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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 March 2020
The increasingly pressing need to politicize ecology depends on our capacity to conduct a critique of modern politics, reexamining its fundamental concepts and its history. This thesis, developed in Bruno Latour’s most recent book, Facing Gaia, raises the question of what kind of critique is best adapted to this end. This article seeks to address this question by tracing the arguments of Facing Gaia and its recomposition of the relations between science, politics, and religion. These relations, which are constitutive of the experience of modernity, appear differently depending on the conception of collectives that one emphasizes and how one understands their anchoring in their environment. Unlike Latour, this essay argues that it is within the framework of modern societies, understood as an entirely new kind of collective whose history has been distorted and ignored by modernist ideology, that a conception of a specifically ecological justice must be formulated. The critique that is necessary to the politicization of ecology implies a new way of determining the actors involved in the environmental crisis, breaking the particular ties that modernity has forged between societies, the forms of self-awareness they produce as they develop, and the expectations of justice that result from them.
This article was translated from the French by Amy Jacobs-Colas and edited by Chloe Morgan and Stephen Sawyer.
Warm thanks to Antoine Lilti and Gildas Salmon for their readings and wise remarks.
1 See the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2015, https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf, particularly article 4, § 4 of the Paris Agreement: “Developing country Parties should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances.”
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14 “Lastly, the pacts and covenants, by which the parts of this body politic were at first made, set together, and united, resemble that fiat, or the Let us make Man, pronounced by God in the Creation”; Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan: Or the Matter, Forme and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil (London: Andrew Crooke, 1651), 1Google Scholar. In this passage, according to Latour, we can detect the founding proposition of modern political philosophy.
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18 Latour, Facing Gaia, “Fifth Lecture: How to Convene the Various Peoples (of Nature)?” 167ff.
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23 It is important to reexamine Polanyi’s central concepts if we are to adjust to the political challenge of climate change in a way consistent with socialist thinking. On this subject, see recent texts by Pierre Charbonnier, particularly, “Le socialisme est-il une politique de la nature ? Une lecture écologique de Karl Polanyi,” Incidence 11 (2015): 183–204.
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34 Latour, Facing Gaia, 140.
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38 For an overview of contractual mechanisms, see Terrel, Jean, Les théories du pacte social. Droit naturel, souveraineté et contrat de Bodin à Rousseau (Paris: Éd. du Seuil, 2001)Google Scholar. For a critique of the contractualist model as a limitation in modern political thought, see Duso, Giuseppe, ed., Il contratto sociale nella filosofia moderna (Milan: Franco Angeli, 2006)Google Scholar.
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44 Latour, Facing Gaia, 153.
45 Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, 210–11, n. 6.
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