Prometheus and Gaia

Prometheus and Gaia

Technology, Ecology and Anti-Humanism

By Harrison Fluss & Landon Frim

Anthem Series on Politics and Society After Work

Prometheus and Gaia explores two currents in contemporary politics: a Futurism which sees boundless technology as a salvific force and an Eco-Pessimism which sees human innovation as inherently destructive. While apparent opposites, these two currents share in common a rejection of Enlightenment humanism, or the idea that politics should fit the human frame.

PDF, 188 Pages

ISBN:9781839980190

February 2022

£25.00, $40.00

EPUB, 188 Pages

ISBN:9781839980206

February 2022

£25.00, $40.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
  • Links
  • Podcasts

About This Book

Prometheus and Gaia examines the ideological currents known as Futurism and Eco-Pessimism. While these tendencies are rarely spoken about explicitly, especially in mainstream discourse, they do have strong (if subterranean) influences on today’s popular politics. In light of the existential threats posed by climate change, nuclear proliferation, disruptive technologies (especially bioengineering and AI) and looming economic crises, many have grown weary of the “small fixes” offered by conventional politicians. Worsening climate change, to take one example, appears to be a problem that “reducing, reusing, and recycling,” or non-binding treaties, are inadequate to remedy. Likewise, perennial economic crises seem too large and too systemic a threat compared to the moderate “fixes” of quantitative easing and government bailouts. If the system, itself, is the problem, then some radical change appears necessary. 

Here, two styles of thought emerge to challenge the status quo: The Futurist sees in existential threats just so many symptoms of a disconnect. This is the widening chasm between a dynamic and ever-accelerating technology, on the one hand, and an all-too static conception of human nature and human society, on the other. Their solution is to fully embrace the disruptive and anarchic powers of technology, and to leave the human as we know it behind, as nothing more than a parochial relic. The Eco-Pessimist instead sees technological development as the problem. The need to dominate nature, and our spoiling the planet, is the proximate cause of our contemporary crises. Their solution is to chastise human consumption, egoism and instrumental reason as destructive of a holistic, planetary balance.

What these two ideologies have in common is a strident anti-humanism. Each, in their own way, subordinates human welfare and reason to some alien “other.” This common anti-humanism is, in some respects, more important than the specific “other” that they designate—whether this be an anarchic nature or a dynamic technology. In both cases, what stands above humanity is valorized as an object of adoration rather than true understanding or comprehension. This need for radical transcendence beyond the human masquerades as a new form of politics; in fact it is a pre-modern and counter-Enlightenment tendency. Prometheus and Gaia seeks to uncover and demystify this strange coincidence of opposites, and goes on to make the positive case for a humanistic rationalism.

Reviews

“This is a visionary work that illuminates a new way of thinking through our relationship with nature, technology and with each other. Fluss and Frim propose an ethics and politics that is both humane and rational, skewering the intellectual fads that dominate academic and popular debates. Tumultuous as it is original, this book defends an enlightened view of progress amid our current ecological crisis. It is as brilliant as it is timely.”—Michael J. Thompson, William Paterson University, US

“In the extremes of contemporary eco-politics, earth-first Gaians and technophilic Prometheans are thought to occupy enemy camps. But Fluss and Frimm show them to be two sides of the same misanthropic coin. This cajoling, hard-hitting, judicious mastery of every byway of today’s eco debates is remarkable, and takes a surprising turn. Humanism, it turns out – not blustery scientism or praying for nature’s revenge – proves to be the best weapon in the arsenal of those serious about saving the world.”—Timothy Brennan, University of Minnesota, US

“Facing climate crisis, too many intellectuals are giving in to what might be termed ‘anthropessimism.’ Fluss and Frim reject this dead end, offering instead a rousing, engagingly-argued and much-needed defense of the Enlightenment, human reason – and of course, human beings! With infectious enthusiasm, these astute scholars use deep readings of ancient mythology and philosophy to guide us into a more hopeful future.” —Liza Featherstone, columnist, Jacobin and New Republic magazines

“Confronting the climate crisis requires confronting an intimidating array of practical challenges but it also requires thinking fundamentally about humanity's relationship with nature. The apparently opposed temptations of domination of nature or humble submission to it are two sides of the same bad coin, Fluss and Frim argue. Both accelerationism and eco-pessimism, approaches with deep historical roots, share an underlying misanthropy and fatalism. Fluss and Frim propose instead the rehabilitation of an unfashionable concept, a revolutionary humanist rationalism. Complex and rigorous but nonetheless clear and even charming, Prometheus and Gaia offers us a way out of all this doom.” —Doug Henwood, economic journalist and host of “Behind the News,” a radio show broadcast on KPFA, Berkeley, US

“This book should be of interest to anyone who wants to understand how patterns of thought, even those that are seemingly liberal or progressive, can lend themselves to anti-democratic thinking. Written in a clear, accessible, and frequently polemical style, Prometheus and Gaia demonstrates how easy it is for authoritarian thinking to make its way into popular attitudes toward technology and nature in late capitalism. In response to the many crises of the era, accelerationism and eco-pessimism have each emerged to offer humanity a way forward. Fluss and Frim offer us good reason to pause at the guidance that each offers. As they make clear, for both accelerationism and eco-pessimism, the way forward is the abdication of reason and of the ability to reason about general human welfare. Fluss and Frim make clear that there is little to gain from such proposals and much to lose.”—Carolyn Culbertson, Florida Gulf Coast University, US

“Prometheus and Gaia radically transform the current debate on technology and ecology by bringing down a plague on both the houses of those who celebrate the embrace of technology and those who claim to protect the sacred earth. Beneath the apparent conflicts and rivalries between these positions, identified with the mythological figures of Promethean ambition and Gaian humility, Fluss and Frim identify a common distrust of humanity and rational thought. Instead of embracing monstrous mythic images that stress human weakness, they argue the solution to our contemporary crises lies in a rational thinking of nature and humanity. This impassioned plea for reason goes beyond the limits of present thinking by expanding our thought to care for all of nature through a universal politics of solidarity”.—Benjamin Noys, University of Chichester, UK

Author Information

Harrison Fluss is a philosophy and political science lecturer in New York City and a corresponding editor for Historical Materialism. His writing has appeared in Jacobin Magazine and the New Republic.

Landon Frim is an assistant professor of philosophy at Florida Gulf Coast University, USA. His research focuses on the Enlightenment rationalism of Baruch Spinoza and its implications for contemporary politics.

Series

Anthem Series on Politics and Society After Work

Table of Contents

Introduction: Fear and Loathing in the Twenty- First Century; 1. Prometheus and Gaia; 2. Accelerationism; 3. Eco-Pessimism; 4. Coincidence of Opposites; Epilogue: Beyond the Void; Index.

Links

No Podcasts for this title.

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