JOFF. "The Possibility of an Antihumanist EcoAnarchism" (4) C(ha)osmos

NatureEcologyGUATTARI, FélixJOFF
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C(ha)osmos

Guattari’s later work unequivocally aligns itself with thinking of a green hue. Guattari’s Les Trois Ecologies will receive examination here. [1] A triadic ecology problematises the subject/object dualism. The subject is decentralised and configured from an exteriority of components (the unconscious, the body). Guattari names these as components of subjectification. The hermetic self-certain interiority articulated by Descartes is questioned by Guattari for its one-dimensional emphasis. There are other ‘ways of existing’ which would seem to be irreducible to the ‘realm of consciousness’. [2] Guattari is principally interested in the possible emergence of new paradigms of ethico-aesthetic thinking and praxis. Such paradigms rethink the relationship between human subjectivity and the context (environment) within which it engages. Subjectivity seems to imply the role of the unconscious in relation to the human and natural environment. In comparison, Bookchin’s analysis of the unconscious is conspicuously absent in his philosophy. With emphasis upon the creative potentiality of subjectivity or new ways of existing, Guattari looks toward the future. He is in effect offering a ‘futurist agenda’ [3] Such a futurist agenda attempts to think the intersection of the human with cybernetics and more particularly with computer-aided subjectivity. [4]

In schizoanalysing the ecological [5], a cartography of subjectivity transcends predefined territorial limits (the orthodoxy of Oedipus for example) with the formation of new perspectives ‘without prior recourse to assured theoretical foundations or the authority of a group, school, conservatory, or academy’. [6] New perspectives emerge from the intersection of social, mental, and environmental ecologies. [7] The triadic intersection of the socius [8], the psyche, and ‘nature’, Guattari believes, is an essential nodal point for decoding the general degradation of social relationships, the mind, and the environment. Guattari refuses to separate the elements of the triad. In schizoanalytic language, they form an assemblage.

Schizoanalytical social ecology challenges the dualism between nature and culture with the perception that nature and culture are inseparable. Neither ‘human work’ or the ‘natural habitat’ are legitimate either/or choices. [9] A ‘transversal’ understanding of the interactions between ecosystems, the ‘mechanosphere’ and social and individual universes of reference is encouraged by Guattari in order to rethink the possible detrimental effects of isolated social, psychological and environmental ecologies. It should be noted Guattari is arguing from an anthropocentric as opposed to biocentric viewpoint. Guattari and Negri claim that communism’s ‘call to life’ celebrates the slender hope of a reconfigured human solidarity. [10] However, this observation needs to be balanced for the argument presupposes the very dualism which is brought into question. Guattari does not wish to rehearse traditional debates. In a very important sense he is calling for a new eco-logic. This eco-logic is a ‘logic of intensities’ which examines ‘the movement and intensity of evolutive processes’. [11] What Guattari is seeking to describe are ‘processual lines of flight’ that are secreted from entrenched totalities and identities. In other words Guattari is attempting to think of one off events which once combined with subjective assemblages provide examples of new existential configurations in which social, psychic and natural elements function in a nondestructive milieu.

The political project of triadic ecological praxes is the affirmation of new forms of subjectivity (new forms of knowledge, culture, sensibility, and sociability). [12] The social ecologies of Bookchin and Guattari both see capitalism as a system of economics hostile to the life of ecosystems. Yet, Guattari is innovative from the viewpoint of capitalism’s tactic of ‘intension’, that is to say, the way capitalism nestles into ‘unconscious levels of subjectivity’. Guattari drives the point home: ‘It has become imperative to confront the effects of capitalist power on the mental ecology of daily life, whether individual, domestic, conjugal, neighbourly, creative, or personal-ethical’. [13] Processes of re-singularisation and the practice of the art of dissensus rather than a ‘mind-numbing’ or levelling consensus are defended by Guattari as tactics to de-stabilise capitalist subjectivity.

It must be borne in mind that Guattari is advancing a generalised ecology which incorporates the ‘whole of subjectivity and capitalist power formations’. [14] A generalised ecology eschews a sole concern for the welfare of animals or trees. Yet, it also refuses to rigidly demarcate the three ecologies. The art of the eco endeavours to formulate this kind of ‘praxis openness’.

On the subject of mental ecology and the ambivalence of desire, Guattari makes the interesting point that violence is the consequence of complex subjective assemblages and not an essential attribute of the human species. Guattari maintains that violence is not ‘intrinsically inscribed in the essence of the human species’. [15] This would seem to trouble Bookchin’s alignment of Deleuze and Guattari with an anti-humanism. Bookchin is eager to denounce those he sees as condemning the human species (or what he calls humanity) for its apparently disastrous effects upon the environment.

If capitalism or Integrated World Capitalism (Guattari’s concept) is to be challenged then new values, and new ecological praxes must be invented. Guattari believes that an environmental ecology of the future ought to be much more than a ‘mere defence of nature’. [16] It is worth quoting Guattari in full here:

Increasingly in future, the maintenance of natural equilibria will be dependent upon human intervention; the time will come, for example, when massive programmes will have to be set in train to regulate the relationship between oxygen, ozone, and carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere. In this perspective, environmental ecology could equally be re-named «machinic ecology», since both cosmic and human practice are nothing if not machinic - indeed they are machines of war, in so far as «Nature» has always been at war with life!» [17]

What Guattari means by the comment that ‘Nature’ has always been at war with life is far from clear. Furthermore, Guattari’s demand for an ethics and politics fitting for the technological developments which are under way in respect of the ‘general destiny of humanity’ is even less clear. Yet, Guattari’s continual reference to humanity ought to repel the designation of Guattari as a vulgar anti-humanist. Moreover, Guattari’s open call for a return of the practice of resingularisation and his affirmation of the art of dissensus rather than ‘neo-liberal consensus’ does not necessarily imply that Guattari was anti-universalist. [18]

Contra Ferry’s reading of differential thinking [19], resingularisation (process of becoming and mode of experimentation) does not necessarily imply universalism (legal rights for the whole of humanity). What Guattari points toward are the technological developments (data-processing, genetic engineering) which mean that the definitions of the human being are increasingly subject to forces of an alien and exterior nature. Such a subjection requires a rethinking of the human subject in relation to its environment and its future(s).

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[1Guattari, F, The Three Ecologies, trans. Turner and Word, (New Formations 8 (1989): 131-47.

[2The Three Ecologies, p.131.

[3The Three Ecologies, p.132.

[4The Three Ecologies, p.133.

[5Deleuze and Guattari in Anti-Oedipus distinguish their own practice of schizoanalysis from the psychoanalysis of Freud and Lacan. Schizoanalysis perceives desire as inherently social and machinic.

[6The Three Ecologies, p.133.

[7The Three Ecologies, p.134.

[8Deleuze and Guattari’s terminology.

[9The Three Ecologies, p.134.

[10Guattari and Negri, Communists Like Us, trans. Michael Ryan, New York: Semiotext(e), 1990. ‘Communism is nothing other than a call to life: to break the encirclement of the capitalist and socialist organization of work, which today leads not only to a continuing surplus of repression and exploitation, but to the extinction of the world and humanity with it’, p.11.

[11The Three Ecologies, p.136.

[12The Three Ecologies, p.138.

[13The Three Ecologies, p.138.

[14The Three Ecologies, p.140.

[15The Three Ecologies, p.142.

[16The Three Ecologies, p.146.

[17The Three Ecologies, p.146.

[18Conley, V, EcoPolitics, The Environment in Poststructuralist Thought, London: Routledge, 1997, p.22.

[19Ferry, L, The New Ecological Order, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.