An anarchist common realm

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One striking aspect of Bookchin's position is that he refuses the notion of hierarchy in nature not by widening but by reducing the gap between society and nature.59 Such a reduction ensures that Bookchin's position addresses effectively the questions posed at the beginning of this chapter. The distance between nature and society is reduced through the commitment to read both in terms of the developmental emergence of diversity, mutuality and spontaneity. Yet the reading is dialectical in order to insist that the narrowing of distance is never the overcoming of difference. Hierarchies cannot be projected onto nature; neither can nature be interpreted as a resource for natural laws (or, worse, fascist notions ofblood, race and soil or Stalinist materialist dialectics) to which humanity must conform. Bookchin also offers a sophisticated account of the emergence of the human from the non-human and offers an account ofthe dependence ofthe human on the non-human. The diversity of humanity and the diversity of nature are linked in a dialectical relationship.

As such, Bookchin may be understood as a thinker in the movement of Left-Aristotelianism. According to John Ely, whose designation this is,60 such Left-Aristotelianism offers, first, a civic republicanism theory of democracy, based on the participation of the citizen, which, in turn, involves a criticism of the nation-state and the Weberian construal of'politics as statecraft'. As Ely notes, citizen is a 'non-ascriptive' notion which thereby undercuts identities based on familial, ethnic or racial characteristics. Second, Left-Aristotelianism provides a philosophy of nature. That is, Bookchin offers an account of nature in relation to an '"objective" or "substantive rationality"' which cannot in turn be disassociated from the 'problem of ontology in general'.61 Bookchin is a Left-Aristotelian to the extent that a moral pluralism and relativism is to be rejected in favour of an ethics grounded in an ontology of nature.

59. Bookchin, The Modern Crisis, p. 64n.

60. John Ely, 'Ernst Bloch, Natural Rights, and the Greens', in David Macauley (ed.), Minding

Nature:The Philosophers of Ecology (New York: Guilford, 1996), pp. 134-66 (p. 143).

How does this discussion inform a political theology of nature.? What is remarkable and important about Bookchin's position is the way that he relates nature and society. Bookchin refuses to oppose some abstraction dubbed humanity to an abstraction called nature. Instead, Bookchin specifies the hierarchies of domination that blight contemporary society and explores how these cannot be read off a non-hierarchical nature. Such a conclusion is very important for the concept of the common realm of God, nature and humanity. How so. Because the common realm also proposes a holism in which the unity of the created order - humanity in, with and alongside nature - forms a whole (in asymmetrical relation to the activity of God). However, the construal of such a holism must be alert to differences: nature and society are internally differentiated.

The common realm is also committed to the affirmation of diversity or difference within that unity. Nor does the common realm wish to deny the restrictive 'differences' to be associated with hierarchical structures and patterns ofdomination but rather wishes to theorise these in oppositional fashion. The construal of the common realm as a theological holism must, in short, be alert to differences. Nature and society are internally differentiated. And the differentiation within society may be hierarchical. Furthermore, the relations between these zones should not be construed in domineering ways in which nature is employed in support ofdominating and unjust practices. For Bookchin, the principal errors in this regard are the projections ofnature in Stalinism and Nazism, and the view ofnature as mean, cruel and stingy.

At the risk of making a crass political judgment, in my view the principal political problem for a politics of nature in the Western democracies is neither a sclerotic Communism nor a restrictive fascism. Rather, contemporary politics ofnature situates itselfaround the problem ofthe stinginess of nature. This is especially true in the discussion of population growth. In other words, the stinginess ofnature is employed to underpin the scarcity of'natural goods' and hence their unequal distribution. A liberal state will therefore seek to persuade us ofthree conclusions: that the human story may be told without reference to the story of nature; that difficulties with nature's lack of fecundity will bestbe addressed by the technical resources of the state; and, finally, that the best arbiter of access to nature's goods is the state. Of all three conclusions, a political-ideological interpretation ofnature is suspicious.

Against these conclusions, a political theology of nature affirms the continuities between humanity and nature, insists that the interactions between nature and society must be the subject of political deliberation, and queries whether the state has a monopoly of insight in these matters. Furthermore, in denying that these are merely technical matters, an ecological theology founded on the common realm of God, nature and humanity will always wish to ask: which hierarchies are served, and disguised, by this construal of access to nature as a technical problem.? At the very least, Murray Bookchin's social ecology invites a political theology of nature not to construe the whole of humanity and nature in terms of an harmonious unity or convergent political or social interests. The common realm is fractured both by gender (as we saw in the previous chapter) and by the elitism of technical managers who assign nature's goods in some underspecifiedyet 'general' interest.

What is vital here is to subject this account of the domination of nature by technique to the scrutiny of the concept of temporality. Two results follow from such an affirmation. First, that nature is not to be zoned off from human society but is rather always the companion of a society; nature, as Bookchin reminds us, is the condition of the development, not merely the emergence, of human society. Second, how nature relates to society is always a matter of temporal emergence: the full range of how nature is incorporated in human society mustbe attended to. In other words, such incorporation must not be restricted to the activities of the state. Furthermore, the stress on emergence as temporal indicates that the modalities of emergence are not fixed and can be countered and tested through forms of agency, both natural and social. Put another way, nature is not static nor are nature-society relations unalterable. In relation to both these commitments, the notion of agency - ours and nature's - needs to be rethought.

A second way in which Bookchin's social ecology contributes to the development ofa political theology ofnature is more problematic. The way that Bookchin construes the polity as the ground of social being I have already rejected as too undialectical a formulation. By privileging the community of the municipality in this fashion, Bookchin overlooks the themes of the sociality and spatiality of nature. Although he maintains a welcome emphasis on the subjectivity of nature, the teleological-evolutionary strain in Bookchin's thinking considers human beings as extending and completing this subjectivity. Hence the lack of detail offered by Bookchin on the relations between a municipality and nature. Throughout, I have preferred to stress the sociality of human-nature relations: nature in its otherness is the companion of humanity across all dimensions of human society. In such fashion, the necessary transformation of nature if there is to be human life at all is properly accounted for. Indeed, as part of its nature, humanity shares this stress on the construction of a habitable 'society' with all other life.

This, in turn, leads to a third issue which a political theology of nature may derive from Bookchin's social ecology: the political representation of nature. Nature is always present, for Bookchin, but not in the political life of the polis. Bookchin thereby breaches my rule of sociality, for he cannot specify under the conditions of direct democracy how nature is to be construed as present. That is, Bookchin protects his notion ofanarchist community construed as polity but at the expense of the political representation ofnature. Bookchin is forced to arrive at this conclusion because for him direct democracy is constitutive of his account of the polis. And, because it is not a democratic subject in the ordinary sense, non-human nature cannot be present in face-to-face democratic discussion. Here the dialectic between the social and the ecological in Bookchin's social ecology comes to a halt. What is required is the mediation of nature so that it may be present in the political sphere. However, Bookchin's proposal domesticates nature by thrusting it outside of the political realm. (There is a further, ecclesiological, issue here: Bookchin's schema in fact places the church 'beyond' the polity in ways that are theologically unacceptable. For the Church in its identity is witness to the political rule of God and thereby cannot be excluded from the political realm.)

To put the matter somewhat differently, community alone cannot be understood as the ground of social being. Instead, the ground of social being is always in part natural. Immediately, we see that, if community needs to be supplemented by natural conditions, the notion of community is called into question. This is because, although communities are situated in particular regions yet nature cannot be zoned into regions. The spatiality of nature requires that the horizon of nature, as this surpasses all communities, cannot be ignored. (If the city of Bristol, where I am writing these lines, may be called a community, then Bristol makes a contribution through its pollution to the accumulation of greenhouse gases and thereby to global warming. In this fashion, Bristol makes a contribution to the melting of the ice caps and the disruption of the lives of polar bears whose habitat - especially access to food - is being altered by shorter, warmer winters. In sum, nature surpasses community.) In this context, attempting to understand nature as a local phenomenon makes no sense. The question returns: how is such nature to be represented politically.?

Recall that back in chapter 21 argued that the philosophical theology being proposed in this book interprets God in terms of activity, ground and force. Such differentiation in God is required if the totality of reality, in its determinations and in its wholeness, is to be thought theologically: without privilege either to the whole or to the parts. Thinking through the totality of the world from this perspective requires that both parts and wholes are related to the activity of God: the 'whole' of creation does not compete with God, and God is the ground of all the parts and the force that secures the whole.

These are abstract categories. However, in the light of the discussion of Bookchin, the theologico-political content of these categories may be enriched. We may conclude that nature-society forms both a whole, and a variety of parts. Nature and society comprise a unity, but always a unity of differences. Nature must be understood as both part and whole: it is the context of human living but also a horizon that surpasses all human habitats. Functioning as a whole in relation to humanity, nature does not function as the source of hierarchy. However, the presence of nature through all human endeavours is to be affirmed. There persists between nature and society a dialectic of continuity and difference. (Epistemologically, this is the correctorder: the consideration of continuity precedes the identification of difference.) Nevertheless, the continuity is not that secured by some variant ofnatural laws, and the difference is not one of'mastery'.

A political theology of nature will thereby be alert to any attempt to construe the unity of nature as a template for humanity, and to construe the unity of humanity in the form of the supremacy of the human. Nor will a political theology of nature invest in accounts of nature as support for hierarchical thinking but will agree that humanity is by nature social. The sociality of humanity and nature is thereby confirmed as the principal theme of the common realm, with spatiality of nature affirming the critical otherness of nature, and temporality affirming that both nature and society name processes ofbecoming.

A political theology of nature will take issue with some aspects of Bookchin's thought: the tendency of social ecology is perhaps towards a personalism in which humanity summarises and completes nature: humanity is nature become self-conscious. There are other tendencies in Bookchin's thought, but this Hegelian stress fits uneasily with the affirmation of nature as always present. The movement of social ecological inquiry tends not to highlight an encounter with the otherness ofnature. The whole of nature is thereby somewhat downplayed in this holistic account. And the tendency towards voluntarism and idealism is evident in Bookchin's thought: the structure of Bookchin's inquiry focuses on the tendency to stress the centrality of a certain sort of politics as the way forward, rather than on the material labour by which humanity transforms nature.

None the less, the themes of sociality, spatiality and temporality are acquiring further definition: the whole of the common realm is not to be interpreted as hierarchical, nor should nature be employed as the source of hierarchy. Only by such means are the wholes and parts of the common realm to be construed in liberatory ways.

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