Reflections on Animacy in the Anthropocene

Luke R. Barnesmoore


The Power of Anthropocentrism

Anthropocentrism, which includes assumptions like ‘humans are superior to animals’ and ‘humans ought to form the essential (if not singular) orient for social, cultural, political, economic, religious, etc. systems’, can clearly be attributed to A.D. Worldview(s)[1] and their hierarchical fetishization of superiority and inferiority (thus comes the privileged place of the myth of ‘man’s dominion of earth’ and of ‘deliverance into the Promised Land through conquest and colonization of ‘the other’’ [Warrior 1989] in the pantheon of myths by which people are indoctrinated into A.D. Worldview[s]), but the more pressing question (and the more difficult question for those of us who have grown up isolated within the A.D. Worldview[s]) comes in understanding that which is deprived by our Anthropocentrism. As Foucault (1971; 1972; 1980; 1994; 2006; 2010; 2011) took care to note, power is as much (if not more) articulated by what is not said as by what is said, by what is necessarily rendered as untrue by a given regime of truth. What truth might we come to understand when liberated from the dogmas of Anthropocentrism?

To begin, however, we should first understand how Anthropocentrism structures what we do think and feel and, thus, how we act.  DeLeon (2010) effectively argues that the manner in which we are taught in schools to think, feel about and thus act towards nonhuman animals has direct implications for how we learn to treat ‘the (fallen) other’ that lies at the heart of A.D. Worldview(s). Anthropocentric “construction of nonhumans mirrors the representation of the Other Human in contemporary (people of color, disability or sexuality for example) and historical contexts (such as what occurred in European colonial projects worldwide).” (DeLeon 2010, pp. 2-3) The sense of superiority and notion that we have the right to domineeringly use and abuse that which we deem to be inferior has direct implications for power relations in society. Look, for example, at Trump’s recent (May 2018) comments about unauthorized migrants:

“‘We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them,’ Mr. Trump said in the Cabinet Room during an hourlong meeting that reporters were allowed to document. ‘You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.’” (Davis 2018)

As Trump and his goons set out to tear children from the arms of mothers (Dickerson 2018) who are attempting to migrate into the US so as to liberate their children from poverty and violence in Latin America (much of which, I would remind the average reality-uprooted xenophobic American, can and should be lain at the feet of historical and contemporary trends like European Colonialism, US Colonialism/Imperialism and the Neoliberal Imperialism of US centered institutions like the IMF and World Bank…), Trump’s rhetoric seeks to render said migrants (‘the other’ in the racist, xenophobic imagination of the Red Hats) as ‘animals’. The ability of Trump and his henchmen to inflict such cruel and malicious forms of suffering upon ‘the other’ (to act in such contravention of the goodness of human nature) while retaining his 30-40% public support is dependent upon rendering ‘the other’ as animal in the minds of his deprived, depraved and in most cases Neoliberal Christian Terrorist (Barnesmoore 2016a) supporters (i.e. the Red Hats). Migrant children are being treated in the same foul manner as our animal and plant kin (and not just under the Trump regime…).


“In this June 18, 2014 photo, two female detainees sleep in a holding cell, as the children are separated by age group and gender, at a US Customs and Border Protection center in Nogales, Arizona. Associated Press/Ross D. Franklin.” (Mark 2018)

Anthropocentrism, in short, facilitates our seeing the world through the lens of superiority, inferiority and the dogmatic assumption that superiority grants the right (and indeed the duty of dominion in the ‘man’s dominion over earth’ paradigm of human-nature relations) to hierarchical dominion over ‘the inferior’ (sic. ‘the other’). Anthropocentrism facilitates severance from the order of (human) nature. ) “…References to human superiority and to species solidarity distance us from the rest of nature.” (Luke 2007, p. 51) It allows us to bear the artificial suffering of others because it leads us to believe (as is all to prevalent with Anthropocentric views of nonhuman animals) that ‘the other’ is not human and thus cannot truly suffer. The factory farm and the slaughterhouse are but a step on the path to the gas chambers.

If Anthropocentrism leads us to see the world in terms of superiority, inferiority and hierarchical domination, what terms does it thus prevent us from seeing the world in? Archibald’s (2008) seven principles for storywork—Respect, Responsibility, Reverence, Reciprocity, Holism, Interrelatedness and Synergy—provide one way of beginning to understand what we can see when unchained from Anthropocentrism. Methot’s (2012) description of Aboriginal Worldviews provides similarly useful sign post for beginning to understand what can be seen when we are not bound by the fetters of Anthropocentrism.

“Although Indigenous peoples are diverse in their cultural practices and perspectives, their worldviews are similar in many basic respects, including a belief in the interconnectedness of all living things. This includes humans as interconnected to other forms of life on the planet, as well as to the planet itself, in an infinite set of systems. This vision of interconnectedness is a spiritual doctrine and provides guidance for the human journey through life. There are different circles of interaction and interdependence – such as family, community, nation, and creation – and within those circles, there are multiple reciprocal relationships (for example, individual to community, and community to the environment). Each life form within each circle is a sacred being; everything has a spirit; and “power with” is valued much more than “power over.” Power over is not considered a true form of power; only in relationships defined by respect, reciprocity, and responsibility do human beings reach their full potential and create just societies. This unified vision contrasts to the artificial fragmentation of systems within other cultures.

In Indigenous cultures, the survival of each life form is dependent on the survival of all others. This is why models such as the medicine wheel are so central to Aboriginal cultures: envisioning the infinite set of connections present within the medicine wheel creates the questions and reflections that guide the human journey (What is the individual’s responsibility to and relationship with the cosmos? To/with the community? To/with the land?). The positive actions of one affect the whole. Likewise, trauma and hardship experienced by all is experienced by the one. Decisions made today must be considered in light of the effect they might have on one’s descendants. Interconnectedness fosters harmony by promoting responsibility and reciprocity, and harmony is considered the most powerful energy in the universe.” (Methot 2012)

Unfettered from Anthropocentrism, the world appears in terms of: 1. ‘Interconnectedness as a spiritual doctrine’; 2. ‘interaction and interdependence’; 3. ‘reciprocal relationships’; 4. ‘each circle is a sacred being; everything has a spirit’; 5. ‘power with’; 6. ‘relationships defined by respect, reciprocity and responsibility’ to ‘create just societies’; 7; ‘unified vision’; 8. ‘responsibility to and relationship with the cosmos’ ‘the community’ and ‘the land’. Anthropocentrism fetishizes and valuates difference in a manner that constrains our vision to a perspective which obfuscates that which ties us together and thus facilitates the illusion of superiority/inferiority by which hierarchical domination is in part made possible. When we are freed from the illusion of totalizing, discrete, biological individuality (of totalizing difference) that is supported by Anthropocentric Myths (as well as the oft 4th dimensionally limited nature of human experiences in passing time and physical space), the world appears as an interconnected, interdependent web of loving reciprocity where order IS (without recourse to hierarchical domination of the inferior by the superior).


Transcending Biocentrism:

Destroying Ecology’s Animate-Inanimate, Organism-Environment Binary

“…One of the key points of weakness in a political ecology perspective to date is the way that non-human animals continue to be depoliticized and assigned to the category of environment.” (Springer Forthcoming, p. 12)

Springer (Forthcoming) provides a beautiful assault on the supremacist-anthropocentric logics of the Artificial-Domineering Worldview as manufactured by stories like Genesis (‘man’s dominion over earth’). I think the next step is an assault on the illusory distinction between the animate and inanimate world. You mention the problem of categorizing animals as part of the environment as a problem. What about the rest of the beings like stones, mountains, bodies of water, stars, the earth herself, etc. that are castigated into the category ‘environment’ by the illusory distinction between animate and inanimate? We need to transcend our biocentrism and the way that it constrains our attribution of consciousness to (and thus our conception of ethical duties towards) the biological world. Plants are not more or less conscious than animals—their consciousness manifests differently. Similarly, inanimate begins are not more or less conscious than animate beings—their consciousness manifests differently. Google’s colonial definition of ecology: “the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.” We need to destroy the worldview embedded in this definition. Biological Organisms vs. Physical Surroundings; Animate vs. Inanimate. A spiritual ecology lens enlivened by Natural-Indigenous Worldview(s) allows us to understand the relationship between all conscious beings without this illusory distinction between the animate and inanimate world and thus to treat all conscious beings, be they stones or people, with the ethical considerations due to a conscious being.

“The promise of working within a transformative framework is that our dialogue about history—our stories and our myths—beckons us not just to understand our paradoxical past, but to finally take that ‘genuine leap of imagination’ to guide our steps today and into the future.” (Regan 2005, p. 10; cited in Young 2015, p. 12)

I am not collecting facts about Indigenous peoples; I am not seeking to speak for or about Indigenous peoples; I cannot tell the story of Indigenous peoples—I am seeking to weave the voices of Indigenous theorists, knowledge holders and elders into my work because their stories about first causes (cosmology), the relationships established therein (ontology) and the teleological imperative(s) of human existence articulated therein have the power (without any mediation by attempts at ‘summarization’, ‘description’ or ‘definition’ on my part) to heal the conception of reality that emerges from the Colonial Modernist incarnation of Artificial-Domineering Worldview(s) (C.M. Worldview[s]/ A.D. Worldview[s]). (Barnesmoore 2018)

How can Natural-Indigenous Worldview(s) (N.I. Worldview[s]) support the sort of anarchist communities (i.e. social order without hierarchical domination where each individual is free to assert their own order of things and is able to do so in a manner that does not unduly infringe upon the ability of others to do so, does not cause undue suffering and fulfills humanity’s role in sustaining[2] the order of nature) proposed by this article? The key of N.I. Worldview that opens the lock of an anarchist society, of a society without hierarchical domination, comes in the N.I. Worldview’s spiritual, ecological understanding of reality. When we develop the four R’s (responsibility, reciprocity, respect, relationships [Young 2015]) through relating to the world in a manner that is facilitated by the N.I. Worldview’s spiritual ecology, a spiritual ecology which ascribes spirits to all things without regard for the Colonial Modernist Worldview’s distinction between ‘animate’ and ‘inanimate’, we come to see the world as a single, living, conscious being. The illusion of discrete demarcation between self and other breaks down and we come to see the self (and other selves) as strands in the conscious web of creation. We come to care for all of creation as we would care for our children, for our partners, for our parents and for our selves. By transcending the illusion of discrete individuality we develop a lovingly reciprocal, responsible, respectful and relational orientation to the world that begets virtuous thought, feeling, behavior and being without recourse to hierarchical authority. Engaging with the world through the N.I. Worldview’s spiritual ecology allows the sprouts of human nature to grow to fruition without recourse to hierarchical domination (i.e. without recourse to attempts to ‘help sprouts grow’ by pulling on them and the death of the sprouts of human nature portended by such hierarchical folly [Meng Zi 2016, 2A2]).

One of the most important ‘understandings of the world we live in and how to change it’ (Smith 2010, p. 569) that is to be gleaned from Indigenous theorists, knowledge keepers and elders comes in their emphasis on the spiritual dimension of the world (animate and inanimate). Given the markedly nefarious spiritual traditions like Greco-Roman Abrahamism (whose angry, vengeful god has a noted penchant for committing genocide, ordering genocide [Warrior 1989], killing entire families, etc. with an air of arrogant moral superiority…) and Greco-Roman Paganism (whose gods constantly come down to earth to rape women and otherwise torment humanity…) that typify the history of western consciousness from which the hierarchical civilization and associated cities that are pushing our world to the edge of extinction in this age were derived, given the many contemporary academics who have responded to this history of nefarious spiritual traditions by accepting the C.M. Worldview and its reduction of reality to passing time and physical space, its reduction of all spiritualty to an ‘opiate of the masses’, its castigation of all those who have spiritual experiences (what Cajete [1994] calls experiences of wholeness[3] and what James [1902] calls religious experiences) to the sphere of mental illness, etc., and given the impossibility of attaining a free, socially just global community without a culture that facilitates humanity’s spiritual development through conscious-cultural evolution therein, it becomes clear that origin and (e)utopian myths-stories provided by Indigenous theorists, knowledge holders and elders which teach us about the spiritual dimension of existence and the spiritual means for transforming our world in a way that is not fettered to the perversions of the A.D. Worldview and its conceptions of order through hierarchical domination are essential for attaining a socially just global anarchist society (a global society that is ordered without hierarchical domination).

“The key learning attributes [of Aboriginal learning] are wholistic, life long, experiential, spiritual, linguistic, communal, and synergistic of Euro-Western and Aboriginal knowledge (Canadian Council on Learning, 2007). Vital to the success of Indigenous pedagogy is an understanding of the connection between spiritual ecology, ethics and relational laws, embedded in Indigenous stories, languages, and cultural practices. The Elders pedagogy includes spiritual ceremonies, the use Indigenous languages and concepts to tell stories, and they demonstrate a synergy between Indigenous Knowledge and Euro-Western education through role modeling. The ceremonies and cultural practices provide and encourage a life long relationship to the plants. Wholistic learning incorporates the aspects of body (senses), mind (thoughts), spirit (understanding of interdependent relationships), the environment (elements of earth, air, water, fire, and plant relationships), cultural customs, socio-economic status and political histories.” (Young 2015, p. 7)

Spiritual ecology, ethics and relational laws. Ethical, interdependent relationships, in short, are dependent upon spiritual ecology, upon the unified relationships between conscious beings that are facilitated by the spiritual dimension of their being. If we accept that ethical interdependent relationships among conscious beings and the duties and responsibilities established therein (Morrison 2011) are facilitated by spiritual ecology, by the relations between the spiritual dimension of beings in a community, then it becomes clear that a socially just world (an ethical, reciprocal, relational world) is not attainable without recourse to a worldview that accepts the spiritual dimension of self and, more generally, the ‘unmanifest’ dimension of reality (Herman 2008).

As noted above, Google defines ecology as “the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.” It seems like it is impossible to differentiate between ‘organisms’ and ‘their environment’ through the spiritual ecological lens provided by N.I. Worldview(s).

“…The categorization process in many Aboriginal languages does not make use of the dichotomies either/or, black/white, saint/sinner. There is no animate/inanimate dichotomy. Everything is more or less animate. If everything is animate, then everything has spirit and knowledge. If everything has spirit and knowledge, then all are like me. If all are like me, then all are my relations.” (Littlebear 2000, p. 78)

Transcending the limitations of the biocentrist social-ontology (Barnesmoore 2016b) that dominates Colonial Modernist thought, which is to say transcending the notion that ‘biological organism’ is the only synonym for ‘conscious being’ by coming to view stones, rivers, clouds, lakes, oceans, mountains, etc. as conscious beings, it becomes clear that the physical environment is as much endowed with spirit as the biological organisms’ that inhabit the physical environment. Stones, rivers, mountains and oceans, like biological organisms (plants and animals), are due the same basic reciprocal duties and responsibilities (i.e. the same basic ethical consideration) as all other conscious beings. I do not deserve more (or less) ethical consideration than the river, than the mountain from which the river runs, than the stones on the floor of the river, than the salmon swimming in the river, than the tree that sits beside the river or than other people who might be paddling across the river’s surface. I am due different consideration based on my differences, but not more or less consideration based on assumptions of superiority-inferiority.  I deserve neither more nor less ethical consideration than any of the other conscious beings (animate and what Modernity falsely describes as inanimate) in the ‘valley section’ (Geddes 1915) because, when viewed through a spiritual ecological lens, all of the beings are endowed with spirit (which endows all beings with the right to ethical consideration) and because, when viewed from the perspective of the nature of spirit, there is no true ‘other’ (i.e. all of the conscious beings in the system are both different beings and one, single, whole being).

“In Aboriginal philosophy, existence consists of energy. All things are animate, imbued with spirit, and in constant motion. In this realm of energy and spirit, interrelationships between all entities are of paramount importance….

The idea of all things being in constant motion or flux leads to a holistic and cyclical view of the world. If everything is constantly moving and changing, then one has to look at the whole to begin to see patterns.” (Littlebear 2000, pp. 77-78)

Spiritual ecology is essential for understanding ethics and relational laws, in short, because spiritual ecology teaches us that: 1. the different members of the natural community, from the waters to the lands to the plants and the animals to the skies, are all endowed with spirit and thus due the same basic intensity of ethical consideration with sensitivity to the different and irregular needs of different beings in different environmental contexts and 2. all of nature, endowed with spirit, is a single, living, unified whole (which means that if any part of the whole is due ethical consideration with sensitivity to the difference and irregularity of manifestation then every part of the whole is due such ethical consideration). A virtuous society is dependent upon our ability to see both the underlying unity and the manifest differences of conscious beings without either interfering with the other (to understand the world from both the relative-manifest and Nothing-Infinite Eternal perspectives without either interfering with the other [Cleary 1999, p. 108]) because a virtuous society must give basic ethical consideration to all that which is part of the great whole (i.e. to all conscious beings) in a manner that is sensitive to the differences and irregularities of each being’s existence.

“In retraining our sensory awareness to remember how we are related to the rest of Creation, we provide one intervention that seeks to decolonize the body’s sense of disconnection and provide an entry point for the Indigenous legal principle of Nindinaweymaganidog—All My Relations. Sinclair (2013) notes:

Nindinawemaganidog is the principle that the universe is a multidimensional web with entities that rely on each other to live. Nindinawemaganidog is not the vague romantic chant of “we are all related” found in new-age books but is a binding, critical philosophy. It is, for most Anishinaabeg, a law devised through interactions between two Anishinaabeg philosophical principles: enawendiwin, the spiritual and material connections Anishinaabeg share with entities throughout Creation and waawiyeyaag, a law of circularity that gives shape, meaning, and purpose to the universe. (p. 105)” (Young 2015, p. 109)

Ecological justice requires that we afford all of nature, from humans through the falsely labeled inanimate world to the earth as a whole and the whole universe in which the earth rests, the ethical consideration due to any conscious being (i.e. any being with a spirit). Ecological justice is dependent upon the relationship we hold with the rest of nature, and the relationship we hold with the rest of reality is dependent upon the ontology by which we categorize the reality of the rest of nature. We cannot attain ecological justice without destroying illusory ontological binaries like animate-inanimate and organism-environment by which we have created the potential for unvirtuous, supremacist, hierarchically domineering relationships with the rest of nature.


The Politics of Animacy in Language

“…The categorization process in many Aboriginal languages does not make use of the dichotomies either/or, black/white, saint/sinner. There is no animate/inanimate dichotomy. Everything is more or less animate. If everything is animate, then everything has spirit and knowledge. If everything has spirit and knowledge, then all are like me. If all are like me, then all are my relations.” (Littlebear 2000, p. 78)

Chen’s (2012) Animacies wanders through the hierarchical ontology of animacy that has been enshrined in the English language.

“English speakers unfamiliar with the idea of animacy engage it whenever they decide between using the pronouns he, she, or it.” (Parreñas 2013)

If you’ve grown up speaking the English language the animistic hierarchy assumed by the language is commonsensical. Animals have fur. People have hair. Animals are that, people are who. Plants are that, people are who. As you’ll discover through this text, I have often written angry footnotes about the de-spiriting ‘ontological violence’ (Blaser 2013) embedded in the Microsoft Word dictionary. When I am talking about my tree friends the dictionary tells me I should use the terms ‘it/that’ rather than ‘who’. When I am talking about my owl and eagle friends the dictionary tells me to use the terms ‘it/that’ rather than ‘who’. Spirits? Same thing. Only people get to be ‘who’ in the colonial ontology of the Microsoft Word dictionary.

One of my dear friends skillfully dances back and forth across the line between masculinity and femininity. People are often confused about her gender/sexuality because they need a category to put her in… We were on a trip together and one of the people on the trip who we didn’t know asked me a quite disturbing question. ‘It?’ I was horrified. Disgusted even. I know the young person asking the question had good intentions—s/he wanted to use my friend’s preferred pronoun—but instinctually, having spoken and read the English language my whole life, my blood boiled at the de-spiriting implications of calling someone ‘it’. Calling someone ‘it’ implies that the person has no spirit and thus that the person lacks sovereignty (the right to loving care, healthy bliss and self/collective determination). My friend had the same response when I told her the story. She has read enough. Listened to enough speech. She could feel the de-spiriting implications…

C.M. Worldview(s)—in stripping spirit from all of reality—take the politics of animacy in the MegaMachine to a new plateau of perversion. Now there isn’t even a hierarchy of spirit. There is no spirit. Nothing has inherent sovereignty. Nothing is bound into a whole by spiritual ecology. Everything is cast to the inanimate dungeons that lie at the bottom of A.D. Worldview(s) hierarchical ontology of animacy…

Anyway, I endeavor to avoid the English language’s hierarchical ontology of animacy as much as possible because one of the central themes of my work is ‘all beings—from stars to planets to stones and mountains to rivers and oceans to plants, animal and beyond—have spirit (and thus innate individual/collective sovereignty)’. The authority to assert the order of relationships lies in all things. It emerges from the liminal space(s) between time and the timeless who exists in all things. We cannot virtuously relate to the rest of our relations if we do not understand the innate animacy of all beings and the spiritual-ecological web who thus binds all who is into a loving, blissful, beautiful whole. I use ‘who’ to refer to anything who & s/he is natural and I use that & it to describe anything that is rooted in privation like the MegaMachine, A.D. Worldview(s) and the things that emerge from them. I use who/that to describe wicked things that have (or might potentially have) both natural and artificial roots. Perhaps I should only use who/that. Is there anything that is only rooted in privation? Is there anything that is only that? Perhaps, but if so it is the nefarious one… Most things like sickened subjectivities should probably be who/that as sickness never quite strips the eternal goodness out of something. I also try to break down the distinction between noun and verb by using ‘who’ to describe natural processes and relationships. I am not sure I will have time to draw this new linguistic structure out across this entire text (nor that I should as it might detract from the text’s capacity to reflect the evolution of consciousness ad its linguistic expression that has occurred through the process of writing this text[4]), but I will do so at least for the entirety of this introductory chapter.

Editing a text towards breaching the hierarchical ontology of animacy established by terms like ‘that’ and ‘who’ (‘it’ and ‘sh/e’) has formed a wicked good pedagogical pathway for learning about both the understandings of relationships between things and the eternal who/that are commonsensically assumed in the linguistic structures by which I express myself as well as the relationships between things and the eternal assumed by my worldview(s). The two are often markedly distinct—my linguistic structures too often reflect the hierarchical ontologies of animacy that arise from A.D. Worldview(s) and are embedded in the English language; where as my worldview(s) ascribe animacy to all which IS (not rooted in the privation of the eternal from which A.D. Worldview(s) and the MegaMachine emerge[d]). I have been reminded of a lesson who I have been learning for a while—a shift in worldview is one thing, and the work of then transforming our linguistic structures to reflect the new world(s) in which we come to exist through worldview transformations is another. After we transform our worldview(s) we must then work to transform our linguistic structures to reflect our new worldview(s). The same can be said for the rest of our manifest patterns—a shift in worldview comes in the moment of death and rebirth from the liminal space between two incommensurable worldview(s), but the decolonial work of transforming our patterns (linguistic, behavioral, mental, emotional, etc.) to reflect the new patterns who/that emerge from our new worldview(s) is a process.

Luke R. Barnesmoore
UBC Urban Studies Lab
Department of Geography
University of British Columbia


Archibald 2008, Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body, and Spirit”, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Barnesmoore 2016a, “Neoliberal Christian Extremism, Trump and the Apocalypse”, Vancouver: University of British Columbia.

Barnesmoore 2016b, “Conscious vs. Mechanical Evolution: Transcending Biocentrist Social Ontologies”, Environment and Social Psychology 1(2).

Barnesmoore 2018a, “Comprehensive Examinations Concerning the Nature of Reality? Good Luck Examining That! Urban Planning, Human-Nature Relations, Anarchism and Worldview”, Vancouver: University of British Columbia.

Barnesmoore 2018b, “Cyclical Return: Worldview”, Vancouver: University of British Columbia.

Blaser 2013, “Ontological Conflicts and the Stories of Peoples in Spite of Europe Toward a Conversation on Political Ontology”, Current Anthropology 54(5).

Chen, M.Y., 2012. Animacies: Biopolitics, racial mattering, and queer affect. Duke University Press.

Cleary 1999, The Taoist Classics: Selected Translations of Thomas Cleary V.1, Boston: Shambhala.

Davis 2018, “Trump Calls Some Unauthorized Immigrants ‘Animals’ in Rant”, The New York Times.

Dickerson 2018, “Hundreds of Immigrant Children Have Been Taken From Parents at U.S. Border”, The New York Times.

Foucault 1971, “Foucault—The Lost Interview”, interview by Fons Elders,

Foucault, M. (1972). The archaeology of knowledge & the discourse on language. (A. M. Sheridan Smith, Trans.). New York: Pantheon Books.

Foucault, M. (1980). Power/Knowledge: Selected interviews & other writings, 1972-1977 (C. Gordon, Ed; L. Marshall, J. Mepham, & K. Soper, Trans.). New York: Random House Inc.

Foucault, M. (1994). The order of things: An archaeology of the human sciences. New York: Vintage Books.

Foucault 2006, History of Madness, Jean Kafka (ed.), Murphy and Kafka (trans.), Routledge.

Foucault 2010, The Government of Self and Other, Burchell (trans.), Palgrave MacMillan.

Foucault 2011, The Courage of Truth, Burchell (trans.), Palgrave MacMillan.

Littlebear 2000, “Jagged worldviews colliding”, In M. Battiste (ed.), Reclaiming indigenous voice and vision, Vancouver: UBC Press.

Luke 2007, Brutal: Manhood and the exploitation of animals, Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Mark 2018, “Obama administration officials are rushing to explain photos from 2014 that went viral this weekend showing locked-up immigrant children”, Business Insider.

Meng Zi 2016, Mencius: An Online Teaching Translation, Robert Eno (trans.), Bloomington: University of Indiana.

Methot 2012, “Aboriginal Worldviews”, Dragonfly Consulting Canada.

Morrison 2011, “Indigenous food sovereignty: a model for social learning”, in N. Wiebe, A. Desmarais and H. Wittman  (eds.), Food sovereignty in Canada: creating just and sustainable food systems, Fernwood Pub.

Parreñas R.S. 2013, Book Review: Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect , Chen, Mel Y.. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012, AnthroSource 115(3), pp. 519.

Regan, P. (2005, January). A Transformative Framework for Decolonizing Canada: A Non-Indigenous Approach. Presentation for the IGOV Doctoral Student Symposium. Victoria, Canada. Retrieved January 15, 2015, from

Smith 2010, Decolonization in unexpected places: Native evangelicalism and the rearticulation of mission. American Quarterly, 62(3), 569–590.

Springer, S. (Forthcoming), “Total liberation ecology: integral anarchism, anthroparchy, and the violence of indifference”, in Anarchist Political Ecology – Volume 1: Undoing Human Supremacy, Springer, S., Mateer, J., Locrett-Collet, M., and Acker, M. (eds.) Oakland: PM Press.

Warrior 1989, “Canaanites, cowboys and Indians: Deliverance, conquest and liberation theology today”, Christianity and Crisis 49, pp. 261-265.

Young 2015, Indigenous elders’ pedagogy for land-based health education programs : Gee-zhee-kan’dug Cedar pedagogical pathways, PhD Dissertation, University of British Columbia.

[1] Artificial-Domineering Worldview(s). See Barnesmoore (2018b) for a discussion of Artificial-Domineering Worldview(s) and Original-Natural-Indigenous Worldview(s) (O.N.I. Worldview[s]).

[2] Humanity’s purpose, our teleological imperative as it emerges from the N.I. Worldview, is to sustain the order of nature, not to conquer, colonize and destroy it as we are instructed by the A.D. and C.M. Worldview(s).

“As a result of their long and sustained relationship to the natural world, they are able to identify stresses between the human community and the natural landscape, and therefore advise on ways to restore the harmony of relationship. Understanding, maintaining, and restoring harmonious relationships are also foundations of Native science.” (Cajete 2000, p. 22)

Morrison (2011) posits a similar understanding of the duties and responsibilities of humanity in our relationship with the rest of the natural world:

“Food is a gift from the Creator. In this respect, the right to food is sacred and cannot be constrained or recalled by colonial laws, policies or institutions. Indigenous food sovereignty is ultimately achieved by upholding our long-standing sacred responsibilities to nurture healthy, interdependent relationships with the land, plants and animals that provide us with our food.” (Morrison 2011, p. 100)

[3] “The phrases seeking life, for life’s sake, to find life, to complete, to become complete, of good heart, of good thought, with harmony, and a host of related combinations, have translations in all Indian languages…. They imply a journey of learning to know life in all its manifestations—especially those of the spirit—and through this journey expreince a state of wholeness.” (Cajete 1994, p. 44)

[4] For example, through the process of writing this text I have moved from ‘Indigenous Worldview’ to ‘Natural-Indigenous Worldview(s)’ to ‘Original-Natural-Indigenous Worldview(s)’. I moved from ‘Infinite Substance’ to ‘Nothing-Infinite Substance’ to ‘Nothing-Infinite Eternal’. In these two cases I am probably going to shift the language across the text to cohere to the final iteration as I see the older iterations as inherently problematic, but in other cases I will try to preserve some of the old iterations to remain so that something of the evolution of language who has occurred through this Nomadic Wandering is preserved. Perhaps I will leave the old iterations in some chapters and replace the old iterations with the newest iterations in others. We shall see where the process takes me!


XR (Extinction Rebellion) is going viral…

Steven Craig Hickman

Of late the first signs of a truly global initiative seems to be rearing its head toward the world’s economic and climacteric crisis: Extinction Rebellion. One need not delve into the history of environmentalism, climate science(s), radical green, ecosophy, Deep-Ecology, Earth First, or any other numbers of groups, organizations, and political vanguards to appreciate that an ongoing threat and atrocity of non-action concerning the Sixth Extinction event in which many species will die out as in the previous five events. Besides the biodiversity of plant and animal life, even we as a species may well end up in the abyss beyond the tipping point of no return. As in many things I’ve always delved into the extremes of such thought, exploring both the dire predictions and the agonistic elements within it that provokes us out of our bourgeois complacency.

Edward O. Wilson an advocate of committing half of the planet’s surface to the non-human life-forms of the natural world in a step to salvage the bio-diversity of the planet from the ongoing Sixth Extinction event. In that work he identified the unique blend of animal instinct and social and cultural genius that has launched our species and the rest of life on a potentially ruinous trajectory. Our lack of understanding of ourselves and the rest of life than the humanities and science have yet offered were – and are, central to this project. As he suggested,

We would be wise to find our way as quickly as possible out of the fever swamp of dogmatic religious belief and inept philosophical thought through which we still wander. Unless humanity learns a great deal more about global biodiversity and moves quickly to protect it, we will soon lose most of the species composing life on Earth. The Half-Earth proposal offers a first, emergency solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem: I am convinced that only by setting aside half the planet in reserve, or more, can we save the living part of the environment and achieve the stabilization required for our own survival.1

Drastic to be sure, and possibly unrealistic; and, yet, extreme is what we need in this age of political malfeasance and mayhem. An age which is now labeled by environmentally inclined scientists as the Anthropocene. For most of my life environmentalists and climate scientists have grappled with advanced computer modeling to anticipate and forecast the  threat looming on the horizon, a challenge that would, perhaps soon, need to be faced. Those days are past. Today, all around the world, the menace we worried about is no longer merely potential, but has rapidly materialized. Record-breaking temperatures on every continent. Rates of extinction so high that the only relevant comparisons are to planetary cataclysms far beyond human memory. Species and ecosystems scrambling to change their geographical range and—where they cannot move quickly, as with coral reefs—perishing altogether. Rising seas, forests ablaze, glaciers disappearing, superstorms. The underlying cause is well known. The increasing proportion of certain trace gases in the Earth’s atmosphere (in round numbers, carbon dioxide [CO2 ] has risen from 250 to 400 parts per million, methane [CH4 ] from 700 to 1700 parts per billion) means a larger proportion of the sun’s energy remains in the Earth’s seas, land masses, and atmosphere, changing the movement of heat energy through the world’s climatic system.  As global temperatures rise, the weather changes too. Not just the unbearable summer days that now plague cities across the planet, but highly variable precipitation bringing flood or drought, volatile temperature changes, and more intense storms. This is already taking a toll on everyone, but the heaviest weight of all has fallen on relatively poor and powerless people, as well as the other living things with whom we share this planet. The troubles caused by climate change are accelerating so quickly that we have no ledger capable of measuring them.2

The corporations, the Oil companies, the Coal Industry, and any number of other industrial era energy Leviathan’s deny their contribution to this sad state of affairs. Yet, the undeniable truth is that at its core the real culprit is greed and profit, the World System of Capital which has over the past few hundred years unleashed a ravenous and global assault on our planetary resources, forced indigenous populations in backwater Third World countries into a catastrophe of the commons, and stripped he earth of its natural resources at the behest of a small and powerful contingent of Oligarchs, Banking systems, and a wealthy minority.  Why that wealthy minority did nothing, and what that means for our political futures, are the crucial questions of our time.

The Immortality Syndrome: How the Wealthy seek Anti-Aging Technologies

The Civilization and socio-cultural world view of Capitalism is at heart a realm devoid of life giving, life affirming sustenance, its main goal is profit – the unadulterated accumulation of Capital. It will not let anything stand in its way toward attaining that goal. In our own time that has come down to the truth of extinction and expendability.  The upper 10% of the world’s wealthy who control the great behemoth’s of Industry and global multi-conglomerates do not care about the masses of humans who eek out a bare life upon this planet. Yet, there is one qualifier: the wealthy themselves harbor dreams of Immortality.

Even now many of them seek to escape the coming extinction of the human species through space-faring technological plans to go off-world. Others seek to transcend our biological heritage and invent artificial means of immortality through transhumanist visions of techno-capitalist AI, Robotics, and externalizing the human bios into machinic systems. Such mad schemes of the artificialization of the human species as cyborg, android, and other immortalization programs were once the dreams of cartoon artists and writers. Not anymore.

Various hypertechnological innovators, investors, and Silicon Valley type entrepreneurs have for the past couple decades invested heavily into these various insane pursuits of escape. Peter Thiel back in 2006 gave Cambridge anti-aging researcher Aubrey de Grey $3.5 million under the auspices of the Methusaleh Foundation, a non-profit headquartered in Springfield, Virgina, that awards scientists who are working on life-extension therapies. “Probably the most extreme form of inequality is between people who are alive and people who are dead,” Thiel told The New Yorker.

In 2010, Thiel and his partners at Founders Fund, a Bay Area venture capital firm, invested $500,000 in Halcyon Molecular, a biotech start-up whose 28-year-old founder has a “dream to create a world free from cancer and aging.”

Brian Singerman, an early employee at Google who founded the iGoogle team, came to Founders Fund after having what he describes as an “epic six hour epic dinner with Sean Parker.” Parker, an executive general partner in the firm, recruited Singerman shortly after.
Equal parts brilliant and idealistic, Singerman is adamant that aging is a problem that can be solved. The fund’s portfolio has invested in about 14 health and biotech companies all interested in solving life’s ultimate problem: death.

“We have a company that’s charged with curing all viral disease, we have a company that’s charged with curing several types of cancer,” he says. “These are not things that are incremental approaches. It’s all fine and good to have a drug that extends life by a certain amount of months or makes living with a disease easier. That’s not what we’re looking for. We are not looking for incremental change. We are looking for absolute cures in anything we do.”3

Singerman, who graduated from Stanford, believes there are two basic elements of curing aging: first, you have to cure the stuff that kills you. The second part, of course, is figuring out the processes by which the body deteriorates. Finding complete, fast, and cheap DNA sequencing methods are a main focus of the fund.

“I’m not going to say we’re going to cure aging before next week,” he says. “That’s just silly. But do I think that within the next 10 years we’ll have the cure for several forms of cancer? I absolutely do. Do I think that in the next 10 years all forms of viral disease will be wiped out? Absolutely, we have a shot. Do I think that we’re going to stop the aging process within the next 10 years? No, but do I think we’ll have a much better understanding of how to get to that point? Absolutely.” (ibid.)

The truth behind all this fantastic immortalization is the wealthy minority themselves whose dreams of immortality and escaping death through any means necessary is driving such mad schemes.

How Did We Get Into This Mess?

Neoliberalism, far from revealing biological laws, describes a system that creates its own reality.

—George Monbiot

There is no need to define the term neoliberalism anymore. It’s apparent that the progressive Left has used this term to talk about that 10% upper-crust world of wealthy elites across our planet for decades. To traces it back into its various components of libertarian free-market economics, or the political and corporate control mechanisms, propaganda machines, mediatainment conglomerates where the fantasylands of hyperreal modernity emerged like a Disneyland of the Hollywood jet-set is fairly well documented in hundreds of publications, books, essays, blogs, etc.. No, I’ll not go there.

The truth is that the wealthy have created a world-wide system of corruption that seeks to control not only society, but its wealth beyond all necessary forms of life. The so called free-market  is dominated by powerful agents – corporations and oligarchs – who use their position to demand special treatment: contracts, handouts, tax breaks, treaties, the crushing of resistance and other political favours. They extend their power beyond their trading relationships through their ownership of the media and their funding and control of political parties.

These free-marketeers, pirates and bandits, all, have sought through their ideological and political malfeasance to instill a mythology of freedom. Freedom of the kind championed by neoliberals means freedom from competing interests. It means freedom from the demands of social justice, from environmental constraints, from collective bargaining and from the taxation that funds public services. It means, in sum, freedom from democracy.4

The present swing to the Right in politics as a grass-roots populism based of fear and economic insecurity came about through years of mainstream party corruption and stupidity. Both the Progressive Left and the Conservative Right became so enmeshed in their subservience to their masters, to the Oligarchs and Corporate powers through various lobbies and money funds, job offers, etc. that the age old – and, supposed, protections against such malfeasance was overlooked.

In recent years the extreme New Right, Alt-Right, Neoreaction, etc. have all been critical of socialism, liberalism, and various other forms of egalitarian beliefs, including the Judaeo-Christian origins of modern democracy. Whether these authors and ideas can be termed fascist or not remains for the reader to judge. These extreme ideologies have for years spawned a deep-seated hatred and criticism of equality, liberal capitalism, ‘economism’, and socialism in a theoretical and analytical manner. For these denizens of the Right the difference between liberalism, socialism, and Communism is almost negligible, because all of these ideologies rest on premises of universalism, egalitarianism, and the belief in economic progress. Many on the extreme Right are authors who officially and ‘unofficially’ enter into the category of  anti-egalitarian, anti-socialist, and anti-Communist intellectual tradition, and who, in addition, unanimously share the view that modern mass society equals totalitarianism.

Various tracts, apologies, and political introductions have been meted out over the past few years by apologists and critics alike. Works like Elizabeth Sandifer’s Neoreaction a Basilisk: Essays on and Around the Alt-Right, Thomas J. Main’s The Rise of the Alt-Right, David Neiwert’s Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump, Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right, Michael Malice’s The New Right: A Journey to the Fringe of American Politics, and Tomislav Sunic,’s Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right among so many others that should be listed (and maybe I’ll create a bibliography of books, blogs, and recommended sites etc. at some time in the future). What do all these books share in common? What has spawned a new wave of alternative political thought on the Right that has so disturbed the progressive Left in recent years. Most progressives seem to lump all these alternatives into one umbrella term: Fascism. But this is ludicrous, and we need to delve deeper into it and understand why both the extreme Left and extreme Right have become the enemy of democracy in our time. What does it portend?

This post is not the place to go into such a lengthy investigation, one that I hope to pursue in the near future. Rather I seek only to touch base with the drift of its ideological keys, the basic outlay of its concepts and platforms.

A Short History of White Supremacy

One extreme is the platform of the New Right in Europe and the U.S.A. that as one of its proponents, Greg Johnson states: “The North American New Right is a “metapolitical” movement modeled on the European New Right, but adapted to our own circumstances. The goal of the North American New Right is to lay the metapolitical foundations for the emergence of a White Republic (or republics) in North America.”5 Whether one terms it fascism or the politics of White Supremacy is a matter of choice, either way it puts race and an aggressive politics of White Supremacy at its core.

This separation of Whites from other races is a sordid history whose origins – at least as concerns our modernity, lie in fifteenth-century Europe, on through colonial times when the early British settlers carried racist ideas to America, all the way to the twenty-first century and current debates about the events taking place on our streets.6 Here in the good ole U.S.A. the debates between assimilationists and segregationists,  racists and antiracists, are charged with antagonistic and prolonged struggle and intimately, if not intricately, woven into the very fabric of our republics history. Kendi in his short work elaborates this heritage of racist ideas through five key figures: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Angela Davis, saying,

[they] were arguably the most consistently prominent or provocative racial theorists of their respective lifetimes, writing and speaking and teaching racial (and nonracial) ideas that were as fascinating as they were original, influential, and/or contradictory. (ibid., Intro)

At the core of this heritage of White Supremacy is the two-fold debates surrounding assimilation and segregation. Jim Wallis in a pointedly religious metaphor tells us that racism “is America’s original sin and must be named as such… racism lingers far more pervasively in implicit and covert ways in American institutions and culture, in often unconscious attitudes, and in the very structures of our society.”7

Again this is a wide and deep-seated history with many things that need to be broached beyond the length of this post. I seek only to inform the reader that our present plight is multifarious, complex, and chaotic. Anyone pretending to understand the crisis humanity is undergoing must delve into a wide-spectrum of micro-histories if she would even begin to approach the truth in its larger sense of global socio-cultural matrix. Something I can only hint at rather than cover in detail.

Extinction Rebellion

The reason for brining up both the economic and racist debates is simply put because the upper-crust, the 10% of wealthy elite who control most of the world’s wealth are themeselves racist and control the political, social, and ideological strings that have created the World System that is destroying our planet, using the structures of social control to establish their right to impose their austerity upon the vast majority of humans to keep their system in place.

Against this world wide death praxis of the wealthy elite a new trend has arisen online and at the grass roots level, one that seeks to redefine our lives and shape our future. The Extinction Rebellion (XR) seeks to spark and sustain a spirit of creative rebellion, which will enable much needed changes in our political, economic and social landscape. Endeavouring to mobilise and train organisers to skilfully open up space, so that communities can develop the tools they need to address the deeply rooted problems of the United States.  Working to transform our society into one that is compassionate, inclusive, sustainable, equitable and connected.

It seeks a new world where we can build thriving connections within our society and environment, bringing hope and enabling us to decide the direction of our lives and futures. An inclusive world, where we work consciously to ensure fair processes of collective decision-making, where creativity is prioritised, and where our diversity of gifts are recognised, celebrated and flourish.

It demands that Governments around the world must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, it must reverse all policies not in alignment with that position and must work alongside the media to communicate the urgency for change including what individuals, communities and businesses need to do.

It demands that Governments must enact legally-binding policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and take further action to remove the excess of atmospheric greenhouse gases. It must cooperate internationally so that the global economy runs on no more than half a planet’s worth of resources per year.

Extinction Rebellion does not trust our Governments to make the bold, swift and long-term changes necessary to achieve these changes and they do not intend to hand further power to our politicians. Instead they demand a Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes, as we rise from the wreckage, creating a democracy fit for purpose.

XR people demand a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and poor communities for years of environmental injustice, establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity, and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a livable, just planet for all.

Extinction Rebellion’s long term strategy is to, in alliance with other movements and thousands of people, inspire and be part of instigating a national and International, coordinated economic and governmental disruption on an unprecedented scale that lasts indefinitely, until the government feels forced to concede to the four XR demands. No one has ever tried to launch a rebellion of this kind in history for any reason. There is no way to overstate the danger we face from climate change, and on their own, our institutions have proven themselves incapable of addressing the crisis.

Most of all the time is short, and as they tell us we are losing the battle. “If we continue to only focus on lobbying congress and/or individual fossil fuel infrastructure fights on their own, without also planning and building for a national, coordinated rebellion, we will never bring about the systemic change we need.” As their preamble states it,

This type of rebellion is premised on extensive research that shows conclusively that if 3.5% of the population in any country is actively engaged in sustained resistance over a concentrated period of time, governments inevitably concede or collapse under the pressure. The research shows that governments simply can’t endure this many people engaging in serious disruption if it lasts for an extended period of time.

This is only surprising to most of us because we don’t realize yet that it’s only because many thousands of us cooperate that the government can run and that the system can operate. The moment enough of us withdraw our consent and refuse to carry on daily activities, the whole structure can’t work. If millions of people simply stayed home in a general strike for a week, for example, while thousands of others blocked key infrastructure nationwide, the government and industry would not be able to go forward. They don’t teach us this in school. They don’t teach us how much power we have collectively. But those who have successfully used nonviolent people power by the thousands are showing us the way. (here)

Against the top 1% a new battle cry is haunting the world. A world the wealthy elite have ripped apart. A World System that has degraded our conditions of life, surrendered our freedoms and prospects of contentment to a compulsive, atomizing, joyless hedonism, in which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. For this we have destroyed the essence of humanity: our connectedness. I’m an old man whose heart goes out to the young born in our time. What we’ve done to the earth, our home, is beyond recall. The system of economics and racist heritage of White privilege has left the planet in ruins not because we were superior, but because Whites had the technological power of a weaponized and warrior ethos that sought to conquer the earth as if they owned it. The whole heritage of race, economics, and property relations has brought about in our time an endgame civilization that may or may not survive the coming decades and centuries. It is up to the young who will inhabit what we’ve ruined to rebel against this state of affairs, and from within our failure, our ruinous wastelands of capitalism, to rebuild the earth without such a system of destruction. Is it too late? Let’s hope not, let’s hope with the courage of hopelessness that it is not too late to turn things around. That the young will awaken across this planet, this earth; and rebel against extinction, everywhere.

  1. Edward O. Wilson. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. Liveright; 1 edition (March 7, 2016)
  2. Joel Wainwright, Geoff Mann (eds.). Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future. Verso (February 13, 2018)
  3.  Eric Markowitz. Inc. Immortality: The Next Great Investment Boom: here.
  4. Monbiot, George. How Did We Get Into This Mess?: Politics, Equality, Nature . Verso Books. Kindle Edition.
  5. Covington, Harold; Devlin, F. Roger; Bolton, Kerry; Bowden, Jonathan; de Benoist, Alain; O’Meara, Michael; Kurtagić, Alex; Faye, Guillaume; Evola, Julius. North American New Right, Volume One (pp. 1-2). Counter-Currents Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  6. Kendi, Ibram X.. Stamped from the Beginning (Kindle Locations 154-155). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.
  7. Jim Wallis. America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America (Kindle Locations 274-277). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition

Original article here

Democracy and environment: from ‘yellow vests’ to ‘extinction rebellion’

Helen Kopnina  

• Haagse Hogeschool blog

extinction rebellion london-uk-november-17-2018


Optimists see democracy as a panacea for ecological evils, a vehicle for positive change. Pessimists are not so sure. Can democratic governments solve environmental problems, ranging form climate change to biodiversity loss? Will citizens all agree on what the “good” is? Will they elect governments that will be able to stop climate change and halt biodiversity loss?


Let’s look at recent events. From November 2018, in France, the Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests), the protestors wearing the yellow vests were blocking the roads. From October 2018 in England, Extinction Rebellion members were also blocking the roads. These road blockers have very different messages.

Yellow vests

Gilets Jaunes movement started with the decision of the French President Macron to introduce a tax on fossil fuel. Initially, the protest was associated with a group of lower middle-class car owners protesting against what they felt would push their budgets over the edge. A few charters have been put out by Gilets Jaunes, eliding with social justice questions about who pays “sustainability bills”. There is a deeper mistrust and dissatisfaction with the government, with some contradictory demands. While they are diverse, when interviewed, many protestors gave their identity as “drivers” who demand the government to take the hands off their cars.

Extinction rebellion

Extinction Rebellion, on the other hand, is engaged in civil disobedience intended to force action by the British government on climate as well biodiversity loss and extinction of species. Extinction Rebellion attempts to make action on climate change the forefront of the political agenda. Using the strategy of non-violent direct action, Extinction Rebellion demands that both the government and the public take responsibility for the expansion of industry and agriculture that harms the environment.

Shifting membership

Like with the yellow vests, Extinction Rebellion’s “membership” shifts, they have no formal leaders, yet the movement members is spreading beyond the UK to the US, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and even Australia. Both movements have few concrete goals and genuinely practicable policies for attaining them. However, the ‘vests’ outnumber the ‘rebellion’ by thousands in all countries. What makes both groups angry is the fact that industrial groups (industrial lobbies, oil, transport, mining etc.) remain hidden but influential. The difference is that the ‘rebellion’ group recognizes that these corporate giants are fed by consumer demands and the ‘vests’ are angry that they grab most of the profits.

Consumerist life-style

Some have argued that any politician wanting to start subtracting carbon costs from the national economy is still influenced by lobbies and funded by industries. What is perhaps most disturbing is not just the fact that democracies in real life are influenced by powerful industrial lobbies, but that even the most environmentally-conscious politician (if (s)he ever gets elected in the first place) may fail to push through reforms if they mean compromise to consumerist life-style.

Caring citizens

Individual lifestyle change is part of the story but, on its own, it is too small to make a meaningful difference in sufficient time. Also, population growth and industrialization, which are the root cause of climate change, water depletion, soil erosion, habitat destruction and species extinctions, requires transnational multi-level governance that draws legitimacy from global ecologically informed and caring citizens.

What’s good?

We have just considered two European cities, not the world. It is unlikely that we can all agree on what the “good” is. For some, it is having a personal freedom to drive a car, for others it is a commitment to future generations of humans and nonhumans. For some (perhaps a majority?) the choice of “good” might be determined not as much by the images of melting ice but of bread and circus.

Fair treatment

Underprivileged classes have a right to demand fair treatment. But, for even less privileged nonhumans, plants, animals and others, no vote determining the future of this planet will be held. Even if these billions of beings could speak our language, it is not likely that 7.5 billion people will ever consider their vote.

Keep trying

Having said that, the saying attributed to Churchill goes “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried before”.  Maybe we should try again – and keep on trying.

Helen Kopnina is currently employed at The Hague University of Applied Science, coordinating Sustainable Business program and conducting research within three main areas: sustainability, environmental education and biological conservation.




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


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 

Extinction Rebellion

Rupert Read

Reader in Philosophy, University of East Anglia

Article first published in the Conversation here: 

Not heard of the “Extinction Rebellion” before? Then you heard it here first. Because soon, everyone is going to have heard of it. The Extinction Rebellion is a non-violent direct action movement challenging inaction over dangerous climate change and the mass extinction of species which, ultimately, threatens our own species.

Saturday November 17 2018 is “Rebellion Day” – when people opposed to what they see as a government of “climate criminals” aim to gather together enough protesters to close down parts of the capital – by shutting down fossil-powered road traffic at key pinch-points in London.

I’m a Reader in Philosophy at the University of East Anglia and I have thrown myself headfirst into this movement. Our long-term aim is to create a situation where the government can no longer ignore the determination of an increasingly large number of people to shift the world from what appears to be a direct course towards climate calamity. Who knows, the government could even end up having to negotiate with the rebels.

As someone who is both a veteran of non-violent direct actions over the years and an academic seeking to make sense of these campaigns, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about what’s old and what’s new about the Extinction Rebellion. Here are my conclusions so far.

From world peace to climate justice

The Extinction Rebellion is rooted in longstanding traditions exemplified by the radical nuclear disarmament movement. The founders of the Extinction Rebellion have thought carefully about past precedents, and about what works and what doesn’t.

They’ve noted for instance that you don’t necessarily need active involvement from more than a tiny percentage of the population to win radical change, provided that you have a righteous cause that can elicit tacit backing from a much larger percentage.

The Extinction Rebellion is also quite different from its predecessors. True, the disarmament movement was about our very existence, but nuclear devastation was – and still is – only a risk. Extinction Rebellion’s aim is to prevent a devastation of our world that will come – and quite soon, unless we manage to do something unprecedented that will radically change our direction.

Climate activists often compare their struggle to victories from the past. But in my view comparisons which are often made – to Indian independence, the civil rights movement or the campaign for universal suffrage, for example – are over-optimistic, even fatuous. These historical movements were most often about oppressed classes of people rising up and empowering themselves, gaining access to what the privileged already had.

The Extinction Rebellion challenges oligarchy and neoliberal capitalism for their rank excess and the political class for its deep lack of seriousness. But the changes that will be needed to arrest the collapse of our climate and biodiversity are now so huge that this movement is concerned with changing our whole way of life. Changing our diet significantly. Changing our transport systems drastically. Changing the way our economies work to radically relocalise them. The list goes on.

This runs up against powerful vested interests – but also places considerable demands upon ordinary citizens, especially in “developed” countries such as the UK. It is therefore a much harder ask. This means that the chances of the Extinction Rebellion succeeding are relatively slim. But this doesn’t prove it’s a mistaken enterprise – on the contrary, it looks like our last chance.

Risking arrest is a small sacrifice when life itself is on the line. Andy Rain/EPA

From the lecture hall to the streets

This all leads into why I sat in the road blocking the entrance to Parliament Square on October 31, when the Extinction Rebellion was launched – and why I will be “manning the barricades” again on November 17. As a Quaker, I cherish the opening words of the famous Shaker hymn: Tis the gift to be simple. What does it mean to live simply at this moment in history? It means to do everything necessary so that others – most importantly our children (and their children) – can simply live. It isn’t enough to live a life of voluntary simplicity.

One needs also to take peaceful direct action to seek to stop the mega-machine of growth-obsessed corporate capitalism that is destroying our common future. That’s why it seems plain to me that we need peaceful rebellion now, so that we and countless other species don’t face devastation or indeed extinction.

The next line of that Shaker hymn goes: “Tis the gift to be free.” In our times, to be free means to not be bound by laws that are consigning our children to purgatory or worse. If one cares properly for one’s children, that must entail caring for their children, too. You don’t really care for your children if you damn their children. And that logic multiplies into the future indefinitely – we aren’t caring adequately for any generation if the generation to follow it is doomed.

As mammals whose primary calling is to care for our kids, it is therefore logical that an outright existential threat to their future, and to that of their children, must be resisted and rebelled against, no matter what the pitifully inadequate laws of our land say.

I’ve felt called upon to engage in conscientious civil disobedience before, at Faslane and Aldermaston against nuclear weapons and with EarthFirst in defence of the redwood foreststhreatened with destruction in the Pacific Northwest of the USA.

But the Extinction Rebellion seems to me the most compelling cause of them all. Unless we manage to do the near impossible, then after a period of a few decades at most there won’t be any other causes to engage with. It really now is as stark and as dark as that.

If you too feel the call, then I think you now know what to do