“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"First the workers are cleared off the land, then the sheep arrive"

...that has to be my favorite line of Marx, ever. It sums up my feelings about a farmer with whom I was talking in New Zealand. For miles around his house you could see fields mowed pristine by the nibbling mouths of sheep. And machines like an irrigation machine on wheels. You dialed a certain amount of rain and hit Enter, and presto.

The farmer was wondering why his daughter was the only person in her school who worked on a farm. The simple answer, which propriety forbade me from giving, went something like this: “Well, man, you fired the workers and replaced them with automation, to improve your bottom line.” This dude was telling us about the efficiencies gained therefrom, for Pete's sake, in the same conversation in which he lamented the sorry state of his daughter's school fellows.

Imagine what groups of humans and nonhumans who weren't farmers and sheep could do with the “vast open space” of agriculture. The original Mark Fisher hauntology, of which lawns, parking lots and ambient music are but pale translations, is the field.

Imagine, in other words, a time without agriculture.

We've had four vast modes of human enjoyment: capitalism, communism, feudalism, slave owning societies. These have all taken place basically in an agricultural world. Every single one of them has had fields and sheep, as it were.

Ecology without agriculture? I think my Ph.D. student Eric O'Brien has a serious point.


Ross Wolfe said...

As you probably are aware, John Zerzan and the anarcho-primitivists on the West Coast of the United States view domestication and agriculture as the roots of all evil. They view "civilization" and even language as a plague, and therefore welcome ecological collapse in order that humanity may "rewild" and return to a mode of nomadic hunter-gathering. Agriculture marked the beginning of large human domesticated settlements in history, and all the unfreedoms that came along with it. The domestic slavery of women, the subjugation of man by man, but this was of course the start of history as such.

Karl said...

Ross: (1) who said anything about "Evil"? find a quote. (2) who said anything about all of humanity "returning" (a terrible notion in itself. to think something has to be returned to is as bad as creating an artifact thats "over yonder" in the past - as in the idea of nature [which your blog post below seems to think we're are alienated from - http://rosswolfe.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/man-and-nature-part-iv-a-radical-critique-of-the-%E2%80%9Cgreen%E2%80%9D-environmental-movement/]... not to mention it reeks of hubris and a moderate racist tone that anyone who participates in those actions is displaying archaic thoughts or behaviors of eras long gone. time to grow out of that.) to hunting and gathering?

if people want to use hunter-gatherers for ideas of how people live outside of a state apparatus, through collective sharing, coalescing and changing groups, and many other lessons, etc... why not?

any "form" of anarchism that uses these ideas isnt set in stone. do all the anarcho-primitivists critique language that way? hardly. but its easy to demonize it by saying they do in one lumped category. makes your "critique" easier.

also, they dont "welcome ecological collapse" - in their terms, they welcome the collapse of "civilization" (which technically is ecological but) - more accurately - theyd probably be said to dislike agri-industrial terraforming that begins to limit autonomy. civilization just becomes the generic term for that, riddled with its duality with "nature", etc.

but whats really at stake here? its coexistence. go look at the Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania and how they coexist with each other and neighboring pastoralists/farmers who encroached on their land and resisted state settlement. in any other context (palestine vs. israel), theyd be defended to maintain autonomy... but in an academic perspective theyre seen as too "small" and too "archaic". they should hold up a marxist banner and hop on board with "the answer" which, "can only lie in radical social transformation."

do you want to coexist with the Hadza and others who arent on board with you?

Karl said...

Ross just likes to have fun - http://rosswolfe.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/the-manifesto-of-speculative-realistobject-oriented-ontological-blogging/

Ross Wolfe said...

I could care less about "indigenous" cultures and other prehistoric remnants like the Hadza or any other hunter-gatherer tribe. They've become increasingly scarce as society has spread its roots throughout the world. It's not racist or presumptuous at all; capitalism/modernity simply happened to originate in Western Europe, and it displaced and transformed the pre-modern, pre-capitalist institutions and conventions just as violently there as it continues to displace and transform them elsewhere now.

I think that the Hadza and other indigenous tribes are just as capable of modernizing as societies in the West were. We had no racial advantages. Their societies have simply been more isolated than most, and need be modernized along with the rest of society.

Karl said...

^^^ i laughed out loud at that response. keep up the blog trolling.

Rad-Renner said...

@Ross: Your comment that "capitalism/modernity . . . orginate[ed] in Western Europe" is not only factually incorrect, but is indeed inherently racist. In fact, the worldview that you re-present has actually been the philisophical mindset which has been the fundamental presupposition to Western hegemony for several centuries.