Ecology, Animal Rights, and The Poverty of Humanism

Cary Wolfe

Luc Ferry. The New Ecological Order. Trans. Carol Volk. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. 159 + xix pages.

Early on in The New Ecological Order, French philosopher Luc Ferry characterizes the allure and the danger of ecology in the postmodern moment. What separates it from various other issues in the intellectual and political field, he writes, is that

it can call itself a true "world vision," whereas the decline of political utopias, but also the parcelization of knowledge and the growing "jargonization" of individual scientific disciplines, seemed to forever prohibit any plan for the globalization of thought . . . . At a time when ethical guide marks are more than ever floating and undetermined, it allows the unhoped-for promise of rootedness to form, an objective rootedness, certain of a new moral ideal (xx).

As we shall see, for Ferry—a staunch liberal humanist in the Kantian if not Cartesian tradition—this vision conceals a danger to which contemporary European intellectuals are especially sensitive: not holism, nor even moralism, exactly, but that far more charged and historically freighted thing, totalitarianism. Ferry's concern is that such "world visions," incarnated in contemporary environmentalism in movements such as Deep Ecology and Eco-Feminism, threaten "Our entire democratic culture," which "since the French Revolution has been marked, for basic philosophical reasons, by the glorification of uprootedness, or innovation" (xxi). Ferry's thesis—it becomes all too explicit in his comparison of environmental legislation under the Third Reich with tenets of Deep Ecology in the book's second section—is that Deep Ecology and its ilk have moved in to occupy the space left open by the passing of the political imaginaries of fascism and communism, so that denunciations of liberalism (and its corollary in political praxis, reformism) may now be unmasked for what they are: critiques "in the name of nostalgia, or, on the contrary, in that of hope: either the nostalgia for a lost past, for national identity flouted by the culture of rootlessness, or revolutionary hope in a radiant future, in a classless and free society" (xxvi). To which Ferry responds—literally—"Grow up!" Late in the book, he tells us that we must see through "the adult development of the secular and democratic universe" (137) by rejecting totalizing revolutionary visions of the sort purveyed by Deep Ecology, and by adhering instead to liberal reformism, "the only position consistent with leaving the world of childhood" (138).

Ferry is certainly right to draw our attention to the often uncritical nostalgia and romantic holism of some varieties of environmental thought—problems that have been noted before by critics from points on the map very different politically from Ferry's avowed liberal humanism. And it is certainly understandable, given the historical context, that he would join a long list of other European intellectuals in pointing out the manifold dangers to democratic society of totalizing moral schemes—dangers often represented for liberal intellectuals like Ferry by the rise of the Greens in European politics. [ 1 ] We do well to remember, too (as Fredric Jameson and others have pointed out) that for European intellectuals such as Ferry, liberalism retains, for understandable historical reasons, a viability and a promise about which many American intellectuals have long since become skeptical or even jaded. European intellectuals, conditioned by the experience of fascist authoritarianism and the strong but problematic presence historically of the Communist party in social and intellectual life, may find in liberalism a refreshing and indeed radical democratic openness and dynamism, while American intellectuals, long since conditioned to the absence of any major political contenders other than liberalism, have long since grown accustomed to liberalism as the name for that "end of ideology" position which, as Jameson puts it, "can function more effectively after its own death as an ideology, realizing itself in its most traditional form as a commitment to the market system that has become sheer common sense and no longer a political program." [ 2 ]

But in defending democratic difference, everything hinges, of course, on precisely how such terms are framed and how difference is construed—an index of which often may be found in how its imagined opponents are painted. Here, as we shall see, Ferry's text gives us early and ample pause, first in its rather thin and impoverished notions of "democracy" and the "human." As for the latter, Ferry wholly disengages the "human" from problems of class power and the determinative force of both discourse (considered not merely as rhetoric but also in the stronger Foucauldian sense as materially institutionalized conditions of production), and the unconscious (whether the latter is considered either in Freudian or Lacanian and Zizekian terms). Similarly, his notion of "democracy" is extraordinarily thin because it is completely decoupled (despite a couple of gestures to the contrary very late in the book) from the problem of capitalism as liberal democracy's de facto economic embodiment. Given the well-known importance of both class and race in contemporary environmentalism—in debates about "environmental racism" and the disproportionate exposure to toxic waste and environmental degradation borne by the poor, as well as in discussions about how middle class, and how white, the contemporary environmental movement is—this is surprising and disabling for one as eager as Ferry to defend the heritage of "democracy."

Ferry's head-in-the-sand posture (here and elsewhere) makes doubly annoying his reliance upon caricature and red herring to paint opponents of liberal reformism as little more than "new zealots of nature" (xix) and the like. Such tried if not quite true rhetorical maneuvers will be familiar to readers who have encountered them in other liberal intellectuals such as Richard Rorty who—despite his substantially more sophisticated and productive engagement with post-liberal, postmodern theorists—sometimes stoops to paint people interested in, say, Marxism as nothing more than religious fanatics bent on salvation rather than on, say, constructive change in society's material structures and maldistribution of wealth and power. [ 3 ]

What this means is that Ferry's critique remains locked within a liberal humanism that renders it impossible to make good on the desire for difference and heterogeneity that Ferry's critique of ecological holism expresses. It is not simply that Ferry adheres to a definition of the liberal "human" as a wholly negative (that is, empty) sort of being open to "infinite" experimentation. That case, for what is sometimes called the "moral perfectionism" of the distinctly human, has been made, and been made better, by Stanley Cavell and others (and not coincidentally, I think, in dialogue with postmodern theory rather than in the dismissal or misconstrual of it we find in Ferry). [ 4 ] It is rather that the figure of "the human" in Ferry's liberal humanism turns out to be not so open-ended and contentless after all, but is instead a very, very familiar sort of character indeed: "sovereign and untroubled," as

Foucault once characterized him, "a subject that is either transcendental in relation to the field of events or runs in empty sameness throughout the course of history" [ 5 ] —the one who can master discourse without being mastered by it, the one who is able to step outside, into a space of pure, transparent reflection, the very systems and material structures in which he is supposedly ineluctably embedded—including, of course, the laissez-faire capitalism that liberal humanism wants to pretend has no bearing in material reality on the political equality that liberalism's call for "democracy" desires.

Though he devotes considerable space to discussions of animal rights philosophy (at least the version promulgated by Peter Singer's Animal Liberation) and, to a lesser extent, ecological feminism, the central target of the book is clearly Deep Ecology. Invented, if you will, by Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, formalized and codified by Naess and American philosophers Bill Devall and George Sessions, and more recently adapted by the European "Greens," Deep Ecology proposes a fundamental change, from anthropocentric to "biocentric," in how we view the realtionship of homo sapiens to the rest of the biosphere. As Devall writes,

There are two great streams of environmentalism in the latter half of the twentieth century. One stream is reformist, attempting to control some of the worst of the air and water pollution and inefficient land use practices in industrialized nations and to save a few of the remaining pieces of wild-lands as "designated wilderness areas." The other stream supports many of the reformist goals but is revolutionary, seeking a new metaphysics, epistemology, cosmology, and environmental ethics of the person/planet (quoted in Ferry 60).

What Devall invokes here is the distinction that gave the movement its name: between "shallow environmentalism" and "deep ecology." An eclectic blend (to put it mildly) of ideas drawn from Heidegger, Buddhism, Robinson Jeffers, and many other sources, the fundamental principles of Deep Ecology are nevertheless relatively easy to state. They have been formalized by Sessions and Naess in eight basic and often-quoted tenets:

1) The well-being and flourishing of human and non-human Life on earth have value in themselves (synonyms: intrinsic value, inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes.

2) Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.

3) Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.

4) The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of non-human life requires such a decrease.

5) Present human interference with the non-human world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.

6) Policies must therefore be changed. These policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.

7) The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent value) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.

8)Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to try to implement the necessary changes (quoted in Ferry 67-8).

There is much to remark upon here, but the Deep Ecology philosophical platform may be boiled down to this: the ultimate good is not harmony with nature, nor even holism per se, but rather something much more specific: biodiversity. Once this is recognized, we must affirm the inherent value of all forms of life that contribute to this ultimate good, and we must actively oppose all actions and processes by human beings and their societies that compromise these values.

The appeal of Deep Ecology and its demand that we recognize the inherent value of the biosphere and conduct ourselves accordingly is understandable for all sorts of scientific, ethical, historical, and political reasons. As Gregory Bateson points out in his influential collection Steps to an Ecology of Mind,

"the last hundred years have demonstrated empirically that if an organism or aggregate of organisms sets to work with a focus on its own survival and thinks that that is the way to select its adaptive moves, its 'progress' ends up with a destroyed environment. If the organism ends up destroying its environment, it has in fact destroyed itself." The Darwinian paradigm of "organism versus environment" and "survival of the fittest" must be revised, Bateson argues, to read "organism-in-its-environment". [ 6 ] Rather than seeing these two terms as naming different and hierarchically related ontological orders—in which "environment" is thus mere fungible resource for the self-realization and self-perpetuation of the organism—we do better, as good ethics and as good science, Bateson argues, to understand that both are components of a larger network or system of relations in which negative feedback is crucial to the maintenance of systemic balance. The Enlightenment face of Darwinism would tell us that the organism that most successfully exploits and maximizes its environmental resources is the one that wins, the one that lives to pass on its genes. But "If this is your estimate of your relation to nature and you have an advanced technology," Bateson tells us, "your likelihood of survival will be that of a snowball in hell" (462).

This is a central theme, of course, in the literature of Deep Ecology. As one of its leading European exponents, Hans Jonas, writes, "the promise of modern technology has reversed itself into a threat. . . . The subjugation of nature with a view toward man's happiness has brought about, by the disproportion of its success, which now extends to the nature of man himself, the greatest challenge for the human that his own needs have ever entailed" (quoted in Ferry 76-7).

Ferry's first impulse—in a rhetorical strategy indemic to the book—is to dismiss such critiques as "a return of the old science fiction myths," the latest instance of Frankenstein and the Sorcerer's Apprentice, where "we have a reversal by which the creature becomes its master's master" (77). But such concerns have been raised, of course, by scores of critics and philosophers who seem as far from the Deep Ecology position as Ferry himself (Kenneth Burke, Theodor Adorno, and Jeremy Rifkin come to mind, just to name three rather different—and markedly un-"Deep"—examples). [ 7 ] Indeed, one need not be captivated by Frankenstein scenarios to acknowledge the validity of Jonas' view that practices such as the current headlong rush into genetic engineering of plants and animals entail all sorts of unforeseeable consequences, inhumane practices, and potential biological disasters.

Similarly, it is hard to disagree that there is currently no way—legally, economically, or politically—to effectively control such practices, a problem made even more acute, as Ferry recognizes, by the quite considerable economic incentives involved (Ferry 77). For these sorts of reasons, and for others, Deep Ecologists and others have called for greater government activism and more forceful use of state power to regulate and direct the effects of human society—especially of technology—on the environment.

But the devil, as they say, is in the details. As several critics have pointed out, the philosophical platform of Deep Ecology is marked not only by eclecticism but also by incoherence. As Tim Luke, for example, has noted, if all life forms are given equal inherent value by Deep Ecology, and if biodiversity as such is an ultimate good, then we face any number of rather vexed scenarios. Luke asks, "will we allow anthrax or cholera microbes to attain self-realization in wiping out sheep herds or human kindergartens?

Will we continue to deny salmonella or botulism micro-organisms their equal rights when we process the dead carcasses of animals and plants that we eat?" [ 8 ] And if biodiversity as such is an ultimate good, then by definition, "rare species and endangered individuals in rare species . . . are more valuable than more abundant species and individuals," creating scenarios such as the following: "if one was caught in a spring brushfire a deep ecologist would be bound ethically to save a California condor hatchling over a human child, because the former—given its rarity—is much more valuable" (87). And in any event, the Deep Ecology platform—for all its talk of "hard" biocentrism and its "no compromise" posture—is fundamentally compromised, in its own terms, by its "vital needs" or "mutual predation" loophole. As Luke points out, "Rocks and trees do not use humans . . . for their survival or self-realization." For this reason, "Individual nonhuman entities or organisms are treated with less respect, equality and rights by humans . . . . Although humans could change many of their ways, such predation still would be far from mutual" (82). In Luke's view—and here his analysis reaches conclusions diametrically opposed to Ferry's—what the "mutual predation" loophole reveals is that Deep Ecology, for all of its putative biocentrism, is in reality a "soft anthropocentrism," one that thus remains tied to the very Enlightenment schema it means to overturn (83).

But this point of divergence between critiques from the Left, such as Luke's, and those from the Right, such as Ferry's, also provides an important point of contact, one that brings to light an essential confusion of categories at the heart of Deep Ecology's ethical project. For both Luke and Ferry, Deep Ecology attributes human qualities, and gives at least somewhat human status, to the non-human realm of nature. As Luke points out, in Deep Ecology, "Nature here speaks of virtues and freedoms that are those of sovereign individuals," and the modern liberal paradigm of subjectivity "is not so much overcome as much as it is made into an equal entitlement and guaranteed to everything in the ecosphere, knowing all along"—as Luke reminds us in an important addendum—"that humans still have the best crack at enjoying these benefits" (84-5). For Ferry, a similar categorical mistake lies at the heart of Deep Ecology—only Ferry defends the very Enlightenment humanist tradition that Luke's Marxist-informed perspective would critique. For Ferry, the attempt to make good on ethical biocentrism by introducing legal rights for nonhuman beings "is in radical opposition to the legal humanism that dominates the modern liberal universe" (69), and merely reproduces on the level of law and government an underlying philosophical confusion.

There are two related but distinct points here. First, Ferry is quite right to point out that the Deep Ecologists, "imagining that good is inscribed within the very being of things," forget "that all valorization, including that of nature, is the deed of man and that, consequently, all normative ethics is in some sense humanist and anthropocentrist" (131). We will return below to the question of what this "in some sense" is, exactly—and why this claim does not function in the way that Ferry imagines. But for now, we should surely agree with Ferry that "it is still the ideas, and not the object as such, that are the basis for value judgements which only men are capable of formulating: ethical, political or legal ends never 'reside in nature'" (141).

The last part of Ferry's assertion leads us to the second important point about ethics that Ferry raises against the Deep Ecologists: that (and here he agrees with a critique of Deep Ecology by Paul Ricoeur) "basing ethics in biology is insufficient, for the fact that nature 'says yes to life' does not imply an ethical necessity that men act in favor of its preservation" (81 n. 28). That is to say, even if an ethics could be derived from nature, the Deep Ecology version of such an ethics forgets that even though life forms as a rule pursue self-preservation, it is possible "to have values other than those of self-preservation, to prefer a life that is short but good, for example, to one that is long and boring" (85). Self-preservation cannot be a moral imperative because, well, it is not an imperative; "as biological beings," Ferry reminds us, "we all care about our health. But only, it must be specified, 'to a certain extent.' For health is not an absolute value for everyone or in all circumstances" (88). Here again, Ferry is quite right to point out the real danger of believing that "Nature in itself contains certain objectives, certain goals . . . independent of our opinions and our subjective decrees" (86). Trying to derive ethical principles from empirical knowledge of biology may seem innocent enough, but when you start "with the idea that, in principle, each individual possesses a 'healthy and identical' human nature," you may be "gradually led to associate all supposedly deviant practices with pathology": "evil is confused with abnormality: one has to be crazy to smoke, not to love nature as one should, and so on" (89).

Keeping in mind the appalling historical track record of using the order of nature itself and its supposedly self-evident moral imperatives to countenance social and political practice, Ferry is quite right to be worried about claims by Jonas and other Deep Ecologists that serious ecological reform "seems impossible, or at least infeasible. . .within the framework of a democratic society," that "We must have recourse to force," to "State constraint" (77). Ferry is quick to seize upon some of the more extreme pronouncements by Deep Ecologists which imagine a "global government that can subjugate populations in order to reduce pollution and alter desires and behaviors through psychological manipulation." And he is right to put pressure on the Deep Ecologists on the issue of population control. "When we get to the point of arguing that the ideal number of humans, from the point of view of nonhumans, would be 500 million (James Lovelock) or 100 million (Arne Naess), I would like to know how one plans to realize this highly philanthropic objective" (75). "No serious democrat will argue," Ferry writes, "with the idea that it is necessary, if not to limit the deployment of technology, at least to control and direct it." But "the idea that this control must occur at the price of democracy itself is an additional step which deep ecologists, propelled as they are by a hatred of humanism and of Western civilization. . .almost never hesitate to take" (78).

These, it seems to me, are the most forceful and worthwhile points that Ferry makes in his critique of Deep Ecology. But the passage I just quoted, while it provides a snapshot of some of what is right about Ferry's position, also suggests much of what is wrong about it—not least of all, his reliance upon overly simple and indeed reified oppositions between concepts like "democracy" and "totalitarianism." It is easy enough, for example, to point out, in response to his critique of Deep Ecologists' calls for "state constraint," that there are all sorts of areas of social and political life in which government involvement and state power are exercised at the expense of "pure" democracy (which is itself, need it be said, a fiction). If, for instance, we conceive of the environmental crisis as a problem fundamentally of national and international security, as well we might, then how could Ferry object to uses of state power to address that problem that are no greater than those indulged by the military-industrial or intelligence complexes as a fact of everyday life in liberal democratic society? Ferry might well object that none of these instances are justified, but that is just as question-begging, for short of a full-bore endorsement of anarchism (which, from Ferry, seems unlikely) the problem is how and when such uses of state power are justified, and not simply a matter of equating, as Ferry does, calls for the use of state power by Deep Ecologists with a "hatred of humanism and of western civilization." Democracy, in other words, is not nearly so pure and simple as Ferry likes to paint it, nor is it automatically equatable with the presence or absence of "state constraint"; and hence, suggestions by ecologists that we use government power to address environmental problems like nuclear waste contaminating the groundwater supply instead of, say, to run the Iran-Contra operation, are not so outlandish and "totalitarian" as Ferry suggests.

In this light, it will come as no surprise that Ferry's use of the term "democracy" systematically ignores and represses the economic context which historically accompanies it: capitalism. Chantal Mouffe's critique of a similar problem in Rorty's liberalism would apply doubly to Ferry. The problem with both is the

identification of the political project of modernity with a vague concept of "liberalism" which includes both capitalism and democracy . . . . If one fails to draw a distinction between democracy and liberalism, between political and economic liberalism; if, as Rorty does, one conflates all these notions under the term liberalism; then one is driven, under the pretext of defending modernity, to a pure and simple apology for the "institutions and practices of the rich North Atlantic democracies."
[ 9 ]

The question of the point at which "democracy" begins and ends is not limited only to the use of state power, in other words, but depends at least as much on the uneven distribution of economic power in capitalist democratic society. In a well-worn strategy of liberal intellectuals, Ferry is eager to condemn all those who stray from his version of liberal humanism as fanatical, totalitarian, haters of modernity, of Western civilization, humanity, and so on. But at the same time he relies upon a strategically vague notion of democracy which—though supposedly without any positive content—is ideological through and through. There is not a single serious engagement in Ferry's critique of the fundamental problem of liberalism familiar to us since Marx: that the liberal humanists' presumption of perfectly equal "rights" in the sphere of civil society and law is belied by the fact of the unequal distribution of property rights in the economic sphere, a fact whose effects are obvious and pronounced in every aspect of social life under capitalism.

Ferry makes a few hollow gestures very late in the book toward a recognition of how the economic fact of capitalism might complicate and compromise the abstract democracy he promotes, but they are just that—hollow gestures. He observes, for example, that "no one can remain indifferent to a questioning of the liberal logic of production and consumption" (128). But when it comes to any serious examination of the relationship between the de facto economic form of liberal humanism and environmental devastation, we find the same sort of laissez faire posture we witnessed in his concept of democracy. Ferry's program for the "reformist ecologist" countenanced by his liberal humanism—as opposed to the revolutionary "deep" ecologists of the "new ecological order"—argues that

ecology ultimately blends into the market, which naturally adapts to new consumer demands . . . clean industry is developing by leaps and bounds, creating competition among companies to obtain the 'green' label. The supreme pardon? Perhaps. But why take offense if it allows us both to advance the cause of environmental ethics and include it within a democratic framework? (145-6).

Instead of a rigorous examination of the relationship between democracy, capitalism, and environmental protection, we find in Ferry the same sort of superficial faith (this time in the "free market") that Ferry finds intolerable in the "zealots" of Deep Ecology. For as Arran Gare points out in his recent study Postmodernisn and the Environmental Crisis, the much-ballyhooed use of market mechanisms to control environmental degradation—such as issuing pollution "shares" to restrict emissions to tolerable levels, and then allowing companies who exceed these levels to buy more shares from companies who meet the standards—may have been enthusiastically embraced by industries and business organizations, but in practice, they have failed to protect the environment. "In particular," Gare writes,

it has been found that utilizing the market through the issuing of tradeable pollution rights, tradeable rights to exploit resources, has not achieved any significant reduction in pollution, diminution in the rate of exploitation of mineral reserves or reduction in the rate of destruction of resources. . . . The only legislation that has had real effect has been absolute bans on the exploitation of animal species or the use or production of particular types of material. . . . That such measures should have failed is a reflection of the limitations and defects of the market as a device for regulating economic, let alone social and political, activity. (77-8)
[ 10 ]

In light of Ferry's thin—indeed nearly legalistic—concepts of democracy and liberal humanism, his apparent lack of knowledge in the nitty-gritty details of environmental reform (and, as we shall see in part II, in areas relevant to animal rights such as cognitive ethology), and because of his readiness to rely upon utterly reified oppositions between ideal types such as "democracy" and "totalitarianism," moments such as the following cannot help but come off as pompous and somewhat comical, even if we agree in spirit with Ferry's point:

Are the days of prophets, when the use of intelligence was limited, at times, to the choice of a "camp," to be regretted? The most simplistic divisions—for or against revolution, capitalism, alienation, "symbolic force," self-management, and so on—were enough to separate the good from the bad without any further examination of the issue being necessary . . . . A sinister time, in truth, when the divisions between intellectuals, true professional ideologues, and experts riveted to their administrative careers enabled everyone to avoid the decisive questions. (139)

Clearly, we need more than this to tease out the symptomatics of Deep Ecology and its quite considerable appeal. Here, Fredric Jameson's recent observations on the renascence of ecology and the idea of nature in postmodern society are particularly suggestive. Jameson points out how ecology in the postmodern moment operates at one and the same time as a genuinely utopian figure for a longed-for "outside" to global capitalism (to this extent it remains tied to the different category of "nature" and is something of a "modern" rather than properly "postmodern" category), and as an index of the failure of postmodern society to achieve that end.

As Jameson puts it in The Seeds of Time—in terms with some utility for exposing the ideology of Ferry's position—"It seems to be easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism" (xii).[ 11 ] What has happened, according to Jameson, is a sort of flip-flop of outside (nature) and inside (the economic, the social) under postmodernism, so that what was formerly "second nature" (the ideologically naturalized and reified economic and social relations of capitalism) has now become the first nature whose end it is impossible to imagine. Meanwhile, "ecology" has become what Jameson would call an "ideologeme" of postmodern culture, one which trades upon the concept of "nature"'s residual, modernist utopian charge, while reproducing the systemic logic of the postmodern itself.

Nature, Jameson writes, is surely "the strong final term and content of whatever essence or axiomatic . . . whatever limit or fate may be posited." In this sense, the end of nature "is surely the secret dream and longing" of postmodernism understood as the "cultural logic of late capitalism" (46). "Ecology," however, "is another matter entirely," Jameson writes; and what is at question is whether the "Nature" of postmodern ecology "is in any way to be thought of as somehow the same as that older 'nature' at whose domestication if not liquidation all Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thought so diligently worked" (47).

As Jameson remarks, very much to the point here—and one can't help but recall the expressed or residual misanthropy of some Deep Ecologists in this connection—is how concepts of nature are always inseparable from those of human nature. "A discipline necessarily directed toward the self and its desires and impulses; the learning of new habits of smallness, frugality, modesty, and the like; a kind of respect for otherness that sets a barrier to gratification"—all of these, Jameson reminds us, are "the ethical ideas and figures in terms of which new attitudes toward the individual and the collective self are proposed by (postmodern) ecology" (47). In Jameson's view, then, postmodern ecology of the sort we find in Deep Ecology exemplifies "a self-policing attitude," a "new style of restraint and ironic modesty and skepticism about the collective ambitions" of an earlier, modern "Promethean Utopianism" which was of a piece with revolutionary politics, and whose last gasp was the counter-culture movement of the sixties (48). In this light, the thou-shalt-not biocentrism of Deep Ecology is revealed to be of a piece with a broader "contemporary authoritarianism" in postmodern society—specifically in most of the parliamentary democracies, in which a "general pessimism, political apathy, the failure of the welfare state or of the various social democracies—all can be enlisted as causes in a general consent to the necessity for law-and-order regimes everywhere" (48). For Jameson, "Such regimes, which it may not be inappropriate to characterize as neo-Confucian . . . finally prove to be based on a renewed conception of human nature as something sinful and aggressive that demands to be held in check for its own good" (49).

I have dwelt at some length upon Jameson's analysis to underscore the point that there is a useful way and a not so useful way to make the point Ferry wants to make about the overly zealous holism and "anti-modernism" of contemporary environmentalism as exemplified by Deep Ecology. Like Ferry, Jameson is essentially a modernist, if a much more ambivalent and complicated one, and would defend the modernist Prometheanism necessary for political change in terms more welcome to Ferry than to those of Deep Ecologists. But Jameson's materialism and historicism provide precisely what is scrupulously avoided in Ferry's defense of liberal humanism: a conjugation of the relations between concepts such as democracy in civil society and the economic structures that materialize or prevent them. In that light, Jameson's analysis helps us ideologically locate not only the "new frugality" of contemporary environmentalism, but also the positive content, the material ground and effect, of what Ferry presents as the wholly negative, open-ended character of liberal humanism.

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