia, to affirm what I would call this choice of the value of values, this choice of the heterogenesis of values” (Schnitman and Schnitman 149). Such a paradigm or strategy is part of a transversal process to create new models of thought befitting our time and for times yet to come. This transversal model asks for a new mode of thought, a mode beyond disillusionment, depression, and sorrow, a mode beyond collusion and compromise, a mode beyond the pigs and dogs of Le Guin and Guattari.


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Original article published here:

For a World beyond Pigs and Dogs: Transversal Utopias — Guattari, Le Guin, Bookchin

Dec 2018

Tamkang Review 49.1:

DOI: 10.6184/TKR201812-4.

pp. 53-70 

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