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Bernard Stiegler on "the fatal becoming of the Anthropocene"


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Last month, writer Édouard Louis and philosopher Geoffroy de Lagasnerie, both French, published a manifesto in Le Monde entitled “Manifeste pour une contre-offensive intellectuelle et politique” (Manifesto for an intellectual and political counter-offensive). Among other things, the manifesto called on left-wing intellectuals to battle the dominance of right-wing thinking in politics and economics. In response to the manifesto, Bernard Stiegler, a French philosopher of technology, wrote that the central concern of the manifesto was essentially beside the point. Stiegler declared that rather than battling on the obsolete terrain of left and right, the more urgent task is to think through the profound ramifications of market-driven technologies that are outpacing any human ability to control them. Stiegler’s response, entitled “Power, Powerlessness, Thinking, and Future,” has been translated by Daniel Ross for the LA Review of Books. Check out an excerpt below:

The great question of our time is that of becoming in the Anthropocene, in the course of which exosomatization, of which Marx and Engels were the first thinkers, has passed completely into the hands of the most speculative, irresponsible, and self-destructive capitalism. And here the question of surrogate motherhood, which has stirred “social debate” in France (thereby diverting attention from social, political, intellectual, and economic poverty), would merit a debate on some basis other than the indigent logorrhoea incited by this “social issue.”

Surrogacy, along with genetically modified organisms and other technologies of life, constitutes a new age of exosomatization. It is as such that these issues must be addressed, and it is as disruptive technologies that the market promotes them. “Progressive” or “conservative” attitudes are nothing more than two ways of denying this new state of fact, which remains to be thought — that is, to be transformed into a state of law, rather than exploited in order to distract attention from the fundamental issues, of which these technologies of life are cases.

Immense unrest has seized hold of the world. The risk is that this unrest will turn into something more than just disquiet, and more even than anguish: into terror. This danger is obvious to anyone who is not too afraid to look at what is taking place, and it is fundamentally connected to the becoming of the Anthropocene: the direction in which this geological age is unfolding is increasingly seen by humankind as an inexorably fatal form of becoming.

All of us more or less think that this eventuality — the fatal becoming of the Anthropocene — is the most likely outcome. Why do we not ourselves say so? According to Hegel it is by starting from unrest that we begin to think. If we do not think with unrest, the latter engenders fear, then regression, then terror. Ought we not engage ourselves in thinking what everything suggests is the context and the horizon of what de Lagasnerie and Louis call the experience of powerlessness, and undertake an experiment of thought by posing the enormous question of disruption that is the current stage of the Anthropocene?

Image of jet trails and man-made clouds via agriculturedefensecoalition.org.