Dub: Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth - discussion with author James Davis

Date:

James Davis is visiting Dublin and will be giving a talk for the WSM on the topic of Catastrophism in Seomra Spraoi (10 Belvedere Court) at 20.00 on Weds June 25th.

We live in catastrophic times. The world is reeling from the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, with the threat of further meltdowns ever-looming. Global warming and myriad dire ecological disasters worsen—with little if any action to halt them—their effects rippling across the planet in the shape of almost Biblical floods, fires, droughts, and hurricanes. Governments warn that there is no alternative to the bitter medicine they prescribe—or risk devastating financial or social collapse. The right, whether religious or secular, views the present as catastrophic and wants to turn the clock back. The left fears for the worst, but hopes some good will emerge from the rubble. Visions of the apocalypse and predictions of impending doom abound. Across the political spectrum, a culture of fear reigns.


Catastrophism explores the politics of apocalypse—on the left and right, in the environmental movement—and examines why the lens of catastrophe can distort our understanding of the dynamics at the heart of these numerous disasters—and fatally impede our ability to transform the world. Lilley, McNally, Yuen, and Davis probe the reasons why catastrophic thinking is so prevalent, and challenge the belief that it is only out of the ashes that a better society may be born. The authors argue that those who care about social justice and the environment should jettison doomsaying—even as it relates to indisputably apocalyptic climate change. Far from calling people to arms, they suggest, catastrophic fear often results in passivity and paralysis—and, at worst, reactionary politics.


James is an Irish a writer and film maker living in the Berkeley, CA. He is a Retort Collective participant and co-author of Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic politics of Collapse and Rebirth. He is also the director of 'Meeting Room', the documentary about the Concerned Parents Against Drugs movement.

One review of Catastrophism describes how it "offers a superb and needed critical overview of current tendencies toward an aestheticizing politics of doom. Evolving out of discussions catalyzed by Iain Boal and the Retort collective, these essays by Lilley, McNally, Yuen and Davis survey and analyze the traps and delusions involved when catastrophe scenarios are deployed as a mobilizing political figure. Clearly, we need to understand these pitfalls, for as Yuen observes, our moment ‘is saturated with instrumental, spurious, and sometimes maniacal versions of catastrophism – including right-wing racial paranoia, religious millenarianism, liberal panics over fascism, leftist fetishization of capitalist collapse, capitalist invocation of the “shock doctrine,” and pop culture cliché’.

Davis scrutinizes the political right, finding a broad willingness to view the gains and remnants of leftist social movements of the past as unmitigated disaster; this ‘disease catastrophism’ is linked to a potentially violent ‘cure catastrophism’ that welcomes apocalypse as the remedy. expressions of a history of rebellion and resistance from below."

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