So Much for Ecology, So Much for Humanity


The following article takes up and extends arguments first developed in “Bifurcation in the Civilization of Capital,” an English translation of which appeared in November 2022. Both articles explore the hypothesis that political ecology, despite its claim to provide the horizon of any possible revolution today, might instead be providing the escape hatch that allows capital to overcome its current contradictions and revolutionize itself. Whereas the first article emphasized the shift wherein capital no longer seeks merely to dominate nature, but learns to identify itself with it, the present article explores the changing meaning of nature in this process. How have newfangled conceptions of nature as “multiplicity” aided capital in responding to and resolving its crisis of objectivity? The question has immediate strategic implications. As capital comes to slowly accept that a “coexistence between spaces of valorization and spaces of non-valorization” might form the condition of its survival, the strategy of carving out zones of ecological experimentation from the tissue of the capitalist metropolis risks becoming a point of paradigmatic agreement between insurgents and capitalists alike, who — in their common embrace of an idea of totality structured by cybernetic conceptions of “ecology” — find themselves as strange bedfellows. If the premises of such a convergence are already visible today, is it time to rethink our conception of revolution anew from an asymmetrical starting point?

The ecological “crisis” is not the new “unsurpassable” contradiction of capital. Rather, the crisis reflects one possible direction that the transformation and extension of social relations might take. To this extent, it shatters the belief that there exist logical or material limits that contain the development of capital. No longer placing our faith in teleologies that restrict experience is perhaps a good starting point for a new offensive of any kind, a way into the question of where it is that we must begin?

For some years now, news outlets have hammered us with the necessity of an ecological change. As a result, the “ecological crisis” seems to be in everyone’s heads today. No State, no party, no business, no citizen, no institution is let off the hook for their “environmental responsibility.” Contrary to what some claimed at the end of the last century, political ecology has well and truly come into being.1 So much so that even the biggest polluters no longer dare to assert themselves as such, and are starting to play the game of disguising their destructive activities as a fight for "living things." That’s nothing new. And yet, even faced with the ever-increasing absurdity of the evident, revolt does not appear to be the order of the day. Quite the opposite, in all of Europe, farmers block the roads due to the price of gas, national and European regulation, unfair competition, and sometimes even against the very suggestion of an ecological transition. You can even hear a chorus of activists, whose numbers struggle to grow, calling on governments to become a little stronger in the face of big business, thanks to the help of scientists.

On the one hand, the “historic” agreement reached between the world’s states during COP 28 is so cynical that even the newscasters were perplexed. But how else could anyone—even the most climate skeptic—take this other than a complete farce, that the world ecological forum was hosted by one of the States whose GDP depends the most on oil? But what else could a World Ecological Congress hosted by one of the most oil-dependent countries in the world appear to anyone — even the most climate-skeptical — if not as a farce? On the other hand, the “revolutionary forces” that have taken up the “ecological question” as the ultimate impetus for a renewed assault on this world have proven to be merely one more group of actors among others in the recomposition of a political scene in which self-representation takes precedence. If the “revolutionary point of view” believed that it could detect a subversive possibility in the ecological reformulation of the problems produced by the community of capital, this was because of political ecology’s illusory claim that it starts from somewhere else in the economy. This illusion is not without efficacy. Only in this way can we explain why people trying to keep the idea of revolution alive fall for it. It cannot be simply reduced to a mere myth, just some smoke we need to clear. Indeed, if the revolutionary perspective finds itself engulfed in it, this is because its own attempt to totalize the world has been dislocated from itself, and produces the idea of this somewhere else. The latter accompanied the full awareness of the human species’ risk of extinction. For the first time, the revolution clearly became biological and cosmic. It has been severed from society, or put otherwise, it has transcended the separation between nature and culture. And yet, in the discussions that surround them, as well as in the struggles “for life” themselves, the negative experiences of the world that lead to refusal and revolt have — and continue to be — caught up within and reframed by the snares of the “social” and of representation.

Of course, none of this denies the validity of the many struggles that emerge today as yesterday, in the face of the contradictions of a valorization process that destroys what it depends upon and denies what it legitimizes. Yet any attempt to reformulate, describe, or critique the attempt to totalize the world through the prism of political ecology will only lead to more or less extensive, or more or less effective, rackets. Thus, the dislocation experienced from what may appear to be an “ecological problem” — the experience of the contradiction between what is said and what is done, between the promise of universality and the universal decay of life — is fundamentally distinct from the overlaying of this negative experience by its hypostasis as an “ecological problem.” And this for the simple reason that political ecology, “from the point of view of revolution,” both theoretically and practically covers up2 the contradictions of capital, whereas “from the point of view of capital,” the latter, by means of political ecology, contains [englobe] all of the dislocations experienced, transforming them into ecological issues which it would, consequently, be responsible for resolving.3 Political ecology is a rationalization of a lie — that of a revolution of capital by itself — or what I clumsily described as a “cosmotechnical bifurcation of capital.”4

I. The abolition of nature through the totalization of capital 

The ecological crisis is a crisis of the category of “nature”

Political ecology is one of the current expressions of a hunger for meaning. If the idea of an ecological crisis is so widespread it’s not just because there are suddenly more climate catastrophes, nor just because a few cyberneticians “discovered” the concept of the Anthropocene at the beginning of the 2000s, but above all because 20th century representations of the world have turned out to be nothing but representations. Clearly, these were not completely devoid of efficacy, and therefore of a certain reality. They still stand, but precariously, since it is objectivity itself that is in crisis. Neither nature nor the labor that transforms it are concepts endowed with an intangible and unquestionable materiality. They aren’t enough to convey the essence of things. They do not contain meaning within themselves. This would have sent shivers down the spine of any peasant and worker at the beginning of the last century, but for today's common sense it’s banal. Even the “revolutionary point of view” finds itself at a loss when faced with the volatilization of its subject, the proletariat, now that each and every worker has become their own entrepreneur. Where, then, can we find a solid enough foundation to structure all social practices and relationships in all of their diversity, if what was once considered objective, concrete, solid, has vanished into thin air? One of the answers to this question can already be found immediately within the very form of the question: in diversity itself, in the multiple. 

As Latour emphasizes in Politics of Nature, the emergence of political ecology is not so much about nature or its entrance into politics but concerns the obvious impossibility of appealing to a hypostatized nature to legitimate any practice. What is more, political ecology is rooted in the need to institutionalize nature, precisely because it can no longer be taken for granted. Faced with the representational character of the world — i.e., its appearance to itself through the constitution of a community that is no more than the material community of capital — and faced, in contrast (but as a consequence of this movement), with the publicity of multiplicity, nature cannot be limited to a unity. The crisis of objectivity leads us to no longer see nature, but natures. However, for the time being, such recognition is not to be understood as a fragmentation of reality, but rather as a consciousness of multiplicity with a view to unifying it. Political ecology is the convocation and the conjuring of the multiple. Unlike political economy, it no longer crushes the multiple through its abstraction of the real, but takes it into account so as to further the process of totalization. 

Political ecology attempts to answer the question of value

In reality, the “globalized” consciousness of a crisis of objectivity corresponds to the appearance before everyone’s eyes of the now intimately representational character of value, and this not only of what Marxist theory has called “abstract value,” but also of its corollary, “use value.” The utility that gave the commodity all the reasons for its existence outside exchange, i.e., in its use and consumption, no longer seems obvious to anyone. In Series II of his journal Invariance, Camatte already underscored that it was no longer the nature of the commodity that conferred this or that utility on it, but capital itself, insofar as the commodity participates in its production and its reproduction. Today, while capital is unanimously, albeit only partially, reviled by its own representatives — that is, by humankind — it is the very foundation of value that is called into question, as the utility attributed to it often seems to run counter to the very unfolding of life itself. Value can no longer be the fruit either of the nature of the thing valorized, nor of the labor socially necessary for its production. Not all the value that is produced is necessarily good — but what is the basis for this judgment? This is the role of redefinition, or rather evaluation, that political ecology plays. In this, it serves as a critique of political economy. 

Generally speaking, political ecology is crudely concerned with taking “nature” into account in the quantification of value. It tries to identify everything that depends on the valorization process and that was not counted as such by the economy. But it doesn’t go all the way in its critique, because it denies its participation in the totalization of the world, which is so necessary for its valuation of the “real” costs of production. It only requests that capital not forget the remainder of the bill, for it is this forgetfulness that risks precipitating a collapse of all long-term valorization possibilities and crises of underproduction. Political ecology attempts to judge the legitimacy of infrastructure, social relations, connections with other species or places only from outside conditions of economic viability and in relation to a multiple whole, but it is always first united in the same threat (the extinction of life) by a process (capital). And so, at a time when talk of use value no longer seems to have any meaning, where value appears fully as what it has always been — a representation — political ecology seizes upon this possibly anachronistic category in order to locate in it a kind of foundation, a certainty which, it claims, could topple empires.5 Nature, which was previously merely an outside to be dominated, is now integrated, abstracted. Not only does it become a potentially immense heap of presupposed value, which this or that activity, whether new or old, can either increase or reduce, it also becomes the new unsurpassable foundation — on which everything depends — of a “materialism” that has reached the end of its tether. Nature continues to unify the world, even though it is the unification of the world that is no longer self-evident. 

But it would be a caricature to reduce political ecology to this — things are much more subtle.6 In some respects, it too doubts this unification. However, its doubt is never posed as a refusal of unification but instead as an observation of the falsity of totality, of its non-truth. But this observation is above all a bitter one. The failure of the totalization of the world is only formulated with the aim of better achieving it, even if this means assuming not one attempt at totalizing the world but many: many “natures.” With this in mind, political ecology cannot simply criticize the economy for not paying enough attention to nature. First and foremost, it must challenge the very idea of nature. It must challenge the fundamental dichotomy and separation of Western metaphysics, namely, that between nature and culture, logos and physis. The political ecology developed by Bruno Latour, for example, implies an end to globality, an end to an idea of nature as “recapitulation of all beings,” a beginning of the multiple, and the preservation of the spirit of totalization, whether as multiplication of totalities or as an intermediate stage in the global enterprise of totalization. In this way, political ecology is not so anachronistic, and even seems to align with an observation made by Jacques Camatte half a century ago: 

Capital as representation overcomes the old contradiction between monopoly and competition. Every quantum of capital tends to become a totality; competition operates between the various capitals, each of which tends to become the totality. Production and circulation are unified; the ancient opposition between use value and exchange value loses its raison d’être. Besides, consumption is the utilization of not only material products but mostly representations that increasingly structure human beings as beings of capital and revitalize capital as the general representation.7

Except that, here, political ecology understands that capital as representation can no longer sustain itself on its own without an “earthly” rescue. Without saying so, it deploys possibilities that respond to the historical moment in which value appears banal and meaningless. In this respect, political ecology possesses all of the theoretical elements necessary for the “bifurcation” of capital by itself, i.e., for the realization of its metaphysical revolution.

So, while there are certainly political ecologies, there is no “their” ecology and “ours.” In each case, and despite all “revolutionary” pretensions, each merely opens up more or less real possibilities — for fractions of capital, who nevertheless differ from “ecologists” — to transform the capitalist relation without ever abolishing it.

II. Between extractivism and cybernetics

Ecological extractivism: an ongoing assessment 

In any case, whether or not value is understood as a representation that struggles to find its “earthly” — not to say “concrete” — correlate, the transformation of social relations into ecological social relations (or into an ecology of social relations) requires the implementation of a vast and complex conquest of the world, far more extensive than what is already in place. In the name of urgency and catastrophism — itself a kind of social blackmail — we are enjoined to set up a permanent evaluation (“valuation”) of all human and non-human activities: a general mobilization in a reworked form. Since the ultimate economic criterion of capital no longer makes any sense (that which assigns value according to the ability to produce or reproduce capital, and not with regard to any social or natural utility), society — which now only exists through the mediation of the capital process — must find an elsewhere to justify everything it does, in every moment, in every place. For this to happen, the valorization process must be backed up by a process of evaluation that, while not realizing value, nonetheless becomes a necessary condition for it. As we have seen, when Marx theorized use value, the valuation process was implicit, because the reason for producing a commodity was immediately given as the “socially useful.” Here, on the other hand, we find ourselves in a situation where the implicit is no longer obvious, and can’t happen without becoming “socially conscious,” externalized as its own activity. What’s more, this ecological awareness is, above all, an awareness from the point of view of capital: it can no longer escape, it has limits of a certain kind, but limits that it cannot circumvent. What all ecologists fail to mention is that the erection of this extra-economic criterion of viability — the terrestrial — implies not only a totalization of the world (like that of capital), but also its extension to the whole of what they call “life.” In other words, in its fight against the extractivism of fossil fuels or any other polluting activity, political ecology itself can only exist as extractivism. 

Researchers, the new heroes of political annihilation

It is becoming increasingly clear that the emergence of the “researcher” [l’enquêteur], so present in political ecology literature and among activists in general, is not a new revolutionary hero — a Spartacus — but rather a future “militant” for capital. The researcher seeks not only to meet and get to know different forms of life, but also to have them recognized by the social. Generally trained as a scientist or, at the very least, as a philosopher or sociologist, with a keen eye for the living world, the researcher tinkers with a new kind of engineering. The role of the researcher, which certainly has a romantic aspect (especially in its “diplomatic” form), only matters to political ecology if the research itself is institutionalized, becoming not just a social but a societal practice. There is no world to leave behind. The only fight that makes sense to him is the one that gives a new direction to what exists, rather than breaking with it. To slip into the machine and continue the game, not to disrupt it. The institutionalization of this role doesn’t simply permit a group of academic dropouts to find a better gig than as precarious research staff, but also allows them to consistently question the viability of all practices both upstream and downstream according to the new criterion of the respect for life. As a result, politics is reduced to the process of constantly evaluating everything. Of course, this research requires that we consult “all the players,” but precisely in order to reframe their sensibilities within a framework pre-established by existing institutions, the better to potentially modify them. The scam stinks to high heaven.

Civilizing the creative-destruction process, bringing it into line with an ecological order of things, making the accumulation process appropriate to the phenomenon of life, linking the valorization process to a value external to it — that’s what it’s all about. We need to take back in hand what eluded capital from the very start of its development, and put an end to “anarchic capitalism” once and for all. It’s a matter of bringing the community of capital to an awareness — or rather a self-reflection — of its capacity to cause harm both to itself and that upon which it depends, in order to take charge of it, so that it is no longer repressed. Through inquiry, the “running away” of capital first theorized by Camatte in the 1970s8 acquires a minimal direction that calls its “potential death” into question.9 The researcher translates and transcribes sensitive experiences into “environmental issues” that can only be solved through research. Beyond extractivism, a cybernetic apparatus appears needful. Indeed, inquiry requires a certain amount of technical development, it’s not enough to just draw up lists and questionnaires. It’s a question of doing politics the way we now do science, adapting the universe to the laboratory — and therefore to their technology. 

For the time being, only the NGOs and groups fighting against “the fossil fuel economy,” as Malm calls it, use research to justify their activity. Even today, neither the State nor businesses really take seriously the need for continuous evaluation — even though this already exists in the sphere of fictitious capital, albeit on strictly economic criteria. However, because the threat of the extinction of the human species and a whole range of other living beings is at stake, there is no doubt that only an institutionalization of research on a planetary scale, and therefore paradoxically only within the community of capital, would make a continuous assessment possible. Ecological circles — those that don’t simply seek reforms, to revamp institutions and organizational structures that already exist (the State, democracy, money, etc.), or that are happy with outrage at their inability to take charge of life — have mounted no real critique, which just shows their adaptability to capital. But after all, what can we expect from a political philosophy that draws its entire imagination from laboratories?

Doing more with less: political ecology gives direction to the escape of capital

If political ecology turns out to be just the ecological redirection of capital — or capital revolutionizing itself metaphysically — what about the accumulation of wealth? What can “limited capital” possibly accumulate? The valuation process implies three things: rating [notation], the quality of the rating (positive or negative), and the rate itself.10 This rate then implies the closure, transformation or perpetuation of the activity — closure and transformation being themselves activities. They therefore constitute an incessant valorization. This is why valorization is a process, one that is constantly necessary, and is its own self-presupposition. In a way, it triples the “moulinet of capital” as Marx describes it.11 Above all, this means that not all of capital’s endeavors endanger the survival of life — contrary to what some political ecology thinkers claim. Or rather, that capital is not the all-too-frequently invoked machine that would indefinitely push back the planet’s limits, hastening the end of the world.12 As such, its process does not necessarily imply the complete destruction of the human species. Additionally, the increasingly real disappearance of the commodity as “material” object, whether through the virtualization of the world, its doubling, or the transformation of an ever growing part of our existence into human (and non-human) capital, gives free rein to new possibilities of accumulation that do not contradict the necessary self-critique of production. However, we can’t assume that the process of capital will survive simply through an ecologic redirection, without taking into consideration its current tendency towards a “war economy” with many current and future battlefields, which will always be the easiest way to transform it in depth. In other words, while political ecology is now certainly “on the side” of the militants on the left and the extreme left, the ecological redirection of capital can only be accomplished through a struggle between its own factions, and not by any “revolutionary” tendency of alternative factions — although that’s not to say that there is no porosity between capital’s factions and ecologist militants.

III. Political ecology ruins the old contradictions 

Political ecology as the embodiment of capital’s contradictions

The revolutionary process of capital — its metaphysical revolution through the passage from political economy to political ecology, i.e., the awareness, from the point of view of capital, of the confusion surrounding “nature” and its clarification by the institutionalization of a multiple and unfixed nature — cannot be understood according to the framework of the Hegelian Aufhebung. In other words, there can be no revolution in the form of the overcoming of contradictions, themselves preserved in memory; rather, what is in question is a transformation of the capitalist relation “through a containment of its contradictions by means of combination.”13 In our view, this transformation would then make possible another kind of containment [englobement], described by Jacques Guigou and Jacques Wajnsztein as the “coexistence of opposites.”14 This is the process at work in the trend towards a metaphysical revolution of capital. We can indeed imagine such a phenomena with political ecology: its regressive or reactionary tendency — seen notably in its extractivism and the techno-cybernetic equipment necessary for such an undertaking — combine, for example, with its progressive tendency, the respect for life. The former needs the latter in order to secure a certain legitimacy, while the latter needs the former to be realized, so they combine. Here we see the collapse of the opposition between democracy and fascism. The affirmation of a a universalist project (the struggle for life) is combined with the negation of all particularity, not through the mediation of potential equality, but through the biopolitical authorization of existence, which in turn requires its prior and ever more refined control. Furthermore, if political ecology proposes to liberate certain spaces from the sphere of production so that a respect for the “terrestrial” can be established, this can only be done on condition that all social relations, including relations between humans and non-humans (and among non-humans themselves) have already been totally subsumed by the process of valorization, so that we can then choose whether to give up this or that activity or infrastructure. In other words, although political ecology invariably signals the retreat of capital from some areas, this retreat is only possible if its domination has already been ensured in advance. A coexistence between spaces of valorization and spaces of non-valorization (between production of value and nonproduction) is thus made possible, but this possibility nevertheless corresponds to the primacy of the enterprise of totalization. The living being that the capital process agrees to conserve no longer relates, strictly speaking, to the phenomenon of “life,” but instead to heritage. The future of life is thus conditioned by the museumization of a part of life. According to this hypothesis, capital is neither the end of history, nor the triumph of the Hegelian totality, but the conscious pursuit of an unrealized totality. This assumes the form of a new transcendence that takes up the non-totality of the whole it claims to be, precisely in order to better extend itself.15 

A “living” capital

A positive response to the question of whether capital fulfills Hegelian philosophy can be glimpsed in Gwendoline Jarzyck and Pierre-Jean Labarrière’s reading of the concept of “system.” Turning Hegel’s absolute idealism into an absolute realism, the authors of From Kojève to Hegel regard the system as an “relational whole,” not closed but open. They write: “Such an open system is therefore not to be understood as a superschema that would encompass all possible schematisms, but as the movement that jointly combines the validation and the relativization that renders reality coherent.”16 Capital as a living process, as an open system, is capital that has arrived at a “world spirit,” as Hegel defines it at the end of his Phenomenology of Spirit.17 In view of its ecological orientation, capital can no longer be understood the way that Debord and many others have, i.e., as the domination of death over life; it is rather a living domination over life (with the same questions about “living” that philosophy and science fiction ask themselves about artificial intelligence). What remains to be decided is whether the “living” character of capital differs from life not by self-consciousness, but by the relentlessly reductive, and therefore mutilating, nature of its process — and this on a scale never seen before, macroscopically and microscopically. 

Humanity and capital

In 1973, Cesarano and Colu wrote: 

As the valorization process takes as its exclusive object the autonomized survival of value beyond its limits of crisis, value itself integrates, as the organic composition of value, the survival of the species as a crisis in the life process. It is in this phase of integration of the species being into capital-being (a formal integration, as we shall see later, but practically operative) that the counterrevolution comes into play as a self-regulating mechanism in the direct service of capitalist rationalization.

Fifty years later, we have potentially reached the stage where not only is the survival of the species integrated into the composition of value, but perhaps also the moment where the species in itself may no longer appear as the revolutionary subject, but instead what constitutes capital: the species has been truly integrated. Consequently, the revolutionary perspective consists, perhaps, in a refusal of the category of humanity — without, of course, falling into the reactionary trap of a return to a nation, a race, etc. The very notion of revolution, if it even has meaning anymore, would need to question, once again, its relationship to the category of the universal, no so much because we doubt the liberation of self implies the liberation of the other, but because the constitution of a universal “human species” seems well and truly linked to the historical development of capital, and because, with its potential ecological reorientation, its development shatters the teleological utopia of last century’s revolutionary theory, which imagined that the planetary fulfillment of capital (or simply the development of its productive forces) formed a necessary condition for communism.18 Or at least, we must break the reflex of revolutionary theory to consider that each new stage of capital, although worse than the previous one, nonetheless brings humanity closer to its liberation. Paradoxical as it might seem, the integration of the human species and the non-human into the perpetuation of the process of capital perhaps offers an opportunity to reconsider  the category of (human) species in the wake of various processes that have themselves made capital possible in its planetary development. In other words, there may be nothing “revolutionary” about the human species as we know it today. Worse, it seems to be the result of a globalized deployment of exchange, mediated by money, the various enterprises of colonization and slavery since the 17th century, by the emergence of modern states, geo-engineering and, of course, nuclear power. 


So much for ecology. So much for humanity. All that seemed solid has vanished. In the end, value is nothing more than a representation, and revolutionary prophecies of the past century’s, in their current persistence, are all proving to be illusions. However, an unquenchable hunger for meaning persists. It shakes off all defeatism, any evasion of reality that would invoke post-modernity, post-history, or even post-truth. That is where political ecology begins, where humanity is integrated into capital. 

To question the urgency of the situation, to refuse catastrophism, is in no way Malthusianism. Quite the contrary, it’s to question our real capacity for action, and reflect on the places where emptiness, and therefore impotence, pushes us towards both sacrificial activism and a reformism that prides itself on revolution. However, nothing about the unending assessment of all our relationships, or its generalized institutionalization, is necessary. Only the general mobilization of certain affects by political ecology, as well as the very methods of this mobilization, allow it to appear necessary. The latter proceeds by  repeating the blackmail of urgency that conveys fear and anxiety on a daily basis. Terrified, subjectivities are urged to abandon the theoretical moment, or rather leave it to the vetted experts, and hurl themselves into immediatism. Refusal of the world is transformed into refusal of thinking, into its delegation to someone else. But this entrenchment in immediacy, as a reproduction of what is already there, is only effective thanks to another more deeply rooted and long-lasting mobilization of affect. The latter is the work of a constant blackmail of the social, which calls for fear and hope “in their banal manifestation”: fear that everything will stop, and hope that it will continue as before. The same mechanism is at work when we see revolts put down by the insurgents themselves. Such speculation on fear through the now universally accepted prism of climate crisis, the responsibility of the species (the Anthropocene) and of capital (the Capitalocene), might allow us to envisage a transformation of capitalist relations — but not their end. The immediate (and apparently necessary) perspective to which political ecology subscribes prevents the emergence of any departure from the beaten track. Isn’t this fear really a deeper fear of the void and the unknown that clings to the urgency of a foretold situation (fear of war, of the bomb, of global warming…), only to flee from itself and dissolve into the only form that lends itself to it: the “ceremony of the problem”? Perhaps it’s not a question of denying fear, but rather of discovering what intimately triggers it. 

“Where the fear is, there you must leap.”

Translated by Shuli Branson

Images: Jacques Yvergniaux


1. “Political ecology has not yet come into being; we’ve simply joined the words ‘ecology’ and ‘political’ without totally rethinking them. Therefore, the difficulties the ecological movement has suffered up to this point don’t prove anything about past failures or their possible survival.” Bruno Latour, Politiques de la nature, La découverte, 2004, 11.

2. “I say ‘covers up’ [recouverte] and not ‘contains’ [englobée], because the two words don’t exactly take into account the process at work. Indeed, in the process of covering up, there is no Aufhebung, because the contradiction is pushed to the side (cf. supra my critique of Gibelin), such that there is no longer even a contradiction, or at least awareness of one. In covering up, the contradiction is somewhat hidden: it is no longer within reach of consciousness.” Jacques Guigou and Jacques Wajnsztejn, Dépassement ou englobement des contradictions ? La dialectique revisitée, L’harmattan, 2016, 115.

3. “The covered up contradictions are set aside by their non-contemporaneity, as if the question were not asked, as if it were hidden.” Guigou and Wajnsztejn, Dépassement.

4. The cosmotechnical bifurcation of capital was defined in Part I of the present text, entitled “Bifurcation in the Civilization of Capital”: “to consider the possibility of capital escaping the destruction announced by the realization of its substantification implies that it has managed, in one way or another, to curtail the original incoherence on which it was nevertheless built. Such a possibility implies a change of cosmotechnics on the part of capital, a metaphysical revolution. It is thus a question of thinking a revolutionary capital, not merely because it would have succeeded in escaping the old contradiction between labor and capital, but because it now struggles to escape the contradiction between nature and culture. In this way, capital would no longer produce ways of life as consequences of its domination, but would dominate precisely through the production of new ways of life. If we are serious about elaborating a genuinely offensive position capable of confronting this civilization, it is indispensable that we pay close attention to the actors in this bifurcation.” Online here.

5. J.W. Moore notably does this, despite a dialecticization of the relationship capital-nature, when he keeps thinking in terms of the law of value. To the “substance” of value—classically abstract labor—he adds a law of “cheap” nature. He therefore can only propose a new world government finally able to sort the wheat from the chaff as a way out of the underproduction crisis he describes. In this respect, even if it seems to co-produce capital, political ecology is simply an economization of nature, still understood as a real and concrete outside.

6. Despite a fundamental disagreement with him, I am implicitly treating Bruno Latour’s thought as more “subtle” and pertinent than someone like Malm who, in his book The Progress of this Storm, clumsily debates the very existence of “nature.”

7. Jacques Camatte, “Errance de l’humanité,” Invariance, série II, n°3, 1973, 4. Published in English as “The Wandering of Humanity,” trans. Fredy Perlman (Black & Red, 1975). Online here.

8. Camatte, “The Wandering of Humanity”: “In the era of its real domination, capital has run away (as the cyberneticians put it), it has escaped. It is no longer controlled by human beings. (Human beings in the form of proletarians might, at least passively, represent a barrier to capital.) It is no longer limited by nature. Certain production processes carried out over periods of time lead to clashes with natural barriers: increases in the number of human beings, the destruction of nature, pollution. But these barriers cannot be theoretically regarded as barriers which capital cannot supersede.” 

9. Jacques Camatte later theorized the idea of the potential death of capital. A first version is found in the article, “The Echo of Its Time,” but developed more fully in the article of Series V, “The Potential Death of Capital,” December 2001. “The potential death of capital asserts: 1. A major rejection of capitalization, thus the importance of people’s actions. 2. The end of the capital process, with the exhaustion of the possibilities that it contained. Finally, it asserts the need to perceive this death in order to be able to undertake another dynamic of life.”  

10. In the classic process of valuation (in the sphere of fictitious capital) there is only rating and the rate itself; there is no negative rating. Moreover, the process of valorization does not on the whole express negative value, except in the form of debt (a negatively negative value, a lack). 

11. “Capitalist production, therefore, of itself reproduces the separation between labor-power and the means of labor. It thereby reproduces and perpetuates the condition for exploiting the laborer. It incessantly forces him to sell his labor-power in order to live, and enables the capitalist to purchase labor-power in order that he may enrich himself. It is no longer a mere accident that capitalist and laborer confront each other in the market as buyer and seller. It is the process itself that incessantly hurls back [le double moulinet in French] the laborer on to the market as a vendor of his labor-power, and that incessantly converts his own product into a means by which another man can purchase him. In reality, the laborer belongs to capital before he has sold himself to capital. His economic bondage is both brought about and concealed by the periodic sale of himself, by his change of masters, and by the oscillations in the market-price of labor-power.” Karl Mark, Capital, Book 1, Part 7, Chapter 23. Online here.

12. This recalls the phrase attributed to the American Marxist Frederic Jameson: “it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”

13. “In this containment or encompassing [englobement], the relationship between two opposing poles is a contradictory relationship that is highly conflictual. In their struggle, the two sides attempt to mutually negate one another; there is a reciprocity between two particularities, but a negative one, bearing a non-universal generality in which the old particularities tend to be unified. When the unity of the old contradiction appears, it is no longer a simple formal unity of opposites because the very process of containment entails a reassembling of elements heretofore separated, a co-dynamization of potentials that have lost their opposing force. In the politically more powerful containment,  there is an absorption of a dialectical contradiction, and the two opposites come out altered, transformed from this absorption.” Guigou and Wajnsztejn, Dépassement, 33.

14. “Containing through the coexistence of opposites occurs over time, or gradually, by generating two opposite values, two contrary movements, two phenomena hitherto irreconcilable simultaneously, without one of the opposites gaining hold over the other: there is co-presence and co-activity.” Guigou and Wajnsztejn, Dépassement.

15. “So where is external nature now? It’s right there, carefully naturalized, i.e. socialized, in the very heart of the expanding collective.” Latour, Politiques de la nature, 177

16. Gwendoline Jarzykand and Pierre-Jean Labarriere, De Kojève à Hegel. 150 ans de pensée hégélienne en France, Albin Michel, 1996, 14.

17. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A.V. Miller, 802, 488: “Until Spirit has completed itself in itself, until it has completed itself as world-Spirit, it cannot reach its consummation as self-conscious Spirit.” 

18. In his essay, “The Strategy of Separation,” Michele Garau points to an absolutely necessary reflection on the idea of revolution. Following the idea of “capital revolution” as developed by Temps Critiques, and following Jacques Camatte’s “The Integrated Revolution,” we might also question the relevance of even continuing to use this word. Can we refuse the world without imagining revolution?