POLITICS OF NATURE

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Harvard University Press, 2004 - Philosophy - 307 pages
5 Reviews

A major work by one of the more innovative thinkers of our time, Politics of Nature does nothing less than establish the conceptual context for political ecology--transplanting the terms of ecology into more fertile philosophical soil than its proponents have thus far envisioned. Bruno Latour announces his project dramatically: "Political ecology has nothing whatsoever to do with nature, this jumble of Greek philosophy, French Cartesianism and American parks." Nature, he asserts, far from being an obvious domain of reality, is a way of assembling political order without due process. Thus, his book proposes an end to the old dichotomy between nature and society--and the constitution, in its place, of a collective, a community incorporating humans and nonhumans and building on the experiences of the sciences as they are actually practiced.

In a critique of the distinction between fact and value, Latour suggests a redescription of the type of political philosophy implicated in such a "commonsense" division--which here reveals itself as distinctly uncommonsensical and in fact fatal to democracy and to a healthy development of the sciences. Moving beyond the modernist institutions of "mononaturalism" and "multiculturalism," Latour develops the idea of "multinaturalism," a complex collectivity determined not by outside experts claiming absolute reason but by "diplomats" who are flexible and open to experimentation.



Table of Contents:

Introduction: What Is to Be Done with Political Ecology?

1. Why Political Ecology Has to Let Go of Nature
First, Get Out of the Cave
Ecological Crisis or Crisis of Objectivity?
The End of Nature
The Pitfall of "Social Representations" of Nature
The Fragile Aid of Comparative Anthropology
What Successor for the Bicameral Collective?

2. How to Bring the Collective Together
Difficulties in Convoking the Collective
First Division: Learning to Be Circumspect with Spokespersons
Second Division: Associations of Humans and Nonhumans
Third Division between Humans and Nonhumans: Reality and Recalcitrance
A More or Less Articulated Collective
The Return to Civil Peace

3. A New Separation of Powers
Some Disadvantages of the Concepts of Fact and Value
The Power to Take into Account and the Power to Put in Order
The Collective's Two Powers of Representation
Verifying That the Essential Guarantees Have Been Maintained
A New Exteriority

4. Skills for the Collective
The Third Nature and the Quarrel between the Two "Eco" Sciences
Contribution of the Professions to the Procedures of the Houses
The Work of the Houses
The Common Dwelling, the Oikos

5. Exploring Common Worlds
Time's Two Arrows
The Learning Curve
The Third Power and the Question of the State
The Exercise of Diplomacy
War and Peace for the Sciences

Conclusion: What Is to Be Done? Political Ecology!

Summary of the Argument (for Readers in a Hurry...)
Glossary
Notes
Bibliography
Index



From the book: What is to be done with political ecology? Nothing. What is to be done? Political ecology! All those who have hoped that the politics of nature would bring about a renewal of public life have asked the first question, while noting the stagnation of the so-called "green" movements. They would like very much to know why so promising an endeavor has so often come to naught. Appearances notwithstanding, everyone is bound to answer the second question the same way. We have no choice: politics does not fall neatly on one side of a divide and nature on the other. From the time the term "politics" was invented, every type of politics has been defined by its relation to nature, whose every feature, property, and function depends on the polemical will to limit, reform, establish, short-circuit, or enlighten public life. As a result, we cannot choose whether to engage in it surreptitiously, by distinguishing between questions of nature and questions of politics, or explicitly, by treating those two sets of questions as a single issue that arises for all collectives. While the ecology movements tell us that nature is rapidly invading politics, we shall have to imagine - most often aligning ourselves with these movements but sometimes against them - what a politics finally freed from the sword of Damocles we call nature might be like.
  

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Review: Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy

User Review  - Anne O'brien - Goodreads

Very perplexing (unbelievably complicated -Warning!) but fascinating and has stimulated a lot of thinking for me Read full review

Review: Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy

User Review  - Gloria - Goodreads

Most accessible of Latour's writing (other than his casestudy chapters from _Pandora's Hope_) that I have read yet...so far... (but I haven't gotten too far...seem to be on pause...) Returned for a bit; back on pause. Definitely NOT one of his more readable writings... Read full review

Contents

What Is to Be Done with Political Ecology?
1
Why Political Ecology Has to Let Go of Nature
9
First Get Out of the Cave
10
Ecological Crisis or Crisis of Objectivity?
18
The End of Nature
25
The Pitfall of Social Representations of Nature
32
The Fragile Aid of Comparative Anthropology
42
What Successor for the Bicameral Collective?
49
A New Exteriority
121
Skills for the Collective
128
The Third Nature and the Quarrel between the Two Eco Sciences
131
Contribution of the Professions to the Procedures of the Houses
136
The Work of the Houses
164
The Common Dwelling the 0ikos
180
Exploring Common Worlds
184
Times Two Arrows
188

How to Bring the Collective Together
53
Difficulties in Convoking the Collective
57
Learning to Be Circumspect with Spokespersons
62
Associations of Humans and Nonhumans
70
Reality and Recalcitrance
77
A More or Less Articulated Collective
82
The Return to Civil Peace
87
A New Separation of Powers
91
Some Disadvantages of the Concepts of Fact and Value
95
The Power to Take into Account and the Power to Put in Order
102
The Collectives Two Powers of Representation
108
Verifying That the Essential Guarantees Have Been Maintained
116
The Learning Curve
194
The Third Power and the Question of the State
200
The Exercise of Diplomacy
209
War and Peace for the Sciences
217
What Is to Be Done? Political Ecology
221
Summary of the Argument for Readers in a Hurry
231
Glossary
237
Notes
251
Bibliography
287
Index
301
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About the author (2004)

Bruno LaTour was born in the French province of Burgundy, where his family has been making wine for many generations. He was educated in Dijon, where he studied philosophy and Biblical exegesis. He then went to Africa, to complete his military service, working for a French organization similar to the American Peace Corps. While in Africa he became interested in the social sciences, particularly anthropology. LaTour believes that through his interests in philosophy, theology, and anthropology, he is actually pursuing a single goal, to understand the different ways that truth is built. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, LaTour has written about the philosophy and sociology of science in an original, insightful, and sometimes quirky way. Works that have been translated to English include The Pasteurization of France; Laboratory Life; Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society; We Have Never Been Modern; and Aramis, or the Love of Technology. LaTour is a professor at the Center for the Sociology of Innovation, a division of the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines, in Paris.

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