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Kristin Asdal, Brita Brenna,Ingunn I\'Ioser
The Politics
of lnterventions
A H i s t o roy l S T S . . . . . . . . . . . ..............7

Port l: Networksond Critiques

Some Elementsof o Sociology of Tronslotion
D o m e s l i c o l i oonf t h e S c o l l o p o
s n d l h e F i s h e r m eonf S t . B r i e u cB o y. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 7

SusanLeigh Star
Power, Technology ond ihe Phenomenology of Conventions
O n B e i n gA l l e r g i tco O n i o n s .........................79

Donna Flaraway
Situoted Knowledges
T h eS c i e n c e
Q u e s l i o ni n F e m i n i s m
o n d T h e P r i v i l e goef P o r l i oP
l e r s p e c i i v e . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1. .0, .9. .

Porl2: Modest lnlerventions

l)eborah Heath
Bodies,Antibodies, ond Modest Inlerventions . . . . . . . . .1 3 5

Ingunn 1\'Ioserand John Law

Good Possoges,
BodPossoges .............157
Marianne de l,act and Annernarie IVIoI
M e c h o n i co
s { o F l u i dT e c h n o l o g y . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1. 7 9

Vicky Singleton
T r o i n i n g o n d R e s u s c i t o t i n gH e o l t h y C i t i z e n s i n t h e
EnglishNew PublicHeolth
N o r m o t i v i ' l i iensP r o c e s s .......221
Porl3: From the Loborotoryio Politicsond Economics
Bruno Latour
T o M o d e r n i z e o r t o E c o l o g i s e ?T h o i i s i h e Q u e s t i o n . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1 9

T h eM o r k e tT e s .l . . . . . . . . . . . . . 273
Andrcrv Brrrl'
P o l i t i c o lI n v e n l i o n 287
I(ristin Àscl:rl
R e - l n v e n t i n g P o l i t i c so f t h e S t o t e
S c i e n c eo n d t h e P o l i t i cosf C o n l e s l o i i o n . . . . . . . . .3 0 9
Epilogue ........327
Ingunn Nlloser
lnterveniions in History
M o u r e e nM c N e i lc n d J o h nL o wi n C o n v e r s o l i oonn t h e E m e r g e n c eT,r o i e c l o r i eo sn d
lnterferenco e fsS c i e n c e
o n d T e c h n o l o gSyt u d i e s( S T S.). . . . . . . . . . . ..........,,,....329
t f contribuiors.......... .......................351

ToModernizeor to Ecologise?
Thotis the Question.-

W il l p ol i ti co le co logypos so woy?

This paper exploresthe destiny of political ecology.tIt is very much inlluenced

by the French political situation and the continuing marginaliry of the various
Green parties.It relieson three different strands.First a very interestingmodel to
understandpolitical disputesdevisedby two French sociologists,Luc Boltanski
and LaurentThévenot in a book that is not yet availablein English2(Boltanski8c
Thévenot L991).Second,a casestudy by the author on the recentcreationby law
of what couldbe called"localparliamentsof water"(Latour & Le Bourhis1995).3
Third, a long term project in philosophyto developan alternativeto the notion of
modernity (Latour 1993) and to explorethe political roots of the notion of nature.
The point of the paper can be statedvery simply: political ecologycannot be in-
sertedinto the variousnichesof moderniry.On the contrary,it requiresto be un-
derstoodasan alternativeto modernization.To do so one hasto abandonthe false
conceitthat ecologyhas anything to do with natureas such.It is understoodhere
asa new way to handleall the objectsof human and non-human collectivelife.a
For the last ten yearsor so,the questionhasarisenasto whether the ecomove-
ment is in fact a new form of politics or a particularbranchof politics.This uncer-
tainry is reflectedin the difficulty that the environmentalpartieshaveexperienced
in carvingout a niche for themselves. On track for rapid integrationinto people's
everydayconcerns,environmentalismcouldwell follow in the footstepsof the nine-
teenth century hygienemovement- a movementwith which, obviousdifferences
* Translatedby Charis Cussrns
** F-romRentking reality.Nature at tbe nillenniun by Bruce W. Braun and Noel Castree(eds.).
Copyright O Routledge1998.Rcproducedby permissionofTaylor & F-rancis Books UK 2007.


nofwithsttnding, it hirs n greirt resemblance5 - with the defence and protection of

the environment becornir-rga fèature of everyday lifè, rules, regulations and gover-
ment polic1,,just as as preventive vaccination, the scientific analysis of water qual-
iry and health records did. One would no more drop litter in the woods than spit
on the floor, but that does not make habits of good manners and civility irrto an
entire political project. Just as there is no "hygienists party" today, there will soon
be no green party left. All political parties, all goverrnents and all citizens will sirn-
ply add this new layer ofbehaviour and regulations to their everyday concerns.A
good indicator of this progressiye normalisation of ecologism will be the creation
of specialisedadministrative bodies,like those for Bridges and Highways or Water
and Forests,which would be all the more ef-fectivesince they would be cast in the
mould of the well-establishedde-politicising tradition of pubiic-sectoradministra-
tion (Lascoumes1994).
The inverse solution consists of making ecology responsible for all of politics
and all of the econolny, on the basis of the argr.rmentthat everything is interrelated,
that humankind and nature are one and the same thing and that it is now necessary
to manage a singlesystenof nattn'eand oJ'society in order to avoid a moral, economic
and ecological disaster.But this "globalisation" of environmentalism, even if it con-
stitutesthe common ground of numerousmilitant activitiesand of the public imag-
inlry at large, still doesnt seem to replace the normal domain of political action.
As convinced as its adherents might be, this submersion of all politics and all
of society into nature seems unrealistic. It would appear to lack political senseand
plausibiliry for at least two reasons that are easily understood.6 In the first place,
the nature whole into which politics and human society would supposedly have to
merge trauscendsthe horizons of ordinary citizens.For this Whole is not human,
as is readily seen in the Gaia hypothesis (Lovelock 1979). Second, the only people
who would be capable of defining these connections and revealing the infinitely
cornplex architecture of this totaliry would be specialistswhose knowledge and
breadth of view would remove thern fiom the lot of common humirniry (Lafaye
and Thévenot 1993). In any c'.rse,these scientific demigods would not belong to
the ordinary rank and file of county councils, administrative boards and local or-
ganisi.rtions.Accepting that ecology bears on every type of connection rvould be
thus to lose sight of humanity twice: first to the advantage of a uniry superior to
humankind, and second to the advantage of a technocracy of brains that would be
superiorto poor, ordinary humans.
Consequently, on the one hand, ecology integrates itself into everydaylife with-
out being able to becorle the platform for a specific party and, on the other, it
becomesinflated to tlie point of assuming responsibilityfor the agend:rsof all the
other parties,while handing the pen to men and women who do not belong to the

T O M O D E R N I Z EO R T O Ê C O L O G I S E ?

world of politics and who speakof a global unity which no longerhasthe political
domainasits horizon.
However,practical experiencedoes not conlirm either of these two extreme
hypotheses.T Militant action remainsboth far more radicalthan one would believe
if the hypothesisof ecologybecominga fact of everydaylife was correct- nothing
to do, in this respect,with hygienewhich was alwaysthe concernof a few promi-
nent administrators- and 1àr morepartittlthan it should be if one were to accept
the hypothesisof globalisation.It is alwaysthis invertebrate,tltis branch of a river,
r/rs rubbish dump or rlir land-useplan which finds itself the subjectof concern,
protection,criticismor demonstration.
In practice,therefore,ecologicalpolitics is much lessintegrablethan it fears,but
a lot more marginal than it would like. To expressthis paradoxof totality in the
future and presentmarginaliry there is no shortageof formulaewhich enableit to
get out of the problem:"think globally,act locally,"integratedmanagement,new al-
liance,sustainable development,and so on. Accordingto political ecology,it should
nof be judged by its modestelectoralresults.8 It beginswith individual cases,
but it
will soon,slowlybut surely,incorporatethem all into a generalmovementthat will
end up embracingthe whole earth.According to political ecology,the courageto
addressitself to small causesrightly comesfrom the certainknowledgethat it will
soon haveto assumeresponsibilityfor all the major issues.
If this were indeedthe case,we should be witnessingthe rise,perhapshesitant
but certainlyirreversible,of a political ecologytaking up, day after day,the whole
task of political life. Yet the scenarioof ecologybecominga synonymfor politics
seemincreasinglyimprobable.This is certainlythe casein Francewhere,although
the number of environmentalparties is increasing,they still do not account for
more than five per cent of the votes,and eventhis total appearsto be declining.In
spite ofthe presenceofthree candidatesin the 1995 Frenchpresidentialelections,
greenpartiescould well go out as they camein, like any other passingtrend. For
a party that must take responsibilityfor Mother Earth hersel{,there is more than
one problemin this continuingmarginalisation.Itis a challengethat is makingit
necessary to rethink the very basisof its aspirationto becomeglobal.
In this article,I would like to advancethe hypothesisthat the rise in power
of political ecologyis hinderedby the definition it givesitself,,asbothpoliticsand
ecologlAs a resultof this self-deflnition,the practicalwisdom acquiredafter years
of militar-rtaction is incapableof expressionby a principle of classificationand
ordering- aboutwhich I'll saymore belorv- that would be politically effective.As
the prophethJonah said of the Hebrew people,"it can'ttell its left from its right".
Without this principle of ordering,political ecologymakeslittle impact upon the

electorate and does not manage, using all the arguments that it neverthelessso ef-
fectively reveals,to develc'p lasting and consistent political viability.

l s p o li t ic ole c ol og yon or igi noltype of iust i fico tio n?

In their pioneeringwork, BoltanskiandThévenothaveofferedus the idealacidtest

to seewhetheror not political ecologycan surviveasan original form of politics,or
i1,on the contrary,it can easilybe dissolvedinto very ordinary regimeswhich have
beenput in placeduring the last centuryor so.
By srudyingin detailshow ordinary peopleengagedin disputesover right and
wrong justtfy their action, these authors have been able to identif' six dffirent
regirnesof justification (which they call "Cités" in French).The novelty of their
approachis to haveproventhat eachof thoseregimesis completealthoughutterly
contradictorywith the others.In other words,it is possibleto demonstratethat in
contemporaryFrenchsocierypeopleengagedinto disputes,may ascendto six dif-
ferent overarchingprinciples("principesupérieurcommun"),eachof them engag-
ing a fuli-fledgedand coherentdefinition of what humaniry shouid be ("principe
de commutrehurnanité").Each regime is the result of a long history of political
philosophy,and hasnow becomean everydaycompetenceactivatedeasilyby ever1,
mernberof the socie$,.Each of thern definesthrough trials a scaleof right and
wrong ("grirndeur"et "petitesse"), that allows one to passjudgernentand to settle
disputes.Each of them, and that is the grearstrenghtof the model,allowsto /e-
nouncethe othersbecausethey lack rnoralityor virtue.e
We do not needto go into the detailsof this majestuoustheory.For the presenr
paPer,the greatinterestof this model is that it allowsto testwhether or not politi-
cal ecologyoffers a neta principleofjustification, or if it can 6e reduced to the slr
otherswhich havebeensedimentedthrough the courseof time. Is political ecologv
old wine in new boftles,or, on the contrary,new wine in old bottles?lo
At first glance,the answeris cleirr.There canbe no "ecological regime"since it is
very easyto show how any of the empirical sitestackledby greenpolitics borrows
its principle ofjustification to one of the six Cities alreadyin place-in fact we will
lirnit ourselves hereto the Domestic,Civic,Industrialand Commercialregimesoi-
The majoriry of issuesconsidered- in the caseof the landscape, water and
waste,natural parks etc. can be relatedeasilyto what Boltanski and Thévenot
cali the "domesticresime",the principleof which is to justif, the worth of a htr-
man by the quality of his lineageand the solidity of his roots.And it is true thiit
many Practicaldisputesin ecologyare alwaysa questionof defendinga particular

? H A TI S T H E Q U E S T I O N

territory,a particular aspectof national heritage,a particular tradition or a terri-

tory againstthe de-sensitised, de-territorialised,stateless,
an economicor technicalenterprise.Starting from theseprinciplesofjustification,
one can denouncethe "industrial regime" and, more recently,the "civic regime"
without scruple.This is probablywhy political ecologyappearedso original in the
beginning.In short,it gaveback value to the "domesticregime"which two centu-
ries of republicanand revolutionaryspirit had reducedto a mere"domesticiry"to
the domain of the home.Thanks to ecologythe domesticdomain becameonce
more what it wasbeforethe Revolutionaryethos.
The curious alliancebefween conservatives, conservationistsof heritage and
natureconservationists would thus be easilyexplained.Against the "civic"and "in-
dustrial regimes,"anotherjustification has been revivedafter centuriesof pitiless
denunciation.By attackinga bullet-train line, by protectinga garden,a rare bird's
nestor a valleysparedby the suburbs,one could finally be simultaneouslyreaction-
ary and modern.In short, the originaliry of ecologywould only last long enough
to partially rehabilitatethe qualiry of the privatedomain.Nature,it is easyto see,
is becomingas"domestic"inthe Valléede Chevreuseas amongthe Achuars.llIn
this revamped"domesticregime"the stateof highnessis achievedby ancientness,
by durability and by familiariry; the stateof smallness,by the anonymityof people
without roots nor attachments.lz
If many burning issuesof political ecology can be reducedto the "domestic
regime", other issuescan be reducedeven faster within the "industrial regime"
(Barbier 1996).This is the casenotably in all the battles over waste,pollution
and the like.ti Here again,the originality of ecologydisappearsrapidly in favour
of equipment and regulationsdesignedto end wasteand reducepollution. After
the initial criesof horror at the accountsto be balanced,the coststo be met and
the equipmentto be installed,it is "businessas usual"for ecologyin the "indus-
trial regime".Domesticwasteis becominga raw materialthat is managedlike any
other raw materialby simply extendingthe productionprocess.Pollution rights are
traded on a market in environmentalgoodswhich is fast ceasingto be exotic.The
health of riversis now monitored like the health of the workforce.It is not worth
treating ecologyas a separateconcern;it is more a questionof using it to explore
new and profitable businessopportunities.There was a waste problem.We put
an end to it. There was a pollution problem.We put an end to it. It is now only a
questionof controlling,monitoring and managing.That's all thereis to it. Exit the
beardedand hairy ecologists:they'vebecomeobsolete.
Are the ecologicalissuesthat cannotbe reducedto the "domestic"or "industrial"
regirne,a proof that there is somethingoriginal in political ecology?No, because
they can appear-although it is slightly lessstraightforward- reducibleto a third


regime, the one that Boltanski rnd Thévenot call the "civic regime" and that is de-
fined by "general wiil". In this regir-ne,worth is defined by the ability of one irgent
to disentangle oneselt tron.r pu.rticular and local interests so as to envision only the
General good. In its aspirrrtionsto globaliry ecology encounters in the de{inition of
the general will an oppor)ent which is all the more formidable since it has the sup-
port of almost all mtinstrearn political institutions since the mid XVIIIIh century.
Here again, it seems,ecologists do not manage to establish their justifications
for long and cannot claim to representrnore than one lobby among many.Althouqh
some Green parry may speak in the nnme of the cornmon good, it is always the
electedmayor who signs the land-use plan and not the irssociation that is defend-
ing, often for its own petty reasons,som! end of a garden, some bird, some snail or
other (Barbier 1,992);it is the local goverment who closes a polluting factory and
not the manufacnlrer who, in the name of efficiency, is exploiting employees; it is
the Water Board who protects resource for everyone and not the angling associa-
tion which has its own fish to fry. Rehabilitating dornestic traditions and extending
efficiency to include natural cycles is one thing; directly opposing the general will
on such terrain is quite another and an extremely delicate issue.ll
The new conrpromisethat enablesthe "civic reginre,"without rnodi$'ing itself
in any lasting way, to absorb most ecological issuesconsists in extending the elec-
torate deerned to participate in the expressionof the general will to include future
generations of citizens.ls Future generations are indeed mute,but no more so than
the minors who have just been born, the ancestors who are already dead, the ab-
stainers who are said to "vote with their fèet", or the incompetents which have
rights through various sorts of stewardships.At the cost of a slight enlargement in
the nurnber of electors,the "civic regime" can absorb most of the issuespending. At
the cost of a delicate compromise with the "domestic regime", it could even recon-
struct this "community of the dead and the living", which would permit it to be of
both on the Right and on the Left, thus casting its net wide and thereby diluting
the green vote even further.
On the basis of these various reductions, there would therefore be no "eco-
logical regime" since the issuesthat it raisescan all be resolvedin the "domestic,"
"industrial" and "civic regimes". What is left could easily be pigeonned-holed into
the "commerce regime", as can be witnessed in the unashamed processing of the
numerous "green products," "green labels"and other "natural" products.l" With this
hypothesis one could account for the necessarilyepherneral vogue fbr ecology.
If we fbllow this not very charitable reduction, we could say that there is no
durable originaliry in the political philosophy of ecology To be sure on seeing
the irruption in debates of waterwa)'s, landscapes,noise, dustbins, the ozone layer
and unborn children, it was some time before civil society recognised its ancient

T O M O D E R N I Z EO R T O E C O L O G l S E ?

preoccupations.lTThis is why for several)'ears,many have believed in the originality

of this new social movement before realising that it did not, underneath it all, pose
any real threat. We remain humans, after all, despite taking nafure into account.
Consequently, as the old regimes regain their irnportance, the originality of ecology
is being gradually eroded and its electoral favour dwindles with each election.
Another reason would make the failure of the environmental parties inevitable.
Outside the "civic regime", aparty has no chance of situating itselfwithin the classic
framework of the Left-Right scenography.tying to define a super-will is at once
accepting the classic framework of political life, but hurtling toward defeat if one
can only oppose the habitual spokespersonsand electors with mute entities - birds,
plants, ecosystems,catchment areasand biotopes - or specialists- scientists,fanat-
ics, experts, activists - speaking in their name but on their own authority. Without
a new fype ofspokespersons, natural entities have no voice or are only represented
by a specialist knowledge that is incommensurable with public life.18By becoming
a party,political ecology was forging ahead. But by rejecting party life, it would run
the risk of becoming either a branch of the associated movements for domestic
community or else a specific sector of industrial or market production.

S ho ul dw e o b ondon the pri nc ipl eof c om m on humonit y?

To escapethis horrible fate it would seemthat there is but one solution,and that
is to depart from the model of Boltanski and Thévenot by abandoningits princi-
pal axiom,that of common humanity.A1l the regimesdeveloppedby the six types
of political philosophyhave humanity as their measure.They disagreeon how to
rank humanity and about the yardstickthat allowsto order smallnessand highness
in each of the six "Cités", but they all agreethat "humanity is the rneasureof all
things".This is what make thesesix principle ofjustification, no matter how con-
tradictorywith one another,all completelyincompatiblewith the racistor eugenic
or socialdarwinist reactionarypolitics developpedduring the last century.How
is it possibleto abandonthe notion of common humaniry without immediately
falling into the dangerof "biopolitics"?The standardansweris that ecologyis no
longer about humans- even extendedto include future generations- but about
nature,a higherunity which would include humansamong other componentsas-
sociatedwith other ecosystems.
We sawabovethe political incoherenceof this solution.How canpoliticallife be
mixed up with a total unity - nature- which is only known by the scienceof com-
plex systems? At best,one would arrive at a sort of super-Saint-Simonism,a gov-
ernmentof experts,of engineersand of scientistswho would abolishthe difference


betweenthe "civicregime"and "industrialregime"by the controlledmanagementof

naturalcycles.At worst,it would leadto an organicisnrwhich would abolishthe dif-
fèrencebetweenthe "domesticregime"and all the other regimes,and which would
be preparedto sacrifice"mere humans"to maint:rin the only truly worthy object:
Mother Earth.Perishhumaniq'solong aselephants, lions,snails,fernsand tropical
rainforestsrecovertheir "equilibrium"of yesteryear: the permanentlydisequilibriat-
ing stateof intensenaturalselection.le
It is difficult, one would imagine,to presentoneselfin front of one'selectorate
with a programmethat envisagesthe possibiliryof rnaking thern disappearin fa-
vour of a "congressof auimals"whodont evenvote or pirytaxeslAs for abirndoning
the frameworkof electionsaltogether,one could certainlydo that, but it would be
in the nameof a fundamentalismthat would abandondemocracyonceand for all.
And to whose advantage? Leadersdirectly inspiredby nature?Or mad scientists
versedin the sciencesof complexiry?Facedwith suchan alternative,the reaction
of the ordinary citizen is understandable: "I would rather live a shorter life in a
democracythrn sacrificemy life today rnd thzrtof my descendants - to protect a
mute naturerepresented by suchpeople."One can seethe difficulq'of discovering
the "seventh regime,"which now resernbles thosecities,lost in the jungle, that the
"raidersof the lost:rrk"hopedto find.
Either one acceptsthe principleof common hurnaniryand then there is no
longerthe slightestoriginality in political ecologywhich reduces, wirh rnoreor less
difficulry to the three (or slr) other regimes.Alternatively,by retainingthe origi-
naliry of political ecology,i.e. its equalconcernfor non-humansand humans,one
depirrtsfrom the framework of the most elementarymorality and tlie healthiest
of democracies. Facedwith such intellectualdilemmas,one can understandwhy
the environmentalpartieshaveconsiderabledifficulty explainingto themselves, to
their rnembersand to their electorsthe meaningof their fight.

Wh o t i f ec ol og yd i d no t c onc er ni tse lfw it h no ture?

Perhapswe'vetaken the wrong route.Perhapswe ha.verrisunderstoodthe model

that has guided us thus fàr. Perhapswe have too slavishlyfollowed what politi-
cal ecologysaysaltoutitse('withotrt paying enough attention to its practicewhich,
happily,differs greatly froru its explanationsof itself. In seems,in fact, that the
originality of political ecologyis a lot more subtle rhan we have so far imagined
it to be.
Let us recotrsiderthings bv meirsuringthe distar-rce that separates prlctice
from self-reçrresentirtion by settingup rwo constrastinglists:the first stateswhat


political ecologybelievesit ought to do without really managingto do; and the

secondsetsout the advantages of not fbllowing the idealsthat it flauntswith so
much obstinately.

What ecology believes it ought to do without managing to

Politicalecologyclaimsto talk attoutnature,but it actuallytalks aboutendlessim-

broglioswhich alwaysinvolvesornelevelof human participation:
- It claimsto
Protectnatureand shelterit from humansbut, in all the empirical
casesthat we havereador srudied,this acruallyamountsto greaterhuman involve-
ment and more frequent,ittcreasinglysubtleand more intimate interventionsusing
increasinglyinvasivescientificequipment (Chase1987;Western and pearl 1989:
Westernet al. 199.1)
' It claims to protect narurefor its own sake-
not as a substirutefor human
egoism- but at everyturn the missionit has set itself is undertakenby men
and women who seeit through, and it is for the welfare,pleasureor co1-
scienceof a smallnumberof carefullyselectedhuman beingsthat one man-
agestojustifii it.
' It claims to think with systemsknown by
the laws of science,but every
time it proposesto includeeverythingin a highercause,it finds itself drawn
into a scienti{iccontroversyin which the expertsare incapableof coming to
' It claimsto take its scientificmodelsfrom hierarchies
regulatedby cybernetic
control systems,but it is alwaysdisplayingsurprisingheterarchicassemblages
whose reaction times and scalesalwayscatch off balancethose who think
they are talking of fragility or of solidiry of the vasr sizeor of the smallness
of nature.
' It claims to talk about everything,but only
succeedsin shaking up opinion
and modi$'ing powerrelationsby attachingitself to particularplaces,biotopes,
situationsand events:rwo whalestrappedin the ice, one hundred elephants
in the Amboseli National Park (Cussins2004) or thirty platanetreeson the
Placedu Tertre in Paris.
' It claims to be beconrirrgmore powerful and
ro embody the political life of
the future,but it is everrarherereducedto the smallestshareof the electoral
ejectorand jump seats.Even in countrieswhere it is a little more powerful,
like Germany,it only brings to bear a secondaryforce.

One could despairat this severeappraisal.But one can alsoseizeall the advantages
that therewould be if political ecology'were to disabuseitself of its own illusions.
I E C HN O S C i N

Its practice is worth intinitelv more than its utopian ideals of a nafural super-re-
gime, managed b1'scientists fbr the exclusivebenefit of a Mother Earth who could
at any moment become a cruel or unnatural mother.
Lett return to the list of its misconstruals,now considering the "defects"of its
practice asjust so man)'positive advantages.The encrypted messagewhich permits
the discovery of the lost cirf is irnmediately illuminated by a new meaning.

What ecology(happily) doesextremelywell

' Political ecology does not and has never atternpted to talk about nature.It bears
on complicatedforms of associationsbetween beings:regulations,equipment,
consumers, instifutions, habits, calves,cows, pigs and broods that it is com-
pletely superfluous to include in an inhuman and ahistorical nature. Nature is
not in question in ecology; on the contrary, ecology dissolvesboundaries and
redistributes agents and thus resemblespren'rodern anthropology much more
than it thinks.2t
' Political ecology does not seek and has never sought to protect nature. On dre
contrary, it wants to take control in a manner yet more complete, even more
extensive,of an even greater diversiry of entities and destinies.To the mod-
ernism of world domination, it adds modernism squared.22
' Political ecology has never clirirned to serve nature for its own good, since it is
totally incapableof defrning the common good of a dehumanisedNarure.It
does better than protect nature (either fbr its own sake or for the good of fu-
ture generations). It suspendsour certaintieswith regard to the sovereign good
of hurnan and non-human beings,of ends and means.
' Political ecology does not know what an eco-political system is and does not
rest on the insights of a cornplex sciencewhose model and methods would,
ifit existed,totally escapethe reach ofpoor thinking and (re)searching
humaniry. This is its great virfue. It doesnt know what makes and doesr-r't
r-nakeup a system. It doesn'tknau vthat is and isn't connected.The scientillc
controversiesin which it becomes embroiled are precisely what distinguish it
t'ronr :rll the other politico-scientific movements of the past.It is the onll.onc
th.tt irrn benet'itfrorn irnother politics of science.Neither cyberneticsnor hi-
cr.rrchvnr.rkeit possibleto understand the agentsthat are out of equilibriun .
.ir.r,.,çi;,I).rnvinirrn, as often as they are global, sometimes rapid, sometinrc.
-. ,'.r.th.rr it hrinqs into playvia a multitude of original experimental devic.-
. ' : . - i ' : r i r \ c . l u n i n ' p r e c i s e l y d o e sn o t - a n d t h i s i s t h e p o i n t - f o r m a n e \ . i . '
. : .:::::t:llvc :aicl)ce.

T O M O D E R N I Z EO R T C E ' : . O G I S E ? T H A TI S T H E Q U E S I I O N

' Political ecology is unable and has never sought to integrate all its very me-
ticulous and particular actions into a complete and hierarchised unity. This
ignorance with regard to totalin'is precisely its saving grace since it can never
rank small human beings and vast ozone layers, or small elephants and mid-
dle-sized ostriches, into a single hierarchy.The smallest can become the larg-
est."The stone that was cast aside has become the corner stone."

Political ecology has, fortunately remained marginal until now because it has not
yet grasped either its politics or its ecology. It believes it is speaking about nature,
the system,a hierarchised totaliry a world without human beings, a certain science,
and it is precisely these too well-ordered statements that marginalises it, while the
hesitant statements of its practice would perhaps permit it finally to attain political
maturity if only it could grasp their meaning.
By comparing those two lists, one can see the new solution towards which
we can now turn. If we leave aside the over-lucid explanations that ecology gives
of itself, and focus solely upon its embroiled practical application, it becomes a
completely different movement, a wholly other destiny. Political ecologymakesno
mention of Nature, it does not know the System, it buries itself in controversies,it
plunges into socio-technical imbroglios, it takes control of more and more entities
with more and more diverse destinies, and it knows less with any certainfy what
they all have in common.

Whot is commonin the expression

Before crying "paradox!", an attempt should be made to explore this new aveuue.
Messages, even decoded, can have a double meaning. Now, if we return to the
regimes model, we can see that, at the price of a fundamental but minuscule re-
interpretation of the central axiom, the "seventh regime", which had escaped our
looking for so long, suddenly emerges like Merlins castle.
What in fact is "common" humanity? Boltanski and Thévenot were content with
the usual reading offered by the canonical commentators of political philosophy
they chose to consider.They took for granted the detached human offered to them
by the humanist tradition, the human whose ultimate risk would be to be confused
with a-human nature.23But non-hurnan is nat inhuntan.If ecology has nature as its
goal and not humans, it follows that there can be no regime of ecology. But if the
aim of ecology is to open up the question of humaniry it conversely follows that
there is a "seventh regime".2aThe mear.ringof the adjective "common" in the expres-
sion "common humanity" changes totalh' if the non-humans are not "nature".25

question opened up by the "seventh regime" is to know what would a
human be without elephants,plants, lions, cereals,oceans,ozoûe or plankton? A
human alone, much more alone even than Robinson Crusoe on his island. Less
than a human. Certainh'not a hurnan.The regime of ecoiogy does not at all say
that we should shift our allegiancefrom the human realm to nature.That is why it
has taken so long to find it, for that requirement appeared too absurd.The regime
of ecology simply says that ue da not knozu whû makes the common humanity
of human beings and that, yes, maybe, without the elephants of the Amboseli,
without the meandering waters of the Drôme, without the bears of the Pyrenees,
without the doves of the Lot or without the water table of the Beauce they would
not be hunran.
Why dont we know? Because of the uncertainty concerningthe relationshipbe-
tu)eentileansand ends.To define ecology, it might be sufficient, strangely enough,
to return to the definition that Kant gives of human moraliry a definition that is
so well known that people forgot to see that it is in fact wonderfully apposite for
non-humans. Let us get back to this most canonicalof all definitions:

Everythingin creationr.vhichhe wishesand ovcr which he haspowercanbe

uscdrnerell,âsà means;r>nlyman,and,with him, evcryrationalcrelture,is
an end in himself.Hc is the subjectof the moral larvwhich is holl',because
of the autonomyof his frecdom.Bccauseof thc iirtter,everywill, eventhe
privatewill of eachpcrsondirectedto himself,is restrictedto the condition
of agrccmentwith the autonomyof the rationalbeing,narnelv,that it be
subjectcdto no purposervhichis not possibleby a hw rvhichcould haveits
origin in the will of thc subjectundcrgoingthe action.This conditionre-
quircsthat thc subjcctneverbe usedsimpli,irsù rneansbut at the sametime
asan cnd in itself.(Kant 1956:90)r''

The style is abominable, but the thought is clear. In this definition of morality only
the {irst sentellce,which presupposesa creation composed of mere means pre-
sented to human ingenuity needs to be modified. Let us generaliseto all the beings
of tl-reCreation the aspiration to the kingdom of ends.What do we find? An exact
deflnition of the practical connections establishedby ecologistswith those they are
defending: rivers, animals, biotopes, forests,parks iurd insects.They do not at all
say that we should not Llse,control, serve,dominate, order, distribute or study them,
but that we should, as fbr humaûst ne,uerconsiderthetn as sirnpl meansùut altuays
ttlsoas ends.What doesn't hold together in Kant's definition is the truly incredible
idea that simple mearls could exist and that the principle of autonomy and fieedom
would be reservedJbr mttn in isolstion, i.e. f-or the inhuman. On the other hand,

T O M O D E R I I. Z E O R '

what doesn't hold together in ecoloqr''stheories is the improbable belief in the

existence of a nature external lo hutnans and threatened by the latter's domination
and lack ofrespect.2T
Everything becomes clertr if one app-rlies this adrnirable Kant's sentence to el-
epharrts,biotopes and rivers: "thlt [ther'] be subjected to no purpose which is not
possible by a law which could have its origin in the will of the subject underploingthe
action flet's say,the actor itself].This condition requires that the subject [the actor]
never be used simply as a means but at the same time as an end in itself." It is this
conjunction of actors who can ne'ctertake eachather as sirnplemeanswhich explains the
uncertainty into which we are plunged by the "seventh regime". No entiry is merely
a mean. There are always also ends. In other words, there are only mediators.
Let's come down from the heights of moral philosophy to listen to what the
actors engaged in the defence of, for example, a river have to say."Before, water
went its own way," sa)'s an elected representative,"it was part of the furniture, it
was part of the environmer:t". This paradoxical statement gives a clear indication of
the stafus of water which, contrary to ecological m1th, passesfrom the outside to
the inside of the social world. Whereas it was a simple means, part of the furnifure,
it now has become the subject of political concern. To enter the realmsof ecology,it
tnust leaae the environment. But the paradox is rescllvedby ecologists thernselves:
"We are delènding the fulfilnier-rt of the river, the river outside any human context,
the river-river", saysone activist, seeming to justify the outrage of the moralists and
seeming to follow to the letter the mythologies of this social movement. But then
he irnmediately adds: "When I say the river outside of its human context, I mean
the aggressivehuman context that treats the river solely as a tool."And here he is
applying Kant's slogan to the letter. He is not defending the river for its own sake,
but he doesn't want it to be treated simply as a means.28
By adopting this perspective,one understands thirt the ambiguous phrases thirt
seemedto be easilyreducibleaboveto the "industrial regime"- becausethat regime
does not take account of nature solely for itself but also for the good of humans
- explores in fact a "seventh" rype of regime, by applying the (slightly rewritten)
Kantian law: As one water-authority engineer explained:

You haveto be extremelyhumblewhen dealingwith a river.You pay for work

which takesyou the next thirty yearsto complete.In work carriedout tcr
to get rid o{ the water,to straighten,clean
increaseproductiviryit's necessary
and calibrate that was the watchword.We didnt know that riverstook their
erosionthat wc correctedwith pseudo-natural
revengeby regressive sills.lt's
therearestill local agriculturalauthoritieswherea river after
a slowprocess,
land consolidationappearsasa drainagcditch on the map! Fortunately,there


is a grcatdcal of pressurcfrom anglersand nirtureconservationists.There

is a cleargenerationgap;the)'all talk aboutthe naturalenvironmentbut, in
the samecorridor,\'ou can havea blokervho mlkes ever)'thingstraightand
consolidatcsland with a vengcùnce,whilc anotherputs backin meandersand

Such an analysisdoes not confirm either the notion of nature savedfor its own sake
by sacrificing human interests or that of free human beings dominating narure to
promote their own freedom alone. A canalised river is seen as something bad and
undesirable within the "seventh regime", not because this futile development will
be seen as expensive - taking thirty years to complete and being quickly eroded
- but because the river has been treated as merely a mean, instead of also bei:ng
taken as an end. By conspiring with a "law which could have its origin in the ui//
of the subjectundergoingtber action", according to the Kantian expression,rivers are
allowed to meander again, to keep their dislievelled network of rimlets, to have
their flood zone.3oIn short, we leave the mediators paftially to deploy the finality
which is in them.:r1

A n o lt e r n oti veto mo d e rni so tio n

This suspensionof certainty concerning ends and means defines another scalein
the regime of ecology which, this time around, cannot be reduced to the other
regimes of political philosophy. There is a scale though,like for all other regimes,
and trials that rank very precisely smallness and highness. In the "Green cify" what
is small is knoruingJbr sure that something hirs or, conversely,has not a connec-
tion with anothel and knowing it absolutell',irreversibly, as only an expert knows
something. Someone has value in the "green city", some one is high whenit leaves
o?enthe question of solidarity between ends and means.Is everything interrelated?
Not necessarily.We don't know what is interconnected and woven together. We
are feeling our way, experirnenting, trying things out. Nobody knows of what an
environment is capable.r2
One of the advantagesof this de{inition of the scaling inside the Green regime
is that it removes an obstacle that had slowed everyone down in the march towards
the lost city. In spite of its claims, fundamentalist ecologl', or "deep ecology", occu-
pies the state of Worthlessness in the "seventh regime". The more certain an ecol-
ogy is that ever)'thing is interrelated, seeing humans simply as a nleans of achiev-
ing Gaia, the ultimate end, the more worthless that ecology. The more strident,
militant and assuredit is, the more wretched it is. Conversely,the state of hiehness

T O M O D E R N I ZOER i ' ':: - ' 3 S E ?T H A TI S I H E Q U E S T I O N

peculiar to this "seventh regime" presupposesa deep-rooted uncertainfy as to the

nanlre of attachments,their solidin'irnd their distribution, since it only takes ac-
count of mediators, each of which n'rustbe treated according to its own law.
One can understand how such an outcome has, for a long time, concealed the
lost regime under a thick camouflage oi fbliage. Political ecology can only come
to fruition on condition that those who hirve terrorised it thus far are reduced to
their rightful place. Fundamerrtalist ecologv has, for a long time, fulfilled the same
role vis-à-vis political ecology as the Communist Party vis-à-vis socialism: a raising
of the bidding so well justified that it paralysed its adversary/ally into believing it
was too soft, too compromised, too much of a "social-traitor." And yet there is no
outbidding, no gradation of virulence in the political courage or radicality of the
different movements, since deep ecology simply does nothave a place in the regime
of ecology - just as, conversely,there is no place for the tranquil certainty of the
modernists who have,until noq releasedinto external nature objects with no other
purpose, no other risk than those they thought they knew all about it.33
One might be surprised that, to define the "seventh regime", it is necessaryto
invoke the practice of the ecological movements and set it in opposition to the
theoretical justifications of their followers. Nevertheless,the reason for this short-
coming seemsclear to me. To justiÛr the regime of ecology,it is necessaryto be able
to speak about scienceand about politics in such a way as to suspend their certain-
ties twice; with regard to subjects,on the one hand, and objects, on the other. All
the other regimes clearly belong to the world of political philosophy. They are all
anthropocentric. Only the "seventh regime" forces us to speak about scienceand to
plunge human beings into what makes them humans. But since enthusiastsof the
sciencesare loathe to undertake the task of justification, which would force fhem
to throw out their epistemology, and since the partisans of the political sciences
find that they need to know far too much science and need to be too interested in
non-humans in order to give an account of these debateswhich completely escape
the usual framework of public life, one cannot find authors who are interested in
both.3aIn order to disentangle the "green city", one has to deal at once with science
and with politics and to disbelieve epistemology as much as political philosophy.
This is why the regime of ecology is still waiting for its Rousseau,its Bossuet, irs
Augustin or its Hobbes.
In the new regime, everything is complicated and every decision demands cau-
tion and prudence. One can never go straight or fast. It is impossible to go on
without circumspection and without modesty. We now know, for example, that
if it is necessaryto take account of everything along the length of a river,we will
not succeedwith a hierarchised system that might give the impression, on paper,
of being a wonderful science with wonderful feedback loops but which will not


generate new politic'ùl iife. To obtain a stirring up of politics, vou have to add
uncertainty so that the actors,who until now knew what a river could and could
not tolerate, begin to entert'.rin sufficient doubts. The word "doubt" is in fact in-
adequate,since it gives the impression of scepticism,whereas it is more a caseof
enquiry, researchand experimentation. In short, it is a collectiveexperitnentationon
the possible associationsbetween things and people without any of these entities
being used,from now on, as a simple means by the others.i'5
Political ecology,as we hzrvenow understood it, is not defined by taking account
ofnature, but by the different career now taken by all objects.A planner for the lo-
cal agricultural authoriry an irrigatot a fisherman or a concessionairefor drinking
water used to know the needs of water. They could guarantee its form by assuming
its limits and being ignorant of all the ins and outs.The big difference befween the
present and the previous situation does not lie in the fact that, before, we did not
know about rivers and now we are concemed about them, but in the fact that we
can no longer delimit the ins and outs of this river as an object. Its career as an ob-
ject no longer has the same form if each stream, each meander,each sourceand each
copsemust serveboth as an end and a means for those claiming to managethem.
At the risk of doing a little philosophising, we could say that the ontological
fbrms of the river have changed.There are, literally speaking, no more things. This
expression has nothing to do with a sentimentalism of Mother Earth, with the
merging of the fisherman, kingfisher and fish. It only designatesthe uncertain, di-
shevelled character of the entities taken into account by the smallest river contract
or the smallest management plan. Nor does the expression refer to the inevitable
complexity of narurtl milieux and human--environment interactions, for the new
relationships are no more complex than the old ones (if they were, no science,
management or politics could be done on their behalf,as Florian Charvolin (1993)
demonstrated so well). It solely retèrs to the obligation to be prepared to take ac-
count of other participants who may appear unforeseen,or disappear as if by magic,
and who all aspire to take part in the "kingdom of ends" by suddenly combining
the relationshipsof the local and global. In order to rnonitor these quasi-objects,it
is therefore necessaryto invent new procedures capable of managing these arrivals
and departures, these ends and these means - procedures that are completely dif-
ferent from those used in the past to manage things.
In fact, to sumnrarise this irrgument, it would have to be said that ecology hirs
nothing to do with taking account of nature, its own interests or goals, but that it
is rather another way of consideringeverything."Ecologising" a question,an object
or datum, does not rnean putting it back into context and giving it an ecosystem.
It means setting it in opposition, term for term, to another activiry pursued for
three centuriesand which is known. for want of a better term. as "modernisation".

T O M O D E R N I Z EO R . , . :.-:.:; 5 E ? T H A TI S I H E O U E S T I O N

Everywhere vJe have "modernised"'.r'( rttust nozu "eco/ogise".

This slogan obviously
remains ambiguous and even talse,if-rve think of ecology as a complete system
of relationships,as if it were onlv a miltter of taking everything into account.But
it becomes profoundly apposite it-we use the term ecology by applying to it the
principle of selection defined above and b1'referring it to the Kantian principle for
the justification of the green regime.
"Ecologising"means cr!atirlq the proceduresthat make it pclssibleto follow a net-
work of quasi-objectswhose relations of subordination remain uncertain and which
thus require a new form of political activity adapted to following them. One under-
stands that this opposition of modernisation and ecologisation goes much further
than putting in place a principle of precautiorr or prudence like that of Hans Jonas.
Or rather, in defining the regirne of ecology,we manage to select- from among the
arguments of the principle of precaution - those which belong to the new political
life and those which are part of the old repertoire of prudence.In ecology,it is not
simply a matter of being "cautious" to avoid rraking mistakes.It is necessaryto put
in place other procedures for politico-scientific researchand experimentation.s6
In contrasting modernisation and "ecologisation' (it will obviously be necessary
to find another term, which is less unwieldy and more inspirational and mobilis-
ingl), one could perhaps escirpethe fwo contrary destinieswith which we began.
Political ecology can escapebanalisation or over-inflation. It doesrit have to take
account of everything and especially not nature, and in any case not nature-for-
nature's-sake.Nor does it have to limit its designs to the existence of a body of
administrators responsible for the environment, just as other bodies are responsible
for school health or for rnonitoring dangerous factories. It is very much a question
of considering everything differently, but this "everything" cannot be subsumed
under the expression Nature, and this difference does not reduce to the importa-
tion of naruralistic knowledge into human quarrels. To be precise, starting from
the green regime and according to the Boltanski{hèvenot method, the interplay
of denunciations of the other regimes and the inevitable cornpromises to be agreed
with them, one could perhaps drag political ecology from its present state of stag-
nation and make it occupy the position that the Left, in a state of implosion, has
left open for too long.


This article is an English version of an article originally published in French

Latour,B. (1995)."N{oderniserou écologiser. A la recherche de la septièmeCité."
politique(13):5-27.It is part of a longerprojectof the Centrede sociologie


de l'innovation on the novelty of political ecology.It is thus very dependanton

the many casestudiespursuedthereon water politics,wastemanagement,history
of ecologyand politicalscience.Iowe a specialdebt to CharisCussinsand David
Western who have shapedmost of the argumentshere presented(for which of
coursethey arein no way responsible).

1 This tenn docs not l.ravethe san'respecific meaning in this cssayas it does in Anglophone
academicdebatessurrounding the political-economy of environmental usc,as in, for cxam-
plc, Bryant (1992) and Peet ar.rdWatts (1996). Rather,it sen'est\,vopurposeshcrc. trirst, it is
used as a generalterm uscd to signily the environmental movement as such or the green par-
tics and groups rvho in various rvayshave sought to politicise environmental issues.Seconcl,
though, its meaning is reconfigurcd as the chapter proceeds;seenote 7 below.
2 Thc book by Boltanski and Thévenot which Latour usesas his point of departurein this ar-
ticle is norv availablein English: On Justification.Econotniesof Worth,Ne'"vJersev; Princeton
Universitv Prcsc2006..
3 Âll the quotationsby officialsand activistson watcr uscdin the presentarticle are taken from a
srudyb1.theCcntre de Sociologiede L'innovation on the novclry of political ecology.Thenerv
larv oi 1992 on \\atcr requirescatchmcnt of sensiblerivcrs to be representedin "Con-rmissions
localcsdc lèrru"(CLE), which are a very original experiment in the Frcnch context since they
rirn in part to m.rke politicallyvisiblc the river'shealth and sustainlblc good .
-l "Non-humrrn"is ml.tcchnical term to designateobjccts freed f rom the obligation to do poli-
tics through nature.Nature is here considercdas rvhat assemblesall entitics into one wholc.
It is thus a political definition tirat is sometimes oPPosed to hum;tn politics or, as is the case
here,mergcd with poiitics. On the genealogyof tl.risbizarre way of doing politics through the
notion of a naturc cast arvayfrom all l-rurnanpolitics, seeLatour 1997.
5 For a cornparisonof health and ecologyseeD. S. Barnes(1994),W. Coleman (1982) and
R. J. Evans (1987). Thc anthropocentrism of the 19th-cenrury health movement clearly
distinguishesit lrom ecology.Nobody championcd the causeof miasmasand microbes .
6 Apart from the many re2lsonsspecificto France developedin A. Rogcr and F. Guéry (1991).
Francc is interesting becauscthc idea ofa nature untouched by human hands does not havc
the cvocativestrenglrt of 'rvhatit has in the Unitcd Statcsor Germanli
7 Bryan Wynne in England, Charis Cussins in the Unitcd States, Camillc Limoges and
Alberto Cambrosio ir-rQrebec, Rémi Barbier in France,and severalothers, have begun to
collect detaiied analyseson thc practicalwork of militant ecologists.It would be interesting
to make a systematiccomparison r.vhich,to my knorvledge,has not be atten-rptcd.But see
Wcstern ct al. (1994) for thc cascof "communify bascd conservation".
8 I hirvc used the term "political ccology" patterned out of the very wcll know tcrm "political
economy" to designlte not thc scienceofecosystems -ecology-, nor the day to day political
struggle -Green parties-, but the wholc intercsection of political philosophy of human irnd
non-humans. In the course of this paper thc meaning is going to shift from a conccrn fbr
naturc to a concern ftrr a ccrtain way of handling associationsof human and non-humans
thlt would be an alternativc to modernizltior-r.He r-rcethe rather idiosyncratic sense of the


T O M O D Ê R N I Z EO R I O t - C O . O C S E ? T H A TI S I H E Q U E S I I O N

expression.For nvo militant but directlv opposed classifications,see M. W. Lewis (1992)

and C. IVIerchant,1992).
The book oflèrs thus a gcneral "grammùr of indignatir>r-rs" that accountsfor one of the most
puzzling featuresof contemporary societies:the intensity of n-roraldisputes,the absenceof
one overarchingprinciple that would include all the others, the easewith which, nonethe-
less,every member passesjudgment as if there existedone such unique principle. The work
of Boltanski and Thévenot is the first in sociology to take seriouslythe work of justification
that is a central part of social action. But they do not simply add moral and political consid-
erations to the study of social fbrces.They have fbund a very original and productive wa)' to
carilpluernoral and political actions.
1 0 I was inspired by similar attempts to use the same model, by Barbier (op.cit), Lafàye &
Thévenot (op. cit.) and O. Godard (1990)
1 1 Philippe Descola (1986 English translation 1993) and all the work carried out by the author
since 1986 on the appropriation of the socialworld, especiallyhis article on the non-dornes-
tication of the peccary in Latour and Lemonni er (1994) and Descolirand Palsson(1996).
lz It should be remembered that the regimes model makesit posible to classifr human beings,
from the most lowly to the most elevated,according to a principle that is constant inside
each "Cités" but which varies from one regime to the text. "Smallness"and "highness"("pe-
titesse"and "grandeur") are thus at once both ordered and multiple. Someone"small" in one
regime maybe "high"in another.This is the sourceof most denunciations and what allows
the grammar of indignations to be mapped out.
l . t In the industrial regime highncss is achievedby efliciency,and smallnessby waste.Here is a
rypical comment by a Department of Agriculture representativeconcerning the treatment of
the River Gardon: "The river has been completely destroyedby flood channels,which were
clearedwith the approval of government departments.This complete destruction serrr'cs no
purpose in the event of flooding, and destabilisesthe river - to the point that ground sills
have had to be constructed- by causingpart ofthe water table to disappear:this is an absurd
systcm."This high offcial does not pit the river per se and its interest, against the human
necds lbr order and efïiciencl,.On the contr2rr!',he takes thc nerv respectfbr the river's orvn
impetus as one way to gain afaster,less expcnsiveand less wastcful leverageon the othcr
agents.The appeal to the river, is here clearly reducible to the ancient industri'al order us in
this excerptwith another high official -a polytechnician in chargeofone ofthe watcr bassin:
"Engineers only tl.rink about the antbropic aspect of things; they can't realize that on the
long range the respectlbr Nature wilbe benefiùril it does not cost more to be soft or to be
hard, except that the soft approachrequiresmuch nrore work and attention at the beginning
befbre the companiesare fully trained."This engineer adds an âutomat to all thc âutomats
that make up the world as in this sentencewhere he explains why he has been converted
to the softer sustanaibledevelopnrent approach: "I have been converted by the âesthetic
aspectofthir.rgs, by the protection ofthe landscape,then by ecology; in term oflong term
management,it is better with a river that self-regulatesitself itself than with a river that is
degradatingitself all the time".
t 1 TUo opposite points of vierv arc clearly expressed,thc first by'a st'aunchlymilitant ecologist,
and the secondby an elected- communist - representativeand teacher:"E,lectedrepresenta-
tives protect their electors,we arc protecting a population in its environment, in its totaliry
everyoneelse is protecting their own interests,their own particular clique, even fishermen
are disinterested."Theother replies:"When you createfacili-
protect their tsh, only ecologists
ties,you automatically make enemies,it's part of being a statesmirn,it's what politics is all


about. I am not all encmy of the ecologists,but there is a collectiveintcrest that must come
before inàwidual interests."
15 This is the solution explorcd b1. Godard (op. cit.). See also the classicrvork of E. Weiss-
Brown (1989).Witncss the increascin generaliry on the part of the mayor of a tiny village
in the Côte d'Or rcgion of F'rancewho is addressinga local meeting on watcr. He turns to
a Cistercian monk-who is prcsent in the locll parliamcnt of water becausehis rnonastery
has been divertir.rgwater from the river since the XIIth century!- to call him to witness:"Be
fiuitful, rnd multiply irnd control the Earth."That's in the Bible! Father Frédéricwiil not say
othcrwisc, it is essentialfor our grandchildren to havc clcan water." (We can note in passing
thlt the theol-rgicalthemc of thc Crcation is interprcted here in a somewhat contradictory
manner sincc, in giving freedom to his creature,God gave man a level of control that he
denieshimself to his felklw creatures.We only have to treat nÀrurers our Crcator treated us,
to completely overturn the supposcdlink between Christianitl'and control over nafure.)
16 Witness this remark by onc of the few French elected representativesrvho is an ecologist,
and rvhr>boldll,combines a concen) for nature rvith civic concern for the region and conccrn
for the rnarket cconomy: "Upstream the region Limousin wants thc most narural rivcr rvater
and environmcnt possibic,notJbr itvlfhut for cconomic developrnent.The presen ed part of
the environment \s our trump card,we cannot make up for thirfy yearsof heary industry,wc
must not opposeecology and economy,lveare not yet polluted, we have 700,000 inhabit'.rnts,
xot:tttn play the qunlity-oJ.liJè nrd."
17 How long r'vill it be befbre the self-interest anthropoccntrism behind this phrase will bc
recogniz-cd:"The rivcr Gardon is an umbilical cord, rvc are all vcry much attached to it, in
the fir.ralanall'sisrve have neither the right to pollute it, nor to harncssit, so as not to deprive
othcrs of an element that thcy necd, we will invitably have to rvork out a rvay of sharing"?
Or bchincl this other phrase that gives the rir.er free rein while ât the same time draining
European Communiry funds: "On the lower river Doubs farnrerslvanted to kcep the river in
chcck rvith stone pitching, but the policl' 1vr. blocked in favor of creating a free meandering
section of the river, where fàrmers change their crops itt order to receilLtsubsidies under the
European Comrnuniry article 19 on agro-environrncntll measurcs"?
18 Scientific knr>wledgecontinucs to remain, with extremelv rare exceptions,e blackbox in the
ccomovements,where the social scicncesrarely sen'e as a point of refèrencefbr opcning
controversiesbetween experts.See Latour, Schrvirrtzand Charvolin (1991).
19 For a detailed criticism of the thcory of natural brlance, see D. B. Botkin (i990). For its
history, seeJ-NI. Drouin (1991,).
20 For a caricatureof an appeal to scicntism that is nonethelcssunablc to climinatc scienti{ic
conrroversies,seeEhrlich and Ehrlich (1997)
21 SeeP. Descola op. cit. and, fbr a recent analysis,N{. Strathern (199.5).Sce alsoWestern et 'al.
(1994) on "communiry basedconservation" and the recent w<-rrkof Charis Cussins (op.cit.).
22 A position which is particularly clear in Lervis (1992). See also Lrtt>ur (1994b) on this
23 This is rvh.rt Luc Fcrry did with grcat efficao,,succcsstullykilling much of the Frcnch intcl-
lecnrals'interest in ecoloqy (Ferry 1992).
2,1 As we will sec below, deep ecology is no more part of ecology than thc cartesianfornrs of
humanisnr becauseit dr>csclosc off the questit>nthat rvàsjust reopened,by stating uncquivo-
cally that "humaniry-is obviously part of narure".
25 In fàct "naturc" is rnerely the uncodcd category that modcrnists oppose to "culrurc", in the
sâmeway that, prior to lèminism, "man"was the uncoded category'opposedto "woman". By

: , S E ? T H A TI S T H E Q U E S T I O N

coding the categoryof "nltur,rl 1;lr.icit",.inthropological sciencelosesthe former nature/cul-

ture dichotomy. Here, thcrc is obviou:lr' .r clrrsclink rvith feminism. SeeD. Haraway (7991).
Nothing more can be donc'rfith nirtur( th.rn *'ith the older notion of Man.
26 L. Ferry (1992) rightly wantcd to rctcr to Krnt, but chosethe wrong critique, opting for the
aestheticsof the third râther thiln thc nrorrrlin oithe second.
27 Since the classicwork of C. D. Stonc (1972) le*r'ers have gone much further than political
philosophers in the invention of prrrtirl rights th:rt turn simple means into pârtiâl ends, see
for example M-4. Hermitte (1996) on the trintcd blood scandnlwhich is much more typi-
cal of"ecological"issuesin Francc tl-un anvthing related to "nature".
2 8 Rivers are a wonderful sourceofconflict bcnvccn the "civic" and "green"reegimes.Since large
towns and cities are usually situated on their lorver reaches,the generalwill rapidly reaches
an agreemcntto sub-representthc depopulated,rural upper reaches.
2 9 "Chevelus" is the technical term used in French to describe the ne&vork of rir,.irletsthat
shapeof dischevelledh:rir and are visible cither in flood zones,in deltas or near the
30 There is no anthropomorphism in the reference to the river taking its revenge,merely the
sometimespainful revelation of a being in its own right with its own freedom and its own
ends. A surprising remark from â water specialist,trained frorn his youth in the culture of
the water-pipe and who admits: "Nobody imagined that their isolated actions would have
repercussions,nobody thought we could dry up the river, nobody thought that removing
the gravel in one place would lay barc the foundations of the bridge in the village of Crest
fwenry kilometres awal'.You have to expcriencc cxtremc situations before you realiz.e."
. t t We must obviously return to the difference benveen necessityand freedom and invest the
scienceswith a role that is both more important and more anthropological. See B. Latour
-)z An important advantagcof this regime is that it can absorbDarwinsim which, of course,has
nothing to do with social-Darwinism, that is only too well acquaintedwith the distinction
berween ends and means,as well as understanding all too easily how to create a hierarchy
of the strong and the weak, a ranking that is impossible when all forms of teleology are
abandoned.SeeS-J.Gould (1989).
J J Witness this remark by a technician:"My predecessor was very much a "harnesser"...we were
technicians,we harnessedwater,full stop."He adds,to ernphasisethe complexity of a regimc
that now only has mediators and can no longer simpli$' life by going "straight ahead":"now
things have gone too far in the other directior-rand you can't do anything any more."
34 Ethics and law, on the other hand, are extremely well developcd but leave the question of
scientific objects intact. Even those who, like Stone (op. cit.), are intercsted in things, do
not inciude the production of facts and the emergenceof objects in their an'alyses.Only
Serres has tricd, in his olvn idiosyncraticway, to make the connection betwcen the scier-rtific
starusof objects and the legal status of pcople: M. Serres(English translationl995).Ulrich
Beck (op.cit.) is one ofthe very few thinkers ofthe ecologicalcrisis to take into âccount the
sociology ofscience.
35 This is the great interest of the work developped by the German sociologist Ulrich Beck
(see for example 1995) becausehe cxtends risk very far way from "nature" and makes it a
whole theory of what he calls "reflexive moderniry" and that I would prefèr to call "non
36 This argument is developedin B. Latour (1,991a,).

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