Beyond technofix: Thinking with Epimetheus in the Anthropocene

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Abstract

The Prometheus myth has long now provided inspiration for those who envision solutions to environmental issues. Prometheus is the figure par excellence of human forethought and progress in the anthropocene. In this article, we introduce the concept of ambient Prometheanism to describe the way of thinking that foregrounds foresight and anticipation and advances technological solutions developed by capital and energy-intensive projects. We question this stance, arguing that ambient Prometheanism, with its emphasis on technofix, leads to the economisation and depoliticisation of planetary environmental issues. Following Bernard Stiegler, we recover from the myth the figure of Epimetheus, Prometheus’ brother, as well as his associated faculty, epimetheia to theorise what we call an ‘Epimethean politics’. Thinking the anthropocene from the perspective of ambient Prometheanism and Epimetheanism means to consider the role of technology in climate politics, and in particular to make the case for the importance of afterthought in face of unintended consequences and accumulated errors. To substantiate our argument, we outline the challenge posed by emerging solutions focussed on technological intensification (geoengineering) and socio-economic acceleration (green growth and accelerationism). An Epimethean politics of the climate requires to use reflexivity as a capacity to anticipate, but also to mobilise epimetheia to account for accidents and past mistakes. Such a politics builds from an alternative conception of technology, one that radically differs from ambient Prometheanism. Finally we read as actualisations of Epimethean politics contemporary eco-political struggles and their imperatives for multispecies living and convivial livelihoods.
Original languageEnglish
JournalContemporary Political Theory
Early online date9 Sep 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Sep 2021

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