(Updated: 20 July 2015)
This text corresponds to the full English version of the Specbook (version 3 / Sunday 27 July 2014) written (mostly in French) during the Diplomatic writing workshop, and given to the 'Chargés d'affaire' (Final Evaluation Conference). It has been translated in English by Michael L. Thomas, Cormac O'Keeffe and Stephen Muecke.
Please note that this text was collectively written in a very specific context: the diplomatic writing week at École des Mines, Paris (2014) and that some parts were highly discussed - see the final section entitled 'Our disagreements with the proceedings'. For this reason it should be considered more as a work in progress (drafts) rather than a definitive conclusion of the AIME project.
One part of this Specbook ("Our Nature") has been corrected/updated/translated and published in Environmental Humanities (See our blog post: http://www.modesofexistence.org/reinstituting-nature-a-latourian-workshop/).
1/ We have come here to offer you this text, having in mind the importance of the negotiation that brings us together. This text means a lot to us. So we are all the more dependent on you for its redrafting. It is the result of considerable collective work carried out over several years. It is a curious exercise we are embarking upon here. We want to call this diplomacy, yet no one has commissioned us, and there are no camps. So it is a kind of internal diplomacy that we are talking about. Like all good diplomats, let’s begin by introducing ourselves. The point of introductions which are polite and civil is that they emphasise that there are certain things which we are really attached to without really knowing how to define them. This is the uncertain object of this conference that brings us together.
2/ This internal diplomatic exercise does not come for free. It is also an attempt to respond to external pressures and to the ecological crisis that confronts us all today. It is precisely because there is this urgency that we need to give ourselves some time. Our history is full of crimes, violence and tears. It is not because things are serious that we should not risk speaking freely about them.
3/ We have a history and we have ancestors. We accept their heritage, but ancestors are made to talk of the future. Neither the weight of the past, nor the urgency of the present should stop us talking of what is to come. Somewhat like diplomats leaving their weapons at the door, we should not let the weight hold us back from talking and acting. In this, we will need your help. In this text we are giving you, we have tried to think anew about what we used to believe in, and what we hold dear. It is up to you to agree to hear our propositions.
[Please note that an updated version of this part of the specbook, published in Environmental Humanities, is available on our blog)
4/ We Moderns are terribly proud of the fact that we can think of ‘nature’ as it really exists, independently any kind of culture or belief. The experimental sciences have this kind of pride when they are successful, when it becomes possible to say, “nature has spoken”. But this pride also appears when it is possible to make general, one-size-fits-all, judgements about the knowledge of other peoples (often without even knowing them) who are supposed to ‘mix’ nature and cultural beliefs.
5/ But how can we define this nature? Now things get complicated. One could say that there is a kind of Nature as in St Augustine’s time: as long as we are not asked, we know what it is, but when we are asked to define it, we Moderns no longer know. Or more exactly, we know how to have an argument about it. Nature can be secret, hostile, nurturing, mechanical, sublime, infinite, in danger, or even capable of making humans endowed with reason agree with each other…
6/ In these disputes, philosophy has played an indeterminate role. In one way or another, it has pretty much left the idea of a generally knowable nature alone. Sometimes it has added a layer to it that is supposed to escape from science (nature natured/nature naturing), or, on the contrary, has reduced it to what constitutionally allows for scientific knowledge (the Kantian solution). But philosophy has only dramatized what Whitehead calls the “bifurcation of nature”—on one side an “objective” nature, blind to our values, indifferent to our projects; and on the other a nature which is very stuff of our dreams, values and projects. By doing this, it has created the monster of “naturalisation”, which reduces our dreams, values and human projects to blind functions; it has given consistency to a nightmare which feeds the arrogance of some scientists by offering them a carrot, but a poisoned one. And it has constructed, in order to keep this nightmare at a distance, the grand theme of the human exception: go ahead, reduce rabbits [to nature], but leave Man alone! As Leakey and Lewin wrote in The Sixth Extinction, “Western culture has not only come to consider man as a special being (which we are in many respects), but also as a being separated from the rest of the world. It is as if we arrived on Earth in our current form, fully formed, to exercise our dominion over the other earthly creatures.”
7/ Today, this kind of sentiment partly explains a sort of indifference or scepticism in regard to Gaia. It is as if nature were acting out of character. She is no longer that which human rationality conquers, but that which plunges us into disarray; she is no longer the backdrop for our human projects, with no project of her own, but is mixed in with our dreams, values and projects. How can one not give in to the double temptation of either climactic scepticism, or geoengineering, that would put nature back in her place as the thing we should be able to dominate?
8/ Added to the disputes tearing Moderns apart is the fact that, for many other collectives, Nature doesn’t exist. It is neither a representation, nor a concept, nor a problem, nor a place, nor a totality. For these collectives we are neither in Nature, nor face to face with it. So by what right do we make our institution of nature the one capable of fixing the problems facing them? The answers to the changes affecting their ways of life do not therefore go via the institution of a universal Nature allowing the determination of rational solutions. Even if it were done in such a way that they could go along with it! Even if it were not reduced to statistical management models, pure calculations, likely to amplify the problems when not creating new ones. We are a long way from the pride of the experimenters when they say, “nature has spoken.”
9/ So to protect what we would like to have as wild Nature (the fascination for “wilderness”), we come to the paradox of eliminating actors who are absolutely essential for the relations making up this territory. For example, in order to protect Alaskan caribou, a management plan was put in place that had the good idea of culling wolves. To fall into line with this pastoral ideal, the caribou just had to transform themselves into sheep, for which we would be the peaceful and contented shepherds. All of the elements of our own idea of wilderness (sublime, innocent, independent of us, and with a hostile and terrifying power) are at the same time annihilated by our rearrangements and indifferent management of what the territory was asking of us.
10/ We can also cite the case of quotas on crab fishing in the Cape. How are we supposed to react to the exhaustion of the crab population, which is too hard for the western managers, and impoverishes those who live off the harvest? The Modern reaction is to impose quotas via quantitative modelling, which is politically opposed by the local fishers. But above all, this modelling is exceeded by the crabs themselves. Far from confining themselves to the role of resource, or biomass, they become agents who betray the modelling attempts: as a result of global warming there have been mass migration or deaths.
11/ How can Nature be instituted otherwise, in such a way that she isn’t tempted to take on board those multiplicities of territorial relations that she has not learned to see? And besides, should she insult scientists by relativising their successes, denying the specificity of their practices, their capacity to gain access to what they call Nature?
2. Due attention
12/ We don’t want a hegemonic nature nor a domesticated one, waiting politely to be known. So the important question here for us is how to “institute” a nature which can respect what scientists care about. This requires us to resist two temptations, one that would make it occupy all available space and the other that would assign it a determined place, neutralising it and making it incapable of interfering with other values and other institutions.
13/ We would like to carry forward a seemingly insignificant proposition of Alfred North Whitehead. But, if used, it allows us to situate nature without assigning it a place. It also allows us to diagnose the by-products of the former institution, especially what it failed to protect.
14/ “We are instinctively willing to believe that by due attention, more can be found in nature than that which is observed at first sight. But we will not be content with less.”
15/ Here the “we” is indeterminate and concerns non-humans as much as humans, and cannot be reduced to an observing subject. The attention of an animal on the alert, facing possible danger, is testimony to the fact that there are ways of learning “more” about the source of a noise (is it a predator?).
16/ “Nature” is already linked to a “more to be found” which can satisfy the requirements of experimental scientists—their form of realism. It can happen that if one lends due attention to whatever one is dealing with, that more can be learned about it. What they will not accept, what the alert rabbit’s ears are witness against, is a variable nature, the stuff of a kaleidoscopic dream, which is assembled, which unravels, which metamorphoses itself each time the manner of paying attention to it changes, or that attention dissolves (or deconstructs) that to which we were willing to pay attention.
17/ Another indeterminate expression is “due attention”. We know that this attention is not general, but is, when “nature” is involved, articulated to the possibility of “finding more”. But the question as to what attention is appropriate, in one case or another for learning more, is open, and it is here that we can raise the question of the so-called modern sciences.
18/ The possibility of accessing remote things associated with the experimental origins (Galileo) of modern sciences did not tie them to becoming the exclusive synonym for the possibility of “learning more”. Nor was the question of “due attention” tied to reducing itself to chains of reference as the one quality. Creating stable chains of reference that allow a transfer of “immutable mobiles” [REF] is, however, an achievement we want to retain. We don’t want to weaken in any way the fact that due attention, when scientists start having disputes, translates a genuine trust: that which we are lending our attention to can sometimes be rendered capable of confirming that “more” has well and truly been found. And yet it is the general blindness, of the type of attention that experimental sciences are used to, which Whitehead’s formulation left undetermined, that we have to battle against when we are dealing with reinstalling nature and civilising the sciences.
19/ Experimental sciences allow us to access things at a distance, but this distance also means indifference. Indifference is a prerequisite for reference [REF], and, more broadly, for the experimental sciences. It can’t be said often enough: the work that produces accessibility assumes indifference to whatever it is that access is being created for. Imagine a Mt Aiguille that is sensitive, ticklish, changing its shape every night because it doesn’t like the way the trail markers are sticking into it. Or even cooperative, producing by itself a whole lot of markers because that seems to be what is interesting. What we are studying has to be indifferent to our questions in order for us to keep coming back, adjusting, asking “but then” or “and so” to whatever we have found.
20/ In contrast, facts in social psychology, for example, have a short life-span—the time needed for the guinea-pigs to understand what is going on in the situation they have been put into and what is expected of them. This is not a matter of a general “limit”, but of a signal. In this case, if we need to “learn more” about it, the question of “due attention” has to be put once again. So, “due attention” has a local dimension, it is not a given that it will succeed. You have to ask yourself to what extent you can learn from what you are addressing and what mode of address the thing requires. We have to become sensitised to whatever “learn” or “find more” requires or asks for. Indifference may be characteristic of certain existents, but to ask an animal or a human to become indifferent to the questions one asks, means turning them into zombies. Giving an animal the right kind of attention also means finding a way of making the question interesting for it. Learning as an ethologist thus means addressing an animal interested in what it is doing, capable of teaching us what kind of attention is needed. This independence makes it possible to assert that it is from it and through it that we have learned. In the social sciences, in anthropology, the question of “asking to learn more” never stops being asked, but it is especially likely to enter into composition with other preoccupations. We think it important to note that this question never, in any situation, means anything other than the creation of a particular kind of relation, for which the value is one of allowing one to “find more”.
21/ Going back, what we used to call “nature” implied the association of the modern sciences with an overarching kind of method. Thus, the local and situated success of experimentation, ever since Galileo, been used as a model for overarching method that can access any terrain, instead of being added to other modes of attention. Galileo himself began the betrayal of what he successfully instaured. Masking the local character of his success, he opposed what he learned to everything else, coming under a category labelled “horrible relativism”. His was the only way to “talk well” about nature, opposed to the rest which was arbitrary fiction or meaningless chatter. That way he emptied even nature of everything that did not satisfy the requirement of indifference.
22/ Science exemplifies the possibility of finding more, and the paradox is that science wants to accept that there is less, always less to find. For example, finding the molecules associated with the odour of a particular wine (stabilising an objective and independent mode of access), means adding a new being to the world that allows the reconfiguration of production practices, the training of the palate, etc. The paradox becomes striking once someone claims that the odour of the wine “is only” this molecule, an appalling statement, “you believe, we know”, and “that’s all it is” and thus we destroy all the complexity of the practices associated with wine. The same happens when, from the discovery of incredible neuronal entanglements, a war machine is produced aiming to reduce all experience and all thought to a nasty little naturalism concerning neuronal interaction. The main business of the moderns is synonymous with “to naturalise”, submitting oneself to the narcissistic wounds inflicted by Reason (“Man is only …”) or resisting the assaults of “objectivism” devoted to destroying the treasures of a human subjectivity.
23/ If only this were a just a mistake … The consequences have been catastrophic, a machine has been unleashed producing arrogant and vacuous scientists, but also a war machine that eradicates, directly connected to other machines of appropriation and expropriation. The simple fact of speaking of “nature”, including cases of protecting it, keeping it the way it is, “against” humans, a vacuousness peculiar to ecologists full of good faith and good will, can be part of the eradication machine. We are certainly not paying due attention to the hunt for caribou, crucial for the peoples of the American far north. We define this hunt as something that must be eradicated, that threatens declining caribou numbers. Learning more about it here will not necessarily have solved the problem, but it would at least have avoided the indignity of suggesting to these people that they become farmers planting winter-resistant GM potatoes. This vacuousness of overarching solutions is coupled with a vision of nature as wilderness (mirror to our own savagery), always independent of humans, which should be protected from them, that is, needing to be redefined for the caribou to survive protected, scrutinised, their predators removed, in short, “humanised”.
24/ It is not only in the encounter with other peoples that this problem arises. At the heart of modernity, the nature of the moderns became a cemetery of practices sacrificed on the altar of hegemonic method. Today, any practice is a surviving one, keeping itself alive despite the eradication. Even the “due attention” cared for and nurtured by experimental scientists is threatened by the objectively evaluated imperative for finding something publishable or patentable.
25/ In reinstituting nature we are obliged to make the question of due attention a crucial one. We have to resist the temptation of making nature something that can be defined once and for all. We don’t want to give up the possibility of learning more about it, but this is no authorisation for judgements about learning about the new, as if this were the destiny and duty of humanity…
3. Civilising Nature : We belong to the Earth
26/ We have to rethink the institution of nature under the constraints of Gaia. In order to respond to these we have to resist both the negativity of climate deniers and the search for direct answers, that is global ones, to the questions arising by the irruption of Gaia. If Gaia translates our knowledge that the climactic disorder that we are experiencing is part of a process that will always get increasingly worse, then this knowledge relates to the work of the specialists in group 1 of the IPCC. As such, we can say that Gaia is an example of what we “have found more” of in relation to terrestrial climate, and thus is part of nature. Here the relation between science and nature takes on a particularly singular appearance in the sense that the fact of finding more, which is generally communicated with the fact of being able to do more, is here likely to frighten “the finders”, forcing a whistle-blowing role on them. The models are “neutral” in the sense that what they are talking about is well and truly indifferent to them, but they speak of a direct relation to the disorder that is threatening human activity (characterised in a neutral language in terms of gas emissions and greenhouse effects). The temptation to be resisted here is that the alarm be transformed via other institutions into a new type of power, or of duty, that of imposing Gaia on other peoples of the Earth. Let not the disarray of the moderns become an obligation for other peoples of the Earth. This is not, of course, a matter of the other peoples being ignorant. Everywhere on the earth, situations like in the Amazon or the far north, from the vineyards of Burgundy to the Cape Town crabs, are witness to an undeniable disarray. It is a matter of refusing to recognise that the truth of this disorder that affects humans and non-humans would have as its truth the same universal natural cause.
27/ The knowledge that the irruption of Gaia comes from global models and can only be global, is a knowledge that as such is doubly silent: First, on the disorders that affect and will affect different terrestrial localities, precisely because the global variables do not authorise local derivations (example: the ecological, human and economic consequences… in a given place, of a rise in temperature predicted by the global model, are not known and do not play a part in the model), but also and above all because these variables have nothing to do with the way in which humans and non-humans can respond to these disorders. The only response that this type of global knowledge can provide would be in the order of a “simple” reduction in greenhouse gasses. Such a response implies such an abstract universality that it can only correspond to a statistical bureaucracy which would thus make nature into a universal institution, or the dream of sorcerer’s apprentices of geo-engineering.
28/ Civilising the institution of nature implies a strong distinction between nature and earth. On nature, we will say that it is in part tied to the possibility of “finding more”, and that it is what we are dealing with in this modality. On the Earth, we will say we belong to it, just like all other collectivities. Thus Gaia is not another name for the Earth. Gaia is what the IPCC models and numbers teach us about (reinstituted) nature. Otherwise, this would mean that the earth would be put under the sign of a globality belonging to scientific modelling which allows us to find more. The signification of Gaia is that of question that intensifies relations in all terrestrial locations, but in no case is confused with the problems put to human and non-human terrestrial collectives. Gaia does not have the power of unifying these localities, nor of unifying the manner in which the response will be given to these local disorders.
29/ Among these collectives, there are those reuniting the scientific institution. The problem for this collective is to do things in such a way that the consequences of what they are calling nature can still be in play in each terrestrial situation. This implies a double constraint. First, the mode of “due attention” to learn more should assert its situated character. Then, this mode should be articulated with other modes of attention, relating especially to other institutions. A current example is that of agroecology. The knowledge of modern agriculturalists only finds value and significance to the extent that it responds to the knowledges and requirements of farmers, of concrete milieus, of constraints to do with distribution and marketing. It is a case of “slow” science, which the institution, the way it is working at the moment, could not but eliminate, if the concerns of other modes, in particular the political, did not insist on its importance.
30/ At the heart of a village in Mali we find this particular structure made of wood and straw. It offers a confined and secure place to discuss the problems of the village – issues that each discussant may have passionate feelings about, but that will have to be solved collectively. This “parliament” has an intriguing particularity: its roof is fixed at the height of about one meter. This physical constraint inhibits the irruption of overwhelming or violent passions. Those speaking in this space cannot get too excited… they cannot stand up… or if they do they must mind their heads! The structure on the photo helps to solve the problem of how a plurality of beings may learn how to live together, to build a common world, to get on the road to collective action when events call for them. In Mali’s village, politics is thus confined in a double way: it can neither go too high, nor too low. (That is: before in Mali events took over and civil war and killing on large scale emerged…)
31/ In a similar way, we could say that we, as Moderns, have also set a particular space for politics, associating it with particular institutions (such as governments, parliaments, congress, etc.), particular actions and activities (those of politicians, representing the electorate). Again, a space for politics is set up by the constitution, laws and regulations and procedures, to deliberate matters of common concern, non violently.
32/ However, compare the Mali structure to the ornate architectures of the European parliaments — large, airy spaces crowned with domes, replete with plush leather seats and all manners of historically profound decoration. Here there might seem to be no constraint. Interlocutors are not ‘sandwiched’ by a dusty floor or thatched roof: they are allowed to shout, to stand up, to be rude, and so on. However, they are placed under an altogether different set of demands: they are placed within a space that demands perfection, unity, rationality; a space that demands a speech act as perfect, grand and untarnished as the room itself. With the high ceilings there come high hopes : here, in the formal institutions of politics, the amazing value of Autonomy is supposed to be embodied — a people that sets its own laws.
33/ There is of course a huge difference in the scale produced by the two. Contemporary states extend their presence in time and space in ways that the Mali's village council does not, through the delegation of a variety of actors (army, police, bureaucracy of the public administration, legal texts, communications systems, etc.). The totalizing effect of the second is incomparable to the first.
34/ Disappointment however soon will take over. The autonomy that is promised is threatened by events, ecological catastrophes, the actions of other states. The People no longer feel properly represented. The power of the state is weakened by financial markets, multinational corporations. The High Hopes that are invested in politics meet Deep Disappointments about politics. It is not only that we realize that we didn’t reach our expectations; it is also that sometimes we realize we have fought for something that we are retrospectively appalled by. Isn’t it one of the mood that the history of 20th Century and in particular of its emancipatory ideals let us on? Cynicism then soon takes over. Cynicism in politics and cynicism about politics.
35/ The faux problème “politique” is the mistaken belief that in a properly open space of public assembly one could, by presenting a flawlessly direct, rational argument [DC], achieve a consensus purely by the automatic, necessary recognition of rational truth by essentially rational beings. However, the rationality of politics is “bounded rationality,” politics is a balancing act – a process to accommodate the tension between, on the one hand, the plurality of interests, passions, experiences, opinions and, on the other hand, the need that collective decision is necessary to solve problems, that we have to co-exist, consider ourselves a community, or a polis.
36/ Politics then is a mode of existence that has disappointment built in, simply because unrealistic expectations are also always already constitutive of the political mode of enunciation. We need to compromise to live together, we need to learn to ‘live with’ decisions we have to accept, while we still may passionately disagree with them. But this disappointment should be carefully distinguished from the Deep Disappointment that come from investment of too high hopes in the process.
37/ This is not, of course, to devalue passions or to make them ‘bad.’ Simply, there are good passions and bad passions; passions that enliven the political process and those that destroy it by departing from the felicity conditions of POL. There are passions that politicise and passions that depoliticise -- we have, to date, not learned the difference. This is a qualitative difference in passions, not simply quantitative. The Moderns once thought that ‘rationality’ was the reduction or even the elimination of passions. We are now sure that this is absurd. It is a matter of having the right kind of passion, the kind of passion that does not lead to war but rather to mobilisation and negotiation.
38/ We need a deflated notion of politics. That is [POL]. Deflation from the grandiosity of its ostensive ornaments and deflation from the totalizing and unifying effect of the state.
39/ [POL] pertains to a rationality that understands its role as the negotiation of estrangement amidst mutual constraints that burden the interlocutors but, at the same time, bring them together. In this conceptual space there can be no unity per se but there can be other valuable results.
Contrasting VALUE and INSTITUTION
40/ In order to contrast value and institution, the moderns first need to elucidate where the misplaced belief making up the false political problem comes from. This clarification in turn requires a sharper notion of institution. In everyday discourses, 'institution' is used to describe stabilized 'entities', made durable through legal texts and artefacts (parliaments, senate, councils, etc.). Another use of 'institution' is to describe sets of stabilized practices, both formal and informal. The institution of marriage, the institution of the four o'clock tea, or any set of practices that calls into being certain typical actor, carrying out a typical activity, in a typical setting.
41/ The current institution of [POL] involves both, of course. On the one hand, [POL] as a mode of existence involves first and foremost down-to-earth, daily political institutionalized practices : holding elections, making speech acts, drafting and amending laws, accusing the adversary, rationalizing decision, negotiating with others, demonstrations, occupations, strikes and riots, etc., most often in fairly scripted ways (formally and informally). On the other hand, these practices bring into being the political stabilized 'entities' or institutions, such as the state, the senate, etc. These political institutions being constantly reified and objectified in everyday discourses and practices, have become the object of misplaced hope and belief making up part of the false political problem. They became the bearer of the modern political values of commonality, control of the means of violence, and common good. The process of objectification led the moderns to downplay the role of the political experience, the daily political practices and discourses, and somehow forget that the political institutions can't bear anything on their own, that they don't have inherent strength of inertia out of the political practices making co-existence a daily achievement.
42/ From that standpoint, the Inquiry deflates the 'political institutions' to bring them back into political process, that is, as necessary but as discursive figures mobilized in discussions and debates. In the process, our hopes might be a little bit deflated too and the built-in disappointment of POL a little more tolerable.
44/ The Moderns have constructed parliaments, congress, governments, as means of embodying politics -- icons of political rationality: where “good” politics take place. And yet, many are the examples that actually show that politics is also (and often) elsewhere, and not only in those spaces labeled as politic. Thinking of POL as an institutional process allows to talk politically about practices that one would not normally associate with politics, such as consumption (buying organic food), health care, or even sexuality.
45/ Political institutions are not a given; they cannot be taken for granted either. Often institutions become issues themselves and circulate amidst their interested public, gathering momentum and cohesion or falling apart depending on the agitation that they generate. To take the example of the Modernist supra-institution: the State. Recently there has been talk of the ‘self-loathing state’; the state that to a large extend disassembles itself in order to contract out its functions to technical solutions and market mechanisms. These moves have not gone unresisted. When a Minister preaches austerity and is met with a flurry of dissent -- here the institution itself demands an institution in which to reach a settlement. Or, to put it otherwise, institutions are issues too.
46/ Another requirement for the re-institution of POL is to recognize that politics as a practice or vocation is multimodal. Contra David Chandler’s grievance, POL is not a ‘reduction’ of politics; any concrete instance of an actual political movement is necessarily polymodal; political change in the general sense mobilises more than POL alone. In terms of institutions, this means that a political action or activity will necessarily touch upon science, technology, religion, law, etc.
47/ A third step is to account for how and why politics is both overvalued and undervalued. We have high expectations about representation, about solving common problems, about truth and honesty. In a way, disappointment is built in politics because we have to compromise and have to deal with a messy and disunified world. The disappointment comes from the dual expectations related to the relationship between the value “a plural and common world” and how it is embodied in the institutions.
Identifying the VALUE
48/ The question is “what would we lose, should we lose [POL]?” we would lose the protection against a violent and premature death; the possibility of freedom within a collective; the opportunity to contribute to collective change, affecting the collective within which one lives and therefore living in a world that is (a little) of one’s own making. We would lose the capacity to materialize a middle ground. Without politics there would be only two possibilities: absolute resistance and absolute acquiescence; without [POL], there is no ‘middle ground.’ POL only provides an opportunity; it can be missed, it can be lost (and perhaps this ‘missed opportunity’ is the problem for reinstitution).
49/ [POL] carries the value of innovative moves in its processes, for without (rhetorical, structural, scriptural) innovation new adherents will not attach themselves to a collective project. [POL] highlights and foregrounds such innovation. Politics comes also with surprises, new additions to old issues, changes of agenda, which can be, of course, seen as positive or negative.
51/ A political move is not only a political speech (i.e. rhetoric): making a statement, addressing an issue, addressed to other people (collective) to create adhesion. For instance, choosing organic food can be seen or conceived as a political act. You are attached to a special kind of food, which becomes a value. You are making a statement by buying it [ATT]. In doing so, you hope to create adhesion (in other people or in the supermarkets) in order to make a difference (social change).
52/ [POL] is about addressing issues, moving issues to get people on your side and creating adhesion to allow for collective action. So to (empirically) follow [POL], one has to follow the issues (No issue, no politics). To move an issue, a wide variety of gestures may be invoked - (some of them will be aimed at terminating the process). In this process, a wide variety of beings from other Modes of Existence can be brought in as a resource. And once we follow issues, we discover that they may travel to many places - to domains in and outside the institutions commonly associated with politics, i.e. the state.
53/ [POL] as a process, as a continuation of moves, has a beginning, a continuation and an end. It is easy to start a political move (there are always events and issues that urgently ask for one’s concern). A more difficult part of POL is to not let the process get off the rails (i.e. to either lose sight of the value of plurality or to drop communality). The most difficult part of POL is how to end the process - how to get an issue to rest, i.e. to be of no urgent concern any longer, because it has evaporated, a compromise has been reached that is acceptable and put into law, the issue is properly being taken care of, etc.
54/ [POL] provides an opportunity for beings to attain the quasi-subjective capacity to co-form the law (nomos) to which they conform [though this raises the question of the [POL·LAW] crossing]. In other words, [POL] provides an opportunity for autonomy (auto-nomos). Absolute autonomy is impossible (part of the ‘false problem’ is this naive expectation); however, there is no other way to be free within a collective or within a polis than through becoming political. Political existence requires that one sacrifices to some degree one’s self-interest in the interest of co-existence (cf. plurality vs. commonality).
Operating the REINSTITUTION or REDEFINITION of [POL]
55/ In order to operate a reinstitution, we propose to ask ourselves who or what are the constituents, that is, who or what can be represented in the secluded space and address, by proxy or more directly, the issues. Are there better ways to represent them? If Gaïa is to be the intruder, do we have ways to have its voice represented in our issues, in our political moves?
56/ At the core of the EME project lies the idea of recognizing various modes of existence that need to learn to cohabit with each other. POL, as we know, can be easily wiped out : by managers and technocrats who take over the decision making processes, by markets that claim to be able to regulate our collective actions, by experts who are supposed to decide for us, by religious fundamentalisms that claim that autonomy is a mistake and that we have to follow the law of some god(s). All these examples point to heteronomy, that is, a situation where the law, the nomos, that would govern our collective actions would not result also from our own discussions.
57/ Since [POL] has to be understood as a movement, as a mode of enunciation that tries (and always partially fails) to capture what we want for our future, we think the question of constituency pass through all the figures that are staged in what representatives say, figures that point to what constitutes a situation at a given point in time. [POL] should indeed be enthused, animated, motivated by “what the situation not only tells us, but also requires.” In keeping with pragmatism, facts and values are therefore entangled: a “what is” informs us about a “what ought to be.”
58/ Of course, nobody agrees about what the situation is and what the situation requires, but at least everybody starts from “the situation” (a Deweyan concept), which could, we believe, be associated with Gaïa. Gaïa is and manifests itself through a multiplicity of situations (issues, matters of concern, etc.). These situations can be made of various figures: ecosystems, scientific facts, technologies, principles, etc. that will dictate their own conditions, but from which representatives have to determine what or who will collectively matter or count.
59/ What is crucial in this process is that it is accomplished under the auspices of [POL], that is, there is an issue (at least for some), there are many says on this issue, which means that this issue tells many different things to many different people. At the end, we need to settle or resolve momentarily the issue, which implies sacrifices, disappointments, feelings of alienation, etc. [POL] has its own requirements. It can listen to other modes of enunciation ([REL], [REF], [ATT], [ORG], etc.), but it has its own rationality.
60/ Politics ends not in consensus nor unity but in: “I can live with that…”; “we can live with that…”. How to deflate [POL] without collapsing it? We do not want a punctured balloon but rather one that is not overinflated (we are against explosions). If the good life in the old modernist sense was vitalist and thus essentialist (“life is what a living thing has in itself”), should the new good life not be this “living with”? “I can live with that.”
61/ When we live with, we live well enough. In this bubble the pressure is reduced and so cannot explode but, equally, the membrane is not punctured, the space is not collapsed, this form of life is not suffocated. When we achieve “I can live with that” are we “disappointed”? Yes and no. “It could be worse.” Politics must be deflated somewhat but it must not go flat. We must retain enough air-pressure to keep breathing, to live-with, to live well. To live well with Gaia is to “live with that…”. This geopolitical life is a succession of negotiated “thats.”
62/ We, the self-appointed representatives of the Moderns, would like to bring to the attention of our friends, as well as our opponents, the following propositions in order to register the profound changes we are prepared to undertake due to the changes affecting the Earth, in a perspective that emanates from our past and that looks to our future.
63/ We therefore offer the following description of the situation in which we find ourselves. The religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries were ended with a truce which avoided violence, but which neutralized the question of the relations between politics and religion. There was pacification but no peace. If, with this gesture, the State imposed itself as an arbiter of a truce between religions, it became itself a new totalizing principle. This ‘coup d’État’ was able to bring the hostilities to an end by ending the conflict, but it never allowed for negotiations to begin on a peace treaty that would go beyond forced disarmament. Today, what we are proposing is that we finally begin these delayed negotiations in order to prevent new wars starting up, either among religions in the first instance, or secondly among religion (REL) and other modes (MET, POL, REP in particular).
64/ For too long the assertion of State Sovereignty has meant we could do without peace negotiations. What we saw as peace was the result of the redistribution of the functions of religion and politics. One can move from one theological-political montage to another, but one can’t do without such a montage (just as one can’t dispense with a political epistemology, good or bad). This is what forbids the Moderns from believing, despite their illusions, that they live in an epoch of completely calm secularity. Besides, the present and rapid weakening of the State makes it clear enough that sleeping fanaticisms could easily wake again.
65/ For this reason we are convinced that it is impossible to ignore the inevitable deep analysis of the [REL] mode. In fact, it is from religion that we derive the very trope of ‘before’ as radically distinct from ‘after’. This is equally the same trope that made possible the belief that one could leave behind cosmic deities and psychic divinities, and then make us believe that we could easily abandon the gods of the word [parole]. Now, it is this very idea of before and after that the current ecological changes make untenable: what you thought was behind you ‘before’, rises up in right in front of you.
66/ With this intrusion, there is the risk of the formation of a ‘Gaia religion’, a fanaticism bringing with it a new unsatisfactory theological-political montage. A Gaia religion would have everything needed to terrorize us, were it not for our capacity to extract the various poisons of totalization and unification, secreted by religion and which are constantly infecting Science, Politics, Economy, and Ecology. Imagine an authority claiming to have a hold, at one and the same time, on Nature, the Sovereign State, the Market, the Globe and even God!
67/ If our common task is to cure the Moderns of their hubris in order to bring down to earth Science, Politics, Economy and Ecology (through a deflation shared by the other working groups), then it is necessary to carry to the full the analysis of the forces continuing to impose the ideas of totalization/unification on the Moderns.
Part 1: Chaos, missed opportunities and crimes committed.
68/ In the [REL] religion, two questions that previously made no sense are introduced: the question of truth and falsehood in matters of religion, the question of the end times, of ‘the fullness of time’, and of radical alterity. With these two elements (contained within the notion of ‘revelation’), frightful powers are activated that the Moderns were neither able to domesticate nor to contain. These brilliant and crazy Moderns inherit a tradition with perils and virtues of which they are still unaware.
69/ The instability at the core of [REL] comes with the fundamental uncertainty that was always there concerning its value— the end of time and radical alterity— and the figures that translate this value — the people involved (holy figures, church, etc), cosmology, and the notions of totality and universality. This instability explains the madness as well as the crimes, and will give the concept of institution a terribly ambiguous role, opposing messianism and bureaucracy (see Part 2).
70/ This instability is empirically marked by the iconoclastic obsession that concerns first the ‘false idols’, but then keeps working on the Moderns who turn the iconoclastic tradition against religion itself. There has been a translatio imperii of this question ever since the chosen ones of Yahweh, through the church of the people of God, extended it to ‘gentiles’, then to the generic humans (both ordinary and exceptional) assembled by the God banned from secular existence. Each time, the iconoclastic hammer pounds the false idols, the [MET] ones, as well as those of [POL] and [REL]. What has survived, out of this constitutive Modern iconoclasm, is anti-institutionalism, the very idea that we can get by without institutions by salvaging their kernels of truth.
71/ Due to the absence of peace negotiations, the analysis of the sources of the iconoclasm as well as of totalisation were therefore frozen out, the Moderns thus released fanatical missionaries on the rest of the world, multiplying proselytizers (from fetish-burners to ecologists speaking for nature, or of ‘sustainable development’ or of ‘CO2’).
72/ This constitutional fragility of the [REL] beings explains why religion has been able to contaminate the other modes. In fact, the Church, paralysed by the announcement of times’ end, of the fullness of time, has found any occasion to be suitable to rest and to hand over their tasks of awaiting, to a simplistic definition of the political assembly. This hastily put-together Kingdom, perverts [POL] as much as [REL], by creating terrifying amalgamations of the ‘militant’ for whom politics is a path to salvation, or of the totalizing State. This discharge of religion onto politics will lead those people associated with [POL] into awaiting for a politics of salvation, and through this very means making the necessary deflation of politics impossible.
73/ Thus we can see that under this falsely unified term of religion, there is to be found, in practice, a polytheism that renders illusory both the idea of having finished with religion as well as that of being able to share a unified definition of what it allows. The iconoclastic obsession against false idols has blinded us to what the religion of [REL] could have become according to its own truth. It has never been able to cure itself of this obsession against [MET] beings, in the whole history of the Moderns. So it calls for a therapy made possible by an intruder. Now that we are confined to our sublunary world with the intrusion of Gaia, we Moderns have to choose between genius and madness: in the ‘Anthropocene’ you no longer have the luxury of being both brilliant and crazy, a choice has to be made.
74/ On the basis of these missed opportunities and crimes, one could be forgiven for concluding that we need to leave religion behind us once and for all. But this would be only to repeat the oldest religious gesture, iconoclasm, in destroying the tradition that links us to ‘grace’ and ‘salvation’.
75/ So we aren’t going to propose leaving religion behind us, but instead to deflate it. To bring religion back down to earth, we are prepared to give up the following: the confusion between religious veridiction and the attack on ‘false idols’, cosmic deities as well as psychic divinities; the confusion between the end of time and cosmic totalization which is only one of its figures; the confusion between the institution of salvation and its distortion as political salvation. Without this deflation of REL, it would be a vain hope, it seems to us, to reinstitute the other modes on the basis of the experience of their value.
Part 2: Institution: an exemplary case
76/ In order to allow peace talks to begin anew, we are in need of a strong concept of institution based largely on the history of political theology. Two senses of the word institution have to be distinguished. The first, the Roman one, is close to organization, convention, formatting, as in “the institution of the law, of marriage, of the contract, etc”; here the institution needs no founding except itself. The second, introduced by [REL], installs its concept of incertitude as its kernel of truth, by contrast to what is only superfluous (the Spirit against the Letter). Now a new incertainty appears: one cannot respects a value without also respecting its institution; and one cannot respect the institution without repeatedly coming back to it.
77/ “Ecclesia semper reformanda”: The ecclesia is the very image of an institution in that it has thought out more than all the others the very drama of being instituted, i.e.: that which must be always taken up again in order to persevere. Churches know that they must always be reformed because they remain conscious that that they always deeply betray their essential message: the end of time, the second coming, which, by definition have no need as such. Churches know themselves to be vulnerable, false and sinful. Hence the great abyss between grace and bureaucracy which both renders them a horror in the eyes of contemporaries—the Roman catholic church as the counter-model of all living institutions—and a model since it pretends to marry the heaviest with the lightest.
78/ We assert that in this religious question, and its corresponding institution, there is an essential value which is alterity itself, defined by the ‘welcome of welcoming’; the ‘end of times’ whose formulations and articulations have not ceased to change through the ages, but which the intrusion of Gaia obligates us to take up again one more time but in a new form (instead of thinking it is now behind us). The intrusion of Gaia enjoins us to take on board a theological-political montage: “Have a political theology, instead of thinking that all that is already behind you.”
79/ “Ecclesia peregrinans” (the pilgrim church, on the path). The ecclesia is furthermore a model because, from its own point of view, its institutionalized existence is not only a provisional and necessary evil, a stopgap measure, an organizational necessity. It too knows it can be saved. Churches produce the anti-institutionalism that will condemn them to denunciation, but they equally know that they need an anti-institutionalism that can bring the desired help. Always contested by their prophets, yet they know that they need a prophet or a saint in order to save them from their usual habits. The church doesn’t know how to recognize them, and always fails to do so, but it knows that it should recognize them.
80/ Spinoza demonstrated this admirably in his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, by showing that the institution stands for a working version of reprise, it is because it is made up of those who retrospectively understand that they are not innovators, but instead rediscovers of meanings that were already in the tradition. In that sense, the phrase ‘begin again’ [reprendre] itself comes from the ecclesia.
Part 3: Reinhabiting the Earth (earths) under pressure from Gaia
81/ We want to seize the occasion of the planetary crisis to take up again the old term oekumene, in order to bring back the idea of ‘charitable spaces’ in inhabited earth (the etymology of oekumene) against all the overhasty conceptions of the global. Starting with this neglected ecumenical condition, we propose to welcome the so-called ecological situation that, by getting rid of its unification through Nature, will cure itself of its poison on a parallel track. Then we will have the opportunity to transform the long armistice that has frozen the positions into a peace treaty for three centuries.
82/ We therefore conclude by saying that the themes of grace and salvation can be instituted literally posthumously, by taking up the question of the fullness of time, but eliminating from it the figures of the economy, the State, morality or science.
83/ We shall call posthumous religion (in the [REL] sense) when it is taken up again in such a way that revive the ecumenical tradition can be found again (ecumenical in the etymological sense of ‘ecumenicism’, neither as a universalist Christian doctrine, nor as ‘interreligious dialogue’) among the multiple churches before the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. This practical multiplicity disappeared with the religious wars and the State truce. Now, it is this multiplicity that was the individualizing principle of the different churches. In this sense, ecumenicism would be the possible name for a diplomacy to be carried out inside the mode or between modes.
84/ Let us suggest that the awakening of [REL] beings would allow us to designate all forms of globalization, unification, and totalisation as principles of political and religious order, freeing them from their earlier attachment to definitions of modernist Nature or the cosmos. Instead of creating the global, the planetary, the unified or the pacified—in the sense of end or fullness—through Nature, the Globe or the State, do it through the ecumene and its peace.
85/ Divine beings are endowed with a rich and diverse apparatus, thousand of years old. No one can silence someone by saying that Gaia is silent and does not speak: [REL] beings are both silent and capable of eliciting speech, of providing something like Scriptures that requires interpretation. Gaia does not speak, but there is a liberatory exegesis of the Scriptures provided by the age of Gaia. (The book of nature is to be reinterpreted). This posthumous exegesis will seize the moment to welcome someone new, the Silent one. We shall join the ecumenical congregation of peoples around the writings of Gaia. We shall call for a conference of Gaia interpreters.
[Please note that an updated version of this part of the specbook, published, is available on our blog)
86/ We Moderns do not believe that we should have to economize on the economy. By this we do not wish to say that the economy is indispensable (maybe it is, maybe it isn’t…) but that ‘there will always be a price to pay’ for all economization. ‘You don’t get something for nothing’, so the saying goes, and this applies to the economy too: Everything that goes into the economy is work; in other words, everything has a ‘cost’ – the quotation marks are here to show that prior to this work, these costs are only metaphorically economic: they are attachments that haven't yet been economized. That is, neither, calculated, evaluated nor managed, and this implies a lot of effort. So much the better, since it is these costs that reveal that there are choices, other possible paths, other winners and losers, and beings and potentialities that either flounder or flourish.
87/ It is the existence of these choices, these other possibilities that reveals that there is no Economy, in the sense of substance. There is only economizing, in the sense of existence. Up until now, we have had a tendency to privilege an economy-as-substance, formulated in terms of rules or laws. This obsession has led us astray, it has given rise to a confusion of categories and pathways, it has set us firmly, first on the path of productivity, then on the path of obesity (located in the forest of poverty). The argument for substance is though not a viable one … not until we have addressed the possibilities of destruction that weigh so heavily on Gaia. The substance-economy is a way of keeping everyone else at bay while the experts remain in charge.
88/ We thus need to move on from an Economy seen as the Way the World Works—as light and abstract as it is imperative, doing nothing yet still running everything—towards multiple tentative economizations that need to be revised and remade. Only then we can leave behind the image of a smooth economic space where articulations among orders of reality are neatly delineated in favour of a different kind of movement, like navigating among tectonic plates or polar ice floes. So the question that emerges here is the same as the one that concerns the other modes of existence: How do we ‘institute’ this way of letting the economy ‘laissez-faire’, but only on the condition of having concurrent experiments that are revised and debated? The answer is not simple. What we have is a tangle of scripts all piled up on one another belonging neither to a coherent whole nor a predefined, rational or planned organization. No question of a give and take around the table so that everyone gets something: Patching things together, with nothing between them but frictions, gaping holes, chasms and fractures, means nothing holds together for very long. Less metaphorically speaking, the economy is nothing other than a heterogeneous accumulation of statistics, accounting, industrial politics, businesses, fiscal legislation, the State, planning, markets, theoretical calculations and econometrics. It is a piling up of various devices [dispositifs] that are far from all pulling in the same direction. What kind of institutionalization do we need? There are any number of means available in all this mix to make them self-correct, once we stop thinking about these assemblages as a system (a system which collapses if just one piece is moved, like the game of Pick Up Sticks). These constructions, all with varying degrees of coherence, are not parts of a jigsaw laid out on an economic base framed by abstract laws. There is no base, just provisional stabilities as the experimentation proceeds.
89/ So let’s stop understanding the Economy as an incredibly efficient ‘low cost’ machine able to transform our problems into solutions with a simple price tag and rather consider it as a conflicting and open plurality of economizations that are all, in their own way, ‘costly’. Only then we will be able to keep whatever profits are made by having a discussion about what costs, what was lost, and what was damaged. Since these heterogeneous, poorly defined, ill-disciplined costs remain to be tested—precisely because they are attachments that have yet to be economized—there is no ready-made answer. The problem is not one of economizing them ever faster but rather to slow down the solutions, ask questions, evaluate the losses without necessarily knowing where it will lead. In other words, by increasing the level of care and attention given to each economization.
90/ In the first instance, we do not mean by this that we should put into the economy what it had neglected until now. This would be to admit that everything is economizable with a profit margin, that it is only a matter of handing over everything to the economists who will then say, “All right, let us handle it, we’ll calculate that for you.” On the contrary, we could consider economics as a pluralization of all those economizations that are possible or impossible, those that are doable or not, without knowing the stakes or repercussions. Then, in the second instance, it would be a question of accompanying all economizations with watchfulness, with care, with a vigilance that would live up to its promise: every economization comes at a price. How are we to do this? It is precisely because ‘we do not know’ that we propose to begin with those concerned with “doing” things differently. Instead of sweeping bothersome questions under the carpet, we can then propose a variety of devices [dispositifs], inscribing into scripts possibilities for discussion and revision. To achieve this, we need to start listening again to strong discordant voices and deflate economics (for its own good). Both externally, by simultaneously applying pressure to “competing” institutions (law, politics, morality) and internally, by making sure scripts are revisable and self-limiting.
1. Slowing down the Economy: The price of Attachment and Care
91/ If we understand the economy to be an operation that stabilizes and blackboxes solutions it is hardly sufficient that it can just work, that it is scientific or rational enough for us to consider it as acceptable—that we just leave the economy the keys even if this means taking away from it a few sacred domains. On the contrary, the economy needs to be usable everywhere and by everyone, yet always open to discussion, provisional, revisable, even if—especially if —the discussion itself is costly and slows things down. If it has a value then it also valuable (c.f. Dewey). And it is precisely this point that reveals and expresses attachments. If the economy can be dear (expensive) then it can also be dear to us.
92/ [ATT] allows to us to encompass goods and people as a collective. Beyond “dazzling displays”, institutions must maintain a thick [ATT], not just a single thread, but a heavy weave, thus making it easier to decide in favor of some to the detriment of others. These attachments always turn out to be a test of what we hold dear and it is for this very reason, from the point of view of the economy, that they span the gap between the instantaneousness of impulse buying and the heaviness, the duration, the body and inertia that carry us. Let us note that in the word attachment there is both the passive (whatever attaches us), and the active (the ‘-ment’ of attachment: what we attach ourselves to, and which determines us, thus strengthening, or undermining, our attachments - or that sometimes forces us to abandon them), both need to be taken seriously when considering the ‘price’ of economy.
93/ We say YES to any and all experimentation. This word must be heard outside of the confines of pre-established forms. It is for each of us to invent our own devices [dispositifs], our own evaluations, spaces and limits. Experimentation links collective action and the precautions and measures that accompany it, even when this means delays: these experimental economizations need guards, spies, alerts, reminders, and thresholds that must not be crossed. All these beings are beings of exploration and care. In the manner of a "speculum", they are indicators, neither entirely on the inside nor the outside. If we are to install one of these economies in the making, we need a multitude of these little telltales signs to let us know where we are. There will be failures and rejections to cast aside, corrections to apply, some things exaggerated and others brutally destroyed…because we constantly need to “watch over” our attachments, list and protect the experiments, sound the alarm in case of danger, even when it all looks too promising. All of this requires new skills and new sensitivities to learn how to take the time necessary for economization: to be watchful, alert, curious, and respectful. For this economization to be made possible we will require new roles (and professions?). This will involve a change of descriptive categories, a focus on the actors, collectives, things in the making and not only on numbers and ratios (industrial economy versus economic calculation). So as to avoid a reduction to the individual, this is all filled with collectives that are more or less attached, professions, businesses, social movements, organizations, etc. that are to varying degrees bound to one another. Bodies, in a general sense.
94/ By the same token we say ‘NO’ to the economists’ constant blackmail: “This is a great idea,” they say, “But, sorry, a new world is quite impossible; it’s far too risky and will only end up bringing down the system.” There is no such thing as a system that needs to be protected for its own sake within the economy as if any attempt to monitor it would only break its irrepressible momentum. On the contrary, the more that problems show up, the more possibilities exist for ‘care’, for inventions, for new starts – and possibly even for interesting economizations – but this time, for everybody. We say ‘YES’ to an economy that both cares for and cares about. That is to say, an economization that experiments and brings with it promise and hope but all the while remaining costly and only on the condition of allowing a market to open with the cover of discussion, and the right to revision written into it. For the costs are also virtuous costs; they measure the effort required to consent to experimenting with new worlds (commons or alternative economies on the edges of the economy, but also at its center of gravity, by questioning currency, finance, companies etc.).
95/ There is something to learn from Hayek's idea of a negative institution, understood as a series of "do not" imperatives, if we free it from its exclusively economic confines. However, as with slowing down, these ‘do nots’ are not in reality entirely negative but can be considered as time wasted only to be saved.
96/ Just like Hayek (and a few others...), we are convinced that time matters centrally; just as Hayek (and a few others… including Israel Kirzner), we see that economizing is a dance with uncertainty; like Hayek, we look at experiments and experimentation with some interest. Have we simply become Hayekian? What unites us further is the avoidance of any master repartition. In the language of Hayek, the State plays the big bad wolf, endowed with special powers and entitled to stifle any experiment it would not fancy, for one (arbitrary) reason or another. So we do share with Hayek some caution against any hurried composition of the common good. With some relief, given the deadly track record of the Austrian schools of economics, there are also some salient differences. The background of Hayek and his disciples is both an aggressive Darwinism — experimentations will eliminate the weakest candidates and celebrate the fittest — coupled with a narrow definition of efficiency, crowned by “price”. This couple is topped by a mobilization of the (rule of) law—also a long and wise outcome of a market mechanism—which would maintain a procedure and some order to the otherwise wild experiments that entrepreneurs entertain.
97/ However, unlike Hayek, we are not attempting to defend a little enclosure where the economy, a minimalist institution not needing an institution, would be finally free to run without reins or brakes, protected by nothing other than negative institutions with instructions not to get in its way. The parallel with the image of the middle ground in its contrast with the image of the frontier is striking: it is, on the contrary at the heart (or the choir - in French, coeur or choeur) of the economy where the voices of the greatest possible number of institutions should rise, all provisional and none founded, each able to experiment with the means it has to hand, creating provisional zones of stabilization, under the pressure of others. Our barriers are internal. First we have to negotiate the time that needs to be set aside from them before destroying them.
2. Taking the Virtue of Transaction Costs seriously
98/ How, though, to create some time? Or, referring to the terms of the Inquiry, what is the felicity condition for the economy? It certainly cannot be for it to work – on the contrary, this is precisely when we should call out, “Danger!” – but that it brings to light all the resistances, and the attachments left behind to be crushed. A very Polyaniesque idea is that the economy is impossible, (in the same way that we say that a small child is utterly impossible), that is it nothing more than the measurement of those oppositions that allow it to exist. This is what the kind of anti-instituting institution (à la Hayek) would be aiming for. More technically speaking, it would be a quasi-legal requirement for it to warn about any irreversibility. The problem of the size and duration of these experimental formations should not be solved in an absolute sense or with a rule; this would be contradictory. Above all, we must free ourselves from the dictates of efficiency, by reinstating a new value – transaction costs – but taking it seriously this time.
99/ The virtue of the economy is not its efficiency outside of the possible concerns of individuals, but rather its production of knowledge and preferences. Eliciting such preferences – what we hold to be good, not yet common, but at least consistent enough that we can formulate it and defend it – is not only the noisy chit-chat of the conversation dear to Tarde (c.f. AIME). It is the only solution to keep the experiences of the economic experimentations from becoming the chimera of disrespectful scientists. The new gesture of our economy is to question not only any free lunch, but to question the efficiency of economic institutions.
100/ The recent vicissitudes of French bank BNP-Paribas will clarify the need not to rush towards a ready-made definition of transaction costs. National currencies have long been praised as vehicles of efficiency and low transaction costs. From the 1970s on, the US dollar impersonated this fiction of a global economy freed from currency uncertainty. In 2014, BNP-Paribas settled for a fine of 9 billion dollars so as to be allowed to continue operating transactions in US dollars. The reason for such a fine is a breach of an injunction by the State department outlawing economic transactions with enemy States (Cuba, Iran and Sudan). All of a sudden, the transaction cost free currency carries a huge cost and the French bank wishes it had another currency, another collective experiment, that would not tie it to the diplomatic policies of the current US administration. Incidentally, we can see just how swiftly and adroitly the Mighty know how to combine brute force with politics, law, and economics (if you want to be in the US market, then you agree to the fine) while profiting from their official status. The economy only cheats on those who believe in it.
101/ People will object: but this is too costly; how can you want an increase in transaction costs?! There is an argument against this: the transaction costs have already exploded. The economy looks as though it reduces costs, by stabilizing calculation techniques and procedures – but they are constantly revised, adapted, twisted, etc., and at a huge cost. There is an entire army of economizers doing that: economists, but also and most importantly accountants, managers, etc. And not only is this costly in a monetary sense; it is also costly in the sense that this professionalisation of economizing prevents other participants from having their passionate interests taken into account. Economizing must be fully redistributed, by the abolition of the professional manager, the professional accountant, the professional economist. Management, accounting, economics are everyone’s business. There is, we must admit, a danger of hegemonization in de-institutionalization and re-distribution of economics. How can we preserve the deflation - slowing down—of economy without going back (or going forward) to another totalization? (will REL help us?).
102/ This attempt at a “deinstitutionalizing re-institution” must not be heard as having a social-democratic tone. Social democracy theoretically believes in realities as given (the market, the social, the legal, etc.) in practice puts them together by tinkering with them. We seek the opposite, by accepting, in a theoretical manner, the pluralism of a multimodal world in which no order is a given, and by confronting, in a practical manner, the violence of things, necessary choices that lack any basis, and fighting against other reductionist pretensions (even if they are our own). Most of all though, we fight for—without ever really knowing for what. Hence the urgency and the slowing-down, the necessity of combat and the uncertainty, commitment without guarantees, risk-taking and experimentation; these are stances that are far removed from perpetual compromises and indecision wrongly taken for open-mindedness.
103/ The idea that we “we don’t know” but that we will nevertheless try has nothing anecdotal about it but is at the heart of a pragmatic mix of commitment and incertitude that is our lot, confronted as we are, with worlds that are still to be made. Setting up institutions in a post-AIME pluriverse (ahem....) is to insist on both of these terms at the same time: action and ignorance, commitment without a guarantee and neither reason nor a given order to rely upon. Just an assembly with a negotiable duration and held together by nothing other than the actions of those collectives involved (e.g., organic wines). Such an institution not only takes a “positively negative” turn, but also a tone that distances itself from what is hard to shake off, that of an order to be established. Rather, it should be to organize disorder, or to disorganize orders, or disorder organizations, all the while letting them go into battle…
3. Inscribing Disorder into Scripts or the Possibility of Revision
104/ We are happy to debate the “profits” of the economy, the advantages that it can or cannot procure (the “receipt” once goods have been bought, circulation, innovation, the possibility of investment—to take Polanyi’s list— everything to which economists quite properly concerned with the common good may care about). However, far from delegating the problem of the Economy, (“Don’t you worry about anything, we’ll take care of it”), how can we organize the debatability of this economization [mise en économie] without knowing the answers? It is not about making dynamic frameworks more dynamic, nor collecting the desires of consumers in increasingly inventive ways (this is a job for marketing) but to “contain” scripts, to let them hesitate and hold back with alerts, protests, and all manner of unpredictable forms that may or may not fit into a framework. To listen to discordant voices and not only to those that enter into the framework and reinforce it. To try things out, to experiment and rely on those actors concerned—or rather, to inscribe this care into the very scripts of the economy. This does not mean giving carte blanche since all economization must be accompanied (thanks to law, politics, morality, family, religion, etc.,) by the right to revise, review deadlines or be accountable to itself as well as, when the state of affairs demands it, to have the possibility of questioning or changing the script without having to ask for permission (thank you Gaïa, if you prefer!). This way of putting it is important: we see that it is less about agreement and coordination (we can agree on nothing but disagreements) but about actions undertaken by those collectives concerned, and only through their own results will they will be able to be judged, estimated and appreciated (this is the Deweyian double meaning of the worth of things: to be valued and to have a value). The aim is not to compare goods in the same space and against a common standard, but to evaluate incommensurable experiences in action.
105/ What could then be the possible conditions to put into place so as to ensure the reversibility of scripts? We have already said it: what motivates the keeping of scripts open is the need to turn the economy into a felicitous set of experiments. Against the temptation to blindly celebrate or reject the economy altogether, we look to the economy as a site where experiments should be tried out or at the very least be “triable”. This is important to keep at bay the disillusionment (from Weber onwards) that some of the critiques of the economy force onto the revisions. However, this opening up to experimentation also has some limits. The strict requirement for the revisability of scripts has an implication: the need to avoid situations where scripts only go so far, or where so many scripts are interconnected that revising one of them puts the whole “system” at risk of collapse. Some form of protectionism must thus be constituted. However, it must not be a protectionism of stable or “external” frontiers: protecting national economies, certain industries, etc. It must be a protectionism of mobile barriers—“internal” frontiers that will be established and re-established constantly. And it must be provide barriers against the extension of scripts or systems of scripts.
106/ The goal is fairly clear: that no script begins to set itself up as the template for the others, with its path to realization being its own story, ready to digest all the others. We must recognize that these forms of vigilance, more or less proactive, that compel self-limitation, remain to be found by searching among one’s neighbors (the other modes or institutions already mentioned, from the law to the family, etc. but also among protests, riots and uprisings, the slow “awareness” of the environment or the qualities of everyday things, the sudden breakdown of a way of working being turned off, etc.). There is, it would seem, a lot to be done: “les affaires restent à faire…”.
107/ Nonetheless, we do admit that the practicalities of this are problematic. There could be a requirement that no script be too extensive – with a size limit, preventing the excessive growth of certain entities, a bit along the lines of anti-trust laws. But things get much trickier as soon as the new constitution tries to tackle systems of scripts; how is the building up of systems prevented? One possible direction would consist in setting extension requirements regarding chains of scripts – e.g. no chain should be longer than so many elements, and each new script produced should list the chain of scripts it puts itself into or generates, to check that it follows this requirement. So instead of stress tests that have been devised by the infamous Bank of International Settlements, rather a disclosure of conflicts of confiscation of scripts, forcing scripts to be relatively autonomous. So one of the conditions in the rewriting of the script is the need for each script to be autonomous from other scripts, a form of modularity. Refusing the entanglement of many scripts allows for one script to be discarded and thus refuses the argument that one script is too central to the whole economic system for it to be allowed to fail – the ‘too big to fail’ argument. It is as important to define interruptions to experiments as it is to let the scripts be open and revisable. This stopping point is a way of rewriting the question of regulation and State that has long paralysed economic intervention and has always been mobilized by libertarian economists as a straw man. The deadly State/Market debate has missed the fact that the experiences of economic experimentations always take place elsewhere: nor on a generic market – as experimentations are only good to launch if they involve interests and attachments that can be voiced here and now, by individuals and groups who are going to be affected by their outcomes.
108/ These forms of institution seeking to avoid institutionalization are somewhat oxymoronic (the theme of “deflation” is present in all of the modes), but we are not left completely disarmed and it is not a question of remaking the world from scratch; this idea has already been worked on in the past. Some experiments come to mind when we want to think about the forms of limitations that need to be put in place. Below, we have given some examples: anti-trust laws, nuclear waste legislation, bitcoin or local currencies, etc. There are others such as policies of innovation that consist in sustaining competition between many ideas by supporting the ones that struggle and not the ones that are winning.
109/ —For instance, the web-based currency bitcoin has built into its system the dual imperative of being directly attached to what is now the most pressing question of the Internet — security of transactions — as the mining mechanism is dependent on producing public encryption keys, and the designed lack of hegemony in the ecosystem of other moneys because the mining of hash is becoming increasingly difficult so that scarcity is also built-in. So a currency that works at maintaining the possibility of transactions — monetary and other forms — while containing itself.
110/ —The recent legislation of nuclear waste in France has made it necessary to adopt solutions — bury, keep above ground, etc…— that are reversible, so that in NN years, the experiment of living with nuclear waste can be assessed and revised and new solutions adopted if the problems outnumber the envisioned risks: this is a legal invention, a law that enshrines not knowing the answer now and refusing to make an irreversible decision, thus deciding not to decide.
111/ – The Argentinean crisis in 2001 taught us that the state is not the only guarantor of financial transactions. Alternative currencies and barter allowed for these transactions to be replaced and saved! The national economy was not saved outside of the system but the setting up of scripts that resisted and contested the “State” of affairs.
 Codification, legislation, experimentation are all forms that can inscribe the right to revise. The opening up of scripts is mainly due to the ability of economic beings – whatever their size, shape or duration – to place themselves “above” the script and change roles: to be author, follower or protestor, at any moment and in any place. This is where economization must be accompanied by the other modes of the Inquiry.
Why is it so hard for us to introduce ourselves?
113/ For a long time we moderns believed we could introduce ourselves on our own. Didn’t we take note, at the eve of our history, of the injunction, “Know thyself!” And we know that that meant, “Know that thou art neither god, nor beast, but a man.” Being a man, yes, being human and human alone, this is without a doubt our enduring characteristic.
114/ In truth, that gave us a feeling of being exceptional: we were human beings more ordinary than the rest. Our only mission was to respond to the generic desires of humanity. Humans needed to eat? Thanks to us, they would no longer be hungry. Humans wanted to make images? We supplied them with machines able to make true likenesses. Humans had the need to protect themselves from the elements? We centrally heated the whole planet. It seems clear that this desire to be ordinary made us incommensurable with all the others.
115/ In our own eyes, also, we were exceptional in this art of self-introduction. We called that Anthropology, since it was a basically a matter of saying in general what it was to be human. Except that we moderns were more human than the others. Certainly there were humans who didn’t look like us; to begin with, they weren’t doing anthropology yet. But this was a very temporary situation; it was in the nature of things for all humans to become like us; those only-just humans, not necessarily justifiably human, far from it, but just humans. Our minimal justice had the consequence of transforming all the others, only because they would discover their true essence.
116/ Of course, we had our doubts, our worries. How can one be sure what’s human? How can one truly define oneself in relation to the others? But we had solutions. In order to find out what the pure human was, over and above the differences, it was sufficient to think; and for the more-or-less humans, it was necessary to observe them. How best to do this? We were very well-placed to answer this question. We spent a lot of our time on it. We called it ‘thinking about what we were doing’ and we invented Methods. And we were even able to think on the art of creating methods—we called that Epistemology, or, more generally, Philosophy. For a long time we thought that Philosophy could tell us what existed. But we ended up understanding that it wasn’t working too well. We were very proud of being able to say that we knew, henceforth, that Philosophy does nothing more, in the end, than telling everyone how to go about getting to the truth. Every time that a Human spoke of something, the way to go about thinking of his practice was to speak in a ‘meta’ way (Subject, Writing, consciousness of the apparatus [dispositif])—and one could keep climbing like that, like Chinese acrobats who climb on each others’ shoulders, but we, in addition, we could take away the lower level and ask those on the bottom to climb up: theory, metatheory, metametatheory…to dizzying heights. Sure, there was something a little discouraging about our Jacob’s ladder: the more we climbed, the more impoverished we became; skin and bone, transparent. But you can become very skilled in metachinese acrobatics.
117/ Let’s continue. In order to introduce ourselves, we invented two institutions, Anthropology and Philosophy. Anthropology told us what the human is as empirical reality—this was its scientific part, making inquiries, experiments, inductions, etc. Philosophy told what the human was as subject of science, the power of the ‘meta’. Together and separately, these two disciplines kitted us out in quite attractive suits, we thought.
118/ Alas, it all went pear-shaped. First, we ended up upsetting everyone.
119/ For instance the non-Moderns, who, on the basis of the very manner in which we introduced ourselves, could have no other identity than that of Those Who Are Not Yet Quite Us. Their differences are just so many steps on the path to Modernity. Yet another effort, Humans, If you would become Us ! We wanted to educate them, make then better…but what a pile of bodies we left behind us! How many did we have to slaughter, burn, break or rob of their confidence! How can we still believe in this way of introducing ourselves? We scarcely dare to think about all this, for fear of falling silent.
120/ But even among ourselves, we kept treading on toes and having quarrels. The ‘sciences’ that had garnered universal respect were not the same ones that epistemology described. The more they asserted themselves, the less we recognized them. Before very long, they no longer wanted to be under the jurisdiction of epistemology. A huge protest arose from all sides against what they called ‘philosophical arrogance’. But this is not just philosophy’s problem. Our anthropologists had to learn to answer to those they were studying. They ended up finding the very manner in which they were being spoken about quite brutal. That a few roaming nomad families on the edge of the desert refuse to take in another anthropologist, fair enough! But scientists, politicians and artists have all wanted to kick anthropologists out. We wanted to help everyone achieve ‘self-consciousness’—and the answer we get is to go do our dirty work somewhere else. There was definitely something going wrong here. It was the war of all against all—all against Us—or all against Nous.
121/ And furthermore it must be said that we feel a little stupid, in front of Gaia, with our categories of the Human and of the Subject. Who are we today, if not Those Who Woke Up Gaia? On the question of what is Human, can it really be separated from the anthropos said by some to have become a geological force (in the Anthropocene)? Do we really believe, just by reflecting, that we can accede to whatever anthropos might be?
122/ In short, the institutions through which we have attempted to collect our knowing-how-to-introduce-ourselves-to-others have in the end only brought about carnage and incomprehension. The others are no longer prepared to go along with it and we ourselves feel a bit awkward in our old suits; nothing fits properly. We have to reinstitute all that, or get rid of it, and learn how to introduce ourselves otherwise. Are we not in fact meeting here for that very purpose?
123/ Can we do without this move? Do we have to stop wanting to ask how to go about introducing ourselves? We certainly no longer think that our art of introducing ourselves should immediately be suitable for everyone. But does that mean we can do without instituting this very art? Many people are unduly worried about knowing where Bruno Latour’s Inquiry Into Modes of Existence is located. Where is he speaking from? Where are the anthropologists speaking from? Would there be regimes of truth and modes of existence for all, but not for the Inquiry? The Inquiry would not even be ‘meta’, just ‘natural’, bathed in silence and the obvious—‘move on, nothing to see here: anthropologist at work’…Is this really wise? Isn’t this running the danger of eliciting mistrust and sarcasm? Isn’t it instead more urgent to bring back confidence in the anthropological institution itself?
124/ Well, no, we can’t just stay silent on all that. We really do have to say how we go about introducing ourselves. The whole problem is to do it without it becoming some new Discourse on Method. This is the difficulty we have to shoulder. The propositions to follow have the sole ambition of keeping this question alive and in the agora.
125/ In order to do this, we first have to stop separating Anthropology from Philosophy: on the one hand those whose business is the Human, on the other those who deal in Being and Method. It is in meetings with others that something can be articulated about the truth of what we do when we try to introduce ourselves. We will never know how to introduce ourselves on our own, we will never even know how to relate to ourselves if we did not put ourselves in a meeting environment. We want to remain attuned to the age-old “Know thyself”, but we now know we will never get there without multiplying alterities. So how to go about introducing oneself comes down to this question: what frameworks, what spaces, what architectures and what protocols are involved in organizing meetings with others such that one can learn how to introduce oneself properly?
126/ But one essential point must be made immediately: If there is one thing that we have understood from our long history of violence, takeovers, exterminations and subjection of those we call our brothers [“semblables”], it is that a true encounter obliges us to rethink what we have in common. But the frameworks also have another function. They must help us to make the presence felt of those who have not been welcomed into the framework, the strangers, the illegal immigrants [sans-papiers] (who are often also ‘without writing’), those who can’t be brought into the framework without changing the framework.
127/ The concern with the task of making the meeting into a place for a proper introduction of oneself, through the manner in which the meeting continually necessitates the rethinking of one’s own place, is this not the art of diplomacy? Diplomacy is the art of introduction, not of reflexive thought. We will never be able to say who we truly are, if we do not learn to talk diplomatically. If we, the individuals who are gathered here today, are meeting to say who the Moderns are, then it is the case that those who are meeting here (and especially Bruno Latour) have a taste for diplomacy. The Moderns must realize they have a need for these people who have both the inclination and the talent to set up meetings and make sure they are able to open doors. To this, we Moderns are committed.
128/ And, without diplomacy, how can Gaia be approached? Isn’t it because we neglected to pay our diplomatic dues that we woke Gaia up? We can’t say who we are unless we also learn to speak of Gaia, the One we awoke, because first of all we are Those Who Woke Gaia Up. But do we believe that we are going to be able to speak of Gaia in a non-diplomatic manner, without the others? This would certainly be the most ridiculously arrogant gesture of the short period we call “History’! Here we would be repeating exactly the same mistakes. Or rather: Knowing where we are meeting, and how to organize the space of these meetings, this very space where we have a slim chance to learn to speak of Gaia; this question is not to be confused with knowing who or what Gaia is, but it is related. It is a question of knowing how to build our common ground, and it is Gaia who links us with others, what stops us being separated from each other (separating, for example, the rotten entrails of a caribou from the industrialization of China), from being disconnected from each other. It is, in the end, what forces us to meet, whether we want to or not. Gaia is not the Middle Ground, but without an art of sketching the Middle Ground, we will never be able to locate it, nor speak of Those Who Woke Her Up. If we do not know how to problematize what it means to look for what we have in common, how will we be capable of approaching Gaia?
129/ The problem of the “commons” today, is not longer that of the Human, but of the Terrestrial. We are those who must dance with Gaia, identify the best ways of being earthlings and of identifying ‘terrestrialities’. But this shouldn’t be understood as a positive and definitive characterization, as if we knew in a positive fashion what it is to be an Earthling. This means that we are obliged to discuss the ground we are standing on together—and even discuss ‘are’, ‘ground’, and ‘on’—this should be the concern of the diplomats. And without the competencies of Anthropology and Philosophy, which are distorted because they have been separated and poorly instituted, how can we take up these questions? These competencies should be urgently reinstituted under the name of diplomacy.
130/ To clarify. Diplomacy is not about negotiating with well-defined parties. Above all, it is about opening up the diplomatic scene to frightening interlocutors, to have a better scene, a more intense diplomacy. There is no diplomacy unless one relates it, like Jean Rouch, to unsettling objects. But the diplomat is not a collector of shrunken heads. He is looking to do something with his, and others’, fright. He teaches us to identify what it costs us not to run away from something scary, and what has to be changed in one’s mode of introduction in order to relate to abomination. Epistemology is a kind of ‘shockology’. Behind every method there is someone saying, “Doesn’t frighten me!”
131/ There are specific dangers in this kind of work (these dangers can be summed up by a question in one of our tribal languages: “How can we avoid neo-Kantianism?”).
132/ The first is that diplomats, who must always define the framework for negotiation, can be suspected of wanting to close down diplomacy. The diplomatic error lies in the belief that they can create the framework that would gather in all disturbing things, whereas they should just be relating to one at a time. As for the objectification of frameworks, that serves above all to problematize them, to turn them into what is at stake, to bring them into a prospective battle (what Roy Wagner calls ‘obviation’). We only want to clear the terrain, allow the meeting to happen, create spaces for intra-terrestrial meetings, in order, one more time, to make oneself capable of always bringing new beings into the diplomatic space.
133/ This puts the diplomats in a delicate situation. Should they keep quiet? Should they not talk about the art of diplomacy, for fear of giving the impression that each time they deploy it, they want to definitively close down the diplomatic space? Or should they try to do it, but very quietly, whispering in each others’ ears, and above all not making public what we think of the values we hold dear? Is such an asymmetry between diplomats and others acceptable? Does it not reinforce the distrust in which diplomats are held? Do we not have to go into the agora ourselves to defend our value?
134/ The second risk lies in believing that diplomats tell their truth to all those who care about something. Are they not in fact trying to say how to defend a value? Are they not thereby saying what it is to defend a value (thus certain people fear that diplomats want to teach Latour’s “modes of existence”—as they are called in his Inquiry—how to talk about themselves) ? In order to avoid this, we have to constantly remind ourselves that diplomacy is a particular value, that it is no more general than the others. The emphasis in the way meetings are framed is of a particular kind: that of truths that are born from and in the encounter, of their own kind and on the same level as others (in the language of the Inquiry, it is put like this: PRE is one mode of existence among others). In addition, diplomats must recognize that diplomatic encounters do not have the aim of extracting a truth about diplomacy, that they have quite different aims. It is not about legislating in general on the form of any encounter, but to learn to extract truths, particular existents, which we care about—these existents that we will try to name later on. Diplomats have to defend their value in the same way as everyone else, that is, by entering the agora. And when diplomats explain themselves to others, as we are doing now, it is not a matter, once again, of legislating on diplomacy, but because they can be yelled at, denounced, rejected or despised. Diplomats are very bad when it comes to their own diplomacy; they need to learn to talk diplomatically about diplomacy.
135/ A third diplomatic risk is that of forgetting that they are not interested in peace for its own sake, but in a movement (sometimes a bit acrobatic) that would allow one more frightening party to be welcomed. Funny people, us diplomats: we want to pacify, but in order to introduce ourselves better, and above all to be able to begin again with new unsettling existents. Serenity can only be obtained by passing through extreme fright, which one must learn to tame. This is the condition for the diplomatic ‘click’ to work.
136/ A fourth risk is that diplomats are not conscious of the price they must pay for their diplomatic accreditation. It must be said, that we are so far from understanding the nature of what we are doing, we diplomats, that we are just as incompetent when it comes to presenting our qualifications. If climate skeptics are in abundance, then there is an overwhelming number of diplomacy skeptics…it’s because we are self-mandated diplomats, diplomats with a passion for diplomacy. We are not diplomats of a Quai d’Orsay type, but diplomats operating in a space where sovereignties are not completely established, such that the endorsements of our mandates themselves are often dubious, and especially for those diplomats who work for diplomacy itself. We are closer to the Harvard Program on Negotiation (which Roger Fisher has run for a long time), or the work of the Sant’Egidio Community (studied in Marie Balas’ thesis), than we are to Westphalian diplomats. But for that, we have to demonstrate our utility on a number of fronts, and we realize we haven’t done that enough yet. We can only hope that with time we will earn to confidence of others.
137/ Another risk is that of confusing diplomacy with politics. But diplomacy does not aim to assure commonality, in any sense. When crises are induced in meeting places, it aims to take from them the very means to learn how to introduce oneself. It is another ‘key’ (to speak the language of the Inquiry), another regime of veridiction, which has other beings as its concern.
138/ There is one more risk, and that is to believe that diplomatic concern comes before meetings, that it is like an prerequisite, that one cannot start to go to the trouble of introducing oneself without having first clarified what it is to speak diplomatically. The explanation of diplomacy can emerge at any moment, and is no more likely at the beginning (epistemology) or the end (hermeneutics)—every time there is a need to enlarge the diplomatic scene to bring in a new existent.
139/ So what we are proposing here is more like the state of the diplomatic art. Not a general theory of all possible diplomacy, just a little practical guide on how to go about setting up diplomatic terrains, that is, to always be on the alert for new beings that we might have need to bring into the diplomatic game.
140/ And yet one shouldn’t give up on the move that consists in sketching (provisionally, courageously, a little violently) the face of a common space for diplomatic encounters. Sketch the One which suits our meetings, without shutting down these meetings. Force the One, but only to problematize it further. Take the risk of saying where one is meeting together today in order to introduce ourselves as the Moderns (and without saying to the others how they should introduce themselves, nor impose on them the meaning of what they are doing in agreeing to enter into diplomacy with us). We hold by this: that we cannot introduce ourselves well without the risk that comes with meetings.
141/ The first thing we have learned from all our bungles is that, in order to introduce oneself well, one has to stop separating Philosophy from Anthropology. Anthropology is the art of the encounter, the art of opening diplomatic scenes. Without any doubt, we need the competences that it cultivates. But Philosophy has cultivated the art of sketching common scenes, the art of saying how all beings (and beyond that, even those who are not beings) can stay in the same place—and we have need of an art of creating common scenes. We have to use the one with the other; cosmology with ethnography, and vice-versa. Not just articulate ontologies or cosmologies of different peoples engaged in the diplomatic enterprise, but make diplomacy itself a cosmology.
142/ But there is a second condition that means stopping opposing the art of self-presentation and the art of speaking of beings. This is the opposition that has caused the most diplomatic heartache. For a long time, in fact, we thought that introducing ourselves was a matter of speaking about ourselves, about Man, or about the Subject. We only allowed into the diplomatic assembly those who agreed to speak about themselves as they introduced themselves. In order to do diplomacy, we thought, all utterances that dealt with ‘reality’ had to be banished. This is the first violence we imposed on everyone. There are a lot of people among the Moderns and the non-Moderns who told us that to sit side by side with us in the diplomatic scene meant we had to stop asking them who they were and get interested in the beings they cared about. We will take their lead. We will make the effort to speak of beings. Today, for us, the most trying and intense of diplomatic experiences is that of having to reopen the question of beings.
143/ Diplomatic procedure, as we see it today, must steer a path between these two dangers, these two concerns; that of opening the diplomatic scene to multiple realities and that of composing these realities into a unique world. The picture of the diplomatic scene therefore, at least as far as we are able to construct it on the basis of the experiences we are undergoing today, demands two things: multiple realities, common world.
144/ What we present here is the image that we can project of the diplomatic scene, on the basis of the historical experiences which we Moderns have had, and also on the basis of what we have learned from our initial negotiations, and on the basis of what we think we have learned from the multiple encounters to which we have been subject. This image is local, provisional. It has value here, today, and we can only do our best to provide as faithful an image as possible to all the crises that have obliged us to redefine our framework. Above all, this image is a forcing of our experience; it is projected. This projection procedure is risky. It runs the risk of inciting confusion and annoyance, but we think it is necessary.
Our Values: Multiplying Modes of Existence/Composing a World
145/ So it seems to us that we can get to the Middle Ground (to the extent that we are able to project an image of it based on our current experiences, and necessarily exceeding it) through two procedures: multiplying realities on the one hand, but also composing them in an ensemble in what we are proposing to call a World.
146/ (NB: In the Inquiry, the first procedure is well-marked by the name of PRE, that art of extracting “modes of existence”. But we suggest there is another being of which the Inquiry does not speak enough about, which is ‘the World’, the place where the modes of existence can relax. The Inquiry says that it has the ambition of creating more space, of arranging space in a new way, to make a welcoming architecture for all beings, but it doesn’t say much about this procedure. One of the essential aims of the following proposition is to rectify this point).
1) Multiplying modes of existence.
147/ The diplomatic requirement therefore forces us to repeatedly welcome beings whom we would in principle reject, beings we have no room for. This forces the Moderns to think that the Middle Ground cannot be what they used to think it was: Reality. Our diplomatic encounters do not take place in Reality. We were in the habit of thinking that this Reality was unique, separated from any mode of access, or at least via paradoxical lines of access which are those of, firstly, Philosophy (thanks to ‘pure Reason’) and Science (thanks to ‘experience’). Such a scene was the least diplomatic possible. And yet, this should not lead us to abandon the question of Being, but to multiply it. We have to learn to speak of realities in the plural. But since this might be too hard for the Moderns to swallow, we suggest picking up the term used by Etienne Souriau and Gilbert Simondon that the Inquiry makes use of: “modes of existence.” On the Middle Ground, there is not just one way of being, there are several modes of existence. The “modes of existence” are the beings that move the diplomats, they are the beings we care about. What are they?
148/ The diplomats should not act like these modes of existence were there, sitting next to each other, Outside, in some kind of Great Outdoors. It only makes sense to bring in a new mode of existence if there has been a conflict, like if one of them wanted to crush all the others, or even some of them. In fact, it is each time that the unfortunate idea of “Reality” is challenged that we feel the need to introduce a new mode of existence. One of the most significant experiences for diplomats is the crisis that Whitehead called the “Bifurcation of Nature”, that is, the manner in which Science emptied everything out (beginning with Nature). This is why diplomats have a particular need for those who care about liberating “Nature” from those who would want to give it a certain hegemonic power. In short, diplomats could neither multiply modes of existence nor talk them into a common world, were it not for controversies over facts. They don’t create them out of whole cloth. They are on the lookout for these controversies, but they can never, on their own, introduce a mode of existence outside of the trial of a conflict among modes (what the Inquiry calls a “category error”)—except, of course, that of the “modes of existence” themselves, which are their beings, the diplomatic beings, for whom they must also find a place (PRE). In the end, one can say that a mode of existence is, at least, whatever challenges the hegemony of scientific objectivity and philosophical Being.
149/ To this extent, diplomatic beings are no different from any other. Because all beings have to be trialed. The first imperative of the diplomat is to invite the Moderns to articulate their requirements and necessities, and not to go, without intermediary, to a general theory of their beings, which would presuppose having a direct and unilateral access to them. The new diplomat is the one who encourages everyone to take his time to unfold the mediations, so that the diplomats can grasp the tests through which beings make themselves be, and thus help them undo any conflicts of reality (“category errors”) hindering them. One thing one can say about our Middle Ground is that it is definitely as far away as possible from any “Reality”, even multiple…It only makes sense to speak of existence when one thinks it will be necessary to diplomatically welcome one more mode of existence
2) Composing a World
151/ But diplomats cannot be content with the art of multiplying modes of existence, getting ready at each turn to add one more being. They also have to imagine, fabulate, the diplomatic scene itself in which these modes are not happy just to be rubbing shoulders with each other, but articulate with each other, compose with each other. This scene is obviously not a new Reality, but nor is it a kind of pragmatic last resort to resolve conflicts ad hoc. It is indeed founded in the experience of conflicts, which motivates it, but to say that the scene is just “the space of negotiation among modes” would be to replace the necessity to compose modes of existence with a sort of discourse ethics. And it would mean falling back into a new “bifurcation of nature”: a diplomatic space on one side (which does not touch Being); realities and conflict on the other. Diplomats should not forget the task of imaging the Whole of the modes of existence. We could call this Whole, which is not named in the Inquiry, the World.
152/ The World is far from being the former reality (hypostasis of scientific objectivity, i.e.: of a specific mode of existence). But nor is it Nature, grasped by the Inquiry under the name of REP. Nor the Earth, whether as conceived by Husserl, when he says that we can be conscious of something only because we are on a ground, or IGPC’s version which studies the planetary system. And obviously the World is not Gaia.
153/ How do we start talking in a mode that is adequate for composition? Composing doesn’t just mean juxtaposing in a rhapsodic fashion different coexistent realities, one next to the other. It is not possible just to affirm the presence or the effectivity of diverse ontologies. It would be the worst kind of peaceful resolution to carry out an inquiry only to produce, and the end of the inquiry, a mutual isolation of realities. It would not even allow one to reopen negotiations on the most painful points. For all that, a system of realities with a definite form is not conceivable. Following the line of the Inquiry, one has to use the implications of the instauration of the being-as-other, the being who would carry in itself the seeds of its alteration in the light of future negotiations. We need a problematic concept of alteration. One of the goals aimed for by such a redefinition of being consists in making room for beings without designating a place for each, and in this way allowing the growth in power proper to composed realities.
154/ Obviously this task exposes us to a long series of risky diplomatic indiscretions. Because nothing is more dangerous, diplomatically, than trying to say something about diplomatic spaces.
155/ First, the risk of looking like wanting to close the image of the World definitively. So one has to reiterate that the World is always a provisional image projected from the real experience of conflicts in reality that we have undergone. Any effort of ‘cosmological’ sequencing, (like that of the Inquiry with its 15 articulated modes) is a sequencing that can be completely reconfigured.
156/ To do this, it is a good idea not to deprive oneself of the historical and potential resources represented by philosophical activity, especially in its speculative dimension. But they should be deployed in a fresh manner, more attentive to particularities, to the singular character of the practice it represents. Rather than crafting a reasoned monologue, speculation could thus be understood as experimentation allowing conceptual frameworks and ways of reasoning to be pushed to their very limits in order to release original possibilities. Speculative work, as an exercise in conceptual reinvention, should thus integrate itself with the broader totality of constraints it inherits (linked to the obstacles encountered in the diplomatic situations), and to possible broader reworkings it might entail down the line (conditional, local reworkings, with no guarantee of success).
157/ Then, there is the risk of saying to the activists promoting the different “modes of existence” (who, let us remember, don’t necessarily identify themselves as such, and have no need to do so, except in the diplomatic arena) how they should be introducing themselves. This is a legitimate worry, but everything in the very understanding which we henceforth have of ourselves, shows that we have taken this concern very much to heart. Didn’t we give ourselves the job of sketching the diplomatic arena as always adding an extra mode of existence?
158/ Another question: is diplomacy among the modes of existence of the same nature as diplomacy with other collectives? Is this the same art? On this point, we can say at any rate that introducing a plurality of beings, modes of existence, amongst us, is already a preparation for the encounter with other collectives. But we are not forgetting that what we are looking for here is an art of introducing ourselves, us the Moderns, and not a general art of self-introduction.
159/ Others are wondering if we are not closing down negotiation by speaking of “modes of existence”. But speaking of modes of existence, once again, is only what we are in need of today, in order to open up the diplomatic arena. Perhaps one day we will reach the point of no longer needing them. But what’s the use of speaking in a void? As Descartes said: we may as well ask ourselves to think how we would think if by chance we were angels…
160/ One of the more serious worries that arises for us diplomats is to believe only in peace, and not be able to see the virtue of conflict as a force of composition. As if one were only able to compose by eradicating conflicts. Yet if there is one thing we have learned from our diplomatic experiences, it is that the unity of the World can on be an irenic one, where realties articulate with each other and help each other out in a friendly way, each with the interests of the Whole in mind. We have to recognize the importance of ontological conflict. Plurality does not demand peace. Metaphysical war is not necessarily noxious.
161/ “What? Life begins with an explosion and ends in harmony? What an absurdity!” René Char, in Fureur et Mystère.
How can Diplomacy be Reinstituted?
Title 3: How to reinstitue the diplomacy?
162/ So these are the diplomatic values: Multiply modes of existence, recompose a common world. But how can they be instituted? We know that the traditional disciplines have failed. Anthropology and philosophy have not been capable of bringing these values together with all their requirements and in all their integrity. Either because they have refused beings (for Anthropology) or because they have refused encounters (for Philosophy).
163/ Yet it is clear that diplomatic institutions are needed. It is not enough to say that a priest and a physicist will be made to confront each other; one has to learn to speak of the beings proper to either of them, to sensitize oneself to what the question of the being demands, each time under new forms, and work on the different images of the World that each mode also projects, in order to be able to sketch a common world.
164/ The institution of diplomacy will be the result of the fusion of the philosophical and anthropological institutions. It is an enormous endeavor, but a necessary one.
OUR DISAGREEMENTS WITH THE PROCEEDINGS
Our Disagreements with the Proceedings
I, Daniel Robichaud, wish to ratify the present document on the condition that I express my disagreement with the entirety of paragraphs 133 through 164.
I, Philip Conway, wish to ratify the present document with the specification that my signature only indicates that nothing contained in the present document constitutes an “absolutely unliveable condition” for me.
I, Baptiste Gille, wish to ratify the present document on the condition of expressing my disagreement with the following 5 major points:
- Politics: In general, the deflation brings about a restriction of the possible field of political action.
- Politics: We must make more room for the beings of metamorphosis (MET) in politics. They allow us to see more clearly that politics, beyond it’s activity of deflation, is thoroughly shaped by transformations (revolutions, demonstrations, riots, occupations, etc). Indignation and the feeling of injustice give rise to emotions, voices, that the idea of the deflation of politics could wish to stifle too quickly. This point is important since you can think that ecological problems (the arrival of Gaia) potentially bring these dangerous beings of transformation, bearers of change, along with them.
- Politics: Nor is it a matter of thinking that militancy is necessarily a politico-theological alloy (NB: salvation comes from politics): militancy can be seen as a local indignation, and a sensitivity to injustice from case to case.
- Religion: In many cases, it is difficult to easily distinguish between religious beings and beings of metamorphosis, between saving and curing. Many evangelists intend to save through curing, for example.
- Diplomacy: With regard to content, one could rework the notion of “culture” in order to retrace the history of the diplomatic gesture of the Moderns. In terms of form, it is difficult to find the right tone. Much is made of this difficulty (“presenting ourselves as”), so it is tackled head on as the central problem.
I, Antoine Hennion, wish to ratify the present document, excluding the entirety of part 5, which to me appears to run counter to the entire process in its position (which reinstates an overarching metaphysics, even disguised as diplomacy or anthropology: Telling others how they ought to speak), its form (the text is too long and built on precautions, which results in a very denialist tone, that keeps asserting that it is not doing what the text is precisely in the process of doing), and the content (simple or arbitrary characterizations of other movements).
- POL, full of fine ideas and suggestions, suffers from a general euphemizing of irreconcilable disagreements and of violence. But, that said, no overall disagreement. On the contrary, it helps thinking through the frontier of politics.
I, Bruno Latour, wish to ratify the present document on the condition that my disaccord on the following major point be expressed:
- Paragraphs 113-164 pose a real problem for me as the impetus of the project is grounded heavily on avoiding the position of a “philosophical reflection” on diplomacy. I do not think that these paragraphs should be part of these specifications, even if I agree that the three practices of philosophy, anthropology, and diplomacy ought to be reinstituted.
I, François Cooren, wish to ratify this document on the condition that my disaccord with the entirety of paragraphs 113-164 be expressed.
I, Consuelo Vasquez, wish to ratify the present document on the condition that my disaccord with the following major points be expressed:
Paragraphs 113-164 pose a problem for me through their appropriation of diplomacy, and of the more general style of the “Presentation of the Moderns,” through (a certain vision) of the Philosophy of Anthropology. Plus, these paragraphs seem to me to propose a vision of the modes with is counter to that of the Inquiry.
The section POL presents a vision of the collective which does not take into account the beings of POL.
We, Pierre-Laurent Boulanger, Patrice Maniglier, and Louis Morelle wish to ratify the present document on the condition that we express our disaccord on the following major points:
The collection of propositions in the section “Our Politics,” understood in the perspective of an anthropology of the Politics of the Moderns, appears very pertinent. Nevertheless, insofar as they can be understood as implying a reform of the concepts of our Politics, they tend to promote, in a largely implicit manner, a politically non-neutral program of the neutralization of politics.
A part of the argument contained in the section “Our Religion” rests on the idea that the Moderns are the only ones who have instituted a difference between true and false Gods. More generally, this section operates on the basis of the erasure of the question of techniques of spirituality. Indeed, the point is that the Moderns possess a tradition of spiritual techniques which exceeds the bounds of religion, whether understood in the sense of REL or not. We suggest rewriting the useful components of REL in a less constrained mode, which could be called Spirituality [SPI].
The argument entailing that we should justify the beings of REL because we need them in a negative mode to protect totality, on the one hand, and salvation, on the other, from the beings of POL is consequently short-sighted with regard to the notion of political transformation - which seems indispensable to us.
We, Natassja Martin and Emmanuel Grimaud, anthropologists, wish to ratify the present document on the condition that the beings of Metamorphosis and, more generally, all the beings not taken into account (starting with vegetables, stars, minerals, and all the hybrids of the emerging panpsychist century) can continue to proliferate and subvert the concerns of all legislative desires with the aid of benevolent diplomats. We accept the Ecumenisation of [REL] on the condition that on the day when the lights go out for the second time, the spirits can return anew.
I, Isabelle Stengers, wish to ratify the present document on the condition that I express my disaccord on the following points:
In the discussion of “Our Politics,” the analysis depends entirely on the choice of a politics without the beings [MET], i.e. making an economy of their metamorphic efficacy.
In the discussion “Our Diplomacy,” I must express a general disaccord concerning the tone as much as the thesis itself. It is not up to philosophy (even as anthropology) to capture diplomacy.
I, Didier Debaise, wish to ratify the present document on the condition that I express my disaccord on the following points: I wish to express my total disaccord with Part 5, entitled “Our Diplomacy,” whose function, characteristics, and tone ought to adopt a diplomatic character.
I, Aline Wiame, wish to ratify the present document on the condition that I express my disaccord on the following point. I do not ratify Section 5, “Our Diplomacy,” for the following reasons:
The way in which this section appeared in the framework of this Specbook at the last minute is not diplomatic;
the need for a theory of diplomacy in the framework of this Specbook seems dubious to me;
the tone adopted, between repentance and derision, its conceited rhetoric, could be seen rightly as insulting (even if I recognize that this was not the will of its co-authors);
the generalizing aspect, not born from situated experiences, is an affront to my relationship with philosophy;
certain fundamental propositions seem to me to be not only impoverished, but also dangerous for the role that the self-proclaimed meta-diplomats are proposing to play.
I, Nicolas Prignot, wish to ratify the present document on the condition that I express my disaccord on the following major points:
I disagree entirely with the part “Our Diplomacy.” for me, this text is a total failure, as much in intent as in content and form.
In intent, I believe that the extension of a category proper to the inquiry on the Moderns [PRE] to a situation of the welcome to “others” is both an error and a disastrously ethnocentric gesture.
In content, I can adhere neither to this version of philosophy and anthropology nor to the role assigned to their common reinstitution. Diplomacy is not supposed to become the preserve of philosophers.
In form, I fear that the point of view created for the occasion, this voice of the Moderns, might be an additional reason to refuse meeting afresh, and adds an additional insult to a long list.
I, Stephen Muecke, wish to ratify the present document on the condition that I express my disaccord on the following major point:
- The style of certain parts of the text, namely “Our Diplomacy” (paragraphs 113-164), emerged at the end of our short working week without being edited sufficiently in a collective fashion.
I, Cormac O’Keeffe, wish to ratify the present document on the condition that I express my disagreement with:
- The manner in which beings such as those of [TEC] (or [MET]) remain fairly invisible or are only partially taken into account.
I, Pierre Montebello, wish to ratify the present document on the condition that I express my disagreement with on following points:
the exegetic dimension of the report to Gaia with the interpretation of the book on Nature in “Offered Writings.”
the restriction on the beings of [REL] is too strong.
I, Milad Doueihi, wish to ratify the present document.
I, Martin Giraudeau, wish to ratify the present document on the condition that I express my disagreement on the sections “Our Politics” and “Our Diplomacy,” of which I contest the implicit theories of action -- framed externally, tying together deliberation and decision...in a word: linear. Politics and Diplomacy cannot, any more than the economy, take a short-cut in the reorganization of their way of carrying out the “project”.
I, Vincent Lépinay, wish to ratify the present document, which I view as a work-in-progress.
I, Pierre-Yves Condé, wish to ratify the present document on the condition that two declarations are added which do not express irreparable disagreements with what is said, but a dissatisfaction due to certain things left unsaid.
“Our Politics” seems to me to be too focused on dissent within the politics of civility, or indeed, if the stakes are dramatically raised, civil war. Seeking to reinstitute a liberal politics, “parliamentary” or “of the assembly”, its propositions ought to be tied with others which would focus on the “revolutionary,” democratic politics of the Moderns. Besides, if they have to civilize revolution instead of believing it a thing of the past or imagine that revolution is the only true politics, they can only present themselves to others by being ready to participate in the rediscovery of this “Equiliberty,” which is so precious to them and which indicts them so much: the decolonisation and “declaration of independence” of Gaia are at risk here.
The move back to philosophy and anthropology in “Our Diplomacy” seems a good idea, but poses a problem since philosophy and anthropology are taken to be the Modern institution of diplomacy. From a more abstract point of view, there is still a particular problem with the manner in which each mode views the others, including [PRE], and develops a proper sense of ontological pluralism. It may be necessary to work on the crossings between [PRE] and the other modes, maybe the proper occasion will arise in the wake of the 21-29 July 2014.
I, Gerard de Vries, wish to ratify the present document on the condition that I express my disagreement with the entirety of paragraphs 113-164.