Green governmentality and its closeted metaphysics: toward an ontological relationality




Malette, Sebastien

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Several scholars are now examining the emergence of ecology as a means for achieving tighter governmental regulations under the label of what they call green or eco-governmentality. Adopting Michel Foucault’s historical ontology, one of their critiques consists in problematizing the notion of Nature at the core of environmental debates as a political construct modulated by the historical conditions in which it finds itself. One implication of this is that “Nature” has no normative implications except the ones we collectively fantasize about. Such a critique is often perceived as a threat by many environmentalists who are struggling to develop a global and intercultural perspective on environmental destruction. This dissertation suggests that Foucault’s critical project should be examined from a more thoroughly ecological standpoint, leading toward the adoption of a broader, less ethnocentric and anthropocentric ontology. It explores the possibility of rethinking the concept of Nature at the core of political ecology from the standpoint of a relational ontology rather than an historical ontology. It argues that a relational ontology offers a possible alternative to historical ontology by posing our relations to “Nature” not through the metaphysic of will and temporality assumed by Foucault (by which he asserts a universal state of contingency and finitude to deploy his critical project), but through a holistic understanding of Nature in terms of inter-constitutive relations. By being relational instead of historical, a relational ontology contributes to the formulation of open-ended and dynamic worldviews that do not operate against the backdrop of a homogenizing form of temporal universalism or constructivism, but rather poses the immanent differences and processes of diversification we are experiencing as the unifying and harmonizing principle by which we can rethink a more thorough egalitarian and non-anthropocentric standpoint for ecological thinking. Such a differential—yet shared—understanding of Nature could facilitate the development of an intercultural and non anthropocentric perspective on environmental destruction.



Governmentality, Nature, Michel Foucault, Ontology, Modernity, Political ecology