In defence of humans

Thanks Diane Davis and Malgosia for your replies. Ta also to Bryan
Palmer and Greg Coolidge who I think have made
some very good points about the possibly flawed
underlying world-views of post-humanists, and the tricky
issue about applying all of this to some (pragmatic) attempt at
social change: Bryan, I am in the same position as you. IMHO, the
struggle is not helped by an increasingly alienated academic
community and an increasingly ritualised academic discourse. I
thought the "ultra-conservative" quotes made this point well...

I want to illustrate my disaffection with post-humanist
thought with a couple of examples. Diane wrote:
> Foucault was an outspoken
> critic of humanism b/c such a thought...a thought that puts the "human" (but
> who's?) at the center of all our contemplations...has a tendency to NOT value
> "all." It has a tendency to value a very select constituency. (Note, please,
> colin's post earlier.)
Mmm perhaps. But if I may, I still think the alternative is even
worse. Take one avenue of post-humanism - deep
ecology. The basic idea here is that we topple humans from the
centrality of political and social concerns. This is replaced with an
ecocentric belief of an eco-system which has a limited carrying
capacity. But as Steve Bushell said, "these ideas originate in
the same science which developed the capitalist technology
responsible for the irreversible simplification of the world -
the root of the present ecological crisis. The problem is compounded
when the notion of carrying capacity is presented as the yardstick by
which the constraints on human activity will be established.
First, it retains a very humanist faith in the ability of scientists
to measure and predict nature. Further, the idea could quite
easily slip into the role of a new disciplinary ideology of the
international ruling class."

Diane also said,
> Nancy describes a community that is not made up of self-determined subjects nor
> on the hope for transcendence or human immanence...
> The members of a posthumanist community, Nancy suggests, find
> communion across the exposition (exposing) of their own finitude: an unsharable
> finitude, rather than an affinity of infinity or a communion of immanance,
> becomes the very condition for commonality in Nancy. This community is about a
> sharing out among Singularities--Daseins MADE UP OF loose ends that will never
> be connected up. Community happens not across commonalities or working for some
> projected goal together but across the re-cognition that there is no
> commonality to be MADE...that community is precisely what we cannot MAKE.
Well let's take the example of another post-humanist community:

"Cyberculture has all the makings of the perfect
religion for the current stage of capitalism. It offers its members
the smug self-satisfaction of being an elite at the cutting edge,
ahead of the pack, while mouthing ostensibly anti-elitist statements.
It contains the distilled essence of classical modernist
progressivism: a single formula positing a past/present/future
according to which a technologically determined super-reality is
evolving itself, and us, into something wholly new, amazing and
irresistible. Mike Peters:

"All the ideological blather accumulated over two centuries by the
word 'human' has been fixed fast by the hardening spray of
academicism. It takes an extremely academicised mind to be able to
train oneself to not understand what everyone else cannot fail to
know, and what academics themselves, with breathtaking hypocrisy,
know full well in everyday practice. But "academic" practices, by
definition, exclude the very possibility of correction by "common
sense". Step out into the night for just a moment, and it all

"The negative connotations associated with the word "humanism" derive
ultimately from the structuralist ideology which captured theory in
the 70s and was retained intact in the post-structuralist turn of the
80s. These connotations have passed onto the word human itself, and
the upshot is that human beings are now understood by those who think
of themselves as the most radical, subversive thinkers around, to be

"Just because capitalists, ideologues, priests and revolutionaries
have foisted rigid identities upon what it is to be human, does not
mean that there is nothing to being human. If that one remaining
intuitive allegiance goes, nothing stands in the way of a total and
habitual warfare of everyday life."

So - either post-humanists really do mean what they say, in which
case they are in danger of abolishing our basic need to be human, or
the posties are in fact screwed up humanists in disguise!!


Colin Dey
Centre for Social & Environmental Accounting Research
University of Dundee, Scotland


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