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The context of advanced capitalism

In a recorded interview for the Open University, Rosi Braidotti (2014) offers a Deleuzian analysis of advanced capitalism that is useful for our positioning in relation to the many valid critiques of the concept of sustainability. Braidotti states that advanced capitalism is a continuous process ontology that codes and recodes existing rules that construct our socioeconomic sphere. We cannot simply use the existing language of universities, which is still based in logic and a linear sequence of cause and effect, to understand and intervene in this process because advanced capitalism does not work like that. Advanced capitalism is untroubled by its internal self-contradictions, changes the rules with perfect equanimity and does not account for anything other than immediate profit.

Advanced capitalism produces subjectivities in which difference is capitalised upon and valued only in terms of creating new markets. Difference itself is subsumed into the market economy, disconnected from the liberatory potential of making a difference in the world. Advanced capitalism has sucked in, assimilated and transformed the very subject that would have been expected to be the factor of difference. Not only has advanced capitalism subsumed human subjectivities but it has crossed all kinds of borders, absorbing 'animals, seeds, plants, and the earth as a whole' into the market. 'Seeds, cells and genetic codes', all of our basic earth others, everything that lives, has become controlled, commercialised and commodified (Braidotti, 2014, n.p.n.).

How can we begin to think in transformative terms under advanced capitalism? Braidotti believes the 'transformative gesture is seldom the spectacular and it is never the individual solitary gesture, it is a collective activity' (Braidotti, 2014, n.p.n.). The prototype of this model of action is adapted from classical forms of the politics of location, a consciousness-raising about the place where we are speaking from, of our particular role in the scheme of things. We need a more detailed and accurate account of the subjectivities we are constructing, and to work together to transform these through conversation. Braidotti calls for a rethinking of our relationship to both living and dying. The living needs to encompass all of our earth others and everything on which they are dependent for their continued wellbeing. A reconceptualisation of dying is inevitable when we begin to contemplate the systematic depletion of all life forms on earth.

Consumption, which is at the heart of advanced capitalism, is dependent on a notion of desire as lack, a desire that is easily constituted within market forces. Braidotti recommends that we rethink the Lacanian notion of desire as lack within the politics of consumption, and begin to conceive of desire as positivity, informed by the philosophy of Deleuze and Spinoza. Desire could be understood as plenitude, as giving and sharing, for instance sadness or happiness, desiring in the mode of sharing and not acquiring. We could desire clean air, clean water, rather than things that we only need in order to confirm our place in a social order that is striated along lines of captivity. These alternative forms of desire, she says, are identifiable in many movements, notably outside of the West, in indigenous land rights, water rights and in the plea to 'leave me my trees'.

 
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