This book is about the ecologies of everyday life. Those complex, sticky, but also open arrangements of bodies, objects, plants that make up daily existence. The multiple and interlocking lines of a long capitalist crisis disrupt their normal flow: sometimes, they open opportunities for transformation, sometimes else, they foreclose horizons of change. In contrast with approaches that respond to environmental crisis by advocating “sustainable lifestyles” and “responsible behaviours”, the argument proposed suggests that it is necessary to address the complex socio-material relationalities that constitute everyday ecologies. Beyond that, it argues for their politicisation, illuminating daily existence as embedded in capitalist relations of re/production. Combining political ecology and new materialist sensitivities, this book investigates the ways in which ecologically damaging logics are inscribed in everyday assemblages through their habitual rehearsal and libidinal hold. But it also points to how apparently banal acts of resistance embody and promote different logics, such as a logic of care and an ecological “aesth-ethics” of desire. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the North-East of Italy, this journey through the concrete matters and beings of daily life in crisis talks beyond this emplaced reality and dialogues with emerging forms of contestation and prefiguration that put socio-ecological reproduction at their centre. The socio-material relationalities encountered are read as part of, and resisting to, capitalist logics of exploitation, appropriation, waste. It emerges that everyday life is a key, if partly unnoticed, space of socio-ecological transformation.
Alice Dal Gobbo is assistant professor at the Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Trento
From the Introduction (pagg. 1-3)
“Everyday life ecologies have been part of debates around ecological crisis, climate change, and mitigation for a long time—albeit often under different names: behaviors, choices, practices, and meanings. At least since the idea that citizens should “do their bit” to “save the planet,” the banal daily practices that make up the existence of people, especially in advanced capitalist countries, have assumed a political, ethical, and even moral dimension (Butler 2010; Hobson 2002). Private actions have come to be understood as directly impacting not only on present ecosystems’ health but also on future generations’ environment. In the name of “sustainability,” subjects have been called to be mindful, alter their habits, “be responsible,” and choose the right products in the supermarket. The idea of “green” or “ecological” citizenship refers to this pursuit of the common good through everyday actions (Dobson 2003). … Emerging as a neoliberal governmental concern, the focus on daily practices is both problematic and extremely fruitful since it opens the opportunity for rethinking the politics of everyday life as all but a secluded sphere with no relevance to deeper societal transformation.
The way this book approaches everyday life ecologies is indebted to political ecology and part of social movement studies, with whom it shares the assumption that a change toward “sustainability”—or, better, an ecologically compatible, life-sustaining, socio-ecological organization—needs to start from a questioning of the capitalist organization of existence. Some of the categories that have guided the socio-ecological critique of capitalism, such as labor, value, reproduction, and care, will give form and substance to the overall argument. Yet, the empirical focus is on the often-disregarded, apparently banal, level of everyday life per se and not as a function of something else (e.g., the organization of labor, being part of a social movement). The emphasis on everyday life ecologies is key: the interest here is not so much on how individuals act, choose, behave, think, and so forth but rather on the material-semiotic assemblages that hold together humans and nonhumans, animals and things, and plants, and energies: open (but also repetitive) arrangements that make up daily life as concrete, iterative, endeavor.
In the context [of multiple crises], daily existence comes through as far more than a private uninteresting space outside of history, simply repeating itself in the cycles of days, months, and years that abstractly define its temporality. On the contrary, it is the sphere where history becomes concrete and where geopolitical events eventually become real, experienced on the nerves and skin of ordinary subjects (Highmore 2002). The latter painstakingly sustain existence under diverse—sometimes extreme—circumstances, find strategies, and make-do to respond to moments of crisis. They organize to collectively pursue trans- formative change in the face of systemic collapses (Bosi and Zamponi 2020). The theme of crisis well intersects with everyday life just because of this: as habitual experience and established assemblages are ruptured by multiple and intersecting crises, also the forms of the daily reproduction of existence are disrupted and questioned, together with the capitalist social relations of re/production that shape them.
One of the aims of this book is to show, through a close and resonant approach to everyday ecologies, how their “sustainability” changes throughout biographical trajectories of being in crisis. But the very use of the term “sustainability” calls for caution: extremely problematic and yet useful as a straightforward proxy for a socio-ecological organization capable of inhabiting planetary limits and of respecting the times of regeneration of the earth. The way this concept has been deployed to indicate the transformation of patterns of production, circulation, and consumption to maintain the capitalist economy going despite its own contradictions is far from the socially transformative ends that any such project should entail. But calling for “sustainability” might mean something very different: to sustain the overall reproduction of existence and to promote forms of social organization that are subjectively, collectively, more-than-humanly bearable, desirable, and enduring. This is the meaning in which “sustainability” will be used in this book, one to which the dimension of “resistance” is integral, for sustaining life also means—in one way or another—going against capitalist damaging relations. This does not necessarily need to be articulated as an explicitly political project: many everyday life practices of care and reparation are guided by logics other than that of infinite accumulation via exploitation and appropriation but without subjects interpreting them as straightforwardly transformative (Smith et al. 2015).”
Courtesy by Lexington Books