terça-feira, 28 de julho de 2015

Anarchism and Animals

by Friederike Schmitz


In the course of the recent "political turn" in animal ethics, human-animal relations have been investigated from the perspective of a range of different political theories. Most prominently liberalism, communitarianism and Marxism have served as a framework to discuss the possibilities and implications of integrating the claims of nonhumans into political theory. Anarchism, however, is rarely discussed in this context, which is surprising because anarchist ideas and commitments play such a significant role within the animal liberation movement. In my talk, I will fill this gap by looking at some of the central aspects of the relation of anarchism to animals.
I will first sketch out a few general features of anarchist political theory. A link to the animal liberation position can be drawn if our treatment of animals is understood as one form of domination or oppression among others that need to be abolished. In addition, the anarchist elements present in many currents of environmental ethics can inform our relations with nonhuman animals as well.
After outlining these general connections, I will address various systematic questions concerning the theme. First I will discuss whether and in what sense the concepts of domination and oppression are applicable to human relations with animals. I will claim that while the case for an interpretation of our treatment of animals as oppression is straightforward, the concept of domination is more complicated. Here I will distinguish between a descriptive and a normative sense of the term and argue that although we may not be able to avoid dominating at least some animals in the descriptiv sense we can still strive to avoid dominating them in a normative sense.
The second systematic question concerns the potential connections between various oppressive relations. I will briefly rehearse the arguments for the interrelations of sexism and speciesism and racism and speciesism and will then highlight some of the sexist and racist behaviour to be found within the animal and vegan movement. Additionally I intend drawing attention to the connections between the treatment of animals and political power structures which suggest, in my view, that the current level of animal exploitation is made possibly by various mechanisms in our society, such a the abdication of individual responsibilty enabled by the prevailing forms of economic and political decision making. I draw the conclusion that the introduction of more direct forms of democracy and the self-organisation of communities would likely benefit animals.
Thirdly I will discuss how anarchists may consider the need to observe animals' interests if they are unable to easily communicate with the rest of society. 

Finally, I will sketch out the implications anarchist theoretical perspectives might have on questions of strategy for political activists.

Friederike Schmitz studied philosophy and German literature in Heidelberg, Cambridge and Berlin. Her PhD in theoretical philosophy was on Hume and Wittgenstein in Heidelberg. She is currently working on a postdoc project on ethical and political aspects of human-animal-relations at the Freie Universität Berlin. She is the editor of a German reader on animal ethics that was published in January 2014.

Contact details:
Dr. Friederike Schmitz
Leinestrasse 11
D-12049 Berlin

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