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HomeProductivist Domination in the Age of the Capitalocene - Methods for an interspecies critique

Productivist Domination in the Age of the Capitalocene - Methods for an interspecies critique

De la domination productiviste à l’heure du Capitalocène - Méthodes pour une critique inter-espèce

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Published on Wednesday, May 03, 2023


As part of the preparation of its special issue Productivist Domination in the Age of the Capitalocene - Methods for an interspecies critique, to be published in December 2024, the journal Recherches sociologiques et anthropologiques is launching a call for articles.



  • Bruno Frère, FNRS Research Director;
  • Lucie Nayak, Scientific associate at the University of Liège;
  • Véronique Servais, Professor at the University of Liège.


Following the pragmatist turn in the social sciences and the work of authors such as Bruno Latour (2006), Donna Haraway (2007) and Isabelle Stengers (2009), it has become commonplace to assert that the economic model that has triumphed in modernity – productivist capitalism – was built on two forms of domestication/exploitation: that of neutral and objectifiable nature on the one hand (within which animals are generally confined); and that of human beings on the other. Breaking with this false dualism, the pragmatist turn led to a fundamental redrawing of the maps of modern people’s relationship to nature in general, and to animals in particular. This turn also carried the embryo of a new paradigm that the social sciences, along with other sciences, are calling for: an ecological paradigm. This would be a paradigm that respects all the beings that live on the planet and are necessary for its biological balance[1]. It would unfold in place of the Capitalocene (Malm 2017; Moore 2016), which the most critical pragmatist perspectives intend to transcend (Bonneuil & Fressoz 2013; Haraway 2016; Charbonnier 2020).

 Our use of the term Capitalocene here instead of Anthropocene is deliberate. Like Andreas Malm, we believe that not all humans can be held equally responsible for climate change. Various societies around the world that are still relatively “traditional” use far lower quantities of industrial goods and fossil fuels than do “modern” ones. And to this day the biggest polluters are the United States and China, whose ways of life are in no way comparable to the non-modern lifestyles of other peoples around the world. The same is true of the subaltern social classes in the “Western” world itself, which consume far less (cars, airplanes, etc.) than the bourgeois classes. This term has “the advantage of politicizing the Anthropocene, and opening up the potentialities of critiques of capitalism” (Malcom 2019, p. 83)[2]. But it also allows us, as Donna Haraway points out, to avoid falling into the trap of a “generic masculine universal”, or even into that of universally extending responsibility for “indigenous genocides, slavery (...), relocation of peoples, plants, and animals; the leveling of vast forests; and the violent mining of metals” – traps that Anthropos does not allow us to avoid (Haraway, 2016, pp.47-48). In sum, “speaking of the capitalocene rather than the Anthropocene has multiple heuristic and explanatory effects. In particular, it signals that unequal ecological exchange is indeed a major explanatory factor behind the joint genesis of the wealth asymmetries specific to the historical dynamics of capitalism, and the rise of the human impacts that are at the root of the planet’s geological derailment into the Anthropocene” (Bonneuil and Fressoz 2013; pp. 278-279).

In the ecological paradigm that these authors call for, the challenge is thus to recompose our relationship with living beings so that it becomes a symmetrical relationship of recognition, and no longer one of exploitation, as “non-moderns” or, closer to home, alternative agricultural and pastoral practices have sometimes managed to get close to (Van Dam et al. 2019). Such a relationship would prevent humans from drastically exploiting the beings that make up their world, for both food and productive labor purposes. It would thus reconcile moderns with a “nature” that they have so far wilfully neutralized and objectified.

But in this special issue, we start from the conviction that this reconciliation between the moderns and that which they have traditionally assigned to nature has failed. Having condemned the critical perspective which, from Marx to Bourdieu via the Frankfurt School (Marcuse [1964] 1968; Adorno & Horkheimer [1944] 1974; Bourdieu 1979), has traditionally placed the question of domination at the centre of the social sciences, and having neglected communicational approaches, it seems to us that the pragmatist turn remains unfinished to this day, and the possibility of a new ecological paradigm rather remote. Indeed, even if we intend to ‘translate’ the point of view of non-humans, we have never really tried to understand what they have to tell us, how they experience their exploited condition and what steps they may already have taken to try to free themselves from it (Hribal 2007, 2011; Wadiwel 2016, 2018). In the end, sociologists, anthropologists, researchers in the humanities and social sciences, and even activists have remained ‘above-nature’: they have arrogated to themselves the right to speak in the name of those beings abused by the Capitalocene that are animals, maintaining a stance of superiority – the only stance supposedly capable of ‘carrying their voice’ – without ever really having entered into communication with them. We resist for them but without them. Yet, as Critical Animal Studies (Nocella et al. 2014; Driessen 2014) now suggests, such communication is central if we intend to understand (encompass) animals as legitimate beings in a public sphere in which dialogic democracy effectively plays out against the Capitalocene.

Let us develop this observation further. It has been amply demonstrated by the anthropology and sociology of communication, the philosophy of language, and critical theories that, when two parties are caught up in a relationship of domination, the speech of the subalterns proves to be less legitimate than that of the dominant. We also know that subalterns find it more difficult to access the public sphere, because their discourse is systematically invisibilised or minoritised because they simply do not possess the codes of the language of the dominant (Spivak [1985] 2009). And this is indeed the case in most situations where (dominant) humans have claimed to carry the voice of their animal subordinates (Meijer 2019; Castaing & Langlais 2018). Bruno Latour has thus argued that non-humans have the capacity to participate in human affairs, provided they are represented by human spokespersons. But these voices carried by human beings are always reconstructed by them rather than being registered by enquiries that engage within what might be called ‘zoo-public spheres’ or ‘animal agora’ (Donaldson 2020). These spheres can be defined as those dialogical spaces where the possibility of interspecies communication is taken seriously. What would an interspecies relationship be that is not determined by the anthropocentric prejudice that deprives animals of language and speech and claims to speak for them and in their place? If such public spheres could be multiplied to gather the grievances of all beings suffering from global warming, pollution, deforestation, and the food industry, would we then see the genuine outline of a new ecological paradigm? How can we create the conditions for the voices of these beings, foremost among them animals, to be heard without the result being seen as a ‘mere’ human projection (Hache 2019)? What price would moderns have to pay? Is it, in the long run, possible to establish, within a zoo-public sphere, a common sense of demands, a discourse and a critical political stance that are truly inter-species, and that are likely to invent a way of being in the world, together, that is non-productivist and non-subjugating? Because these questions seem central to us, in this issue we would like to welcome contributions that question the possibility of deliberation with animals and of multi-species political interaction in all the places likely to resemble a zoo-public sphere. Such spaces already exist, especially beyond the Euro-American worlds (Nadasdy 2016). Where the living is endowed from the outset with the political power to intervene in human affairs, there is no need to endow it a posteriori with agency. It is therefore necessary to investigate these spaces, and to collect and publish what is documented there.

In “the age of capital” (Moore 2016, p. 6), where the exploitation of human and non-human animals is reaching a climax, it has become urgent to develop methods that are open to the multiple forms that communication with living beings takes, in order to further describe the way in which animals, too, experience and perceive productivist domestication. This special issue will therefore also be open to empirical investigations seeking to describe and analyse human animal management practices in a system of capitalist industrialisation that holds animals in an asymmetrical position. In order to try to understand what a cross-species critique of exploitation could be, and in order not to decide for ourselves what is good or bad for animals, the challenge will be to try to understand what, for an animal, “is an issue” in the treatment it receives, for example in a work situation that reduces it to its exploitable qualities. How can the principle of objective domination be connected up with a description of the experience of a human-animal relationship from the animal’s perspective? If it is possible to conduct an ethnography of it, how can we then critically equip our descriptions? Some authors show us how to do this, by seeking to describe the animal point of view (Baratay 2014; Pouillard 2022), by skilfully deconstructing anthropocentrism in our interactions with animals (Despret 2014), or by proposing animal ethnographies (Coulter 2018). But here we want to deepen the discussion about the challenges of describing what are for the most part asymmetrical relationships between human beings and animals. It is therefore helpful to explore methods of communication that are often ignored by pragmatist perspectives, which are nevertheless probably the most committed to a new symmetrical ecological paradigm that is more respectful of the beings inhabiting the biosphere. But we must also go ‘beyond’ multi-species ethnographies, which often rub shoulders with these methods while remaining mostly silent about tacit relations of domination, as pragmatism does.

In summary, this issue aims to bring together two complementary types of article, both of which are based on empirical material. On the one hand, we welcome proposals that seek, through investigation, to establish a critique of human exploitation of a nature that is commodified and devitalised, but that do so by trying out communicative methods that genuinely seek to raise up the point of view of the animals regarding their subjection. On the other hand, we will focus on proposals that aim to understand the ways of populating the world together differently that are being experimented with around the world. What happens when humans and animals join forces to resist a world that wants both to serve the same productivist ends? Better still, what happens when humans and animals start to live differently in inter-species public spheres that have been redesigned to keep all forms of exploitation at bay? In short, what happens when we consider human-animal cohabitation not as a means (for productivist ends) but as a political end ‘in itself’, aiming to create a society together (Blattner et al. 2020)? Are we seeing the emergence of inter-species solidarity? Or perhaps have we already seen them emerge historically, so that we can draw further inspiration from them? What ways of inhabiting the world do (utopian?) public zoo-spheres show us, beyond the generalised exploitation of living ‘resources’ by hegemonic modernity (Macé 2022)? How can we conceive of spaces in which human beings and non-human beings might live together, aiming for a common emancipatory ecological existence? As we have already mentioned, truly welcoming animals into the human and social sciences requires more than cosmetic changes or the adoption of rhetoric in which “co-” and “becoming animal” are inserted into every page. It is no longer just a matter of living as an animal, but of seeking new modalities of existence that the most critical reflections on the institutions of animal domination (such as zoos) have perhaps not even considered yet. For, we believe, this is the future of social sciences after the pragmatist turn: to contribute to the construction of an egalitarian and ecological coexistence, coupling the framework of the critique of domination to that of consideration (Pelluchon 2018).

Submission guidelines

  • Receipt of abstracts (300 words) : 15th May 2023

  • Selection of abstracts and commissioning of papers:  15th July2023
  • Receipt of papers and submission for review: 30 November 2023
  • Feedback from reviewers: early January 2024
  • Review of comments by the editorial committee and coordinators for additional information/advice: early-mid January 2024
  • Comments sent to authors for review: mid-January 2014
  • Receive and send V2s to reviewers: early March 2024
  • Feedback on V2s: mid-April 2024
  • Finalisation of texts and submission of V3s to coordinators: early June 2024

Abstracts should be sent to the following address: daniel.rochat@uclouvain.be


[1] It is such a hope that Haraway has conceptualized with the idea of the Chthulucene (2016).

[2] For some, communism was also a type of productivism. Seen from a distance, we might think that this analysis is generally correct – especially if we consider the agrarian industrial model rapidly deployed in the USSR from 1928 onwards. However, a significant qualification is in order. Historians do now mostly agree that it was in fact more precisely Stalinism, and not communism, that tried out productivism in order to compete with the West. Moreover, Stalin explicitly suppressed all the libertarian and councilist tendencies within the left at the time that carried the beginnings of an ecological economy (Ariès, 2016). And before him, from the end of the 19th century German social democracy banned all anti-productivist ideas. Marx himself, in his famous Critique of the Gotha Program, had already attacked the illusion of progress that would lead to the industrial ideology that would become the ideology of a “certain left” in the West, as well as that of the Soviet dictatorship in the East (Ibid.). It would therefore be more accurate to speak, as Malm suggests, of fossil Stalinism (2017, p. 52), a productivist system dead and buried. As for China, which is just as far from Marx, it has long since embarked on the path of a state capitalism, as Manuel Castells has shown (1998)



  • Monday, May 15, 2023


  • sociologie, anthropologie, capitalocène, animal, exploitation, domination


  • Daniel Rochat
    courriel : daniel [dot] rochat [at] uclouvain [dot] be

Information source

  • Daniel Rochat
    courriel : daniel [dot] rochat [at] uclouvain [dot] be


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Productivist Domination in the Age of the Capitalocene - Methods for an interspecies critique », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, May 03, 2023, https://doi.org/10.58079/1b3t

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