We Need to Talk about Liberty

David Tyfield is Professor of Sustainable Transitions and Political Economy at Lancaster University (d.tyfield@lancaster.ac.uk)

This blog post relates to the Global Discourse article David Tyfield: Interview: Governing Complexity and Reconceptualising Liberty

Living in a world beset by so many new and uncontrollable challenges, there is small wonder that there has been a resurgence of interest in questions of justice.  Justice clearly matters profoundly, but there is another social virtue that is arguably just as important, and as both the necessary condition for the ‘good life’ and as an end-in-itself, namely liberty. 

Yet today ‘liberty’ is not only rather neglected but often actively repudiated. The reason for this allergic aversion to liberty is obvious. For the term occupies a central position in the political project many of those concerned about justice today aim precisely to dismantle. The US-centric project of neoliberalism underpins the whole gamut of overflowing complex system problems that now threaten to overwhelm us, including both ecological destruction and socioeconomic inequality. 

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Domestic Drone Futures: Investments and Imaginations

Drone camera (Creative commons)

Dr Maximilian Jablonowski (jablonowski@isek.uzh.ch) is a Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Zurich; Dr Anna Jackman (Anna.Jackman@rhul.ac.uk) is a Lecturer in Political Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London.

This blog post relates to the Global Discourse article Anna Jackman and Maximilian Jablonowski: Investment in the imaginary

Setting the scene

On the evening of 1 December 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos presented on CBS a video advert for the company’s new project; named Prime Air, the venture promised the shipment of goods to customers via drones within thirty minutes. This announcement was likely the first discursive event of commercial drone use. While initially exposed to ridicule, Amazon’s plan went on to change how commercial drones, and in fact drones more widely, are publicly imagined. Since then, drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, have been increasingly re-imagined and re-spatialised from battlefield origins to their growing embrace as domestic actors transforming urban skies. If we are, as it is asserted, entering into a ‘drone age’ or ‘zeitgeist’, the aerial delivery drone is a key facet of this evolving drone imagination.

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Concretise, situate, democratise: The Museum of Carbon Ruins

Artificial grass

Paul Graham Raven is a postdoctoral researcher for Lund University, Sweden (paul@paulgrahamraven.com)

This blog relates to the Global Discourse article Paul G. Raven and Johannes Stripple: Touring the carbon ruins: towards an ethics of speculative decarbonisation

The Museum of Carbon Ruins is… well, we’re still not sure how to categorise it, in truth. Is it an art intervention? An immersive research exhibit on decarbonisation? Climate change theatre? It’s all of these things, in a way – the common thread being the creation of a space of speculation about climate change, and how we might adapt to it.

More prosaically, the Museum of Carbon Ruins (MCR) is a set of vitrines (or an antique suitcase, depending on the venue) full of familiar objects and images, which are reframed for the museum’s ‘visitors’ by researchers performing the role of curators or guides to the museum itself, which purports to ‘exist’ in 2050 or thereabouts.

If you’re wondering what the point is, you’re not the first! However, we flatter ourselves that most of the museum’s ‘visitors’ have grasped it, even if they haven’t taken away exactly the same point as one another. It’s in the nature of the thing that describing it can’t come close to reproducing it – and I might go so far as to say that’s the point. But what of speculative methods in general? Why are we academics messing around with the tools of science fiction, product design and participatory theatre? I have three answers, or three aspects of a single answer: the creation of speculative climate futures can serve to concretise the challenge, situate the consequences and democratise the discussion.

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From Anthropocene to Chthulucene – Staying with Speculation: Natures, Futures, Politics

Portrait of Greta Thunberg

Dr Christine Mortimer is an International Teaching Fellow in Management and Organisational Behaviour, Lancaster University (c.mortimer1@lancaster.ac.uk) and Dr Malé Lujan Escalante is Lecturer in the Centre for Innovation, University of Bristol (male.lujane@bristol.ac.uk)

This blog post relates to the Global Discourse article Luke Moffat, Christine J. Mortimer & Maria Luhan Escalante: Introduction

‘We-all of us on Terra-live in disturbing times, mixed up times, troubling and turbid times’. ‘Our task is to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet places’ (Haraway, Staying with Trouble).

Donna Haraway in her book, ‘Staying with Trouble’ (2016), articulates the future that we are now living in, every single one of us. Since December 2019, when the world first heard, from Wuhan in China, the news of a new pneumonia like virus, 2020 became the year that we all have been encouraged to believe that as a species we are in a global war against an unseen enemy. Through the pandemic the idea of ‘a battle with nature’ has been consistently voiced in the media, ‘Army prepares for battle against invisible enemy as Nightingale Hospital set to open.  The closing of national borders globally, echoes the events from World War 1 and 2. The news headlines for ‘frontline’ deaths are now over 2 million people. However, this does not consider the exponential numbers of people that Covid-19 has personally affected.

Within the introduction to Staying with Speculation: Natures, Futures, Politics are these words, ‘The questions of what speculation is, what it means, and what it is for, touch and trouble the pieces of work in this issue. As nature begins to “speak back” at our various misdemeanours, exploitations, and violence’s, the urgency of tackling the messy, unpredictable, volatile and multiple materials of possible futures is thrown into stark relief’. And, here we are in a place and space where nature has spoken back urgently to the ‘human-centred’ view of our relationships with this beautifully diverse ‘worlds within world’ that we inhabit, in the form of the current pandemic, which has been with us over the curation of this special edition.

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The Politics of Negative Emotions: Editor’s Choice.

Emotions seem increasingly to mark political movements and discourse. Anger, fear and sadness have, to varying degrees, been implicated in the outcome of the Brexit referendum and the rise of Trump, on the one hand, and the persistence of Black Lives Matter and the impact of the Me Too movement, on the other.

A philosophical tradition that stretches from Plato to Martha Nussbaum has urged us to keep negative emotions like anger and jealousy out of politics, and to instead nurture positive ones, like love and compassion. Yet, that must be confounding to minorities, the poor and other marginalized groups, whose political claims frequently originate in negative emotions and take the form of emotional expressions. Indeed, their marginalization and attendant suffering has been exacerbated by processes, such as medicalization, which prompt individuals to think of their anger, fear and other painful emotions as personal problems to be dealt with in the medical or some other ostensibly apolitical sphere.

But not everyone believes negative emotions must be kept out of politics. Some feminists have long defended the political value of anger. And, more recently, such thinkers as Judith Butler and Deborah Gould have highlighted the politically empowering and constructive role that other negative emotions can play as well. Moreover, a series of methodological discussions on the importance of affect have brought the role of emotions in research into sharp focus. But whether these newer perspectives can survive the popular trend of blaming our contemporary political problems on passions like anger and fear remains to be seen.

This Editor’s Choice includes three essays on the place of emotions in politics from the combined second and third issues of volume 10, essays which will be particularly relevant as we grapple with the political fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Fear has been among the dominant emotions in the public sphere this year. The first essay warns of the political abuses of this emotion. In ‘Moral economies of exclusion: politics of fear through antagonistic anonymity’, Søren Mosgaard Andreasen shows how fear has been used by the far right in Norway to legitimise exclusion, policing, and humiliation of Muslims, providing insights with significant implications for society more broadly.

As people have come to understand the unequal burden of Covid-19, with the most disadvantaged communities suffering the most, another emotion that has become increasingly salient is anger. In the second essay, ‘Anger fast and slow: mediations of justice and violence in the age of populism’, William Davies unpacks this emotions, borrowing Daniel Kahneman’s famous distinction between fast and slow thinking to develop a distinction between fast and slow anger. Whereas fast anger arises automatically, without deliberation, spurring physical action and reaction, slow anger accrues over time in response to perceived injustices; to conceive and enact lasting political change, Davies argues, we need a balance of both. 

The final piece draws our attention to an issue that will be central as we try to – in the words of the Biden campaign – ‘build back better’, namely, climate change. In ‘Green shame: The next moral revolution?’, Martha Claeys challenges political critiques of shame to argue that this emotion has a key role to play the greening of society. According to Claeys, green shame – the shame of behaving in ways that negatively impact the environment – can not only influence individual decision-making, but also drive sustained demands for policy changes. 

The Politics of Negative Emotions. Guest Edited by Dan Degerman is available here: https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bup/gd/2020/00000010/00000002;jsessionid=6cvdfpv4qhi7o.x-ic-live-01