Artifice

Zizek’s argument that there is no such thing as ‘nature’ seems to me well-intentioned, but nevertheless wrong. Here he is rehearsing it, sporting a visibility jacket whilst psychoanalysing amongst the garbage pile (a great moment at 04:40, by the way). It’s well-intentioned in that it rightly sees through ecological piety or the smuggling-in of norms via ‘the natural’. But wrong in that by reacting so strongly against these temptations the only alternative he can demand is more alienation from nature, more artificiality. He swings from the reactionary pole to the pseudo-revolutionary and can’t see any other possibilities. There seems some overlap between his position and those who argue that all ‘nature’ is now man-made, capitalism-produced, which goes similarly over the top into contradictions. Zizek rightly points out that ‘nature’ isn’t a totality, but it needs repeating that ‘society’ likewise is no seamless whole, no totality without ruptures, in this context no completed or unproblematic (witness climate change) socialisation of the non-human world. It’s tempting to short-circuit the philosophical-political argument that would be needed to refute such beliefs and propose a cruel experiment: the proponent of the artifice thesis could be dropped somewhere in the middle of the Boreal forest for a month without any supplies and be left to contemplate (if indeed they survive) whether it makes much sense to see this environment as fully socialised, wholly colonised by civilisation, whether instead all is ‘hybridity’ (as the alternative jargon runs), or whether the abstraction ‘nature’ retains a persistent actuality. Unfortunately, they may also emerge, if  rescued, even more committed to that ‘artifice’ whose insuperable dependence on and interconnection with ‘nature’ they overlooked.

One thought on “Artifice

  1. Pingback: Dead Voles

Comments are closed.