Isabelle Stengers – The Cosmopolitical Proposal (pdf)

From Isabelle Stengers’ ‘The Cosmopolitical Proposal’ (pdf):

How can I present a proposal intended not to say what is, or what ought to be, but to provoke thought; one that requires no other verification than the way in which it is able to “slow down” reasoning and create an opportunity to arouse a slightly different awareness of the problems and situations mobilizing us? How can this proposal be distinguished from issues of authority and generality currently articulated to the notion of “theory”? This question is particularly important since the “cosmopolitical” proposal, as I intend to characterize it, is not designed primarily for “generalists”; it has meaning only in concrete situations where practitioners operate. It furthermore requires practitioners who – and this is a political problem, not a cosmopolitical one – have learned to shrug their shoulders at the claims of generalizing theoreticians that define them as subordinates charged with the task of “applying” a theory or that capture their practice as an illustration of a theory.

This difficulty introduces one of the themes of this article: the distinction and inseparable nature of political and cosmopolitical proposals. I try to show that when proposals corresponding to what can be called “political ecology”, the politicization of “positive” knowledge-related issues or practices concerning “things”, become relevant, the cosmopolitical proposal can become so as well. In other words, this proposal has strictly no meaning in most concrete situations today but it can be useful to those who have already effected the “political shift” associated with political ecology, and thus learned to laugh not at theories but at the authority associated with them. Another theme in this article, related to the first, is the question of the vulnerability of this type of proposal, exposed to all possible misinterpretations and above all to their very predictable theoretical

Just for the record Isabelle Stengers is not Bruno Latour.

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