Why are we in political paralysis as humanity faces unprecedented challenges? In his Memo on the new eco-class, published in January 2022 (1), Bruno Latour took head-on the issue of political impotence in the face of the environmental crisis. He had brought his answer to it by proposing to pose ecology as the discriminating factor of the new political oppositions and to bring in a new actor, “ecological class”, to fight it.
The philosopher regretted that ecology today is both ” everywhere “ and ” nowhere “. In a context where “there is a kind of indifference, irenicism, expectation and false peace”, he invited people to recognize that ecology “implies division” and map conflicts “on all subjects” that it generates. He offered it with an assumed radicalism, but also a form of empathy, aware that, “on countless issues, we ourselves are divided, both victims and accomplices”.
Free yourself from the fascination of production
For Bruno Latour, the vital political issue was to free himself from the fascination with production. “The point of cleavage which pits the new ecological class against all the others, he wrote, it is that it wants to restrict the place of the relations of production, and that the others want to extend it”. The goal should no longer be ” the growth “but ” prosperity “. “It is not a question of decreasing, but of finally prospering. »
For the philosopher, political impotence could not be overcome without serious work of reflection and investigation. “We need to know what we care about,” he confided to The cross in 2020. “Today, you have to ask everyone: what do you care about, what do you depend on, who is disappearing, and what are you doing about it? The new democratic people can only emerge if they begin to know what issue(s) they want to fight on, with whom and against whom. » As another track, the philosopher proposed to become aware of the world “where we live” and the world “on which we live”, and work to bring them together.
The exhaustion of politics
In one of his last articles, published in September (2), Bruno Latour returned to the exhaustion of politics, now “pathetic repertoire of imitations of imitations of what was once (…) great establishments of collective works”. devitalized repertoire “passions, attitudes, historical words”, which is reduced “like a skin of shagreen”, “which becomes less readable with each passage like a photocopy of photocopy of photocopy”.
For him, the time had come to begin afresh the essential political task: the composition of a common world. Because this is never given. “There is no common world. There never was. Pluralism is with us forever (…) Disagreements are not superficial, transient, due to simple errors of pedagogy or communication, but fundamental”, he recalled.
The philosopher called for real diplomatic work, in the strong sense of the term, to compose this common world which can always ” to fail “. “We will never agree; and yet we must agree. There is no common habitat; and yet we must live together. The word beautiful from modus vivendi. “Composing” can mean arranging, making compromises, combining, making schemes, dealing, yes, but also arranging, assembling, harmonizing, working. » Lines that resonate today like a collective testament.