Los amigos de Ludd, Critique of the Happy New World That is Coming, 2002

A Self-Interview with Los amigos de Ludd

Question: What does the reference to Ludd and luddites entail for you?

Answer: The luddites were English workers who become the protagonists of an insurrectional movement between 1811 and 1813 and took action, destroying industrial machinery. They called themselves by the collective name of General Ludd, King Ludd or something of the sort. Currently in the Anglo-Saxon world, it is common for someone who opposes technological progress to be contemptuously tagged with luddism. However, since the 1980’s and 1990’s, there have been many in America who have raised the banner of luddism (with varying rigor, of course). The actions against transgenic cultivation in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom, the sabotage of the high speed train in Italy, the rural occupations in the Spanish state, the peasant resistance movements in Brazil and India, all this is a further sign of a rebellion against a techno-scientific progress that increasingly reveals itself for what it is: the planned strategy of an endless exploitation. To summarize, we can state that for us luddism is an example of active popular opposition to a technology that the industrial tyranny of capitalism wants to impose. Lire la suite »

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Shobita Jain, Standing up for trees, 1982

Women’s role in the Chipko Movement

The Chipko Movement has attracted world-wide attention. The image of poor, rural women in the hills of northern India standing with their arms around trees to prevent them being cut down is a romantic and compelling one. The reality, in many ways, fits the image: the Chipko Movement can indeed be considered an important success story in the fight to secure women’s rights, in the process of local community development through forestry and in environmental protection. But there are more complicated implications as well. It is important to understand the history of Chipko and the context in which it arose – and is still evolving.

 

Since no society is found in a state of perfect structural equilibrium, there are always situations of conflict. Each society, moreover, has institutionalized ways and means of articulating and resolving such conflicts. If a need is felt for altering or transforming structures in a certain fashion, some form of collective mobilization of people and their resources is resorted to; such an activity is given the name of “social movement”. By contrast, there is also sometimes collective resistance to social change. Social movements, in short, can aim at either changing or preserving the way things are – or both. Lire la suite »

Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen and Maria Mies, Subsistence and globalised economy, 1997

Maria Mies, 2011

Introducing their book The Subsistence Perspective: Beyond the Globalised Economy, Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen and Maria Mies tell us what they learned from a conversation between women in a Bangladeshi village and Hillary Clinton, which they then use to explain their perspective on subsistence, a perspective “from below”. Here are some excerpts.

A cow for Hillary

In April 1995, some months before the beginning of the UN World Women’s Conference in Beijing, Hillary Clinton, the First Lady of the USA, visited Bangladesh. She had come to find out herself about the success stories of the Grameen Bank projects which were said to have so empowered rural women in Bangladesh. For the Grameen Bank and development agencies, “empowerment of women” means that a woman has an income of her own and that she has some assets. Lire la suite »

Camille Rullán, Se réapproprier la science, 2021

All cultures have creation myths: the book of Genesis, the Rig Veda, Coatlicue or even Manifest Destiny. These stories explain who we are and how we got here, reveal our preferences and prejudices. Western science arose in response to myth to offer us a supposedly value-free, unadulterated view into nature’s inner workings. Like myths, science has its heroes: men (or, mostly men) who, often single-handedly, discover fundamental truths about the universe. Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein—we know who they are. Lire la suite »

Herbert Marcuse, The Realm of Freedom and the Realm of Necessity, 1969

A Reconsideration

I was very happy to hear that my friend Norman Birnbaum in his paper this morning spoke of utopian concepts and of the way in which allegedly utopian concepts were translated into reality, or were at least in the process of being translated into reality by the events of and June in France.

I am equally happy and honored to talk to you in the presence of Ernst Bloch whose work Geist der Utopie, published more than forty years ago, has influenced at my generation, and licks shown how realistic utopian concepts can be, lose to action, how close to practice. Lire la suite »

Sam Kriss, Manifesto of the Committee to Abolish Outer Space, 2015

There’s nothing there already.

We have been lied to, subjected to a cruel and chilly lie, one so vast and total it’s no longer fully perceivable but has turned into the unseen substrate of everyday life. It’s a political lie. They told us that outer space is beautiful.

They showed us nebulae, big pink and blue clouds draped in braids of purple stars, always resolving themselves at the pace of cosmic infinity into genital forms, cocks and cunts light years wide. They superimposed puddle-thin quotes over these pictures, so that the galaxies could speak to you in the depths of your loneliness, whispering from across a trackless infinity that you’re so much better than everyone else, because you fucking love science. The words are lies, the colors are lies, the nebulae are lies. These images are collated and pigmented by computers; they’re not a scene you could ever see out the porthole of your spaceship. Space isn’t even ugly; it isn’t anything. It’s a dead black void scattered with a few grey rocks, and they crash into each other according to a precise mathematical senselessness until all that’s left is dust. Lire la suite »

Michel Claessens, ITER: a systemic drift, 2022

Like all major technological projects, the experimental nuclear fusion reactor ITER has reached its point of no return: too much money has already been invested to stop the project, difficulties are multiplying and more and more money is needed to simply continue. In these conditions, the management, caught between these contradictory injunctions, seeks to reinforce its hold on « image » and scrape by on safety… Here is the testimony of the former director of communication of the ITER Organization.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the European Parliament, Dear colleagues,

Thank you for inviting me today as a whistleblower. We have seen beautiful photos of the ITER worksite. They show the best of science and technology. We are preparing the energy of the future.

The reality of the project is very different.

Today, the colleagues I meet in Cadarache and Barcelona talk to me, face-to-face, about unbearable stress and pervasive fear – fear of being displaced, fear of losing their job or fear to have to execute a decision against the interest of the project. They are afraid to speak and be recognized. There is, in this cutting-edge project, an “omerta”, a law of scientific silence. Lire la suite »

Claude Alvares, Science, 1992

The Development Dictionary,
A Guide to Knowledge As Power

 

I was born into a culture that continues to exercise greater influence and power over behaviour than modern science does, or will ever do. If that were properly understood, then this obituary would not appear either scandalous or scurrilous. Every culture enjoins its members to maintain respect for certain entities. Modern science does not find a place in our pantheon.

Far from it. From this side of Suez, in fact, modern science appears akin to an imported brand of toothpaste. It contains elaborate promises and much sweetness and glamour. It can be used, is often used (many times pointlessly), yet can be dispensed with at any time precisely because it is still largely irrelevant to life. Lire la suite »

Dwight Macdonald, The Bomb, 1945

At 9:15 on the morning of August 6, 1945, an American plane dropped a single bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Exploding with the force of 20,000 tons of TNT, the bomb destroyed in a twinkling two-thirds of the city, including, presumably, most of the 343,000 human beings who lived there. No warning whatsoever was given. This atrocious action places “us”, the defenders of civilization, on a moral level with “them”, the beasts of Maidanek. And “we”, the American people, are just as much and as little responsible for this horror as “they”, the German people.

So much is obvious. But more must be said. For the “atomic” bomb renders anticlimactical even the ending of the greatest war in history. Lire la suite »

David Cayley, Concerning life, 2021

an open letter to Jean-Pierre Dupuy and Wolfgang Palaver

 

“And the Gileadites took the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No”.

They said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right; then then seized him and slew him in the fords of the Jordan. And there fell at that time forty-two thousand of the Ephraimites.” (Judges 12: 3-6)

 

A shibboleth is a dividing line, and dividing lines are sharpest when they are razor thin. For the Ephraimites the price of forty-two thousand lives was nothing more than what linguists call an unvoiced fricative. Things are not yet quite so bad with us, but the pandemic has certainly brought division between friends. (And how great, after all, were the differences between Ephraimites and Gileadites, if all that distinguished them was the ability to make this crucial sound?) One of the shibboleths dividing us seems to be life. Recently two admired friends have taken issue with me over this word and the interpretation I have given of Ivan Illich’s views on the subject [see here].

Theologian Wolfgang Palaver, in an interview in the German weekly Die Zeit for Dec. 23, 2020, expresses concern that Illich’s claim that life has become “a fetish” is being abused as a justification for “sacrificing the weak.” And French philosopher Jean-Pierre Dupuy, in an article for the website AOC called “The True Legacy of Ivan Illich,” argues, similarly, that those who follow “the fashion of covidoscepticism” misunderstand and misappropriate Illich’s strictures on “the idolization of life.” Dupuy’s article is the second of two on the “alleged ‘sacralisation of life.’” The first denounces what Dupuy calls “the blindness of the intellectuals.” Lire la suite »