“Right and Left have ceased to function today because they have failed to specify the material framework through which to differentiate themselves from each other. Ecological change obliges us to raise more material questions: How many of us are there? Where do we live? What is the climate where we live? What do we eat? How do we exploit each other? How can we place limits on exploitation? These questions are all to do with what we used to call the ‘social question’, but with a definition of ‘social’ that was so narrow that we forgot all the other factors that necessarily constitute the collective.” // Bruno Latour
Bruno Latour is one of the world’s leading sociologists and anthropologists. He is Professor and Vice-President for Research at Institut d’études politiques (Sciences Po). My favourite Latour books include We Have Never Been Modern, Reassembling the Social, and Facing Gaia.
The present ecological mutation has organized the whole political landscape for the last thirty years. This could explain the deadly cocktail of exploding inequalities, massive deregulation, and conversion of the dream of globalization into a nightmare for most people.
What holds these three phenomena together is the conviction, shared by some powerful people, that the ecological threat is real and that the only way for them to survive is to abandon any pretense at sharing a common future with the rest of the world. Hence their flight offshore and their massive investment in climate change denial.
The Left has been slow to turn its attention to this new situation. It is still organized along an axis that goes from investment in local values to the hope of globalization and just at the time when, everywhere, people dissatisfied with the ideal of modernity are turning back to the protection of national or even ethnic borders.
This is why it is urgent to shift sideways and to define politics as what leads toward the Earth and not toward the global or the national. Belonging to a territory is the phenomenon most in need of rethinking and careful redescription; learning new ways to inhabit the Earth is our biggest challenge. Bringing us down to earth is the task of politics today.