Speculative Anarchism & Guattari's Three Ecologies
In the first of what we hope to be a series of group readings, Wild Ecologies encourages participants to read Felix Guattari’s The Three Ecologies (1989) and share insights and commentary intended to stimulate discussion and debate on the possible resonances and potential disconnects between anarchist and post-anarchist positions and 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 political and personal praxis, as well as the more general orientations of ecological thought.
A copy of Guattari’s The Three Ecologies can be read online: HERE
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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)
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).
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…
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Bewilded, by Stephen Duplantier