Guatarri’s The Three Ecologies relentlessly and poignantly challenges our simple conception of ecology. It creates a multi-dimensioinal definition of the concept, expanding the scope to now encompass mental ecology, social ecology, and of course, environmental ecology, with an ecosophical perspective on our conception of subjectivity.
In fact, Guatarri completely denounces the clear-cut definitions separating ecology with everything but human activities; instead, he believes in coining the studies of ecology as “ecosophy”—the study of the theoretical, ethicopolitical, aesthetic—beyond the purely environmental, biological, and occasionally the political. The insightful redefinition of ecology itself offers a new vision for humans to perceive the world and the problems within.
Offering the alternative definition of ecology that goes beyond “being a discipline of refolding on interiority, or a simple renewal of earlier forms of ‘militancy’,” Guatarri calls for “a multifaceted movement” that reconstructs the human subjectivity previously destructed by capitalism and mass media creations of a singular subjectivity, a universal law, and a single scientific paradigm.
Guatarri’s definition of ecology is a radical one, and it essentially reshapes our approach to problems plaguing humanity from connecting the roots of the problems into one discipline that entails multiple interactive agencies. He writes, “Ecology must stop being associated with the image of a small nature-loving minority or with qualified specialists. Ecology in my sense questions the whole of subjectivity and capitalistic power formations, whose sweeping progress cannot be guaranteed to continue as it has for the past decade.”
Guatarri sees the human struggle from a unique lens, and he identifies the accumulation of capitals and the brainwashing mass media productions as the culprits, connecting the conventional domains of ecology to social justice and humanity at large.
Guatarri points out the current dilemma of the paradoxical role of technoscientific means: while explorations in the scientific realm could potentially alleviate environmental problems, the advancements are destructing the very subjectivity that Guatarri advocates. The problem is a complex one: the deterioration of the environmentally ecological also means “the increasing deterioration of human relations with the socius, the psyche and ‘nature’”—something not simply “due to environmental and objective pollution” but because of the “certain incomprehension and fatalistic passivity towards these issues as a whole.” It is the perspective that we see these issues that Guatarri finds so troubling, and he is absolutely right.
In the book, Guatarri finds faults in structuralism and even postmodernism—paradigms that he believes has “accustomed us to a vision of the world drained of the significance of human interventions, embodied as they are in concrete politics and micropolitics.” Guatarri fears “the death of ideologies and the return to universal values”—especially when we approach environmental ecology, mental ecology, and social ecology. It is great paradigm that constantly divides “the Real into a number of discrete domains” that the book condemns.
Moreover, Guatarri challenges not only the simplified definition of ecology but also the perspective behind it. He calls for space for ambivalence and the enabling of the “singular, the exceptional, the rare.” It is not only his views on ecology but his belief system that offers inspirations.
Completely abdicating reductionalism and division, Guatarri endorses a more holistic approach as he compares the social world with the ecosystem—capitalistic forces as algae, and minority groups as dying species. In a way, the three ecologies are deeply intertwined: social relations live in the environmental, and in mental ecology, we find wisdom about the other two.
As Guatarri writes, “It is not only species that are becoming extinct but also the words, phrases, and gestures of human solidarity.” Environmental concerns also encourage us to look within us, and vice versa.
Ultimately writing for justice and equality, Guatarri speaks for the marginalized and condemns capitalism for its institutional harm, which has affected “the cultural texture of [the Third World’s] populations, its habitat, its immune systems, climate, etc.” In the end, our coexistence with the environment manifests the interconnected nature of social, mental, and environmental ecologies.
Guatarri goes as far as contextualizing the issue as one pertaining to the general rights of humanity at large, writing that “Territories and is concerned with intimate modes of being, the body, the environment or large contextual ensembles relating to ethnic groups, the nation, or even the general rights of humanity.”
The book does not just leave the readers in a hopeless state of confusion. Guatarri offers solutions, despite their abstract nature. He calls for the “massive reconstruction of social mechanisms,” the complete recreation of interdisciplinary approaches.
For social ecology to escape from the domination of powerful enterprises “hostile to any innovation, oppressing women, children and the marginalized,” it is “new social and aesthetic practices, new practices of the Self in relation to the other, to the foreign, the strange – a whole programme that seems far removed from current concerns” that we need.
Specifically, Guatarri lists three things as the key to breaking out of the current pitfall: a nascent subjectivity, a constantly mutating socius , and an environment in the process of being reinvented—all connected to one another in important ways.
Although Guatarri’s solutions purport to be abstract and idealistic, the new approaches that he advocates in The Three Ecologies will be a lasting wisdom to humanity.