This roundtable seeks to thematize alternative conceptions of the relation between animality, nature, happiness and politics by exploring notions of the common and eternal life in light of Franciscan theory and earth law.
The return of Franciscanism in contemporary high theory (Negri, Agamben) is not surprising coming in the age of the Anthropocene, whose intractable problems (from climate change to global financial crises to pandemics) are conditioned by two factors against which Francis’s ideal of “Highest Poverty” was protesting: first, the fact that our economic and legal frameworks are organized around subjective or individual rights that immunize the individual against demands formulated in terms of the common (Esposito); and, second, because the “pursuit of happiness” has been reduced to the expression of “private” or “individual” preferences organized by spontaneous orders or networks (Hayek). The Franciscan ideal of “Highest Poverty” put into question the path to “eternal life” offered by the Roman Church by calling for a return of human “civilization” back to a state of nature that is better prefigured by animal forms of life in relation to the whole of Nature. Something not unrelated to what the new wave of Earthlaw is attempting to achieve. This neo-Franciscan view of the “earthly paradise,” and its ideal of worldly happiness, is obviously quite different from the “possessive individualism” of liberal conceptions of the state of nature in Hobbes and Locke, where the “animality” of human beings required taming in “policed” civil societies. Nowadays, in the social sciences and in policy studies, as well as in the recent emergence of a new science of happiness, many think that the solution of such Anthropocene-specific problems turns around the conception of “resilient life.” This roundtable seeks to thematize alternative conceptions of the relation between animality, nature, happiness and politics.