As Jameson puts it in The Seeds of Time—in terms with some utility for exposing the ideology of Ferry's position—"It seems to be easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism" (xii).[ 11 ] What has happened, according to Jameson, is a sort of flip-flop of outside (nature) and inside (the economic, the social) under postmodernism, so that what was formerly "second nature" (the ideologically naturalized and reified economic and social relations of capitalism) has now become the first nature whose end it is impossible to imagine. Meanwhile, "ecology" has become what Jameson would call an "ideologeme" of postmodern culture, one which trades upon the concept of "nature"'s residual, modernist utopian charge, while reproducing the systemic logic of the postmodern itself.
Nature, Jameson writes, is surely "the strong final term and content of whatever essence or axiomatic . . . whatever limit or fate may be posited." In this sense, the end of nature "is surely the secret dream and longing" of postmodernism understood as the "cultural logic of late capitalism" (46). "Ecology," however, "is another matter entirely," Jameson writes; and what is at question is whether the "Nature" of postmodern ecology "is in any way to be thought of as somehow the same as that older 'nature' at whose domestication if not liquidation all Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thought so diligently worked" (47).
As Jameson remarks, very much to the point here—and one can't help but recall the expressed or residual misanthropy of some Deep Ecologists in this connection—is how concepts of nature are always inseparable from those of human nature. "A discipline necessarily directed toward the self and its desires and impulses; the learning of new habits of smallness, frugality, modesty, and the like; a kind of respect for otherness that sets a barrier to gratification"—all of these, Jameson reminds us, are "the ethical ideas and figures in terms of which new attitudes toward the individual and the collective self are proposed by (postmodern) ecology" (47). In Jameson's view, then, postmodern ecology of the sort we find in Deep Ecology exemplifies "a self-policing attitude," a "new style of restraint and ironic modesty and skepticism about the collective ambitions" of an earlier, modern "Promethean Utopianism" which was of a piece with revolutionary politics, and whose last gasp was the counter-culture movement of the sixties (48). In this light, the thou-shalt-not biocentrism of Deep Ecology is revealed to be of a piece with a broader "contemporary authoritarianism" in postmodern society—specifically in most of the parliamentary democracies, in which a "general pessimism, political apathy, the failure of the welfare state or of the various social democracies—all can be enlisted as causes in a general consent to the necessity for law-and-order regimes everywhere" (48). For Jameson, "Such regimes, which it may not be inappropriate to characterize as neo-Confucian . . . finally prove to be based on a renewed conception of human nature as something sinful and aggressive that demands to be held in check for its own good" (49).
I have dwelt at some length upon Jameson's analysis to underscore the point that there is a useful way and a not so useful way to make the point Ferry wants to make about the overly zealous holism and "anti-modernism" of contemporary environmentalism as exemplified by Deep Ecology. Like Ferry, Jameson is essentially a modernist, if a much more ambivalent and complicated one, and would defend the modernist Prometheanism necessary for political change in terms more welcome to Ferry than to those of Deep Ecologists. But Jameson's materialism and historicism provide precisely what is scrupulously avoided in Ferry's defense of liberal humanism: a conjugation of the relations between concepts such as democracy in civil society and the economic structures that materialize or prevent them. In that light, Jameson's analysis helps us ideologically locate not only the "new frugality" of contemporary environmentalism, but also the positive content, the material ground and effect, of what Ferry presents as the wholly negative, open-ended character of liberal humanism.
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