Bruno Latour’s politics of the earth

On February 1st, I discuss Bruno Latour’s ecological politics at the Kairos counter-club in London. I will present his argument and vision for a politics of the earth and explore related work in sociology seeking to advance ecological politics. More info at Kairos

Location: Vout-O-Reenee’s, The Crypt, 30 Prescot Street, London, E1 8BB

I draw on my article, How to turn politics around: things, the earth, ecology that has appeared in Science Technology and Human Values (2023), in a special issue on Latour and After, edited by T. Neale and colleagues. An earlier version appeared in French in the Revue Pragmata, as part of their “dossier spécial” on Bruno Latour and Pragmatism, edited by Antoine Hennion et all. (It should be out in March 2023, issue #6.)

In this article, I give a personal view of Bruno Latour’s work on the politics of ecology going back to his work during the early 2000s on the politics of things. Based on my exchanges with Latour over the years, from the time that I became his student in the late 1990s, I show how he developed his understanding of the politics of ecology through a critical engagement with early 20th century theories of a “politics of things,” notably the one developed by the pragmatist philosopher John Dewey. I propose that Latour, who was greatly inspired by Dewey’s book The Public and Its Problems, came to realise through his work on climate change that the ecological crisis poses a profound challenge to the pragmatist vision of material politics. This challenge led Latour to undertake a radical re-construction of the very idea of ecological politics and envision what he calls a politics of the earth. I conclude this text by highlighting a related but different possibility for the re-construction of ecological politics, one that I believe Latour saw clearly, but did not pursue. If we are to succeed in turning politics around ecology, we will need to engage much more deeply with a body of thought which Bruno Latour valued but only rarely – in my view too rarely – invoked in his last writings on ecology, that of feminist politics. Part reflection, part criticism, part homage, this piece then argues that we should turn our attention to feminist politics of ecology, if we want to find ways to continue Bruno Latour’s work for a politics of the earth.