Post-politics, Post-democracy and the Environment

Dans le cadre du séminaire de Master Villes territoires mondialisations (Ville et société / Systèmes territoriaux, développement durable et aide à la décision), nous avons le plaisir d’accueillir Erik Swyngedouw, Professeur à l’Université de Manchester. Le mercredi 30 novembre, de 14h à 17h, à l’ENS de Lyon, il animera une séance sur le thème suivant :

Post-politics, Post-democracy and the Environment.

La présentation s’appuiera sur les textes suivants :

Swyngedouw, E. 1997. « Power, nature, and the city. The conquest of water and the political ecology of urbanization in Guayaquil, Ecuador: 1880 – 1990 ». Environment and Planning A 29 (2): 311 – 332. doi:10.1068/a290311.

In this paper, I seek to explore how the circulation of water is embedded in the political ecology of power, through which the urbanization process unfolds. I attempt to reconstruct the urbanization process as simultaneously a political-economic and ecological process. This will be discussed through the exploration of the history of the urbanization of water in Guayaquil, Ecuador. As approximately 36% of its two million inhabitants has no access to piped potable water, water becomes subject to an intense social struggle for control and/or access. Mechanisms of exclusion from and access to water, particularly in cities which have a problematic water-supply condition, lay bare how both the transformation of nature and the urbanization process are organized in and through mechanisms of social power. In order to unravel the relations of power that are inscribed in the way the urbanization of nature unfolded I document and analyze the historical geography of water control in the context of the political ecology of Guayaquil’s urbanization. In short, Guayaquil’s urbanization process is written from the perspective of the drive to urbanize and domesticate nature’s water and the parallel necessity to push the ecological frontier outward as the city expands. I show how this political ecology of urbanization takes place through deeply exclusive and marginalizing processes that structure relations of access to and exclusion from access to nature’s water.

Swyngedouw, Erik. 2006. « Circulations and metabolisms:(hybrid) natures and (cyborg) cities ». Science as Culture 15 (2): 105–121.

Swyngedouw, Erik. 2009. « The Antinomies of the Postpolitical City: In Search of a Democratic Politics of Environmental Production ». International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 33 (3) (septembre): 601-620. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2427.2009.00859.x.

In recent years, urban research has become increasingly concerned with the social, political and economic implications of the techno‐political and socio‐scientific consensus that the present unsustainable and unjust environmental conditions require a transformation of the way urban life is organized. In the article, I shall argue that the present consensual vision of the urban environment presenting a clear and present danger annuls the properly political moment and contributes to what a number of authors have defined as the emergence and consolidation of a postpolitical and postdemocratic condition. This will be the key theme developed in this contribution. First, I shall attempt to theorize and re‐centre the political as a pivotal moment in urban political‐ecological processes. Second, I shall argue that the particular staging of the environmental problem and its modes of management signals and helps to consolidate a postpolitical condition, one that evacuates the properly political from the plane of immanence that underpins any political intervention. The consolidation of an urban postpolitical condition runs, so I argue, parallel to the formation of a postdemocratic arrangement that has replaced debate, disagreement and dissensus with a series of technologies of governing that fuse around consensus, agreement, accountancy metrics and technocratic environmental management. In the third part, I maintain that this postpolitical consensual police order revolves decidedly around embracing a populist gesture. However, the disappearance of the political in a postpolitical arrangement leaves all manner of traces that allow for the resurfacing of the properly political. This will be the theme of the final section. I shall conclude that re‐centring the political is a necessary condition for tackling questions of urban environmental justice and for creating egalibertarian socio‐ecological urban assemblages.

Swyngedouw, E. 2011. « Interrogating post-democratization: Reclaiming egalitarian political spaces ». Political Geography 30 (7): 370-380. doi:doi:10.1016/j.polgeo.2011.08.001.

There is now an emerging body of thought on the dynamics of de-politicization, the ‘disappearance of the political’, the erosion of democracy and of the public sphere, and the contested emergence of a post-political or post-democratic socio-spatial configuration. I situate and explore this alleged ‘post-democratization’ in light of recent post-Althusserian political thought. I proceed in four steps. First, I discuss the contested configurations of this post-politicization and the processes of post-democratization. In a second part, I propose a series of theoretical and political arguments that help frame the evacuation of the properly political from the spaces of post-democratic policy negotiation. This diagnostic is related to a particular interpretation of the distinction between ‘the political’ and ‘polic(e)y/‘politics’. In a third part, I argue how emancipatory–democratic politics can be reclaimed around notions of equality, and freedom. In the concluding part, perspectives for re-vitalising the political possibilities of a spatialized emancipatory project are presented. The crux of the argument unfolds the tension between politics, which is always specific, particular, and ‘local’ on the one hand and the universal procedure of the democratic political that operates under the signifiers of equality and freedom on the other.

Les personnes qui souhaiteraient assister à cette séance sont priées de prendre contact avec Myriam Houssay-Holzschuch ou Eric Verdeil


2 réflexions sur « Post-politics, Post-democracy and the Environment »

  1. Eric Verdeil Auteur de l’article

    c’était super mais je te l’avoue, cela m’a aussi décontenancé, la dimension happening ! Du reste l’une des étudiantes (canadienne) a été choquée de son engagement voire même, par moment, de sa grossièreté. Quel contraste avec la minutie de son argumentation conceptuelle dans ses derniers papiers en particulier!

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