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In the Nature of Things

In the Nature of Things: Language, Politics, and the Environment

Jane Bennett
William Chaloupka
Copyright Date: 1993
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    In the Nature of Things
    Book Description:

    Contributors include R. McGreggor Cawley, Romand Coles, William E. Connolly, Jan E. Dizard, Valerie Hartouni, Cheri Lucas Jennings, Bruce H. Jennings, Timothy W. Luke, Shane Phelan, John Rodman, Michael J. Shapiro, and Wade Sikorski.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8533-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: TV Dinners and the Organic Brunch
    (pp. vii-xvi)

    There has grown up in the United States in the late twentieth century a profuse and polyglot discourse about “nature.” Profuse because the category “nature” encompasses so much—the geological, biological, and meteorological “environment”; animals and plants; human bodies; and the inherent character or moral essence we seek to discern in all of the above. Polyglot for the same reason.

    Despite the diffuseness of its object, however, this nature discourse has a kind of structure. It has tended to revolve, at least until quite recently, around two poles, two sets of assumptions, priorities, dreams, and convictions. The first is displayed...

  4. Part I The Call of the Wild

    • Chapter 1 The Great Wild Hope: Nature, Environmentalism, and the Open Secret
      (pp. 3-23)
      William Chaloupka and R. McGreggor Cawley

      In 1985, a dormant volcano erupted in Colombia, South America, leaving more than 20,000 people dead. An earthquake rocked China in 1976, killing 250,000 people; another hit Armenia in 1988, killing 45,000 people; yet another shook Iran in 1990, killing 29,000 people. In the United States, Mount St. Helens and San Francisco serve as reminders that these occurrences are not as distant as they seem. What kind of twist in contemporary7 sensibilities would be required for us to acknowledge a “need” for these things, to find them “reassuring,” to recognize our “sanity” in them? What political maneuvers have wilderness advocates...

    • Chapter 2 Building Wilderness
      (pp. 24-43)
      Wade Sikorski

      This quotation from Heidegger tells how dwelling lets the wildness of things be, how it leaves to the sun and the moon their journey, the stars their courses, the seasons their differences, and the gods their absence. Leaving things alone, dwelling does not impose any truth on the thing that is not its own, but lets the wild-erness of Being be. And it does this while it builds a world, while mortals, man and woman, draw things near to their life, handling them, dwelling amid them. Situated in time, life, and culture, dwellingbuildswild-erness, an anarchic, centerless, and nonmetaphysical...

    • Chapter 3 Intimate Distance: The Dislocation of Nature in Modernity
      (pp. 44-62)
      Shane Phelan

      Contemporary political theory has moved increasingly to adopt the methods of literary analysis in an effort to understand both canonical texts and current sociopolitical events. This analysis focuses less on the meaning of terms than on the role they play; it involves a “shift from historical definition to the problematics of reading.” ¹ This new theory is especially helpful in discussing some of the central, and essentially contested, concepts in political theory. It helps us to understand these terms, not as unified markers, but in terms of the role they play in a given writer's thought or in the dynamics...

  5. Part II Animal and Artifice

    • Chapter 4 “Manning” the Frontiers: The Politics of (Human) Nature in Blade Runner
      (pp. 65-84)
      Michael J. Shapiro

      Ridley Scott’s filmBlade Runner, like the Philip Dick novel on which it is based, places heavy pressure on the long-held assumptions that moral sentiments are uniquely human and that they provide an unambiguous boundary between humans and other creatures.¹ One of the most thoroughgoing inquiries into the “moral sentiment” was Adam Smith’s eighteenth-century treatment of morals—an inquiry that still reflects many contemporary notions of both the psychology and geography of moral concerns. In Smith’sTheory of Moral Sentimentsa markedly secularizing impulse is in operation. He substitutes social space for transcendent, spiritual space as the venue for morals....

    • Chapter 5 Brave New World in the Discourses of Reproductive and Genetic Technologies
      (pp. 85-110)
      Valerie Hartouni

      “The final and most searching revolution . . . the really revolutionary revolution, is to be achieved not in the external world, but in the souls and flesh of human beings”— so wrote Aldous Huxley in a foreword to his novelBrave New World¹.This foreword Huxley attached to his work some fifteen years after its initial publication in 1931. While it contains passing gestures in the direction of acknowledging some of the novel’s artistic and prophetic shortcomings, its primary purpose appears to have been to reintroduce the tale to a world whose immediate past and present circumstance lent it...

    • Chapter 6 Going Wild: The Contested Terrain of Nature
      (pp. 111-136)
      Jan E. Dizard

      When Thoreau left Concord to seek meaning on the shores of Walden Pond, he wanted respite from the contrivances of civilization. He sought nature, which he assumed was separate from Concord and its artifice. But it is clear that Thoreau discovered something other than “pure nature.” Though he permitted himself, at least for expository purposes, the conceit that what he encountered was the natural order itself, it is abundantly clear that human beings had been altering nature long before he began building his simple cabin and recording his minute observations of nature’s ways. In fact, human modifications of the environment...

  6. Part III Environmentalist Talk

    • Chapter 7 Restoring Nature: Natives and Exotics
      (pp. 139-153)
      John Rodman

      The October 1988 issue ofFremontia, journal of the California Native Plant Society, carried three succinct articles on coastal dune restoration projects occurring in the 1980s, in addition to several notes and one letter on the control of various exotic (alien, nonnative) species of plants. The link, of course, is that the control, removal, and sometimes eradication of exotic species of plants and animals is the negative moment in the dialectic of ecological restoration, in complement to the positive moment of planting, reintroduction, and so on. But what does it mean to be an exotic, as distinct from a native,...

    • Chapter 8 Green Consumerism: Ecology and the Ruse of Recycling
      (pp. 154-172)
      Timothy W. Luke

      The production, distribution, and consumption of material wealth are the effects of innumerable technical decisions made by product designers, industrial engineers, corporate managers, public administrators, and marketing executives. And, in exchange for a constantly increasing level of material comfort and economic security, virtually every client and customer of this global capitalist economy accepts the outcome or impact of these decisions with little or no protest. Larger cultural trends, then, in global economic and social rationalization tend to proceed apace without any popular representation that they are so determined.¹

      The scope of these powers in everyday life is quite extensive. Such...

    • Chapter 9 Green Fields/Brown Skin: Posting as a Sign of Recognition
      (pp. 173-194)
      Cheri Lucas Jennings and Bruce H. Jennings

      While the relationship between pesticides and consumer health has been widely discussed, this discourse has neglected some of the most basic issues of agrarian practice. Consumer organizations continue to press for stronger residue testing programs and greater basic toxicology research but ignore an international policy that creates farm zones drenched with pesticides of the more highly toxic, nonpersistent sort whereby produce can be washed relatively “clean” by the time it reaches grocers' shelves. Similarly, one effect of “Wilderness” preservationist strategies has been to generate “social pollution zones” ¹ where it is permissible to poison tens of thousands of migrant farm...

  7. Part IV The Order(ing) of Nature

    • Chapter 10 Voices from the Whirlwind
      (pp. 197-225)
      William E. Connolly

      What is the character of things “below” or “prior to” culture? We will never answer this question as posed, for every attempt to do so draws upon the resources of culture. And yet, the attempt to pose such a question is unlikely to disappear either, for every interpretation projects presumptions about the primordial character of things into its presentation of actuality and possibility, identity and difference, good and evil. It does so even if it strives to go “beyond good and evil” and, though more ambiguously and problematically, even if it strives to call every “metaphysical” or “ontological” assumption into...

    • Chapter 11 Ecotones and Environmental Ethics: Adorno and Lopez
      (pp. 226-249)
      Romand Coles

      Hegel, in one of his many perceptive moments, described the modern age as the site of a continual struggle between faith and enlightenment.¹ Put simply, the enlightenment attempts to posit the self as the ground of truth and being, while faith seeks truth and being in terms of a larger absolute Being in which it is submerged, by an act of pure faith in the beyond. The struggle between these two positions is seemingly interminable because, to the embarrassment of each, neither can address the penetrating claims of the other. Reason and the self are themselves principles in which the...

    • Chapter 12 Primate Visions and Alter-Tales
      (pp. 250-266)
      Jane Bennett

      InPrimate VisionsDonna Haraway offers a reading of primatology—its texts and textbooks, itsNational Geographicdocumentaries, its graduate programs—as a contemporary cultural tale about the natural and the human. She exposes the imprimatur of the myth of Eden on the scientific study of apes. This reading, like any other, proceeds by way of a set of political affirmations, moral priorities, and hopes for the future. Haraway not only unearths the myth within primatology, she crafts an alternative to it. This alter-tale is concerned not with sin but with “the nature and meaning of difference,” not with salvation...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 267-270)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 271-275)