Bruno Latour (1947-)



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 http://theology.kr
 http://www.bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/136-AFFECTS-OF-K-COPENHAGUE.pdf
 On some of the affects of capitalism

On some of the affects of capitalism
Bruno Latour
Lecture given at the Royal Academy, Copenhagen,
26th of February, 2014*
For discussion only
“If the world were a bank, they would have already bailed it out”. Such is
the slogan painted by Greenpeace militants in one of their recent campaigns.
It says a lot about our level of intellectual corruption that we don’t find such
a line simply funny but tragically realistic. It has the same bleak degree of
realism as Frederick Jameson’s famous quip that: “Nowadays it seems easier
to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism!”.
If you call the world, I mean the world we all live in, “first nature” and
capitalism our “second nature” — in the sense of that to which we are fully
habituated and which has been totally naturalized — then what those
sentences are saying is that the second nature is more solid, less transitory,
less perishable than the first. No wonder: the transcendent world of beyond
has always been more durable than the poor world of below. But what is new
is that this world of beyond is not that of salvation and eternity, but that of
economic matters. As Karl Marx would have said, the realm of
transcendence has been fully appropriated by banks! Through an
unexpected turn of phrase, the world of economy,far from representing a
sturdy down to earth materialism, a sound appetite for worldly goods and
solid matters of fact, is now final and absolute. How mistaken we were;
apparently it is the laws of capitalism that Jesus had in mind when he
warned his disciples: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will
never pass away.” (Matt 24-35).
This inversion of what is transitory and what is eternal is no longer a
joke, especially since what should be called the “Australian strategy of
voluntary sleepwalking toward catastrophe” is being implemented to the
full after the last election: not content to dismantle the institutions,
scientific establishments and instruments that could prepare his

English kindly corrected by Michael Flower. I thank the participant to
the AIME workshop at CBS February 25th 26th for their insights.
136 - The Affects of Capitalism 2
constituency to meet the new global threat of climate mutations,1 the prime
minister, Tony Abbott, is also dismantling, one after the other, most
departments of social science and humanities.
2 Such a strategy makes a lot of
sense: not thinking ahead is probably, when you are an Australian and given
what is coming, the most rationalthing to do. “Not thinking” seems to be the
slogan of the day when you consider that in the United States alone
something like a billion dollars,3 yes, one billion, is being spent to generate
ignorance about the anthropic origin of climate mutations. In earlier
periods, scientists and intellectuals lamented the little money spent on
learning, but they never had to witness floods of money spent on unlearning
what was already known.While in times pastthinking critically was
associated with looking ahead and extracting oneself from an older
obscurantist past, today money is being spent to become even more
obscurantist than yesterday! “Agnotology”, Robert Proctor’s science of
generating ignorance, has become the most important discipline of the day.4
It is thanks to this great new science that so many people are able to say in
their heart “Perish the world, provided my bank survives!”. It is a desperate
task to continue thinking when the powers of intelligence are dedicated to
shutting down thought and to marching ahead with eyes wide closed.
What is there, in this second nature, that generates such a lack of
sensitivity to the worldly conditions of our existence? This is the problem we
have to tackle.
I will take capitalism to mean not a thing in the world, but a certain way
of being affected when trying to think through this strange mixture of miseries
and luxuries we encounter when trying to come to terms with the dizzying
interplays of “goods” and “bads”. Capitalism is a conceptinvented to help
absorb this odd mixture of enthusiasm for the cornucopia of riches that has
lifted billions of people out of abject poverty and the indignation, rage and
fury in response to the miseries visited on billions of other people. Especially
troubling to me is the feeling of helplessnessthat is associated with any
discussion of economics and that I have so much trouble reconciling with
1 http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/10/09/australia-s-new-prime-ministersurrounded-climate-science-denying-voices-and-advisors
2 http://www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/Issue-November-
2012/bode&dale.html
3 http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/20/conservative-groups-
1bn-against-climate-change 4 Robert Proctor, and Londa Schiebinger. Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of
Ignorance. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.
136 - The Affects of Capitalism 3
what I consider science’s and politics’ main effects, these being the opening
of new possibilities and the provision of margins to maneuver. Why is it that
when we are asked or summoned to combat capitalism, we feel, I feel so
helpless? Faced with such a question, I will start with this idea—that one of
the affects of capitalism, that is, of thinking in terms of capitalism, is to generate
for most of people who don’t benefit from its wealth a feeling of helplessness
and for a few people who benefits from it an immense enthusiasm together
with a dumbness of the senses. So when we use capitalism to interpret what
is going on, we obtain, on the one hand, binding necessities from which there
is no escape and a feeling of revolt against them that often results in
helplessness; on the other, boundless possibilities coupled with a total indifference
for their long-term consequences.
This odd mixture of fate and hubris is certainly not the way in which
first nature was initially encountered: neither helplessness nor unbound
enthusiasm and indifference to consequences would have allowed humans
to inhabit the earth for very long. Rather a solid pragmatism, a limited
confidence in human cunning, a sane respect for the powers of nature, a
great care invested to protectthe fragility of human enterprise—these
appear to be the virtues for dealing with first nature. Care and caution: a
totally mundane grasp of the dangers and of the possibilities of this world of
below. A reading of Tim Ingold or of Marshall Sahlins of or any
anthropologist of “stone-age economics” will convince you of this point.
It is often said that the reason why second nature is so solid and
transcendent it is because it’s being governed by “laws of economics” just as
eternal and just as solid as “laws of physics”. I heard this old saw repeated
only a few days ago on the French radio.5 But today it seems more difficult to
pile the laws of second nature on top of those of the first. Apparently climate
scientists are using the laws of physics to register what happens to first
nature while climate deniers are pitting the laws of economics governing
second nature againstthe laws governing the Earth. In one set of laws, CO2
plays no role at all while in the other set, it is one of the main culprits. What a
fight! Should we be prepared to say that we know with much greater
precision what second nature is than how first nature is being run? Should
we say that economists have discovered a kind of certainty, of
indisputability, that is superiorto the laws of physics? That their CO2 is more
5 In a recent radio comment in France Culture morning edition (February 13th,
between 8h20am and 8h35), editorialist Brice Couturier said that "it is an illusion
to think that politics can beat the laws of economics", and that these laws are "like
the laws of physics".
136 - The Affects of Capitalism 4
real than the climatologists’ CO2? Then Greenpeace would be right: “if the
world were a bank, they would have already bailed it out”.
That this is not the case will be obvious to any practicing scientist, be
they biologist, chemist or physicist — and indeed to any practicing
economist. Testing, calculating, combining the laws of nature (I mean first
nature) does not generate a feeling of helplessness nor of being faced with
indisputable necessities. Quite the contrary. In the laboratory the slogan of
the scientists isn’t quite Obama’s “Yes we can!” but is at least, “Yes we could”.
And discussion among peers proliferates at once. The closer you are to
science, the more possibilities open up; the more intimate your contact with
first nature, the more surprises you get, the more unexpected agencies
spring up, the more margins for maneuver you obtain. Is this not the
experience we all have when reading and writing scientific literature? In
science, when necessity comes in, it is possibilities that are multiplied.
Why is it the case that when you shift to second nature and its
necessities come in, possibilities vanish and a deep feeling of helplessness
sets in? Why is the subtext of any allusion to capitalism the sad sentence:
“Sorry, there is no other way”? This being said even though economists
themselves are angrily disputing with one another so that it is not their
unanimous agreementthat produces a feeling of helplessness when we are
confronted with the laws of second nature (remember President Truman’s
quip “Please, send me a one-armed economist!” because he was tired of
hearing his counselors say: “On the one hand, this” and “On the other hand,
that”). Although economists are of course affected by capitalism, they are not
the only reason why the results of their research always appear, in the end, as
the figure of fate.
Why is fate, the old fatum from which no human can escape, always
raised in connection with modernization — modernization that defines
itself, or at least that used to define itself, as anti-fate par excellence? There
must be something so poisonous in the idea of capitalism that it has such an
effect on thought as to render any alternative unthinkable.
The history of such a poison has been written often. In itself the
distribution of unbound possibilities for some, coupled with binding
necessities for the many, is as old as commerce. Long ago, Fernand Braudel
showed that any marketplace offers occasions (multiplied by the use of
financial tools)for some enterprising go-between to treat friends and family
as utter strangers and faraway strangers as close buddies. Capitalism, in that
sense, feeds on, parasitizes and distorts marketplaces. Markets and
136 - The Affects of Capitalism 5
capitalism, as Braudel has shown, rely on totally opposite passions. More
recently, David Graeber6 has reminded us of the close connection between
army, debt, State, Money and markets, this age-old or rather empire-old
combination that lies at the heart of the dual power of State and Market up
to the present day.
Such a redistribution of the bounds between friends and strangers,
internalities and externalities, what is close at hand and what is far away,
defines an occupation of space-time against which societies, as Karl Polanyi
would say, had always tried to protectthemselves until the 18th century —
and with some success. Such an age-old resistance has been broken by the
haphazard concatenation of three elements, to stay within Polanyi’s
description: the steam engine that drastically increased the magnitude of
production and thus made the space-time extension of Capital much greater;
the technical model of self-regulation mechanisms (initially linked to the
most mundane invention of Watt’s centrifugal governor); and the irruption
of a new discipline, that of economics, entirely devoted, as Michel Foucault
has so powerfully shown, to convincing intruders to keep out of its inner
workings. To which should be added the unexpected land grab of colonial
empires, the indispensable expansion to other lands for the development of
that which has no land of its own since it is a utopia anyway. An
expansionary problem that is still with us today: how many planets do you
need to develop, 2, 2.5, 4, or is it 5? Except there are no longer any colony
outposts.
When you review this long history, it becomes clear thatthe history of
economic thought is the history of the constant addition of protective layers to
render it more and more impossible for intruders (read politicians and
ordinary people) to meddle. Once protected from scrutiny it has allthe
contraptions of an alternate nature working automatically. This process of
naturalization has been observed and denounced since Karl Marx. If it is
easy to read in the figure of the “invisible hand” the hand of Providence, its
meaning may be more trivially summarized by this warning addressed to all
those who would like to put their hands in what concerns them most: “Keep
your hands off!”. What we are dealing with is supposed to be entirely natural,
self-regulating, automated, and beyond anyone’s command. With great
success since in the 19th century nature was supposed to be the “red in tooth
and claw” of Malthus projected back to natural history by Darwin on first
nature before being dragged once again from first to second nature. The
6 David Graeber. Debt: The First 5,000 Years.Melville House, 2011.
136 - The Affects of Capitalism 6
point here being that it was impossible and immoral to try limiting the
miseries of the workers or saving the losers. Social Darwinism has since
become our second nature.
Whatis really remarkable is that during the last two centuries the very
notions of the two natures have exchanged their properties: first nature has
entered the Anthropocene where it is hard to distinguish human action from
natural forces and which is now full of tipping points, peaks, storms and
catastrophes, while only second nature, it seems, has kept the older features
of an indifferent, timeless and fully automatic nature governed by a few
fundamental and undisputable laws totally foreign to politics and human
action! And this nature has now become totally different from the old idea of
social Darwinism. What does it mean to obey the “laws of the jungle” if it is
Gaia that now threatens to take its revenge (as James Lovelock claims) and
to get rid of capitalism entirely — and of the human race in addition! It seems
that people are less keen on talking of the benefits of the “laws of the jungle”.
As Timothy Mitchell has recently argued in Carbon Democracy, just at the
time the limits of first nature became apparent, that is around 1945, “The
Economy” was invented once and for all—an infinite and boundless domain
totally indifferent to terrestrial existence and the very notion of limits, and
entirely self-centered and self-governed. Whereas before the war there still
existed, in what was still called “political economy”,the idea of scarcity and
allocation of rare goods, The Economy began to be entirely unmoored from
any limitation. Dominique Pestre has shown that this process of unmooring,
of infinitization, occurred once again in the 1970s, when the first report of
the Club of Rome tried to bring first nature to bear on second nature.7 In a
matter of a few years, limits had vanished and any connection between first
and second nature had disappeared.
7Pestre Knowledge and Rational Action The Economization of Environment, and
After. ‘’A possible explanation might be the move from the defense of the
environment to an economics of environment; from environment per se to a
theology of perfect markets; from a recognition of the necessity of choice to
miraculous ‘instruments’ able to combine the impossible. The (understandable)
privilege given to economic growth, coupled with the power of money in a
deregulated world (despite the declaration of interest made by business in
ecological modernization and sustainable development) allowed the digestion of
most warnings, the quiet rewriting of most decisions. But strong belief in theory,
notably mainstream economics, played its role in reassuring everybody that
rational solutions were put into operation and that the planet would be saved.”
136 - The Affects of Capitalism 7
It is really at this time that Jameson’s quip began to become realistic:
the laws of capitalism became infinitely more durable, important, infinite,
and let’s use the word, more transcendentthan those of geophysics and geobiology,
those new sciences trying to catch up with the Anthropocene, that
is, with human action. Karl Polanyi had called economics a “secular religion”
to designate what had happened in the 19th century, and he was convinced,
poor soul, that such a religion had been totally discredited when in 1949 he
published The Great Transformation. How little could he have anticipated that
such a religion would be so “greatly transformed” that it could finally realize
its transcendent goal and reaching the Land of Milk and Honey once and for
all at the end of the 20th century. At this date, when its last enemy,
communism, had itself disappeared, The Economy reached its
extraterrestrial status: unbound at last, unregulated, infinite.
It is also just then, such is the great irony of our time, that ecological
mutations had finally begun warning everybody to be prepared for an even
greater “great transformation” than what was expected. At this juncture, the
two natures had exchanged their rolesfor good. If you want to get a glimpse of what
could have been the idea of Nature in the 18th century, that is before the
advent of the Anthropocene, read the Wall Street Journal! It is Capitalism now
that appears to run like the older nature of the Holocene while first nature,
the one in which we all live, offers now the highly complex, agitated,
troubled and catastrophic portrait of science, morality, controversies and
politics all mixed up. Historicity has changed camps: it is the Earth that is
undergoing subversion at a dizzying pace and the Economy — that is, second
nature—that still runs like clockwork. Funnily enough, now that it is Gaia
who looks like a dangerous historical figure you no longer hear so much
about Darwin and the benefits of the “struggle for life”. That might be the
reason why the same people who deny climate change don’t believe in
evolution either.
Those who try to understand the amazing extent of the War against the
knowledge of climate mutations don’t have to look very far: the now totally
transcendent religion of the Economy has run up against the totally
immanent science of the Earth. Economy has remained stuck in the
Holocene. Mr. Tony Abbott, prime minister of Australia, is indeed right: not
thinking ahead is the only rational solution… Denying the results of climate
science has become the shibboleth telling friends from foes in our civil wars.
But the key point is that the adjective “natural” has changed camps. This is
136 - The Affects of Capitalism 8
what pits ecology against The Economy: they are not dealing at all with the
same nature. Which one will win over the other will determine our future.
Whenever there is a poison, there should be a search for a coudnter
poison. How to find it? By looking at how capitalism, that is, thinking with
the concept of capitalism, affects the thought.When they hear “capitalism”
many people in our intellectual circles take it as a “mot d’ordre”, that is as a
marching tune. But marching toward which front line?
Overthrowing capitalism does not seem to be a very good solution. It
appears that capitalism enjoys being overthrown as long as it is attacked as a
total system to be totally subverted. Because, quite naturally,the more
systematic you are the surer you are to resist any attempt at being
overthrown: that’s what a system is made for! It depends how you read the
sad experience of the 20th century, but it seems to me that the net result of
such an attempt at “revolutionizing Capitalism” (this should have been
obvious since the start) has been a triumph of Capitalism and a fantastic
increase in its systematic projection. In the search for total revolution, only
the adjective “total” has remained, in the sense of total helplessness on the
part of the losers and even more total totalitarianism on the part of the
winners. As a concept distributing unbounded enthusiasm and absolute
necessity with total indifference to long-term consequences, capitalism has
been indistinguishable from its twin: communism. Which is not surprising
since State and Market have been the two flanks of the same beast.
And still are. Actually, the new spectre that haunts Europe is not
communism but what could be called the new “Chinese syndrome”
according to which you could feel helpless in more ways than one: total lack
of political freedom associated with the total domination by crony
capitalism and total destruction of your lived environment; all of that in the
name of radical modernization!When I hear that China shows the way to
the future, I shudder even more than when I hear about Mr Abbott’s latest
decision to cancel still another protection law.
Total revolution is a poison not a counter-poison. And a poison even
more toxic when you draw from a century of failure the conclusion that you
were right all the same even though you failed so drastically. That’s a pretty
infectious thought since you deny that any experiments could change your
mind. Failure should be allowed to make you learn something; it cannot be
transmuted into the inner comfort of being right because you so miserably
failed to escape from the grips of capitalism. Such indifference to experience
136 - The Affects of Capitalism 9
attacks the soul and has created this deserted political landscape we live in
when those who call themselves the Left and even the radical Left are
simultaneously sure of failing and sure of being right — yes being right in the
sense of conniving happily with the Right in letting capitalism be even more
systematic than it is. Like science, politics opens possibilities. It cannot be
associated with failure and helplessness. If you have failed, it’s not
capitalism you should revolutionize but rather your ways of thinking. If you
keep failing and don’t change it does not mean you are facing an invincible
monster, it means you like, you enjoy, you love,to be defeated by a monster.
This is a case of psycho- or better, as Eric Voegelin would say, of
pneumopathology, a form of spiritual masochism, not of courage.8 Yet the
moral upper ground is still occupied by people who give lessons to the others
from no other authority than having dismally failed to change anything.
We begin to see how difficult it is to disentangle the contradictory
affects created by an appeal to the concept of capitalism: it generates a
prodigious enthusiam for seizing unbounded opportunities; a dystopian
feeling of total helplessness for those who are submitted to its decrees; a
complete disinhibition as to the long-term consequences of its action for
those who profit from it; a perverse wound of smug superiority in those who
have failed to fight its progression; a fascination for its iron laws in the eyes
ofthose who claim to study its development, to the point that it appears to
run more smoothly than nature itself; a total indifference to how the soil on
which it is rooted is occupied; a complete confusion about who should be
treated as a total stranger and who as a close neighbor. And above all, it marks
a movement towards modernization that delegitimates those who stay
behind as so many losers. Actually now that capitalism is thought to have no
enemy, it has become a mere synonym for the implacable thrust forward of
modernization. From this tangle of effects, I get no other feeling than an
increase sense of helplessness. The mere invocation of capitalism renders me
speechless… It might be best to abandon the concept entirely.
You remember Hamlet’s expression in Marx’s 18th Brumaire: “Well
done, old mole!” What sort of mole would dig down enough to subvert in the
end not capitalism but some of the affects generated by this odd way to read
history and to give an expression to our passions and indignations? Is there

8 Eric Voegelin. "The New Science of Politics, and Science." Modernity without Restraint. The Collected
Works of Eric Voegelin. Volume 5: The Political Religions, The New Science of Politics, and Science,
Poltiics and Gnosticism (edited by Manfred Henningsen). Ed. Henningsen, Manfred. Columbia and
London: The University of Missouri Press, [1952] 2000.
136 - The Affects of Capitalism 10
an alternative? It appears that the solution will not come from dialectics
with capitalists “digging their own grave” but from the first nature. It is
ironic to think that so much saliva has been spent to save higher values from
the risk of commodification when the question should rather have been to
bring this whole enterprise down to earth. But which Earth? How to resist the
transcendence of capitalism parading as immanence?
For the sake of time, let me phrase a possible alternative as a set of
theses, and you will forgive me for listing eleven of them, using as a template
the most famous list offered by Marx’s critique of Feuerbach.
For obvious reasons I will start from the last one, namely the 11th thesis:
Thesis 11: Economists have hitherto only changed the world in various
ways, the point is now to interpret it.
Thesis 1: Economics and its associated retinue of skills and trades —
accounting, marketing, design, merchandizing, business training,
organization studies, management — do not make up a science that would be
studying a material world, but a set of disciplinesin charge of extracting from
the social and natural world another world that would have remained
transcendent without this violent act of performation.
Thesis 2: Economics, as a discipline, has helped format local forms of
“market organizations” which are entirely mundane, makeshift affairs
depending so much on culture, law, and geography thatthey should not, in
any circumstances, be transformed into a “system” and especially not into a
“natural” system. The word “law” in the “laws of economics” should be
understood as in “civil laws”, thatis as a highly revisable affair in the hands of
a polity. Not as a law of a transcendent world in the hands of an invisible deity.
Thesis 3: To be radical a “radical critique” of an unfair, destructive and
unsustainable “system” should abstain from falling into the trap of fighting a
system. It is because it is not transcendent and because it obeys no superior
laws that any “market organization” may spread and it is for the same
reasons that it may be amended, modified, corrupted, reformed or
reorganized. To be radical a critique should follow the exact same pathsthrough
which the extension of standards, templates or metrological chains occurs.
As soon as it jumps to another superior level, it ceases to be radical — that is,
close to the roots of the problem.
Thesis 4: If it is true that the word “economy” and the word “liberty”
have been linked throughout history, then this liberty should be expanded —
yes, radically expanded — to all the devices, experiments, instruments,
136 - The Affects of Capitalism 11
voting mechanisms, shares and stocks that constitute the makeshift,
artificial and constantly reengineered armamentarium of the economy.
Liberalism means “not letting anything go, not letting anything pass”.
Thesis 5: To be radical, that is, to be liberal, an interpretation of the
working of economics and its “market organizations” should be of this Earth.
No transcendent power, neither God nor Mammon, is at work in the
economy. If it is true that economics inherits from the old “oeconomia” of the
Greek Fathers, that is,the “dispensatio” by God the Creator, then it should
inherit also all the qualities of such a providential plan, namely the
suspension of fate, of slavery and domination and receive all the promises of
salvation. It is blasphemous to use Providence to mean that the inflexible
power of fate has been once again imposed upon the human race after it has
been delivered from poverty.
Thesis 6: The transcendence of a world of beyond has been displaced in
this world of below to the point that the spatial and time coordinates have
been radically subverted. Space has become indifferent to place, soil and
localities. Friends, commensals and allies have been treated as utter
strangers. Future and past have been aligned on a sort of “inclined plane” as if
the future was nothing but the repayment of the debts contracted in the
past. Thus, transcendence has been turned into utopia. Hence the brutalism
associated with so much modernization.
Thesis 7: There is a deep contradiction in the unleashing of the
boundless possibilities of science and technology and, on the other hand, in
the constant use, throughout the history of economic thought, of the
“models of nature”. Newtonian physics, natural history, Darwinism,
thermodynamics, cybernetics, immunology, computer, brain sciences—
dozens of disciplines have each in turn been used as models for how
economic forces are supposed to function. And each in turn has used
economic theory to develop their concepts, to the point where “natural
economics” has become an oxymoron. But if first and second nature have
constantly exchanged their concepts, so far it has always been to render the
necessities of economic fate even more indisputable. Ecologizing economics
cannot mean a new appeal to nature to make sure than even more people are
absent from the automatic working of the “cycles of nature”. On the
contrary, such ecologizing is a way to repopulate the scene that has been
emptied.
Thesis 8: The wide expansion of the reach of “market organizations”
along metrological chains has created a global domain of transcendent
136 - The Affects of Capitalism 12
reality — second nature — that is now clashing with another mundane,
immanent globe, that of planet Earth, namely Gaia, that is different from
nature since it has its own historicity, reactivity, maybe sensitivity, and
certainly power. The new fight between the two globes defines our time.
Back to Earth your Earthlings!
Thesis 9: There is nothing native, aboriginal, eternal, natural,
transcendent in the habits that have been framed during the few centuries
“market organizations” have exercised their global reach. No feature of Homo
oeconomicusis very old: its subjectivity, its calculative skills, its cognitive
abilities, its sets of passions and interests are recent historical creations just
as much as the “goods” they are supposed to buy, to sell and to enjoy, and just
as much as the vast urban and industrial infrastructure in which they have
learned to survive. What has been made so quickly can be unmade just as
quickly. What has been designed may be redesigned. There is not fate in the
vast landscape of inequalities we associate with the economy and their
unequal distribution of “goods” and “bads”, only a slowly built set of
irreversibilities. Now that historicity has shifted from the stage to the
backstage of human action — namely, from second to first nature — activists
should ally themselves with the globe against the global.
Thesis 10: What is true in Jameson’s sentence is that there is something
infinite in capitalism in the technical sense of having no limit in time and
space and also no end in the sense of a goal or a “telos”. As Marx had
demonstrated long ago, capitalism is unlimited because of the cycle that
defines its extension (MAM). A form of life that cannot think its end —
either in space or in time — does not deserve to be respected any more than a
human who does not consider itself as mortal. It is in that sense that the
apocalyptic tone used to salute the reemergence of first nature should be
welcomed. It helps thinking that the end of capitalism is much more realistic
than the end of the world.
I hope you will have forgiven the emphatic tone with which I have delivered
those 11 theses. I simply wanted to emphasize the new twist recent history
has put on Valery’s famous sentence: “We civilizations now know ourselves
mortal”: “We nature, or rather Gaia, now know ourselves mortal”. There is
something deeply unsettling in Jameson’s quip. But now that historicity has
moved to first nature, there is a chance, probably a very small one,to be a
civilization again, that is, a state of affairs that cultivates its own finitude.
The other solution, unfortunately the most probable, is that capitalism in its
136 - The Affects of Capitalism 13
hyper- or more exactly terminally- modern form takes Jameson’s argument
literally and decides that the passing and transitory Earth should be entirely
mastered through geoengineering in the most hubristic form of
domination.9 In this case, since indeed the world does not possess the
qualification for being a bank, “they will not bail it out.”
9 [1] Clive Hamilton. Earthmasters. The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering.
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.



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