Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Acting responsibly in an entangled world

“Perhaps the responsibility of individual humans may reside most significantly in one’s response to the assemblages in which one finds oneself participating – do I attempt to extricate myself from assemblages whose trajectory is likely to do harm?.... In a world where agency is distributed, a hesitant attitude towards assigning blame becomes a virtue…. Outrage will not and should not disappear completely, but a politics devoted too exclusively to moral condemnation and not enough to a cultivated discernment of the web of agentic capacities can do no good. A moralized politics of good and evil, of singular agents who must be made to pay for their sins – be they Osama bin Laden or George W. Bush – becomes immoral to the degree that it legitimates vengeance and elevates violence to the tool of first resort. A distributive understanding of agency, then, reinvokes the need to detach ethics from moralism, and to produce guides to action appropriate to a world of vital, cross-cutting forces.”

—Jane Bennett, “The Agency of Assemblages and the North American Blackout,” in the stunning new 800-page anthology, Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World, ed. Hent de Vries and Lawrence E. Sullivan (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006), p. 615.


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