Lhe means of reconciling sociology and economics remain the subject of many questions. The COP27 meetings have just provided a new opportunity to spread the stories of companies that have become aware of global risks. But this reassuring discourse is constantly contradicted by an avalanche of facts; let us recall some of them in the news of recent months.
Orpea, celebrated until 2021 for its ethical exemplarity in the sector ranking of The Express, emerged in 2022 as a group seriously challenging the human rights of its residents; Emmanuel Fabert, CEO of Danone, who had legitimized himself by the choice of the company with a mission, was dismissed by his shareholders; Total, which asserts the extent of its commitments in terms of social responsibility, has been challenged in its investments in Russia (The world of August 24, 2022), as in Uganda (tribune of the World September 10, 2022) or in Tanzania (Friends of the Earth and Survival report cited in The world of October 5, 2022).
The situation is therefore too serious to rely on the good will of the leaders, especially since the collusion between economic and political elites maintains inaction in the face of climate change. It is indeed the very dynamics of contemporary capitalism that is in question. Reconnecting with a critique of it is therefore essential to break the impasse, but to be convincing, the critique must articulate the ecological and social dimensions.
Overcome the ecological and social opposition
However, the interdependence between these two dimensions, while crucial, is not easy to deal with. The news regularly reminds us of this. The “yellow vests” have shown it: an ecological policy is doomed to failure if it does not take into account its social consequences; conversely, a short-sighted policy of subsidizing fossil fuels can only reinforce climate problems in the medium term. The difficulties in linking the two issues are illustrated by the controversy between Bruno Latour and Jürgen Habermas.
The first criticizes the second for only focusing on communication and intersubjectivity, thus neglecting the interdependencies with the material world and techniques. However, conversely, considering ecology as “the new class struggle” (The world of December 10, 2021) can induce a neglect of inequalities and injustices borrowing from other registers.
This disagreement on the priorities between the two great intellectuals underlines that the separation of ecology and the social is deeply rooted in the break between nature and culture inherited from classical science. But the parties tend to elude the arduous nature of overcoming it. The “social-ecology” Where “eco-socialism” cannot be decreed, any more than they can be reduced to a few measures in an electoral programme. They require the opening of a vast process of reflection.
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