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Re: <nettime> Foundations for "Anthropocene Socialist" Movement
nicholas on Sun, 6 Jan 2019 05:22:41 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Foundations for "Anthropocene Socialist" Movement


Normally I find myself agreeing with Brian’s posts, so its an odd feeling to be at odds with your recent ones. When Vincent wrote ‘where is the surplus’ I didn’t take that as meaning where is the kit, plans (of which there are endless shelves), materials and people, but where is the power. What is it that people can draw on to create change. If anything the disconnect between the immense wealth (and immense pollution) generated by Capital and the global surplus population hammers home the question: how are we to take the two and create change.

Often there are dismissals of ‘local’, small or immediate scales (that society can’t be made in a utopian way as you write), followed by calls for either state action or a global leviathan - both as old as the first campaigns against climate change (and, as Doreen Massey noted, part of a logic of globalisation where the global creates the local as an impoverished and powerless scale). I’d suggest the global political scale imagined as necessary is really less than that - it is a technocratic artefact born from a particular way of seeing the world, one that comes from how we ‘see’ climate change. Scaling is a misleading concept - while climate change is a planetary problem, this does not require a global solution, or even a singular solution.

There are a myriad of scales, sites, and networks between the nation and the individual household. There are endless possibilities for change. Tackling the principle corporate actors would be a good start. Building on the power of those actors who the nation-state often responds to and tries to contain with tame reforms - from activist, community and indigenous groups to trade unions and NGOs - would be another approach. Not merely to put pressure on government, but to start to go in, against and critically beyond the state. Ways of life must be changed, most for the better, but what needs to change will be radically different from place to place around the world.

Government has failed systematically for decades now. People have been calling for the creation - or emergence - of movements to put pressure on the nation-state for just as long. I don’t think change must begin with nation-states. I think if anything the obsession within environmental circles with the nation-state stems more from a lack of faith in our collective capacities to self-organise than any sense that taking over the nation-state is any real solution. Reaching for the magic state button won’t help at this point. Do we really think we have the time to build these movements, get into power, work through the muck of governmental mechanisms, then implement policies and legislation? We are past that slow march. We need plans, and sites of struggle, but they have to be at other scales at this point imho. This doesn’t mean not  engaging in forms of governance (particularly at regional and city levels), nor not aiming to shape policy and governance. It does mean not making the nation-state and global governance the focus of any radical anthropocene politics.

nicholas

On 06/01/2019 03:44, Brian Holmes wrote:
On Sat, Jan 5, 2019 at 6:03 PM Florian Cramer <flrncrmr {AT} gmail.com> wrote:

Your wording is interesting, because it connects "emergence" with the "state". Since the classical concept of emergence evolved around self-organization, it was decentralist. The state is a (more or less) centralist concept. The way you put it, it sounds as if you didn't have one particular state in mind, but a global concept of statehood that can enact global policies.

Well, I must not put it very clearly then. I think it should begin with national states. I mostly speak about the US, because I am a citizen and because the US is big enough to set production standards and exert technological and organizational leadership. This would be of enormous benefit to all other countries that are trying to decarbonize. But mind you, Germany's efforts, self-contradictory as they are, have already been of great benefit. China, too, can set production standards, but it's totally undemocratic, a bad pathway in my view, at least for the so-called West.

De facto world governance is multilateralism. It's exerted on a case-by-case basis, mostly as needed for global interoperability issues (for example, air-traffic control, see icao.int). Multilateral agreements are crucial to climate change policy, witness Kyoto, Paris, etc: I would not suggest throwing those out. But they cannot be expected to work before some large nations provide viable examples. As for de jure world government, it appears impossible either politically or even militarily. There was a big push for it after WWII and it failed.

When I say the desire to change the energy grid is emergent, it just means that very many people are thinking about it, forming organizations, pushing for laws, exploring technical inventions, forging concepts and metrics, etc. The point is to make those things into national policy. Multilateralism will follow. The physics of dissipative structures tells us that emergent behavior precedes a phase change: "order out of chaos," to quote the title of a great book. Many complexity theorists have adopted that notion. I frequently used it to talk about the crystallization of a new techno-economic paradigm after a major crisis (it actually happened after 2008 in China, but not yet in Euro-America). I think that the physics language is only metaphorical though.

Gumbrecht's characterization of Trump as an "impulse-driven activist without a world-picture" is perfect, but his conclusion--basically, "well, we are cooked anyway"--is both lamentable and irrelevant. As the world heats up, actions will be taken. Of course there is no guarantee whatsoever about which actions, with which results. The way I see it, the "we are cooked" position just leaves intellectuals some free time before the beginning of massive interstate conflict over climate-change consequences, which will clearly happen under a business-as-usual scenario. In the meantime they can enjoy the news from the southern borders, where piecemeal carnage is already going on. Such a position is undignified. It demands that I destroy in my own self so many ideals, principles, norms, psychic constructs, affects - I just can't do it. Life would lose its savor. Far better to work towards better outcomes.

Actually I find the website that runs intermittently on solar power much more enjoyable than the Spiegel article, thank you!

best, Brian

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