Reading Group #1

Speculative Anarchism?

an·ar·chism (noun): belief in the abolition of all government and the organization of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without recourse to force or compulsion.

The speculative turn is a phrase that has been used to talk about the way that recent continental philosophy has sought to explode beyond the constraints of endless talk about discourse, language, power-knowledge, textuality, and culture. At the same time the speculative turn also seeks to move passed the frozen obsession with the ‘death of man’ that has, by ceaselessly ensuring that the human, the subject, or Dasein remain the core around which philosophy circles, perpetually enacted a ‘resurrection of man’.

The speculative is about leaving the comfortable waters of human narcissism behind and venturing out once more into the “great outdoors” of objects, material processes, vibrant matter, geological and cosmological time, and thus simultaneously enacting a philosophy that rediscovers the more-than-human ecologies that we are embedded in. Much of this work offers means with which to think the materiality of power and to grasp the cartographies of capitalism.

Key to this is the common theme among the new speculative philosophers and their antecedents on leaving behind the tired distinction between nature and culture. Any anarchism today must be able to think about nature in ways that avoid reproducing the modernist trap of treating it as separate from humans- some raw material “out there” that we can ceaselessly take as exclusively our own inexhaustible means to freedom. We are embedded within ecologies and are ourselves units of alien ecologies.

Many anarchists have engaged with continental philosophy only begrudgingly or not at all. The epithets of idealism, self-importance, separation from everyday concerns, and theoretical self-indulgence, as well as a certain stale boredom, haven’t gone unanswered by certain circles of philosophers, anthropologists and sociologists.

The speculative turn towards materialism and realism offer an opportunity for anarchism to re-engage with a different kind of philosophy. The purpose of a reading group that explores the possibilities of speculative anarchisms will be to assess whether the speculative turn is able to help us make sense of the multiple crises that we find ourselves faced with and whether there is anything that anarchists and anarchist perspectives can make use of in these works. It remains an open question…

Guattari’s The Three Ecologies

“Environmental ecology, as it exists today, has barely begun to prefigure the generalised ecology that I advocate here, the aim of which will be to radically decentre social struggles and ways of coming into one’s own psyche… Ecology must stop being associated with the image of a small nature-loving minority. Ecology in my sense questions the whole of subjectivity and capitalistic power formations.” (p,2)three eco

Félix Guattari was a French psychotherapist and philosopher who founded both ‘schizoanalysis’ and ‘ecosophy’. In the early 1950’s Guattari helped create La Borde, an experimental psychiatric clinic in south Paris, France. He went on to train under (and was analysed by) the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, but is best known for his intellectual collaborations with philosopher Gilles Deleuze – most notably in Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980), and What is Philosophy? (1991). Guattari worked at La Borde from its inception until his death from a heart attack in 1992.

In The Three Ecologies (1989) Guattari’s develops ideas formulated by anthropologist and systems theorist Gregory Bateson in Steps to An Ecology of Mind, wherein he describes three interacting and interdependent ecologies: Social ecology, Mental ecology, Environmental ecology. These three ecologies not only present as sites of negotiation and reconstruction, but also as interchangeable theoretic lenses or perspective styles. They are not distinct territories but formed relationally and transversally. Guattari sought to elaborate and refine these concepts in detail, and along with his own psychoanalytic perspective adding a mutated form of poststructuralist Marxism into the mix. Guattari often presented these ideas as strategies or processes towards a reconstruction of social and individual practices, or what he called “ecosophy”. For Guattari, the “ecosophic problematic is that of the production of human existence itself in new historical contexts” (p.24).

A copy of Guattari’s The Three Ecologies can be read online here:

In the next four or so weeks participants are encouraged to read Guattari’s The Three Ecologies (1989) and provide commentary intended to stimulate discussion and debate on the merits or misses of anarchist and post-anarchist interpretations of one of Guattari’s seminal texts. Our goal is salvage and repurpose whatever valuable insights and practical considerations generated in the collision between psycho-ecological theory and anarchist interventions, as a means of enriching the more general orientations of ecological thought and political praxis.

COMMENTS and related GUEST POSTS welcome


News from the The New Centre for Research & Practice

The New Centre for Research & Practice is very pleased to announce the the first book release by &&& Publishing.

What is Grounding? is Gilles Deleuze’s first seminar, and is distinguished in that, rather than “taking an author from behind and giving him a child that would be his offspring, yet monstrous”, the work focuses instead on the question of grounding, defined both as “the sufficient reason for concrete entities”, and “the point of departure for philosophy”, in translator Arjen Kleinherenbrink’s terms. Rather than foregrounding method, in which human subjective experience remains primary, here Deleuze affirms the centrality of system, of things and the relations between things.

“Nothing less than the ur-text for Deleuze’s pre-1970s philosophy, an original sketch of his main themes and problems, which are all present in intensely compacted form” – Christian Kerslake (Radical Philosophy)


Cover art: Robert Smithson, #7 Red Sandstone Mirror, 1971

Gilles Deleuze What is grounding?
Translation by: Arjen Kleinherenbrink
This translation is from transcripted notes taken by Pierre Lefebvre.
Copyright (1956-57): Emilie Deleuze and Julien.
&&& Series: Mémoires Involuntaire

Publication Date: 25 May, 2015
ISBN 978-0-692-45454-1
eBook, 185 pages.

“Nothing less than the ur-text for Deleuze’s pre-1970s philosophy, an original sketch of his main themes and problems, which are all present in intensely compacted form . . . What is Grounding? is the only one of Deleuze’s lecture courses to devote itself directly to fundamental
philosophical themes, rather than ventriloquising through the ideas of a philosopher of the canon . . . [and] concerns grounding, the great theme of modern philosophy: the starting point, the beginning. How does one begin in philosophy?”
– Christian Kerslake (Radical Philosophy)

This ebook is exclusively intended for Open Access online distribution. It is not to be sold or republished in any physical form.

WILD ECOLOGIES - Guest Post #1: Here Steve Duplantier offers some personal perspective on biodiversity, 
Proudhon and the bewildering complexity within that defies any anthropocentric appeal to a distinction 
between anarchy and order.


by Stephen Duplantier

Speculative, more-than-human turns in both weather and philosophy are best examined locally. Here goes. I live in Costa Rica squarely on the edge of an ecotone with the Bosque Nuboso Los Angeles cloud forest on one side. Moist air blows into the central valley over the Tilaran cordillera from the Pacific and this moisture condenses as clouds and paints us every day with wetness. I am sitting in a dense white-out as I write this. The rainy season began in earnest a few days ago and will add to the daily horizontal rain that we get from the clouds as they sieve through the trees.

Naturalists studying the Neotropics of the Americas are bewildered (a perfect word choice) at the number of species they encounter. It’s not just the naturalists out in the forest seeking new species who run into the biodiversity.  Usually not a cloudy day dawns that I am not able to find tardy insects from the night before who stayed past their curfew. Almost always, I see something I haven’t seen before and will likely never see again. I am friends with Angel Solís, a beetle specialist at the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad. During a visit to the Institute’s collections, he showed me the cabinets full of insects, and especially all the ones discovered and named by him. He has named them after himself, his wife, his children, but at this rate, he doesn’t have enough offspring to continue his family-based nomenclature, though somewhere nearby he surely has enough cousins and kindred.

In the temperate zones, a patch of forest may have several hundred species of all types. Here in the Neotropics, the same-size patch may have tens of thousands of species. A few meters from my door are trees I have not been able to identify below the genus level which receive the daily and nightly moisture from the blowing mountain clouds. Nearly every branch and branchlet of theses trees is festooned with living things—epiphytes, lichens, mosses, fungi, liverworts, cacti, ferns, bromeliads, and orchids. These usually small plants are attached firmly to the branches trapping dust particles and moisture forming a living raft of small scale bewilderment. These branch-sized biospheres can be thick as a few centimeters and much thicker on the older and bigger branches. There are even epiphytes growing on the epiphytes creating impossibly-complex miniature forests in what seems like a limitless fractal repetition of forms with a bewildering—that word again—mutually assistive assortment of species. The ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon live on vibrantly in the rain and cloud forests. Property may be theft, but what is it when things grow mutually on top of something, and something grows on them? Usually the layered growth is commonly beneficial. I haven’t even considered insects and the other phyla found throughout the epiphytic environments, but they are in there, helping, maybe eating some leaves.

The experiences of naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace in 1895 in the rainforests of the Americas led him to observe that when noticing a particular tree species and wanting to see more like it, it might not be possible to find one, even with searching the area. He might find a similar one, but on closer examination discover that it was very likely distinct. He was adrift in a forest of singularities. Darwin wrote, “The land is one great wild, untidy luxuriant hothouse, made by nature for herself.” Forgive Darwin’s personification of nature: his point shines through about a more-than-human feeling and experience. This is the “tangled bank” he described which seems to care not a strangler fig about soft-fleshed naturalists penetrating its thickness. That  tangled wildness which ignored passing naturalists, even one as great as Darwin, is today entangled with others of Darwin’s species—those now-ubiquitous bipeds dragging Anthropogenic dread behind most everything they do.

branchBack to the branch. The order/anarchy distinction makes no sense on the branch of a tree in a cloud forest. The anarchy is the order.  Each tiny plant is a singularity for all practical purposes, following the primary biodiversity rule of occupying all available space and multiplying species as much as necessary and possible. The tree is filled with branches of miniature forests such that it is hard to see the tree for the tiny forests encrusting the branches. Where the branch ends and the epiphytic community begins is not easy to determine. But the tiny epiphyte community is bigger by one large biped when I look at it. My interest in the branch and the tree hooks me into a tiny corner of that biome in what I want to be a friendly way. But the contact is complicated by my human entanglement and seemingly inextricable backstory enmeshment in the Anthropocene. I have a car parked not far away. Doesn’t it seems like the epiphytes have a not-so-friendly neighbor—me! It’s not personal. I am happy to have these tiny complex neighbors. But it is me who is bringing the epiphytic neighborhood property values down.

The high species richness across many taxons with individual phenotype rarity is the tropical pattern worldwide. Costa Rica has more overall species richness than is found even in Amazonia, counting epiphytes, herbs, shrubs and trees. Why so much diversity in Costa Rica? There is no one simple answer since interrelated ecological forces are operating, but a short answer is that if conditions permit it, diversity happens. Two main factors apply here: given abundant resources resources and the absence of killing frost, high biological diversity will occur. This is the multiplying singularity and order found in wild anarchy for free.

An unheralded consequence unleashed by the anthropogenic liberation of carbon and the effects of the greenhouse gases warming of the oceans and raising world temperatures will be less frost and therefore more biodiversity. Less frost will catalyze more successful speciation and evolution. Warming trends equal accelerating diversity trends. In the human-scale sphere, can this trend continue? Singularities are primed to increase in anarchies of oneness. Wild ecologies emerge when anarchy is free and abundant. At least that’s what my branch told me this morning


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