This Read & Record episode features a selection of chapters from Isabelle Stengers’ 2015 book In catastrophic times: Resisting the coming barbarism. The book was translated from French to English by Andrew Goffey and published by Open Humanities Press in 2015.
In Catastrophic Times offers a welcome intervention into the current state of global political impasses and ecological catastrophe by outlining the cumulative impacts of global warming as a series of crises that will not “pass” before everything goes back to “normal.” As Stengers outlines through various examples—pollution, the poison of pesticides, the exhaustion of natural resources, falling water tables, growing social inequalities—the possibility of a global climate crisis is now upon us, in turn requiring new strategies and tactical experiments that are capable of seizing environmental issues and sociotechnical problems as political questions in order to resist the ‘coming barbarism’.
“The epoch has changed: fifty years ago, when the grand perspectives on technico-scientific innovation were synonymous with progress, it would have been quasi-inconceivable not to turn with confidence to the scientists and technologists, not to expect from them the solution to problems that concern the development they have been so proud to be the motor of. But here too – even if it is less evident – confidence has also been profoundly shaken. It is not in the least bit ensured that the sciences, such as we know them at least, are equipped to respond to the threats of the future. Rather, with what is called the “knowledge economy,” it is relatively assured that the answers that the scientists will not fail to propose will not allow us to avoid barbarism” (Stengers, 2015, p. 29).
The full book is available to download for free online. Open Humanities Press (or OHP) is an international community of scholars, editors and readers with a focus on critical and cultural theory. By partnering with a number of groups and institutions, OHP acts on the principles of access, scholarship, diversity and transparency in order to explore grass-roots solutions to the crisis in Humanities publishing.
Reference: Stengers, Isabelle. (2015). In catastrophic times: Resisting the coming barbarism. (A. Goffey., Trans.) London: Open Humanities Press.