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Against Ecological Sovereignty

Against Ecological Sovereignty: Ethics, Biopolitics, and Saving the Natural World

Series: Posthumanities
Volume: 16
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Against Ecological Sovereignty
    Book Description:

    Against Ecological Sovereignty is a passionate defense of radical ecology that speaks directly to current debates concerning the nature, and dangers, of sovereign power. Mick Smith reconnects the political critique of sovereign power with ecological considerations, arguing that ethical and political responsibilities for the consequences of our actions do not end with those defined as human.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7854-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION A Grain of Sand
    (pp. xi-xxi)

    Darwin’s remark refers, of course, to evolution, the understanding of which is certainly not without political connotations. But what radical ecology contests is human dominion over the natural world—that is to say,ecological sovereigntyin all its many guises. This political contest too may turn on a grain of sand, on a few words, deeds, or circumstances that might alter the pattern of that future predicted by (and predicated on) today’s ecologically and socially destructive forms of life.

    This contest is political because human dominion over the Earth is not, as so many assume, just a theological idea(l) justified...

    (pp. 1-26)

    Among the hundreds of images on the walls of the Lascaux cave, mostly of horses and aurochs, but also including stags, ibex, and bison, only one depicts a human figure. For Georges Bataille (2005), this figure, with its bird head and its animal associate, located in the deep shaft of the cave’s apse, its “Holiest of Holies”¹ held a special importance. The gutted bison, naturalistically rendered, pierced by a spear and with its intestines unraveling, faces this apparently dead but ithyphallic man. Unlike the bison and the cave’s many other animal representations, all so skillfully depicted, this human figure is...

    (pp. 27-64)

    The motive for addressing Plato’s work is not simply because of his subsequent philosophical and ideological influence. Even Western philosophy is far from being, as Whitehead (1978, 39) famously suggested, just “a series of footnotes to Plato.” Still less is it to paint him as ultimately responsible for our current ecological crisis. It is not even to argue that metaphysics and myth should (or could) be entirely abandoned because of the political dangers they pose in conjunction with sovereign power. Rather, tracing the ways in which ethics, politics, and ecology are transformed, defined, and made subservient to such an overarching...

  7. 3 PRIMITIVISM: Anarchy, Politics, and the State of Nature
    (pp. 65-100)

    What political possibilities arise in articulating anarchic ethics with ecology? An obvious question seems to be whether some of these ethical and ecological possibilities have an affiliation with anarchy in a political sense. Might anarchists’ advocacy of an unfettered open texture of social relations extend to challenging the idea of political dominion over the more-than-human world? Although many recent anarchists, like Morris (1996, 58), have claimed that “anarchism implies and incorporates an ecological attitude toward nature,” whether and how it might do so remains a matter of intense debate (Smith 2007b). After all, many anarchists have traditionally been relatively uncritical...

  8. 4 SUSPENDED ANIMATION: Radical Ecology, Sovereign Powers, and Saving the (Natural) World
    (pp. 101-134)

    How, then, to “speak a word for nature,” as radical ecology tries to do, if this speaking is now reimagined as a critique of both the principle of sovereignty and the divisive operations of the anthropological machine? How might the ethical and political concerns of radical ecologists to “save the world” actually be expressed in terms that voice the anarchic aspects of ethics and politics, and what kinds of theoretical constellations might help guide such an endeavor? What, indeed, might saving the world mean?

    The idea of saving the (natural) world has about it an air of ridiculous naivety. First,...

  9. 5 RISKS, RESPONSIBILITIES, AND SIDE EFFECTS: Arendt, Beck, and the Politics of Acting into Nature
    (pp. 135-158)

    “Andwhoare we?” Arendt’s question is addressed to all those capable of understanding it but resonates deeply with any politics that refuses to define a conclusive, once-and-for-all answer that would distinguish the properly human from the improperly inhuman. Who are we, for example, who express our concern to save the natural world? And this is, as Arendt makes clear, a very different question from askingwhatwe are, because this “what” is precisely an attempt to define us as Homo sapiens, 61.8 percent water by weight, gene machines, Mexican citizens, Marxists, homeostatic biological systems, unemployed, close evolutionary relatives of...

    (pp. 159-192)

    How might the relations between political action and ecological (ethical) responsibility begin to be envisaged in such a way that each informs the other and yet neither is made subject to the other? How do we dissolve the claims of sovereignty and yet retain a politics informed by the Good where each is understood as an expression of natality, diversity (plurality), and as exemplifying the appearance of those individuals who feel, speak, and act? Another way of posing the question would be to ask whether an ecological ethics might come to delimit, but not dictate, how political communities choose to...

    (pp. 193-218)

    Several recent texts (most notably, Eckersley 2004) have argued that given the ecologically destructive effects of unfettered economic globalization, good, pragmatic arguments exist for environmentalists to advocate and support a form of green state sovereignty. However, the key question concerning this strategy is not necessarily the plausibility, or as Paterson (2000, 45) argues, the implausibility, of “greening” state institutions but the biopolitical dangers to ecology and politics that sovereignty itself represents.

    The potential erosion of state sovereignty has become a frequent theme in discussions of ecological aspects of globalization. And while there are many different understandings of globalization in terms,...

  12. APOLOGUE In Relation to the Lack of Environmental Policy
    (pp. 219-224)

    The purpose of this book is to open possibilities for rethinking and constituting ecological ethics and politics—so should one need to apologize for a lack of specific environmental policies? Should the book declaim on the necessity of using low-energy light bulbs or of increasing the price of gasoline? Alternatively, should one point out that such limited measures are an apology (a poor substitute) for the absence of any real ecological ethics and politics? Is it possible to read this book and still think that I believe the problem is one of the incompleteness of the current policy agenda and...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 225-246)
    (pp. 247-262)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 263-270)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-271)