Critique in a World in Survival

#WR2050 2 / June 2020

Author: Jan Pospisil, head of research at the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict

How will critique look like in World relations in 2050? The political dimension of critique might have targeted the new global inequalities of movement, introduced by a climate emergency regime that has emerged in increasing rigidity over the past three decades. The emergency regimes established in virtually all parts of the ‘West’ have, after fierce but by now sustainably decided political contestation, forbidden all but essential air travel. The ‘essential travel’ control has created a small de-facto-Nomenklatura of authorised travellers and a vast majority of the population that is limited to a personalised small amount of (highly expensive) air miles per year. Further restrictions and ‘ecological taxation’-regimes put in place by climate emergency legislation have resulted in severe economic decline and galloping inflation. A decade ago, an ever stronger migration movement from the West into more prosperous ‘climate obstructer’ countries in the East, especially into China and South-East Asia, have resulted in severe global migration control and border closures. ‘Westerners’ are not welcome anymore in the new centres of World economy, not even as cheap labour. The World appears divided with very few links in between – with travel economic links reduced and cut, and socio-cultural bonds all but vanished.

In a World not de-globalised but now divided by globalisation, critique has turned inwards. Has the human played God in the hubristic attempt to overcome itself? Was the attempt of ecologically regulating the Anthropocene not post-human but ultra-human? Has the popular and thus political belief in ‘science’ created a dystopian ethics that, in turn, has produced dystopia? Critique, by that point, might have gone full circle. It may have rediscovered the ideas of romanticism, bringing subjectivity back as a humanist perspective put against the reasoned and tempered post-human who has withdrawn from societal life to safeguard the planet from her- and himself. From the ruins of post-critique, which has long turned into the ideological foundation of ecological totalitarianism, critique might have abandoned ‘science’ by this point. It might have become artistic, even orgiastic, aiming to assault scientific reasoning and its dire political consequences.

After all, critique is what remains after life has been surrendered for the alleged duty of planetary survival. However, it is rendered morally inappropriate by the ecologically conscious political mainstream. How can humans dare to live in the face of global catastrophe? It is at this juncture that critique has rediscovered the human as a subject, in an attempt to turn the ends of morality into the end of morality. The rebellion against societal and planetary design, against the categorical sacrifice in favour of future potentialities is small. But it is growing rapidly. It took critique three decades of abyss to understand and embrace that humanism cannot coexist with solidarity – it is the exact opposite of that. The rediscovery of life in the mud of planetary emergencies still proves to be difficult and full of obstacles. Yet, in the face of fundamental challenges critique has opted to go radical. It has, finally, decided that there is no point in survival.