PRINT December 1989

Alfredo Jaar

By Felix Guattari, Paris: Editions Galilee, 1989, 72 pp.

The post-Modern era is first and foremost the era of acquiescence to the trade logic of the capitalist system; a system in which economic imperatives generate a network of military, scientific, technical, and cultural mandates that support the status quo. For the nihilists among us, as for the anarchists, the formula for progress is “destroy as much as possible as quickly as possible” (Bakunin, 1873). But this “era of emptiness” (Lipovetsky, 1983) is also the era of urgency: it is now necessary, as has been said, to “reinvent a future for the planet,” to return to the Nature that Leonardo da Vinci said abounded in ragioni, in meanings we thus far have not fathomed.

In Les Trois Écologies (The three ecologies), Félix Guattari sets us on that path. His essay, short yet impeccably precise, is an exercise in both ecological and political semiotics. Guattari’s dizzying “reading” of the signs of our planet’s systematic destruction inspires his articulation of the field of inquiry and action he calls “ecosophy,” from which stem three interrelated ecologies: environmental, social, and mental. By factoring in our relationships to one another, and our emotional and intellectual model-making, the science of ecology is rehabilitated from its status as mere liberal “nuisance.”

In Guattari’s ecosophy, our terrain is the screen on which we can read the history of our species and, particularly, of the wounds inflicted by Modernism, among these the global-capitalism-generated media implosion that makes more spectacle than sense. Ultimately, the author proposes ecosophy as the imperative science of our times. To Claude Lévi-Strauss, who said “man has deceived me,” Guattari responds: man must change.

—Alfredo Jaar

Translated from the French by Diana C. Stoll.