Geopower: A Strato-Analysis of the Anthropocene
What is thought’s relationship with the earth?
—Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?
- Elizabeth Grosz (2008) introduced the term ‘geopower’ some years ago to enlarge the geopolitical discourse and integrate within it the vitalist reservoir of nonhuman forces. She conceived geopower (and geoaesthetics) as art’s passage to the substrata of the earth. We understand why her thought has recently led to a reflection on materials as forces and the inclusion of nonhumans in art, particularly in new materialist research. Differently, in this special issue, La Deleuziana would like to pursue this hypothesis by integrating into new questions arising from the philosophical and ecological literature on the Anthropocene. With the advent of the Anthropocene in philosophical discourse, conceptual work needs to be done to rethink and extend the relation between the earth and thought, a new ecological thought that neither fetishises nature nor simply cancels it out of the equation. Geopower would be the alternative concept to think not of the age of the human (Anthropocene) but the birth of new powers that attack the strata: nature is a battlefield (Keucheyan 2014). And this new battlefield is composed of geophysical, geohistorical, geoeconomic, geophilosophical and geo-fictional forces. We lack a critique of geocapitalism.
- From the 1970s, the climate becomes the object of new sciences (geosciences) that study the human impact on the ecosystem, such as on the air quality, on the ozone layer or global warming due to the greenhouse effect. It is from this period that the climate has come under scrutiny and has challenged societies on their ecological and economic models. At the same time, economists had also begun to integrate predictability in their models to account for complexity and chaos theories. Some economic paradigms started to integrate ever-changing phenomena in their models, like the climate, making it difficult to assess what is really changing or what is meaningful when everything changes. Economists found parallels between the paradigms of turbulence in geosciences and in the self-organising regimes of the market, and partly led to the naturalisation of economic rationality.
- Positions on the Anthropocene can be reduced to at least two conceptions of the Earth: one as a full body and the other an empty body (Neyrat 2016). In the first one, nature still exist and has ontological properties, as an object (natura naturata) and a subject (natura naturans), while in the second, the Earth is seen as a pure object, a prosthetic modernist project, geologically altered by the anthropos and therefore fully malleable to human governance. Therefore, Giovanna Di Chiro (2016) is right to ask: who is the anthropos of the Anthropocene? Does he or she have a race, a class, a gender or a sex? Who is the ‘We’ suddenly produced by the awareness of the geophysical impact of the human activities?
- Thinking the Anthropocene is always an encounter with the enormous question of this majoritarian and consensual anthropos that is contained within it. Some have thought that a new global subject was emerging, a new species-being, while other thinkers have thought of other denominations, releasing the speculative drive – Entropocene, Misanthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene, Sociocene, Anglocene, Thanatocene, and so on. It is as if the Anthropocene has created the conditions for a wild creation of concepts, trying to mark out their difference and position in the concepts themselves. These also reveal confusions in raising climate change as a problem and the difficulty of finding a common language or terrain to enter a dialogue on this issue. In the introduction of the chapter ‘Geophilosophy’, Deleuze and Guattari argue that
Subject and object give a poor approximation of thought. Thinking is neither a line drawn between subject and object nor a revolving of one around the other. Rather, thinking takes place in the relationship of territory and the earth. (Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 85)
Ecological problems were not as central for Deleuze as for Guattari, and his concepts are not immediately present in the debate on the Anthropocene, however there is a necessity to think with Deleuze, through Deleuze at the age of the Anthropocene, when a large geopower is being configured, landscapes altered evermore with geo-engineering and land-grabbing projects. With the great acceleration of global warming and politics, as well as in terms of financial return on investment, and the social return on social engineering policies, the cartography of flows and the geometry of power have metamorphosed. There is a drive to interconnectedness and to smoothen territories into an integrated whole.
- The figures of the migrant and the stranger come once again at the centre of politics, but they have also been powerful motifs of philosophy. The simultaneity of the COP21 in Paris, the terrorist attacks in France and the large influx of people from the Middle-East to Europe due to the Syrian civil war made 2015 a particularly perilous and dangerous year. For Deleuze and Guattari, the unconscious was always territorial and temporal, geographical and historical, full of becomings and returns:
The problem of the unconscious has most certainly nothing to do with generation but rather peopling, population. It is an affair of worldwide population on the full body of the earth, not organic familial generation. (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 30)
The Anthropocene also reconfigures the problem of peopling, and re-peopling, engendering great movements of people, migrants, refugees, strangers, foreigners but also thought. The transformation of identities from strangers and foreigners into migrants, refugees and victims modifies the collective unconscious of the earth as a full body. It is our imagination, and together with it, narratives and metanarratives that are set forth. New fictions are produced when life is dominated by the incapacity of calculating risks and imagining the future. Yet at the same time, we live with a ‘deracination of abstraction’ or an ‘abstraction fever’ (mal d’abstraction), as Derrida (2001) called it, when new technologies and technoscience simulataneously concentrate and diffuse so much abstraction.
- By geopower, we want to make visible the geophysical power relations at play that are erased with contemporary discourses on the end or the death of nature. As Frédéric Neyrat has shown in La Part inconstructible de la terre (2016), the anaturalism of recent theories has conceptually made possible and has legitimated large geo-engineering projects. These projects are based on the simple equation that only more technology can fix technological entropy: technofix (Hamilton 2013). Have we become addicted to technology? The coordinates of the debate are the toxicity of the Anthropocene, the coordinates of either/or: either we accelerate the process or we withdraw and therefore return to some pre-modern and archaic projects of a return to nature. We should not settle for some consensual third way, but we should multiply the coordinates, and avoid universalisms and metanarratives even when they comes as the most sincere, protecting this or that nonhuman, affirming certain hybrid nature of entities and so on. It is not about the love or the hate for technology, technophilia or technophobia, but about distinguishing between different projects of life, different institutions, social norms, lifestyles and so on. By celebrating the end of nature or the originary artificiality of nature, some eco-critics and constructivists end up legitimating technological projects to redesign or reconstruct the earth (the ‘earth stewardship’) that avoid those debates.
La Deleuziana calls for an issue on geopower to study the reconfiguration of power both conceptually and empirically with climate change on the agenda in economic, financial, cultural and anthropological studies and practices. A Deleuziana ecologica to come. The debate on the Anthropocene is a chance to rethink fundamental political, philosophical, technical and social questions but also a danger to invent a supposed sustainability for an unsustainable economic system. The earth and nature are the central concepts of the discussion, constantly altered or rebuted by new scientific reports, new international conferences, and new technological advancements.
- geopower and geophilosophy
- limitations of Anthropocene as a concept
- rethinking Deleuze after the Anthropocene
- political struggles and conflicts in the age of global climate change
- anthropocentrism and capitalocentrism
- geo-constructivism and its limits
- the operability of the notion of earth
- technology and philosophy of nature
- philosophy and territory
- The end of nature and the death of nature in philosophy
- critique of geocapitalism
- climate change and narratives
Derrida, Jacques (2001), ‘Faith and Knowledge’, in Jacques Derrida, Acts of Religion, ed. Gil Anidjar, London: Routledge.
Di Chiro, Giovanna (2016), ‘Environmental Justice and the Anthropocene Meme’, in Teena Gabrielson, Cheryl Hall, John M. Meyer and David Schlosberg, The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Political Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Grosz, Elizabeth, (2008), Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth, Durham: Duke University Press.
Hamilton, Clive (2013), Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering, New Haven: Yale University Press.
Keucheyan, Razmig (2014), La Nature est un champ de bataille, Paris: La Découverte.
Neyrat, Frédéric (2016), La Part inconstructible de la terre, Paris: Le Seuil.
30th November 2016 15th December 2016
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