Abstract

Abstract:

At the very outset of the so-called Anthropocene, through the lens of a social theory since relegated to the “utopian” margins of critical thought, the visionary socialist Charles Fourier diagnosed a problem that mainstream modern science would spend much of the twentieth-century structurally unable to see: anthropogenic climate disruption and its etiology in the “progress” of European industry, slavery and colonial empire. This essay explores the heterodox naturalism that enabled such a prescient diagnosis, as well as the subversive image of “terraformation” that Fourier projected as a cure. For in contrast to today’s advocates of geo-engineering (but in concert with critics working to decolonize Anthropocene ecology), Fourier percieved that those who believe they know how to control the earth’s climate are the least capable agents of its emancipatory re-creation. He advanced, instead, the heretical proposition that nonhuman natures, no less than human ones, answer to justice and pleasure, rather than necessity and force. His dissident eco-social science thus aimed not to enable his Enlightened compatriots to engineer, but to disable them from thwarting the dazzling terrestrial futures that the earth’s other constituents were literally dying to create. Fourier’s techno-pastoral prophecies of orchestrated planetary transformation, then, beckon outside the familiar alternative between technofuturist hubris and ecological precaution, offering visions of multispecies luxury predicated on the abandonment of coercive labor and the adoption of a technics co-invented with human and non-human Others of Man. Next to the insane faith that our flourishing can still be founded on the earth’s domination (if only we do it right this time), Fourier’s outlandish prophecies, as Walter Benjamin once observed, “prove surprisingly sound.”

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6539
Print ISSN
0300-7162
Pages
pp. 74-105
Launched on MUSE
2020-08-01
Open Access
No
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