Accepted Paper:

Beyond proaction and precaution: nondualist ontologies and the reframing of future   


Luigi Pellizzoni (University of Pisa)

Paper short abstract:

The paper addresses an emergent approach to future based on nondualist ontologies, showing how the emancipatory import usually ascribed to the latter is unwarranted and how the classic proaction/precaution opposition is replaced by a new scientifically and politically pre-emptive polarity.

Paper long abstract:

Future, we know, retroacts on the present. Anticipations and visions produce results now, affecting what will actually be. This performative effect has been usually understood according to traditional accounts of the human subject and the world, by which knowledge allows the former to impinge on the latter, neither of them being completely plastic. Yet, a different view is gaining relevance, by which the agent can unlimitedly remould itself together with its own task environment. Any ontological 'thickness' vanishes, and the distinction between subject and object, actuality and desire, reality and will, future as extension of the present and as an unforeseeable state, lose any operational meaning. STS appears generally ill-equipped to make sense of this, to the extent that it buys into post-humanist and new materialist assumptions about the emancipatory implications of ontologies of difference and becoming, despite plenty of evidence (from biotech to geoengineering, to human enhancement) testifying how these can underpin unprecedented dominative thrusts.

To contribute to a more mature reflection the paper will address some implications of nondualist ontologies as a specific governmentality of the future. More precisely, its task is twofold: first, to examine how the classic polarity between proaction and precaution is being replaced by a new polarity (for which a name will be proposed), exemplified by the Breakthrough Institute's position and 'anticipatory governance' approaches, that pre-empts proper scientific analysis and actual political deliberation. Second, to ask which sort of reply (at scholarly and social level) may hope to be effective against this emergent governmentality.

Panel T028
Futures in the making and re-making