Matthew G. Gerber
Bio: Matthew G. Gerber is an academic researcher. The author has contributed to research in topics: Rhetoric & Value (ethics). The author has an hindex of 1, co-authored 1 publications receiving 711 citations.
TL;DR: In a recent work, Latour as discussed by the authors argued that mainstream environmental movements are doomed to fail so long as they envision political ecology as inextricably tied to the protection and management of nature through political methodologies and policies.
Abstract: Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy. By Bruno Latour. Translated by Catherine Porter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004; pp. x + 307. $55.00 cloth; $24.95 paper. The academic study of environmental ethics, particularly of "deep ecology," has generated extensive scholarly discussion in recent years. Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences Into Democracy, by French author Bruno Latour, brings a fascinating and bold new twist to contemporary discussions about the nature of "nature." Latour proposes a radical shift in current conceptions of "political ecology," arguing that mainstream environmental movements are doomed to fail so long as they envision political ecology as inextricably tied to the protection and management of nature through political methodologies and policies. Instead, political ecology should abandon socially constructed representations of nature as an uncontrollable monolith. The former perspective is dangerous, Latour argues, because it enables science to silence public deliberation about ecological issues and close off options to prevent pending environmental crises. The rhetoric of science, whose credibility emanates from the dual sources of indisputable expertise and dire warnings, paralyzes the polis. Unable to contest scientific fact, and faced with pending environmental cataclysm, public and political discussion centered on the inevitable question of "What next?" becomes stagnant and devoid of solutions. In the first chapter, Latour argues that "nature is the chief obstacle that has hampered the development of public discourse" (9). Nature, or at least the agreed-upon external reality that is often represented as nature, allows science to render the public sphere voiceless. Unqualified to objectively test and observe natural facts, the polis is relegated to the sidelines, and engages in endless quibbling about matters of value which are a rung lower on the hierarchy of social concerns. The hegemony of science and the god-like status of the scientist, who is the only legitimate liaison between the natural world and the public, render meaningful political discourse impotent. "[T]he Scientist can go back and forth from one world to the other no matter what: the passageway closed to all others is open to him alone" (11). Latour concludes this chapter by examining how Western societies, particularly the United States, use nature to order and organize political life. Uncontestable facts of nature, and rhetoric that represents nature as something to be controlled, protected, or managed, permeate everyday political discourse and decision-making to a degree not seen in other cultures. Having thrown off the yoke of nature, Latour sketches one precondition for a more communal and sustainable political ecology in chapter 2. Here, a critique of anthropocentrism is used to cast off false, socially constructed distinctions between human and nonhuman, including animals and inanimate objects like rocks and trees. Of particular interest to rhetorical scholars, Latour also criticizes at length the modernist belief that speech and the capacity for rational thought distinguish humans from nonhumans. Instead, he posits that political ecology must be recast as a collective of beings both human and nonhuman, both capable of speech and mute: "a slight displacement of our attention suffices to show that nonhumans, too, are implicated in a great number of speech impedimenta" (62-63). This rethinking of the public collective is necessary to prevent scientists from imposing the idea that they definitively represent and speak for nature (the mute objects that they seek so earnestly to protect). …
TL;DR: The critical spirit of the humanities has run out of steam as discussed by the authors and the critical spirit might not be aiming at the right target, which is a concern of ours as a whole.
Abstract: Wars. Somanywars.Wars outside andwars inside.Culturalwars, science wars, and wars against terrorism.Wars against poverty andwars against the poor. Wars against ignorance and wars out of ignorance. My question is simple: Should we be at war, too, we, the scholars, the intellectuals? Is it really our duty to add fresh ruins to fields of ruins? Is it really the task of the humanities to add deconstruction to destruction? More iconoclasm to iconoclasm?What has become of the critical spirit? Has it run out of steam? Quite simply, my worry is that it might not be aiming at the right target. To remain in the metaphorical atmosphere of the time, military experts constantly revise their strategic doctrines, their contingency plans, the size, direction, and technology of their projectiles, their smart bombs, theirmissiles; I wonder why we, we alone, would be saved from those sorts of revisions. It does not seem to me that we have been as quick, in academia, to prepare ourselves for new threats, new dangers, new tasks, new targets. Are wenot like thosemechanical toys that endlesslymake the samegesturewhen everything else has changed around them? Would it not be rather terrible if we were still training young kids—yes, young recruits, young cadets—for wars that are no longer possible, fighting enemies long gone, conquering territories that no longer exist, leaving them ill-equipped in the face of threats we had not anticipated, for whichwe are so thoroughlyunprepared? Generals have always been accused of being on the ready one war late— especially French generals, especially these days. Would it be so surprising,
TL;DR: The authors assesses the contribution of discourse analysis to the study of environmental politics over the period of the past decade and highlight the role of language in politics, its capacity to reveal the embeddedness of language and its ability to answer "how" questions and to illuminate mechanisms.
Abstract: This article assesses the contribution of discourse analysis to the study of environmental politics over the period of the past decade. Defining discourse as a particular linguistic regularity that can be found in conversations distinguishes it from ‘deliberation’ and ‘discussion’. Discourse analysis is seen as focused on situational logics studying ‘language-in-use’. Three strengths of discourse analysis are highlighted: its capacity to reveal the role of language in politics, its capacity to reveal the embeddedness of language in practices and its capacity to answer ‘how’ questions and to illuminate mechanisms. The article concludes by sketching some of the challenges lying ahead of discourse analysis. Given the changing nature of policy making, discourse analysts are supposed to have a task in identifying the new sites of politics and analysing the political dynamics therein.
TL;DR: The notion of politics as usual, that is, an arena populated by rational human beings disputing the power to represent others vis-a-vis the state as discussed by the authors, is insufficient, even an inadequate notion, to think the challenge that indigenous politics represents.
Abstract: In Latin America indigenous politics has been branded as “ethnic politics.” Its activism is interpreted as a quest to make cultural rights prevail. Yet, what if “culture” is insufficient, even an inadequate notion, to think the challenge that indigenous politics represents? Drawing inspiration from recent political events in Peru—and to a lesser extent in Ecuador and Bolivia—where the indigenous–popular movement has conjured sentient entities (mountains, water, and soil—what we call “nature”) into the public political arena, the argument in this essay is threefold. First, indigeneity, as a historical formation, exceeds the notion of politics as usual, that is, an arena populated by rational human beings disputing the power to represent others vis-a-vis the state. Second, indigeneity's current political emergence—in oppositional antimining movements in Peru and Ecuador, but also in celebratory events in Bolivia—challenges the separation of nature and culture that underpins the prevalent notion of politics and its according social contract. Third, beyond “ethnic politics” current indigenous movements, propose a different political practice, plural not because of its enactment by bodies marked by gender, race, ethnicity or sexuality (as multiculturalism would have it), but because they conjure nonhumans as actors in the political arena.
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors argue that the present consensual vision of the urban environment presenting a clear and present danger annuls the properly political moment and contributes to what a number of authors have defined as the emergence and consolidation of a postpolitical and post-democratic condition.
Abstract: In recent years, urban research has become increasingly concerned with the social, political and economic implications of the techno-political and socio-scientific consensus that the present unsustainable and unjust environmental conditions require a transformation of the way urban life is organized. In the article, I shall argue that the present consensual vision of the urban environment presenting a clear and present danger annuls the properly political moment and contributes to what a number of authors have defined as the emergence and consolidation of a postpolitical and postdemocratic condition. This will be the key theme developed in this contribution. First, I shall attempt to theorize and re-centre the political as a pivotal moment in urban political-ecological processes. Second, I shall argue that the particular staging of the environmental problem and its modes of management signals and helps to consolidate a postpolitical condition, one that evacuates the properly political from the plane of immanence that underpins any political intervention. The consolidation of an urban postpolitical condition runs, so I argue, parallel to the formation of a postdemocratic arrangement that has replaced debate, disagreement and dissensus with a series of technologies of governing that fuse around consensus, agreement, accountancy metrics and technocratic environmental management. In the third part, I maintain that this postpolitical consensual police order revolves decidedly around embracing a populist gesture. However, the disappearance of the political in a postpolitical arrangement leaves all manner of traces that allow for the resurfacing of the properly political. This will be the theme of the final section. I shall conclude that re-centring the political is a necessary condition for tackling questions of urban environmental justice and for creating egalibertarian socio-ecological urban assemblages.
TL;DR: The authors argue that climate change produces discordances in established ways of understanding the human place in nature, and so offers unique challenges and opportunities for the interpretive and interpretive interpretation of the human presence in nature.
Abstract: This article argues that climate change produces discordances in established ways of understanding the human place in nature, and so offers unique challenges and opportunities for the interpretive ...