A Postecological Challenge
August 22, 2013
What comes up after a long hiatus since after my last post is this musing on ‘end times’…
Here, I would like to speak about the epistemic gap between science and the commons, partly influenced by Bruno Latour’s science studies theory. This epistemic gap between science and the commons may thus be interpreted as a resultant phenomenon of two conflicting views on the ‘nature’ of Nature. That nature is naturalized according to how science and the commons interpret Nature attests to what Bruno Latour (Politics of Nature) describes as the politics immanent to our view of the outside. For purposes of making sense of the outside, thereof respond to its entropic limits and potentials both science and the commons desire to absorb the outside, technically an energy assemblage, into their respective symbolic universes. Each has a symbolic universe different from the other—each has a different concept of nature. This in turn feeds on the difficulty of forging a global concept of Nature in the era of climate entropy.
One of the many serious attempts to respond to Nature’s entropic limits and potentials is the concern over food safety which we may designate here as a post-ecological concern. As a post-ecological concern, concern over food safety passes beyond the limit of ecological thinking that simply illustrates how nature is constantly revealing signs of increasing entropy into the post-ecological as a phase in ecological entropy in which any ecological concern is redirected to the quest for the good life. Food safety becomes a crucial concern in a post-ecological phase. Whereas in the ecological phase the concern is that of preparing human populations to face entropic challenges, in the post-ecological the concern is with a certain intended malice—the protection of selected populations deemed more capable to survive a total ecological onslaught (something that can also explain the aggressive spatial planning of urban and rural spaces isolating huge populations while wreaking havoc on the environment). Global social conflicts, which are mainly premised on the clamor for food security, are undoubtedly a collective critical response to this post-ecological trend. Incidentally, this post-ecological phase also coincides with the post-humanization of humanity where technology is drawing closer to developing a human crisis susceptible to a full-blown technological intervention in terms of what Ray Kurzweil describes as the event of singularity, the disembodiment of the human (which takes mass poverty as collateral) necessary to survive a post-ecological holocaust.
When we speak of food safety we speak of the right molecular assemblage essential in forming a healthy body, which explains the importance of science in the post-ecological phase. Nonetheless, as the role of science is reduced to disciplinal normativity in the ecological phase, mobilizing disparate disciplines of science to embrace a concept of global Nature, in the post-ecological phase this disciplinal normativity fails to penetrate the symbolic universe of the commons. Seemingly, the commons are stuck up in their own politics of nature in inverse proportion to the disciplinal preoccupation of science in the ecological phase. On the advent of the post-ecological, science is left extremely powerless as it is not its role to save populations which rests instead on government mandate. Unfortunately, governments are epistemically extrinsic to the role of closing the communicative gap between science and the commons essential to transform symbolic communicative spaces into a unified political mobility in response to the challenges of climate entropy. To save populations in the post-ecological phase, governments must carry out an epistemic role that can reach out to symbolic universes to unite them under a global concept of Nature. But this necessarily translates into a post-natural politics of governance, something it can only learn from science that has by then learned to transcend its pure epistemic role, which implies that it has somehow closed the gap that used to divide its discipline from the universe of the commons. Taking cue from Isabelle Stengers, who is a collaborator of Bruno Latour, we may describe this ideal event of inter-collapsing agencies as cosmopolitics. Latour for his part sticks to the term political ecology. From here, we can aim to mobilize the terms of a new political ecology in addressing the critical shift into food safety, emphasizing here that the ecological phase of concern over food security vis-à-vis the bloating of human population should remain the chief focus of global governance.
The critical shift could be reversed, assuming there is already a growing emphasis on food safety which endorses the view that not all can be saved from an ecological holocaust. The refocusing on food security addresses the premise that the shift to food safety is intrinsically selective and historically insensitive. On the one hand, selectivity is an inevitable approach in food safety as food is basically a commodity that is not independent of how market pricing works. On the other hand, the insensitivity of emphasis on food safety can be seen in how the rise of human populations is in effect condoned by the commercial food industry. The thermo-politics that works behind food production is a simple procedure: food sustains the thermal potential of the species necessary to reproduce. When this thermal heat is producing an unwanted spike in heat entrapped in the atmosphere which in turn generates human diseases, among others, the response of governments in the early post-ecological phase is to ensure food safety. While heat entropy is entrapped and is showing no signs of cooling down, food safety can only save those who can afford means to survive the ‘end times’.
In the above light, we may propose a post-natural politics of food security as a response to the post-ecological trend which essentially depends on how the epistemic gap between science and the commons can be narrowed. This entails that global governance invests in a post-ecological refocusing of democracy as a process of narrowing epistemic distances, not a democracy that still clings to pre-ecological and naïve ecological terms predominantly influenced by capital.
In my next post I wish to relate this postecological trend to post-apocalypticism, accelerationism and several other ruminations on a variety of manic ‘entrophilia’ (apologies for the neologism) which have increasingly gained traction in today’s academic discourse. Hopefully, I will not default on my promise.
Related articles on post-apocalypticism and accelerationism:
1. Deterritorial Investigations Unit
2. Critical Fantasies
3. Synthetic Zero