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Felix Guattari - Three Ecologies (part 1)
For Sasha Goldman
There is an ecology of bad ideas, just as there is an ecology of weeds.
The Earth is undergoing a period of intense techno-scientific transformations. If no remedy is found, the ecological disequilibrium this has generated will ultimately threaten the continuation of life on the planet's surface. Alongside these upheavals, human modes of life, both individual and collective, are progressively deteriorating. Kinship networks tend to be reduced to a bare minimum; domestic life is being poisoned by the gangrene of mass-media consumption; family and married life are frequently 'ossified' by a sort of standardization of behaviour; and neighbourhood relations are generally reduced to their meanest expression,. . . It is the relationship between subjectivity and its exteriority - be it social, animal, vegetable or Cosmic - that is compromised in this way, in a sort of general movement of implosion and regressive infantilization. Otherness (l'alterité) tends to lose all its asperity. Tourism, for example, usually amounts to no more than a journey on the spot, with the same redundancies of images and behaviour.
Political groupings and executive authorities appear to be totally incapable of understanding the full implications of these issues. Despite having recently initiated a partial realization of the most obvious dangers that threaten the natural environment of our societies, they are generally content to simply tackle industrial pollution and then from a purely technocratic perspective, whereas only an ethico-political articulation - which I call ecosophy between the three ecological registers (the environment, social relations and human subjectivity) would be likely to clarify these questions.
Henceforth it is the ways of living on this planet that are in question, in the context of the acceleration of techno-scientific mutations and of considerable demographic growth. Though the continuous development of machinic labour, multiplied by the information revolution, productive forces can make available an increasing amount of time for potential human activity. But to what end? Unemployment, oppressive marginalization, loneliness, boredom, anxiety and neurosis? Or culture, creation, development, the reinvention of the environment and the enrichment of modes of life and sensibility? In both the Third World and the developed world, whole sections of the collective subjectivity are floundering or simply huddle around archais, as is the case, for example, with the dreadful rise of religious fundamentalism.
The only true response to the ecological crisis is on a global scale, provided that it brings about an authentic political, social and cultural revolution, reshaping the objectives of the production of both material and immaterial assets. Therefore this revolution must not be exclusively concerned with visible relations of force on a grand scale, but will also take into account molecular domains of sensibility, intelligence and desire. A finalization of social labour, regulated in a univocal way by a profit economy and by power relations, would only lead, at present, to dramatic dead-ends. This is obvious from the absurd and burdensome economic supervisions of the Third World, which lead some of its regions into an absolute and irreversible pauperization. It is equally evident in countries like France, where the proliferation of nuclear power stations threatens, over a large part of Europe, the possible consequences of Chernobyl-style accidents.s One need hardly mention the almost delirious stockpiling of thousands of nuclear warheads, which, at the slightest technical or human error, could automatically lead to collective extermination. In all of these examples it is the same dominant modes of valorizing human activities that are implicated. That is to say:
1. those of the imperium ( Latin: 'authority ) of a global market that destroys specific value systems and puts on the same plane of equivalence: material assets, cultural assets, wildlife areas, etc.
2. those that place all social and international relations under the control of police and military machines. Trapped in this double pincer movement, the nation States see their traditional role of mediation being reduced more and more, and they are frequently put in the combined service of
the authorities of the global marketplace and of military-industrial complexes.
The current situation is all the more paradoxical as the time is almost over when the world was placed under the aegis of an East-West antagonism, a largely imaginary projection of working-class/middle-class oppositions within capitalist countries. Does this mean that the new, multipolar issues of the three ecologies will simply take the place of the old class struggles and their myths of reference? Of course, such a substitution will not be automatic! But it nevertheless appears probable that these issues, which correspond to an extreme complexification of social, economic and international contexts, will increasingly come to the foreground.
Initially the class antagonisms that were inherited from the nineteenth century contributed to the creation of homogenous, bipolarized fields of subjectivity. Then, during the second half of the twentieth century, the hardline worker subjectivity crumbled with the advent of the consumer society, the welfare system, the media, etc. Despite the fact that today these segregations and hierarchies have never been so intensively experienced, this group of subjective positions has been cloaked by the same fictitious smokescreen. A vague sense of social belonging has deprived the old class consciousness of its tensions (I won't go into the accumulation of violently heterogeneous subjective poles, such as those that are emerging in the Muslim world.) For their part, the so-called socialist countries have steadily introjected the “unidimensionalizing”' value systems of the West. Therefore, in the communist world the old facade of egalitarianism is giving way to massmedia serialism (the same ideal standards of living, the same fashions and types of rock music, etc.).
It is difficult to imagine the situation can be improved in any significant way as far as the North-South axis is concerned. Admittedly, in the end, it is conceivable that the spread of agri-business techniques will allow us to modify the theoretical givens of the tragedy of world hunger. But on the ground, meanwhile, it would be a complete illusion to think that international aid, such as it is designed and distributed today, would be able to permanently resolve every problem. Henceforth, the long-term establishment of immense zones of misery, hunger and death seems to play an integral part in the monstrous system of 'stimulation' that is Integrated World Capitalism. in any case, the hyper-exploitative New Industrial Powers, such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, etc., depend on these zones for their development.
We find this same principle of social tension and 'stimulation' born of despair in the developed countries, with the establishment of periods of chronic unemployment and the increasing marginalization of the population: the young, the old, 'part-time' workers, the undervalued, etc.
So, wherever we turn, there is the same nagging paradox: on the one hand, the continuous development of new technoscientific means to potentially resolve the dominant ecological issues and reinstate socially usefrrl activities on the surface of the planet, and, on the other hand, the inability of organized social forces and constituted subjective formations to take hold of these resources in order to make them work.
But perhaps this paroxysmal era of the erosion of subjectivities, assets and environments is destined to enter into a phase of decline. The demands of singularity are rising up almost everywhere; the most obvious signs in this regard are to be found in the multiplication of nationalitary claims which were regarded as marginal only yesterday, and which increasingly occupy the foreground of the political stage. (We note, from Corsica to the Baltic States, the conjunction of ecological and separatist demands.) In the end, this rise in nationalitary questions will probably lead to profound modifications in East-West relations, and in particular, the configuration of Europe, whose centre of gravity could drift decisively towards a neutralist East.
The traditional dualist oppositions that have guided social thought and geopolitical cartographies are over. The conflicts remain, but they engage with multipolar systems incompatible with recnritments under any ideological, Manicheist flag. For example, the opposition between the Third World and the developed world is being completely blown apart. We have seen with the New Industrial Powers that productivity is becoming on an altogether different scale from the traditional industial bastions of the West, but this phenomenon is accompanied by a sort of Third-Worldization within developed countries, which is coupled with an exacerbation of questions relative to immigration and racism. Make no mistake about it, the great disorder and confusion surrounding the economic unification of the European Community will in no way impede this Third-Worldization of considerable areas of Europe.
Another antagonism, transversal to that of class struggles, remains that of the relations between men and women. On a, global scale, the female condition is far from being ameliorated. The exploitation of female labour, like that of child labour, is as bad now as it was in the worst periods of the nineteenth century! Nevertheless, for the last two decades, a gradual subjective revolution has modified the female condition. Although the sexual independence of women is very unequally developed in correlation with the availability of methods of contraception and abortion, and although the rise of religious fundamentalism continues to minorize them, some indices lead us to think that long-term transformations – in Fernand Braudel's sense - are well and truly on the way (the appointment of women as heads of State, demands for equality between men and women at important representative levels, etc.)
As for young people, although they are crushed by the dominant economic relations which make their position increasingly precarious, and although they are mentally manipulated through the production of a collective, massmedia subjectivity, they are nevertheless developing t}eir own methods of distancing themselves from normalized subjectivity through singularization. In this respect, the transnational character of rock-music is extremely significant; it plays the role of a sort of initiatory cult, which confers a cultural pseudoidentity on a considerable mass of young people and allows them to obtain for themselves a bare minimum of existential Territories.
It is in this context of break-up and decentralization, the multiplication of antagonisms and processes of singularization, that the new ecological problematics suddenly appear. Don't misunderstand me, I don't claim in the least that they can be relied upon to take charge of the other lines of molecular fracture, but it appears to me that they lead to a problematization that is transversal to them. If it is no longer a question - as it was in previous periods of class st'uggle or the defence of the 'fatherland of socialism' - of creating an unequivocal ideolo$/, it is conceivable, on the other hand, that the new ecosophical example indicates the lines of reconstruction of human praxis in the most varied domains. At every level, individual or collective, in everyday Iife as well as the reinvention of democracy (concerning town planning, artistic creation, sport, etc.), it is a question in each instance of looking into what would be the dispositives of the production of subjectivity, which tends towards an individual and/or collective resingularization, rather than that of massmedia manufacture, which is synonymous with distress and despair.
The ecosophical perspective does not totally exclude a definition of unifying objectives, such as the struggle against world hunger, an end to deforestation or to the blind proliferation of the nuclear industries; but it will no longer be a question of depending on reductionist, stereotypical orderwords which only expropriate other more singular problematics and lead to the promotion of charismatic leaders.
The same ethico-political aim runs through the questions of racism, of phallocentrism, of the disastrous legacy of a selfcongratulatory 'modern' town planning, of an artistic creation liberated from the market system, of an education system able to appoint its own social mediators, etc.le In the final account, the ecosophic problematic is that of the production of human existence itself in new historical contexts. Social ecosophy will consist in developing specific practices that will modify and reinvent the ways in which we live as couples or in the family, in an urban context or at work, etc.
Obviously it would be inconceivable to try and go back to the old formulas, which relate to periods when the planet was far less densely populated and when social relations were much stronger than they are today. But it will be a question of literally reconstructing the modalities of 'group-being "l'etre e groupe" if, not only through'communicational' interventions but through existential mutations driven by the motor of subjectivity. Instead of clinging to general recommendations we would be implementing effective practices of experimen-tation, as much on a microsocial level as on a larger institutional scale.
For its part, mental ecosophy will lead us to reinvent the relation of the subject to the body, to phantasm, to the passage of time, to the 'mysteries' of life and death. It will lead us to search for antidotes to mass-media and telematic standardization, the conformism of fashion, the manipulation of opinion by advertising, surveys, etc. Its ways of operating will be more like those of an artist, rather than of professional psychiatrists who are always haunted by an outmoded ideal of scientificity.
Nothing in these domains is played out in the name of history, in the name of infrastructural determinisms! Barbaric implosion cannot be entirely ruled out. And, for want of such an ecosophical revival (or whatever we wish to call it), for want of a rearticulation of the three fundamental types of ecology, we can unfortunately predict the rise of all kinds of danger: racism, religious fanaticism, nationalitary schisms that suddenly flip into reactionary closure, the exploitation of child labour, the oppression of women....
The Three Ecologies is one of the final works published by Felix Guattari (1930-1992), a French philosopher, political militant and institutional psychoanalyst. While Guattari is perhaps best known for his co-authored projects with Gilles Deleuze; Anti-Oedipus, A Thousand Plateaus and What is Philosophy; The Three Ecologies provides an excellent insight into Guattari’s stance on politics, social movements and subjectivity. The concept of the three ecologies; three interconnected networks existing at the scales of mind, society and the environment, was originally formulated by influential theorist Gregory Bateson in Steps to An Ecology of Mind, however Guattari seeks to elaborate and refine the concept in more detail, while additionally adding a more radical form of poststructuralist Marxism to Bateson’s ecological system.
"Dnes se více než kdy jindy stala příroda neoddělitelnou od kultury; pokud chceme pochopit interakce mezi ekosystémy, mechanosférou a sociálními a individuálními referenčními univerzy, musíme se naučit myslet „transverzálně“."
Frontiers of Solitude Symposium
The international symposium Frontiers of Solitude, organized as part of the eponymous art project site will offer a comparison of the opinions, experiences, and points of view of artists, curators, and invited guests on the the …