Reports of the death of metanarratives have been greatly exaggerated. Critiques of grand narratives (metanarratives) often have the respectable intention of protecting the specificity of different peoples and places from the homogenizing and totalizing effects of universal claims that are supposed to apply to everyone in all times and places. But these critiques fail on numerous accounts. Continue reading
I advocate for a political concept of love—planetary love—drawing on a Deleuzian political philosophy of love (via Hardt and Negri) as well as the concept of love developed by the postcolonial theorist Gayatri Spivak and elaborated on by the theologian Catherine Keller. It’s an ecological and feminist sense of love, not a sentimental or romantic or Platonic love. It’s allied with poststructuralism, postcolonialism, and posthumanism, but it does not go postal and dwell in critique and negativity. It is a love that dwells in non-coercive, mutually transformative contact, which differentiates while it entangles.
Affirming the inseparable differences entangling the multifarious inhabitants and habitats of the planet, planetary love is non-exclusive. It’s for everybody, even for the enemies of planetary coexistence. The most agreed upon enemy of environmentalists is corporate capitalism. Planetary love includes love for capitalism, love for corporations. That idea is not agreeable to many people.
Thinking of philosophy as resistance, one might think first of the philosophical activities of Marxists, feminists, and environmentalists. I would add process philosophers to that list. For Bergson, for instance, philosophizing is a violent inversion of the status quo.
The mind has to do violence to itself, has to reverse the direction of the operation by which it habitually thinks, has perpetually to revise, or rather recast, all its categories. But in this way it will attain to fluid concepts, capable of following reality in all its sinuosities and of adopting the very movement of the inward life of things. Only thus will a progressive philosophy be built up, freed from the disputes which arise between the various schools, and able to solve its problems naturally, because it will be released from the artificial expression in terms of which such problems are posited. To philosophize, therefore, is to invert the habitual direction of the work of thought. (Bergson, An Introduction to Metaphysics [trans. T. E. Hulme. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1912], p. 51).
That’s not very different from Whitehead’s claim that philosophy “reverses the slow descent of accepted thought towards the inactive commonplace” (Modes of Thought, p. 174). The question I’m left with is to what extent Bergson and Whitehead can facilitate resistance to a particularly obstinate habit that pervades late modernity: the enclosure of the commons (the becoming-inactive of the commonplace). For Bergson, resistance to enclosures might have something to do with love, reminiscent of his famous saying, “The motive power of democracy is love.” In Whitehead, maybe the notion of conformation provides a sense of the commons. Consider a few quotes from Process and Reality:
The philosophy of organism holds that, in order to understand “power,” we must have a correct notion of how each individual actual entity contributes to the datum from which its successors arise and to which they must conform. (p. 56)
The pragmatic use of the actual entity, constituting its static life, lies in the future. The creature perishes and is immortal. The actual entities beyond it can say, “It is mine.” But the possession imposes conformation. (p. 82)
..and from Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect, “Time in the concrete is the conformation of state to state” (35).
Some discussion of the DeleuzoGuattarian concepts of Hardt/Negri would help elaborate on the role of process thought in resisting enclosures and recuperating the commons, as would a discussion of Anne Pomeroy’s work on Marx and Whitehead and the anthology Bergson, Politics, and Religion, edited by Alexandre Lefebvre and Melanie White. I’ll have more to say about this later. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the essays in The Wealth of the Commons, edited by two wonderful defenders of the commons, David Bollier and Silke Helfrich.
I’m excited about the recently published book, Occupy Religion: Theology of the Multitude, which is a collaborative project by Joerg Rieger and Kwok Pui-lan. If you think it sounds like this book proposes a theology that draws on the concept of “the multitude” articulated by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, you’re right. Furthermore, the concept of the multitude in this book also draws on the biblical idea of “ochlos,” which refers to a mass or crowd of people (i.e., the crowds that would listen to the parables of Jesus).
It’s a good book with plenty of good news. It shakes up the tenacious yet increasingly irrelevant views of religion coming from modern liberalism. It rethinks the place of faith in the secular space of the public sphere, and it enjoins theology to overcome structures of domination and facilitate planetary transformation.
“Occupy religion” does not mean using force or other means to take over religious institutions and structures, holy sites, worshipping spaces, or religious goods, but rather indicates the conceptualization of a democratic and participatory space for religious life, broadly conceived, and active engagement to make this a reality. It challenges rigid boundaries between the sacred and the profane, as well as between the professional religious elites and the masses, and thus transforms narrow notions of religion as private or other-worldly. “Occupy religion” aims to demystify and debunk religious doctrines and social teachings that provide both religious sanction and justification for economic and social inequality. It critiques religious institutions and structures that silence, discriminate, and marginalize people because of class, race, gender, and sexuality, and thus hand the power to the 1 percent. “Occupy religion” call religious communities to account and asks them to engage critically in transforming the world to make it just for all and sustainable for the environment. (p. 5)