Book: The Three Ecologies by Felix Guattari

Topic: Urban Agriculture

Extended Abstract

´Ecology must stop being associated with the image of a small nature-loving minority or with qualified specialists. Ecology questions the whole of subjectivity and capitalistic power formations, whose sweeping progress cannot be guaranteed to continue as it has for the past decade´.  Here ecology does not merely possess environmental concerns but also includes human subjectivity and social relations. 

´The Three Ecologies, written in 1989 by French philosopher and psychoanalyst Felix Guattari, formulates a discussion based on three interchangeable lenses of negotiation and reconstruction formed relationally and transversally: Mental, Social and Environmental, and their common ground, ´Ecosophy´, as seen in Fig. 1 .Venn DIagram of the Three Ecologies

Venn diagram of the Three Ecologies

Why three ecologies? The three ecologies as suggested by Guattari are interdependent. The future ecological awareness should not only be concerned with the environmental factors but also take into account the environmental devastation in the social and mental domain. Without transformation in mentality(mental ecology) and collective habits(social ecology), there will be no measures taken concerning the material environment(environmental ecology). 

Ecosophy i.e Sophia=wisdom, talks about a shift from science to wisdom. It presents us with the fundamentals to understand environmental awareness so as to ensure a continuity of the world we live in, while preserving nature and living things.

´Ecosophy´, a term coined by Guattari and Arne Næss, refers to the philosophy of ecological equilibrium or harmony. The Three Ecologies here, explicitly referring to the trio. ´Mental Ecology´, deliberates a mode of confronting capitalism in everyday life: individual, domestic, material, neighbourly, creative or one’s personal ethics. Necessary for those mentally manipulated through the production of a collective, mass-media subjectivity’. This lens is used to come to one’s own psyche, which manifestly draws on ideas of clinical session, a respect for singularity. 

´Social Ecology´ does not link to the mass movement of like-minded people but rather the collective production, the transformation or rather reconstruction of human relationships. The socially disadvantaged: the unemployed, the marginalized, immigrants, struggles of women. He discusses ´little soldiers´, concerning the decision making of common objectives, or ´rather good activists´. Furthermore, creative expression which will take precedence, in addition to eros principles. The reinvention of oneself, to live life like an artist is essential, as life ‘is like a performance, one must construct it, work at it, singularize it’. Lastly, ´Environmental Ecology´ also known as ´Machinic Ecology´, is the way of coming to one’s own psyche. The worst disasters or the most flexible evolutions are said to be possible, in addition to natural equilibriums being increasingly dependent upon human intervention. 

Integrated World Capitalism (IWC) or better known as Post-Industrial Capitalism achieves its social control without violence via the use of Mass Media. This effective and potent weapon creates a climate of unquestioning passivity leading to an ecological disequilibrium. As a consequence to the ´techno scientific transformation´, information revolution and ´continuous development of new technoscientific means to potentially resolve the dominant ecological issues and reinstate socially useful activities´, Guattari believes that these new scientific and technological advancements are not resulting in the liberation of the ´human potential´, but rather the advancement of a capitalist society in their ´drive for profitability´. One such example is the proliferation of nuclear power stations in France which threatens all of Europe to Chernobyl style accidents. 

Decentralisation of power sources due to IWC

Integrated World Capitalism, is the main object of Guattari’s criticism. He suggests that this has led to a loss in hierarchical order, delocalizing and deterritorializing to such an extent that it is impossible to locate its source of power as referred to in Fig.0.2. IWC does not respect existing territorialities, nor traditional ways of life, it reconstructs production systems and social systems on its own foundations.

IWC above all, is now at a fourth stage of capitalism, no longer oriented to producing primary (agricultural), secondary (manufacturing), or tertiary (services) but to the production of signs, syntax and subjectivity. The expansion in communication technology, and in particular the world telecommunications, has served to shape a new type of passive subjectivity, saturating the unconscious in conformity with global market forces. IWC, thus poses a direct threat to the environment in ways that are now all too familiar to us- pollution of all forms, extinction and depletion of species with the constant reduction in biodiversity. 

Impact of IWC on Social Ecology

Impact of IWC on Mental Ecology

Impact of IWC on Environmental Ecology

This ´human potential´, the objective and environmental pollution, in addition to the disregard, incomprehension and passivity between individuals and governments leads to a corrosion of human relations with the psyche, the socius and nature. What we call ´singularity´ and ´individuality´ is at risk of extinction. The endangered ´individuality´ and ´personality´ is ´dwindling…and…their intentions are rapidly losing all consistency, the quality of their relations with others is dulled’, and resingularization is needed.

Mass media homogenization leads to desingularisation

The term ecology pertains to many layers and sublayers, however the considered division into three can lead us to a direct path of ´individuality´. The emphasis placed on the mental, social and environmental aspects of ecology highlight the importance for reinventing oneself, the preservation of individuality and to remain unique in a collective community. The mass media and information revolution are a threat subsequently leading to the ´deterioration of individual and collective human modes of life’. Technological interventions such as Chernobyl and AIDS, demonstrate the ´techno-scientific power and the principles of profit economy´, however ´The Three Ecologies´ was written over 32 years ago, Guattari was not able to write about the influential recruitment tool that is the Wide World Web, nor the COVID-19 pandemic. Placing our faith in technology directed to human ends, furthermore to the profit domains of some vaccines. 

Some practices and objectives outlined by Guattari are to ‘activate isolated and repressed singularities that are turning around on themselves’, abandon scientific or pseudo-scientific paradigms and return to aesthetic ones and reinvent our Iives like artists. Nevertheless, we ask How one can be an individual when absorbed by mass media and the collective mind? How can one truly be an individual in a mass media society and how is resingularization meant to transpire? 

Guattari states that eco-activists will work together and at times drift apart, and that it is imperative to not have a leader directing their activity. Thus, we enquire, is one to look to anarchy as a solution? Anarchy is not singularity! In conclusion, one must think of singularity and individuality within collective scenes, ego-logical in nature. To make pragmatic interventions in one’s own life in order to escape from the dominant capitalist subjectivity.

List of References

  • Guattari Félix. The Three Ecologies. Bloomsbury Academic, 2014.
  • Integrated World Capitalism and Molecular Revolution by Felix Guattari, Conference on Information and/as New Spaces of Liberty(CINEL) Rio de Janeiro,1981.
  • Felix Guattari: An analysis of philosophy for environmental issues
  • Ecosophy and the relationship between man and nature in contemporaneity by Kellison Lima Cavalcante , Rafael Santana Alves, Jan 2020

Students: Rachael Verdugo & Shagun Modi

Faculty: Jordi Vivaldi