PBS 9: Ecology

I’ve been avoiding some of the bigger questions arising out of my Paris sojourn – now two months ago – because they are still very underdeveloped. But as I said in my initial post about this series, it is less about developing these ideas, but getting a ‘snapshot’ of what I was thinking about during the trip.

Ecology has been a big question for me for some time now, I could say that it was the ecological question and the ethics of Badiou that drove me to political work in the first place. Moreover these two do not sit very well together – there is a contradiction between Badiou’s idealism (or ‘Platonic materialism’) and ecological thinking. From the Badiousian side, ecology could be accused of being obsessed by finitude, on the ecological side you could accuse Badiou of being idealist in his disregard for such finitude, especially at a time when the ecological crisis is such a pressing question for the continuation of human existence in general. There remains the possibility that Badiou’s thought is compatible with ecological thought (you could argue that while he ignores it, his philosophy is not in necessary contradiction with it), but that would require some pretty skilful manoeuvring, which I’m not sure is worth the effort.

In keeping with my general line on Badiou for the last say 6 months or more, I’d say that it would not be so much a matter of trying to fold ecology into Badiou, or even Badiou into some naive ecology, but to insert that old monster Marxism (and historical and dialectical materialism) into the mix and think both questions on the footing of this new (old) paradigm. This allows us to speak about the dialectics and laws of development of the natural world (something Badiou precludes), it allows us to relate the natural world to the structures of the human world, it allows us then to think of the emancipation of human kind as a constructive project (a ‘truth procedure’) that involves the reconstruction of nature (dialectically constrained, of course) as part of it. Marx’s Ecology is a great book for this. In general this gives a much better theoretical framework with which to respond to the ecological crisis.

There remains the question of how a composer (and an Australian composer at that) would respond to the ecological question in their music, if at all. That question will likely remain a stubborn one for some time, and I have little intention of treating it in practice anytime soon – although I don’t discount it in principle, as I once did.

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