Toward a politics of ontological plurality: a critical evaluation of Bruno Latour’s proposal for a cosmopolitics

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A long-standing critique on the modern concept of nature has been integral to intellectual responses to the ecological crisis. This article examines the specific interest for a plurality in ontology as part of a counter narrative for modernity. Latour’s work on the politics of nature, a cosmopolitics of which the aim is to construct a common world, is highly relevant in this conceptual landscape. However, I argue that his project cannot do justice to the ontological plurality advocated for by decolonizing thinkers such as Blaser, de la Cadena and Escobar. In his reconceptualization of the common world outside a concept of nature, Latour struggles with recognizing differences and related power disbalances. These limits of the common world are in this article related to the ambiguous character of Latourian cosmopolitics: whether it is a normative or descriptive project plus whether there is one or they are multiple worlds. Latour’s own ontological commitments in particular make his cosmopolitical project antithetical to the ontological plurality of concern to decolonial thinkers. Lastly, ontological plurality has a distinct political significance because plural worlds connect to livelihoods and ways of living in danger of being erased, and this political aspect remains neglected in Latourian cosmopolitics. This article thus contends that Latourian cosmopolitics cannot be a politics of ontological plurality.
Faculteit der Filosofie, Theologie en Religiewetenschappen