Bringing hope 'to crisis': crisis thinking, ethical action and social change

Amsler, Sarah (2010) Bringing hope 'to crisis': crisis thinking, ethical action and social change. In: Future ethics: climate change and political action. Continuum. ISBN 9781441139580

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Abstract

The spectre of ecological crisis now casts an urgent but oddly bearable shadow on everyday life. Many political activists and critical theorists still regard crisis as the basis for critique and as a precondition for radical social change, or at least a situation in which it might be made possible. This paper departs from this point to consider whether and how crisis thinking contributes to practices of affirmative critique and transformative social action in late-capitalist societies. I argue that different deployments of crisis thinking have different ‘affect-effects’ and consequences for ethical and political practice. Some work to mobilize political action through articulating a politics of fear, assuming that people take most responsibility for the future when they fear the alternatives. Other forms of crisis thinking work to heighten critical awareness by disrupting existential certainty, asserting an ‘ethics of ambiguity’ which assumes that the continuous production of uncertain futures is a fundamental part of the human condition (de Beauvoir, 2000). In this paper, I hope to illustrate that the first deployment of crisis thinking can easily justify the closing down of political debate, discouraging radical experimentation and critique for the sake of resolving problems in a timely and decisive way. The second approach to crisis thinking, on the other hand, has greater potential to enable intellectual and political alterity in everyday life.

Item Type:Book Section
Additional Information:The spectre of ecological crisis now casts an urgent but oddly bearable shadow on everyday life. Many political activists and critical theorists still regard crisis as the basis for critique and as a precondition for radical social change, or at least a situation in which it might be made possible. This paper departs from this point to consider whether and how crisis thinking contributes to practices of affirmative critique and transformative social action in late-capitalist societies. I argue that different deployments of crisis thinking have different ‘affect-effects’ and consequences for ethical and political practice. Some work to mobilize political action through articulating a politics of fear, assuming that people take most responsibility for the future when they fear the alternatives. Other forms of crisis thinking work to heighten critical awareness by disrupting existential certainty, asserting an ‘ethics of ambiguity’ which assumes that the continuous production of uncertain futures is a fundamental part of the human condition (de Beauvoir, 2000). In this paper, I hope to illustrate that the first deployment of crisis thinking can easily justify the closing down of political debate, discouraging radical experimentation and critique for the sake of resolving problems in a timely and decisive way. The second approach to crisis thinking, on the other hand, has greater potential to enable intellectual and political alterity in everyday life.
Keywords:crisis, critical theory, crisis thinking, climate change, ethics of ambiguity
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V540 Social Philosophy
L Social studies > L210 Political Theories
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Education
ID Code:4975
Deposited By: Sarah Amsler
Deposited On:29 Mar 2012 20:58
Last Modified:29 Mar 2012 20:58

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