Thursday, November 10, 2011

Scientific neutrality

I am currently reviewing an article which is using Foucault and Fairclough to uncover “the links between neo-liberalism (and its anti-democratic and repressive features) and sustainability”... Sounds like you can guess where it is heading? If not, it might help to know that the article also aims to challenge the “assumption that the political implications stemming from scientific research are ideologically free”...

Clearly, this article is an almost parodical representation of the post-modern consensus and its understanding that being “critical” never means being critical of one’s own ideological position. Obviously, very few Gramscians ask themselves in what way their own antagonistic worldview contributes to making political change “hopeless” or to what extent their own views may in fact have become “hegemonical” within Academia?

In this particular case, I think much confusion stems from the inability to make at least an analytic distinction between the scientific question of whether global environmental change is happening and the political question what we should do about it?

Sometimes progress in this world is really frustratingly slow. Many people still question the reality of environmental change even as humans have completely overrun the planet. Thinking back at the summer and the sulphur smoke in Beijing, I wonder what it would actually take to make these people understand the reality of the threat we are facing? Perhaps something as simple as telling them that accepting the reality of that threat does not mean that they necessarily have to accept the anti-capitalist remedies suggested by the environmental movement? But accepting that reality would of course put a moral pressure on them to actually come up with better and smarter solutions to the problem of global sustainability...



Anonymous Gabriel said...

Well... why is it almost parodical? Please Enlighten us! And why, why is it so important to, in this rather mocking and not helpful way, constantly pursue and scrutinize those with good intentions, little power, and possibly a bit blurred reasoning, rather than those with all the power, clout and intellectual capabilities to bring to bear? As a journalist, it strikes me as inexplicable. But, of course, it could be strategical to approach Neolibs within their own paradigm and so on and so forth.

But to question one's own predicaments... Why is it for instance so self evident, in your own view, that every day indulging in big steaks is an ubiquitous feature of the future, for instance? And why do every flat has to be furnished like a lounge? Etc, etc...?

Sorry, just couldn't help myself... ;)

12:21 pm  
Blogger Rasmus Karlsson said...

In retrospect, I am realizing that my blog post was a bit too blunt and unspecific.

The reason that I am often more critical towards the Left (broadly defined) than the Right is that I never expected anything but selfishness and short-sightedness from the Right. From the Left on the other hand, I expect a truly transformative vision of society, one that can speak to people of all walks of life and inspire hope rather than feeding resignation.

Looking at academia today, I cannot understand how people seriously think that yet another study that “reveals” that capitalistic logic influences policy-making, or that power relations are unequal, is in any way going to move us further in the right direction. We already know that capitalism has many problematic aspects. But we also know that it has proven to be an extraordinary powerful force in human history and that it has created unprecedented levels of affluence for an ever growing number of people. In light of this, and the billions of people (in Asia and elsewhere) who are desperately in need of the very economic growth that people on the Left mock, the important question should rather be how we can create new global forms of welfare capitalism that can bridge the deep social divides that are currently tearing our societies apart while also help solving the ecological equation.

Regarding the aesthetics of the “future”: I do not really know, it was a while since I had a steak :-) But maybe it is indeed to provoke, to make people realize that very few people look forward to the kind of monolithic asceticism of radical environmentalism and that many may in fact aspire for a future with open borders, cultural mobility and, yes, global adventures...

2:39 pm  

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