Archive for the ‘Texts in English’ Category

Jean-Pierre Berlan, From a Mercenary to an Emancipated Agronomy, 2011

30 octobre 2019 Laisser un commentaire


Since the Industrial Revolution, plant breeders have strived to replace farm varieties with “copies” of selected plants that can be fittingly called “clones.” “Pure lines” of wheat, barley, and other autogamous species are homozygous clones, twentieth-century maize “hybrids” (and other allogamous species) are heterozygous clones, while GMOs are patented pesticide clones. This devotion to cloning is founded: a) on logic since there is always a gain to be made from replacing any particular variety with all its diversity with copies of the “best” selected plant extracted from the variety; b) on the industrial principles of uniformity, standardization, and normalization; and c) on the drive for property rights. Pure lines, being homogenous and stable, are legally protected by a “breeder’s certificate.” “Hybrids” carry a built in biological breeder’s protection device since farmers have to buy back their seeds every year and GMOs are legally protected by patents. Since cloning rests on an irrefutable logical principle, it requires no justification. The endless debates about heterosis which, according to geneticists, makes it necessary to “hybridize” maize are, then, a smokescreen to conceal the first success of the historical drive to make reproduction a privilege.

Lire la suite…

John von Neumann, Can We Survive Technology?, 1955

23 octobre 2019 Laisser un commentaire

For the kind of explosiveness that man will be able to contrive by 1980, the globe is dangerously small, its political units dangerously unstable.


« The great globe itself » is in a rapidly maturing crisis — a crisis attributable to the fact that the environment in which technological progress must occur has become both undersized and underorganized. To define the crisis with any accuracy, and to explore possibilities of dealing with it, we must not only look at relevant facts, but also engage in some speculation. The process will illuminate some potential technological developments of the next quarter-century.

In the first half of this century the accelerating industrial revolution encountered an absolute limitation — not on technological progress as such but on an essential safety factor. This safety factor, which had permitted the industrial revolution to roll on from the mid-eighteenth to the early twentieth century, was essentially a matter of geographical and political Lebensraum: an ever broader geographical scope for technological activities, combined with an ever broader political integration of the world. Within this expanding framework it was possible to accommodate the major tensions created by technological progress. Lire la suite…

Murray Bookchin, Market Economy or Moral Economy?, 1983

21 septembre 2019 Laisser un commentaire

Sooner or later, every movement for basic social change must come to grips with the way people produce the material means of life — their food, shelter, and clothing — and the way these means of life are distributed. To be discreetly reticent about the material sphere of human existence, to loftily dismiss this sphere as « materialistic, » is to be grossly insensitive to the preconditions for life itself. Everything we eat to sustain our animal metabolism, every dwelling or garment we use to shelter us from the inclemencies of nature, are normally provided by individuals like ourselves who must work to provision us, as we, one hopes, are obliged to provision them.

Although economists have blanketed this vast activity with amoral, often pretentiously « scientific » categories, preindustrial humanity always saw production and distribution in profoundly moral terms. The cry for « economic justice » is as old as the existence of economic exploitation. Only in recent times has this cry lost its high standing in our notion of ethics, or, more precisely, been subordinated to a trivial place by a supraeconomic emphasis on « spirituality » as distinguished from « materiality. »

Accordingly, it is easy to forgive the great German thinker Theodor Adorno for acidly observing a generation ago: « There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no one shall go hungry anymore » (Minima Moralia). Lire la suite…

Maria Mies, The Need for a New Vision: the Subsistence Perspective, 1993

18 août 2019 Laisser un commentaire

The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (UNCED, June 1992) again made clear that solutions to the present worldwide ecological, economic and social problems cannot be expected from the ruling elites of the North or the South. As Vandana Shiva points out in this book, a new vision – a new life for present and future generations, and for our fellow creatures on earth – in which praxis and theory are respected and preserved can be found only in the survival struggles of grassroots movements. The men and women who actively participate in such movements radically reject the industrialized countries’ prevailing model of capitalist-patriarchal development. They do not want to be developed according to this blueprint, but rather want to preserve their subsistence base intact, under their own control.

This quest for a new vision, however, is to be found not only among people in the South, who cannot ever expect to reap the fruits of ‘development’; the search for an ecologically sound, non-exploitative, just, non-patriarchal, self-sustaining society can also be found among some groups in the North. Here, too, this search for a new perspective involves not only middle-class people, disenchanted and despairing about the end-result of the modernization process, but even by some at the bottom of the social pyramid.

We have called this new vision the subsistence perspective. Lire la suite…

From Cadarache to Bure, stop the nuclear madness immediately!

12 août 2019 Laisser un commentaire

« Why was this harmless centre not simply installed in Paris, and especially in the useless gardens of the Elysee? […] If I am told that, despite its certified safety, this nuclear centre would cause some danger in Paris and the guests of the Elysée, I will answer that our fate and that of our children present and future are also very dear to us. »

Jean Giono, on the construction of Cadarache, Provence, 1961.

In 70 years, the French nuclear industry has produced 1.62 million cubic meters of radioactive waste, the equivalent of 648 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of matter that will remain highly toxic for hundreds of thousands of years (1). Each year, it produces 25,000 m³ more. At 30 km from here, 42,000 m 3 of nuclear waste are stored in the gigantic centre at Cadarache where, as the authorities themselves admit, they contaminate the soil and groundwater.

The « solution » decided by the state is to bury the most dangerous waste at Bure, in the north-east of France, a rural region that has suffered from the two world wars and the impact of agribusiness. This gigantic nuclear rubbish dump, dubbed « Industrial Geological Storage Center » (Cigeo), up to 500 meters underground and with 300 km of galleries, should cost at least 25 billion euros of public money (2) . Lire la suite…

Mara Hvistendahl, Inside China’s Vast New Experiment in Social Ranking, 2018

23 juin 2019 Laisser un commentaire

In 2015, when Lazarus Liu moved home to China after studying logistics in the United Kingdom for three years, he quickly noticed that something had changed: Everyone paid for everything with their phones. At McDonald’s, the convenience store, even at mom-and-pop restaurants, his friends in Shanghai used mobile payments. Cash, Liu could see, had been largely replaced by two smartphone apps: Alipay and WeChat Pay. One day, at a vegetable market, he watched a woman his mother’s age pull out her phone to pay for her groceries. He decided to sign up.

To get an Alipay ID, Liu had to enter his cell phone number and scan his national ID card. He did so reflexively. Alipay had built a reputation for reliability, and compared to going to a bank managed with slothlike indifference and zero attention to customer service, signing up for Alipay was almost fun. With just a few clicks he was in. Alipay’s slogan summed up the experience: “Trust makes it simple.” Lire la suite…

James C. Scott, Crops, Towns, Government, 2013

2 avril 2019 Laisser un commentaire

Jared Diamond, The World until Yesterday:
What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?,
Penguin, September 2013.

It’s a good bet a culture is in trouble when its best-known intellectuals start ransacking the cultural inventory of its ancestors and its contemporary inferiors for tips on how to live. The malaise is all the more remarkable when the culture in question is the modern American variant of Enlightenment rationalism and progress, a creed not known for self-doubt or failures of nerve. The deeper the trouble, the more we are seen to have lost our way, the further we must go spatially and temporally to find the cultural models that will help us. In the stronger versions of this quest, there is either a place – a Shangri-la – or a time, a Golden Age, that promises to reset our compass to true north. Anthropology and history implicitly promise to provide such models. Anthropology can show us radically different and satisfying forms of human affiliation and co-operation that do not depend on the nuclear family or inherited wealth. History can show that the social and political arrangements we take for granted are the contingent result of a unique historical conjuncture. Lire la suite…

Maria Mies, The Subsistence Perspective, 2005

30 septembre 2018 Laisser un commentaire

I’m Maria Mies, a retired sociology professor. I started working at the Fachhochschule here in the Department for Social Pedagogy in 1972. I am also quite active in various social movements: initially in the women’s movement, but then also the ecology movement became part of these activities, the peace movement, and recently, since 1997, I’ve been active in the anti-globalization movement.

First of all, I have to say that we are not talking specifically about subsistence economy. When I say « we, » I am referring to my two friends Claudia von Werlhof and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen, with whom I developed this approach in the mid-1970s. We aren’t speaking of a subsistence economy, but of a subsistence perspective. That is to say, it’s not an economic model, but rather, a new orientation, a new way of looking at the economy. That means something entirely different. It doesn’t just apply to the economy, but also to society, culture, history, and all other possible areas. The second thing is that a lot of people ask: what do you mean by subsistence? I usually say: for us, subsistence is the opposite of commodity production. Commodity production is the goal of capitalist production, in other words, a general production of goods, everything that there is, has to be transformed into a commodity. It is possible to observe that today, especially in the course of globalization. Subsistence production has an entirely different goal, namely, the direct satisfaction of human needs. This isn’t accomplished through money and the production of goods. For us, quite essential is that it is a direct production and reproduction of life. That’s why we talk of « life production » rather than « commodity production. » Lire la suite…

Gilbert Simondon, Save the Technical Object, 1983

9 septembre 2018 Laisser un commentaire

The following is an English translation of a 1983 interview that Simondon gave to the French magazine Esprit #76, april 1983.

Anita Kechickian: In 1958 you wrote about alienation produced by non-knowledge of the technical object. Do you always have this in mind as you continue your research?

Gilbert Simondon: Yes, but I amplify it by saying that the technical object must be saved. It must be rescued from its current status, which is miserable and unjust. This status of alienation lies, in part, with notable authors such as Ducrocq, who speaks of “technical slaves”. It is necessary to change the conditions in which it is located, in which it is produced and where it is used primarily because it is used in a degrading manner. The automobile, a technical subject that everyone uses, is something that fades in a few years because the paint is not intended to resist weathering, and because it is often after electric welding points have been made that at the interior of the assembly of the body there develops a rust which demolishes a car in a few years, whereas the engine is still good. This fact leads to the loss of the entire building of technics. It is a similar crushing that I stand against. Lire la suite…

Cecilia Calheiros, Cyberspace and Eschatological Expectations, 2014

On How Techno-Sciences Bolster the Belief in a Spiritually Connected Humanity


Following the studies analyzing the phenomena of religiosity that new technologies create (O. Krüger, D. Noble, H. Campbell), this paper questions the ways in which the Internet is understood as a salvation means. This media, closely linked to the idea of spiritual unity of humanity as a higher stage of evolution, inspired technological innovations underpinned by eschatological concerns. These expectations are related to the way the mind works and how increasing it through techno-sciences. The former are motivated by a quest for immortality by getting rid of the body, transferring the human spirit into the machine. Thus, predictive softwares, such as the Global Consciousness Project, the WebBot Project or Google Brain, have been designed mixing global consciousness, the anticipation of the future and apocalypse. What is the meaning of the phenomenon of spiritual reappropriation of the Internet? How do we move from a technological link to a spiritual connection that would supposedly transcend humanity? Most importantly, what links could be found between predictive softwares and the willingness to disembody man to make him immortal? Based on an analysis of the canonical sources of cyberculture and a study of communities following anticipations of predictive softwares, this paper analyzes the uses of belief in global consciousness when linked to Internet-assisted divination. First, it shows that the development of these softwares reveals a certain secularization of the discourses around global consciousness, while scientific positivism emerges from then. Then, it enlightens us about the role of techno-sciences in the building of lived utopias. Lire la suite…