Bruno Latour: “Ecology is the new class struggle”

By Nicolas Truong

Posted today at 3:20 p.m.

Sociologist and anthropologist of science and technology, Bruno Latour is associate professor emeritus at the médialab and at the School of political arts of Science Po. He is also one of the most read, listened to and translated French philosophers in the world. His thinking on the “new climate regime”, notably developed in Facing Gaia (2015), influences a whole new generation of intellectuals, artists and activists concerned with remedying the ecological disaster. On January 6, 2022, with the Danish sociologist Nikolaj Schultz, he will publish, with La Découverte editions, Memo on the new ecological class. In preview, he tackles for The world the reasons and the driving forces behind the geosocial conflicts unfolding today, and explains how a “New ecological class” could win the battle of ideas.

The reports of scientists on global warming are increasingly alarming, and contemporaries now have the intimate experience of the destruction of the biosphere. And yet, no meaningful decision has been taken to deal with this well-documented disaster. How to explain the enigma of this inaction? And why do you think it is necessary to declare “a generalized state of war”?

At the same time, everyone is on the alert on these issues. It’s just that we don’t know who to fight against. I recognize that “war” is a dangerous word, but to speak of “state of war” is to get out of a state of false peace, as if we could make the “transition” to a carbon-free society without draw lines of conflict. But the problem, of course, is that the definition of camps and fronts of struggle is not easy. Look at the battles over vaccination against Covid-19, which is ultimately a simple case if you compare it to the battles that will have to be fought to address the slightest change in lifestyles. In Paris, you can’t even prevent cafes from heating up the air without a revolt from bistros and smokers!

What are the new class conflicts emerging today? And how are they geosocial?

“Geosocial” is there to say that we will have to add to all the, say, classic definitions of class oppositions, anchoring in the territory and in the material conditions of life or even survival. Territory, be careful, I don’t take it as a place, but as the list of everything that allows you to subsist. It is not geograhic but, if you will, ethological. It is a way of forcing the analysis of classes to be rematerialized and therefore to enhance the understanding of inequalities. This is the lesson I draw from “yellow vests”: the car, roundabouts, gasoline, mobility, housing anchor conflicts and force to extend what is called “material inequalities”.

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Bruno Latour: “Ecology is the new class struggle”