What quotes from this text are exemplary or particularly evocative?




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Vera Laub's picture
May 19, 2021

"Considering that citizen activism evokes a negative image, and that some of the earliest citizen groups measuring radiation, including the Citizen Nuclear Information Center (Tokyo), have strong ties to antinuclear activism, “antinuclear” is a label many organizations initiated in the wake of Fukushima try to avoid. Disasters such as the Fukushima nuclear accident trigger different publics into action (Hasegawa, 2004, Leblanc, 1999). These citizens are not solely—or even necessarily—antinuclear activists, but primarily concerned citizens, whose main driver is to protect (in Japanese “mamoru”) and serve their community, as conventional information sources failed to do so (Morita et al. 2013). By publicly distancing themselves from activism, these organizations may gain credibility within their community. Born out of a sense of necessity (Morita et al. 2013, Kimura, 2016), these groups should therefore not be labeled as activists as such, but rather as active by default. Even if personal convictions lean towards antinuclear feelings, the organizations as such avoid taking a polarizing position, rather focusing on gathering the “right” data." (p.5)

I oppose this techno-optimistic approach and the expectation that data that is "right" will speak for itself. I would argue that data can and must be used for negotiations on social contracts, but the negotiations need be conducted actively. I can very much understand the necessity to not phrase political claims in a radical manner, if situated in a society in which activism evokes a negative image, but am not convinced that change can occur if no claims are being made in the first place?

"Albeit subjected to the same standards of general scientific enquiry (Morris-Suzuki, 2014, Coletti et al. 2017, Brown et al. 2016, Kuchinskaya, 2019), the scientific facts and evidence produced by these citizen groups serve the needs of the community, allowing them to gain control over their lives: "Citizen science connects directly to our lives: is the dose of my meal okay, is the school where my child goes to contaminated?"." (p.5)

I interpret this as the need to take individual action as well as individual responsibility to combat disaster. Is it possible to combat disaster in an individualized rather than a collective manner though?

Tim Schütz's picture
May 19, 2021

"Rather than making a contribution to scientific research, these citizen organizations require actionable data (Morita et al. 2013, Morris-Suzuki, 2014) by exploiting technology and science to understand the impact of technology gone awry, as illustrated by this tagline of a Tokyo-based radiation monitoring group: To measure, to know, to live(Hakaru, shiru, kurasu; Brochure published by citizen radiation measuring lab based in Tokyo).

The data being collected, then, are issue-driven (Marres, 2005) and serve a public goal, namely that of the community the organization identifies with" (p. 5)

Tim Schütz's picture
May 15, 2020

"Scott and Chakrabarty’s critiques tell us less about postcolonial studies’ limits than about the difficulty even its most eminent scholars have keeping its history in mind"

"Advocating resistance and critiquing the conditions of resistance are not, contra Scott, inherently opposed or even separate activities"

"During his “ethical turn,” Derrida reconceived the ultimate point of such deconstructive reading: no longer articulating différance it became instead responding to the experience of the other (Derrida 2002: 230–98; Spivak 1999: 426–8)."

"It becomes instead the capacity and willingness to surrender its agency to the other, thus exposing itself to a future it cannot control. Levinas’s redefinition of the human attempted, in its own way, to place the Hegelian tradition on its feet again. Though Gramsci and Fanon are both frequently assimilated to that tradition (as Scott’s and Chakrabarty’s critiques illustrate), the intellectual’s relationship to the colonized in their work prefigures, if again inchoately, the ideas of responsibility and futurity evident in Levinas and Derrida."

"The problem with Orientalism is precisely its ontological—not ethical—approach: the Orientalist seeks knowledge of the other to master it, decidedly not to protect its epistemic difference. [... ] Orientalism thus declares an epistemological as well as ontological difference between the European and the non‐European. Indeed, the former is the very source of the latter: Europeans and Orientals are different types of being precisely because they have different ways of knowing."

"[T]o think of responsibility as a freedom, you need that very humanistic education which teaches rebellion against it” (Spivak 2012: 461).4 “Humanist education” in general trains the “ethical reflex” in precisely the same way literary study in particular does: it opens one to forms of consciousness fundamentally different from one’s own. Such openness eventually requires one to “rebel” against one’s training itself: the oth- erness of some text—indeed, perhaps every text—will exceed what one has been taught."

"If Marxism responded to capitalism dialectically, wanting to replace it with a single and even more universal system, anti‐globalization movements now respond to capitalism deconstructively, wanting instead to articulate the disparate demands of those who build the global economy but are neither seen nor heard there. If they remain so, who will crawl, Spivak asks, “into the place of ‘the human’ of ‘humanism’ at the end of the day, even in the name of diversity?” (Spivak 2005: 23)."

"[T]he genealogy of postcolonial theory recounted here—from Gramsci and Fanon through Said and Spivak to Chakrabarty and Scott—can be read as a necessarily endless effort to rethink the revolutionary principle of freedom from the perspective of those to whom it was never designed to extend."


May 14, 2020

Quotes about Spivak's stated purpose in the essay

“The chain of complicity does not halt at the closure of an essay.” 

“Throughout these pages it has been my purpose to show the complicity between subject and object of investigation—the Subaltern Studies group and subalternity”

Quotes on "reading against the grain"

"since a "reading against the grain" must forever remain strategic, it can never claim to have established the authoritative truth of a text, it must forever remain dependent upon practical exigencies, never legitimately lead to a theoretical orthodoxy.” [Spivak cautions against reading that leads to fixed ideas and that sees the author as authoritative]

“You can only read against the grain if misfits in the text signal the way.”

“I read Subaltern Studies against its grain and suggest that its own subalternity in claiming a positive subject-position for the subaltern might be reinscribed as a strategy for our times. What good does such a reinscription do? It acknowledges that the arena of the subaltern's persistent emergence into hegemony must always and by definition remain heterogeneous to the efforts of the disciplinary historian. The historian must persist in his efforts in this awareness that the subaltern is necessarily the absolute limit of the place where history is narrativized into logic” [Spivak argues that the collective has to recognize that they will never be able to come at a true “subaltern consciousness” nor is such a task desirable]

“Reading the work of Subaltern Studies from within but against the grain, I would suggest that elements in their text would warrant a reading of the project to retrieve the subaltern consciousness as the attempt to undo a massive historiographic metalepsis and "situate" the effect of the subject as subaltern. I would read it, then, as a strategic use of positivist essentialism in a scrupulously visible political interest" [Spivak interrogates the collective's political stakes in recovering the subaltern from the colonial archive]

Quotes where Spivak critiques the Subaltern Studies' citational practices

"poststructuralist theories of consciousness and language suggest that all possibility of expression, spoken or written, shares a common distancing from a self so that meaning can arise—not only meaning for others but also the meaning of the self to the self. I have advanced this idea in my discussion of "alienation." These theories suggest further that the "self" is itself always production rather than ground'"

“it would be interesting if, instead of finding their only internationalism in European history and African anthropology (an interesting disciplinary breakdown), they were also to find their lines of contact, let us say, with the political economy of the independent peasant movement in Mexico.”

Kim Fortun's picture
May 1, 2020

Page 157: ".. it is much easier to develop an anticapitalist critique of climate change than it is to develop a theoretical and practical vision of postcapitalist social relations that might be adequate to the warmer planet on which we will have no choice but to live."


Page 158: "Similarly, our contradictory yes-but-no stance regarding global climate politics—structured entirely on the basis of sovereign territorial nation-states, which are taken as the natural and only viable building block for the struggle— has prevented us from taking on the nation-state, both analytically and practically. Of course, movements for climate justice all over the world have bravely confronted particular nation-states’ elites and institutions of governance. But the question of the legitimacy and naturalness of the modern nation-state as the base unit of global political life is rarely raised, at least way to sustain a livable planet. Beyond some “realist” argument based in path dependency, however, there is no reason to think so, and many more reasons to suggest that the state is likely one of our biggest obstacles…. “But the question of the legitimacy and naturalness of the modern nation-state as the base unit of global political life is rarely raised, at least partly because we too are convinced that (at least at present) interstate “global cooperation” is the only way to sustain a livable planet.”


Page 162-3: "In other words, as Horkheimer says, we cannot leave open the question of what we believe in with the mute hope that it will get worked out as the movement progresses. Neither, as Adorno cautions, can we paint a picture of a positive utopia, the unworldliness of which is no more helpful than when Marx and Engels admonished against it in the original manifesto more than a century and a half ago. Adorno suggests that what is required is not an account of a perfect world we can hold in our minds like a dream that can be realized merely because we can dream it, but instead an account of the possible (futures we can come to identify as potential outcomes of our present) in which things can (not will) “come right in the end.” Adorno seems to think this will entail the emergence of a radically new form of political authority, for which we might attempt to “formulate some guiding political principles.” We propose at least three such principles as fundamental to any presently emergent or future Climate X. The first is equality….  This leads to the second guiding political principle: the inclusion and dignity of all. This is a critique of capitalist sovereignty and the thin form of democracy upon which it has come to rely. Democracy is not majority rule and has little to do with the vote. Rather, democracy exists in a society to the extent that anyone and everyone could rule, could shape collective answers to collective questions. No nation-state today meets this criterion. This demands a struggle for inclusion The third principle is solidarity in composing a world of many worlds. Against planetary sovereignty, we need a planetary vision without sovereignty.”


Kim Fortun's picture
May 1, 2020

“To put it in our terms, Behemoth hates Mao for its faith in secular revolution, Leviathan for its liberal pretension to rational world government, and both for their willingness to sacrifice “liberty” for lower carbon emissions.” (?120)

“In this sense the political is not, strictly speaking, a relational concept. “The political” defines a relation tout court: the relationship between the dominant and the dominated. The political is not an arena in which dominant groups impose their interests and subaltern groups resist; it is, rather, the ground upon which the relation between the dominant and dominated is worked out... How our way of defining the political differs from that common sense is crucial to our analysis of the current conjuncture and the ways in which the political is being shaped by climate change.... That work is usually dismissed by liberals as unfortunate products of the times, as if Locke, Franklin, or de Tocqueville were only ardent supporters of colonialism and racial slavery by historical chance. It cannot have had anything to do with liberalism per se, which, as an unqualified commitment to universal freedom, cannot be responsible for the unfortunate backwardness of the historical communities in which it was born." (?148-150)

“Liberalism is founded upon the production of a separation in the social world between the political and the rest and a consequent neutralizing onslaught on the political that attempts to proceduralize and depoliticize domination, that is, the continual production of freedom for some and unfreedom for others.”

“Consequently, in modern liberal capitalism, the political is not founded in any idea or organizing principle, but always exists as the product of the exercise of sovereign power.”

“Thus, for Gramsci, “nature” and “society” are inseparable, active relations. And these relations are themselves inextricable from the processes through which we forge critical conceptions of the world. These are the result of earlier historical struggles that have laid down, “layer upon layer,” the consciousness of “the right to live independently of the planning and the rights of minorities”—in other words, independently of the “rights” of elites to plunder subaltern social groups.”

"Liberal conceptions of democracy, freedom, politics, and so on remain hegemonic—these particular conceptions stand in for a presumably universal “common sense”—even though their glaring inadequacies to this moment in the planet’s natural history are increasingly evident, even to liberals themselves."

"With the closure of the possibility that the effects of climate change might be subject to a meaningful degree of carbon mitigation, adaptation is becoming the “progress” of our time. Adaptation is to the ideology of Climate Leviathan what progress was to bourgeois liberalism in the nineteenth century."

“The dismantling of Bretton Woods in the early 1970s brought the Keynesian house down, and the floating exchange rate system in place since then has helpfully greased the neoliberal wheels: sovereign debt has skyrocketed, alongside finance capital’s power to “discipline” any polity, at any scale, that does not play by the fiscal rule of austerity.”

“Green Keynesian proposals are accompanied by the suite of institutions and policies associated in the ecological modernization literature with “just transition”—termination and reinvestment of fossil fuel subsidies (which amount to approximately $US 5.3 trillion annually, according to the International Monetary Fund), green investment initiatives, decentralized production and energy systems, green banks, and so on.”

“By the time his ideas were starting to circulate widely in the 1940s—at the end of more than thirty years of calamity in the heart of liberal capitalism—no small part of their attraction was attributable to the fact that the feeling that the whole of “civilization” was on a precipice was widely shared. This is the fundamental basis of Keynesianism, and today it is the existential precariousness of civilization (and not a general interest in Keynesian political economy) that makes the question of green Keynesianism so urgent.”

"The scale of the problems is so great, it seems impossible to confront them without the state, but it seems just as impossible that the state as currently constituted is going to get the job done. We face a situation in which there is, under current geopolitical and geoeconomic arrangements, no right answer.”

“To restate the political paradox more sharply: to address its contradictions—including the ecological contradiction that capital’s growth is destroying the planet—capitalism needs a planetary manager, a Keynesian world state. But elites have proven reluctant to build it, and it appears unlikely to miraculously realize itself. So, the only apparent capitalist solution to climate change is presently impossible; the only even marginally possible green Keynesianism that could save us is still predicated upon the territorial nation-state."

“This is why the proposals always seem so formulaic and empty, and virtually never involve substantive targets or means and timelines for implementation.58 The diagnosis of the problem continually takes us to the edge of the chasm between what we know is necessary and the common sense judgment that it is totally impossible.”













April 30, 2020
In response to:

"Leviathan, whether in the Old Testament or in even oldermyths, was never a captive of its conjurer’s will, and remains at large today, prowling between nature and the supernatural, sovereign and subject." (1) [I like this quote because it displays what I think is fundamental about how we think about governance: mapping nature/supernatural onto sovereign and subject. Do different mapping exist?]

"Yet far more than the neoliberal contagion of financial crisis and market disorders, it is global climate change that has produced the conditions in which “the paradigm of security as the normal technique of government” is being solicited at a scale and scope hitherto unimaginable." (3) [In what ways do Mann and Wainwright view neoliberal contagion as different from global climate change?]

"Do we have a theory for revolution in the name of climate justice? Do we have a theory of how capitalist nation-states are transforming as a consequence of planetary change?" (3) [They argue that the answer to both is negative, necessitating a political theory]

"We posit that two variables will shape the coming political-economic order. The first is whether the prevailing economic formation will continue to be capitalist or not... The second is whether a coherent planetary sovereign will emerge or not. The question here is whether sovereignty will be reconstituted for the purposes of planetary management" [This is their argument: linking sovereignty to planetary management. The planetary sovereign would not inly act at the scale of Earth's atmosphere, but for the sake of life on it.]

"Our central thesis is that the future of the world will be defined by Leviathan, Behemoth, Mao, and X, and the conflicts between them... To say the least, the continuing hegemony of existing capitalist liberal democracy cannot be safely assumed." (5) 

"Climate Mao is marked by the emergence of a non-capitalist Leviathanic domestic authority along Maoist lines" [what does "domestic authority" mean here?]

 "In contrast to sub-Saharan Africa or Latin America, for example, only in Asia—and only with some revolutionary leadership from China—do we find the combination of factors that make climate Mao realizable: massive and marginalized peasantries and proletariats, historical experience and ideology, existing state capacity, and skyrocketing carbon emissions." [positioning Africa and Latin America as places of lack, from where learning cannot take place. They mention the Cochabamba revolution but I do not get why they think it cannot be a model?] (10)

"The contrast with religion provides an important way to conceptualize the challenge presented by climate Leviathan, since X could be seen as an irreligious movement in place of a religious structure. Climate X is worldly and structurally open: a movement of the community of the excluded that affirms climate justice and popular freedoms against capital and planetary sovereignty" (17)

"For Hegel, the monarch or the sovereign is "political consciousness in the flesh"... for Schmitt, it is constituted in the act of decision.. the political cannot pre-exist sovereignty. A world without sovereignty is no world at all" (18) 

"Hegel and Schmitt are right—democracy undoes the very possibility of rule. For them, of course, this is democracy’s great failure; for Marx, and for climate X, however, it is its great promise." (18)

"The politics Benjamin impugns here—faith in progress; confidence in mass basis; servile integration into apparatus—are precisely those of our three opponents in the struggle ahead: Leviathan’s ethos is the faith in progress; Mao’s is confidence in the masses; Behemoth is the integration into the security apparatus of terror" (19) [summary of what each of three scenarios stand for]

Tim Schütz's picture
April 30, 2020

"all our thinking is environmental, even when it rebels against nature" (2018, 9)

"we appreciate Wiley-Blackwell’s and Routledge’s permission to put those thoughts to further work." (2018, 9)

"The first [condition] is whether the prevailing economic formation will continue to be capitalist or not [...] The second condition is whether a coherent planetary sovereign will emerge, that is, whether sovereignty will be reconstituted for the purposes of planetary management." (2018, 36)

"This means Climate Behemoth is founded on two not necessarily commensurable principles. In the United States, the signature affiliations of the reactionary right—market fetishism, cheap energy, white nationalism, firearms, evangelical faith—buttress reactionary Behemoth. The result is an opportunistic, but contradictory and unstable, blend of fundamentalisms: the security of the homeland, the freedom of the market, and the justice of God." (2018, 51)

"There is no meta-language that operates beyond the social world with which to fix these concepts “objectively”. Debates over the meaning of the building-block concepts for social thought are complex, interminable, and necessary." (2018, 58)

"Air conditioning is a quotidian, urban maladaptation to climate change: an adaptation that begets greater future suffering." (2018, 61)

"The strengths of the IPCC process meet their limit where we arrive at the challenge of predicting or analyzing potential systematic changes to our predominantly liberal, capitalist geopolitical economy." (2018, 66)

"There is something terribly wrong here. Surely if “adaptation” means “correction” or “adjustment,” then the most important adaptation that the world could make to address climate change would be to redistribute wealth and power to end fossil fuel use and force those responsible for climate change to reallocate the wealth its drivers have helped them accumulate at the cost of billions of people’s suffering. It is the world’s wealthy and national elites who must “adapt” so the poor and future generations will not “suffer,” and so we might prepare the bases of democracy necessary to deal justly with those already-irreversible impacts the future surely holds." (2018, 73)

"Gramsci sees it, the greatest obstacle to new conceptions of the world is that “all hitherto existing philosophies” tend to “reproduce this position of Catholicism, that they conceive of man as an individual.” They therefore fall victim to the fatal conceit that the transformation of humanity is a spiritual or “psychological” project—or even worse, an autonomous internal struggle—not the irreducibly social and political process of “active relationships” it must be." (2018, 91)

"As Hannah Arendt put it, the purpose of the “World Government” that so many dreamed would save the planet from nuclear annihilation “is to overcome and eliminate authentic politics, that is, different peoples getting along with each other in the full force of their power." (2018, 133)

"Consequently, in place of critical reflection on the current situation, we find ourselves telling each other how awesome our movement is. It is as if we obviously, most certainly, will eventually succeed, however long it takes, when in fact we are cheering our way to catastrophe." (2018, 154)

"To bring about a radical reassembly of their relation, to undo the momentum of Leviathan in these societies while overcoming capitalism, would require not only revolutionary events in both nation-states but also forms of radical transnationalism relaying struggles within and between them. We are a long way from this. At best, we have limited forms of solidarity, expressed sporadically and typically filtered through nationalist lenses." (2018, 167)

"Climate X is definitively not “the set of all the exploited and the subjugated, a multitude that is directly opposed to Empire, with no mediation between them.”28 We might, generously, take this to mean that anticolonial nationalism and communist militancy no longer monopolize the mediation of subaltern resistance, and we should not be nostalgic in the face of this development. But the “set of all” in which the multitude experiences “our wretchedness” is a myth, and an antisolidaristic myth at that. In that sense, it is not unlike the Anthropocene, the era that now puts all humans on the same geological page.29 The world’s peoples live in a multitude of geo-ecological times despite our planetary “simultaneity,” and the forces that have helped shape those worlds are not reducible to “humanity” in general, but to particular natural- historical social formations." (2018, 174)

James Adams's picture
April 28, 2020

“Our accounts of each potential path for climate politics are not detailed forecasts of the empirical form they might take in any particular geography, but descriptions of the principal features we argue are likely to determine their general dynamics, and the political implications of those dynamics for attempts to construct a world of climate justice” (Mann and Wainwright 2018, 82).

“If capitalist Climate Leviathan stands ready to embrace carbon governance in an evolving Euro-American liberal hegemony, Climate Mao expresses the necessity of a just terror in the interests of the future of the collective, which is to say that it represents the necessity of a planetary sovereign but wields this power against capital” (Mann and Wainwright 2018, 106).

“Climate Behemoth, represented by the upper right of Figure 2.1. Behemoth opposes Leviathan’s drive for planetary sovereignty, which is itself not a bad thing in our view” (Mann and Wainwright 2018, 118).

“In the capitalist core—particularly where the fossil energy sector is large (the United States, Canada, Australia)—they have found their most willing allies among those segments of the proletariat that perceive climate change not only as a threat to their jobs and cheap energy, but also as a sophisticated means to empower elite experts and hinder the exercise of national(ist) sovereignty” (Mann and Wainwright 2018, 120).

“To put it in our terms, Behemoth hates Mao for its faith in secular revolution, Leviathan for its liberal pretension to rational world government, and both for their willingness to sacrifice “liberty” for lower carbon emissions” (Mann and Wainwright 2018, 123).

“To the extent that US hegemony will continue to require affordable fossil fuels, the emergence of Leviathan poses threat enough to energize Behemoth and thus to check Leviathan’s planetary potential—for now. But barring an act of coordinated political imagination of which it seems incapable, this situation is unlikely to last. Indeed, notwithstanding the Trump presidency, the United States could yet become the heart of Leviathan” (Mann and Wainwright 2018, 125).

“The situation changes dramatically when we shift to Working Group III, on mitigation. The future of mitigation is fundamentally a question of political economy, but the IPCC does not, or perhaps cannot, draw upon work that presents a critical model of capitalism. This causes a fundamental analytical problem. It would be like trying to model hurricanes without a theory of thermodynamics or an understanding of the effects of changing ocean temperatures on cyclone dynamics” (Mann and Wainwright 2018, 124).

“If Timothy Mitchell is right that “the political machinery that emerged to govern the age of fossil fuels may be incapable of addressing the events that will end it,” what will follow? This is a question—the question of the political—to which the prevailing conception of adaptation is wholly inadequate. We must, therefore, look elsewhere” (Mann and Wainwright 2018, 146).