ABSTRACT

Postmodern culture is characterized by a suspicion of coherence, and through the attacks upon it by Nietzsche, Heidegger and the poststructuralists, no intellectual endeavour has come under more suspicion than metaphysics. This suspicion has generated important insights into the root cause of the oppressive tendencies and environmental destructiveness of European civilization. Most importantly it has revealed how the postulation and celebration as the true reality of an eternal, rational order of being behind, and the cause of, the changing world of sense experience, that is, onto-theology, has engendered a conception of the world as an aggregate of things to be subjugated and controlled. Poststructuralists have also shown that traditional Marxism shares many of the assumptions of the dominant culture, and this has vitiated efforts by Marxists to overcome the oppressiveness of capitalism. However, the environmental crisis reveals just how misguided is the poststructuralists’ ‘magical assumption that the fragmentation of knowledge will somehow break the grip of the object of knowledge’.1 Unless they pave the way for some alternative way of achieving a comprehensive understanding of the world, poststructuralist cultural critiques will merely dissolve the opposition to mainstream culture, leaving no alternative to the forms of thinking which have engendered the rise of Western civilization, its conquests and its domination of the rest of the world, and the outcome of all this, the destruction of the global environment. While Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the rhizome offers some promise of a new way of grasping problems, this needs to be far more developed before it can provide an effective orientation to the global environmental crisis. Alternatively, a revised form of Marxism, taking up themes in Marx’s own writings, which was developed in the early years of the Russian revolution by Bogdanov and those influenced by him, but which was suppressed as the Soviet Union rose to challenge the hegemony of capitalism, could provide the answer. But to work out how to avoid those aspects in Marxism which enabled it to function as an oppressive ideology of an even more environmentally destructive economic order than capitalism, to work out what is salvageable from the works of Marx and the Marxists, requires some reference point which can put such issues in perspective. What is required is a ‘postmodern metaphysics’.