Ontological Politics in a Disposable World: The New Mastery of Nature (Theory, Technology and Society)
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This book explores the intertwining of politics and ontology, shedding light on the ways in which, as our ability to investigate, regulate, appropriate, ’enhance’ and destroy material reality have developed, so new social scientific accounts of nature and our relationship with it have emerged, together with new forms of power. Engaging with cutting-edge social theory and elaborating on the thought of Foucault, Heidegger, Adorno and Agamben, the author demonstrates that the convergence of ontology with politics is not simply an intellectual endeavour of growing import, but also a governmental practice which builds upon neoliberal programmes, the renewed accumulation of capital and the development of technosciences in areas such as climate change, geoengineering and biotechnology. With shifts in our accounts of nature have come new means of mastering it, giving rise to unprecedented forms of exploitation and destruction - with related forms of social domination. In the light of growing social inequalities, environmental degradation and resource appropriation and commodification, Ontological Politics in a Disposable World: The New Mastery of Nature reveals the need for new critical frameworks and oppositional practices, to challenge the rationality of government that lies behind these developments: a rationality that thrives on indeterminacy and an account of materiality as comprised of fluid, ever-changing states, simultaneously agential and pliable, to which social theory increasingly subscribes without questioning enough its underpinnings and implications. A theoretically sophisticated reassessment of the relationship between ontology and politics, which draws the contours of a renewed humanism to allow for a more harmonious relationship with the world, this book will appeal to scholars in social and political theory, environmental sociology, geography, science and technology studies and contemporary European thought on the material world.
Smith; the case of Virno, as we have seen, is more complex). Namely, the basic political implication that scholarships in the ontological turn draw from their case for the fluidity, indeterminacy or relentless becoming of matter, is that this feature has an emancipatory import for both humans and nonhumans, since it exposes the inconsistency of any attempt at a proper mastery of reality (Virno’s case, again, is more nuanced, yet in the end he also reaches this conclusion, if focussing on
stands in complete deafness or indifference towards human struggles and claims. Moreover, if it is true that the phase opened in the 1990s is characterized by a growing feeling of lack of control, it has also to be noticed that the implications drawn are not always as negative as one might expect and much social science analysis, especially in the field of environmental sociology, assumes. Take for example the two key notions of climate change policy: mitigation and adaptation. Both find a place
based on cost–benefit assessments. The distinctions, central to liberalism, between production and reproduction, public and private, professional and domestic spheres are eroded, and the values and attachments in which market calculations and labour were traditionally embedded are increasingly subsumed to an entrepreneurial logic; a logic provided with an intrinsic proprietary character. As Martin Hartmann and Axel Honneth remark, peculiar to the ‘neoliberal revolution’ is ‘a normatively charged
constitution of reality as a whole. This is consistent with the tenet that things and knowledge, matter and discourse, how reality is made and how it comes to us, cannot be treated independently of one another – hence it makes no sense to speak of epistemology or the epistemic as a separate realm. In sum, there are good reasons to stick to the words ontology and ontological, turning to other terms only when necessary. Ontological Politics and Political Ontology That said, the substantive point is
universal in which human beings are but small and simple cogs. But … it is capitalism which ardently defies the inherited separation of nature and society, and with pride rather than shame (Smith 2010: 7). For Smith, the crucial contribution of Marx is precisely that he starts with the acknowledgement of the unity of nature and history, to analyse then how the two have been separated. Most importantly, ‘we must now consider there to be a social priority of nature; nature is nothing if it is not