Plzeňské sympozia

Martin Škabraha

Through progress to disaster – through disaster to progress

pp. 9–17 (Czech), Summary 15–16 (English), 16–17 (Deutsch)

This text seeks an association between the concepts of revolution and disaster. Although as a rule we mean disaster in the usual sense as a natural disaster or, e.g. an industrial accident, i.e. an event that is indifferent to human existence, while the external, narratological meaning of the term explicitly links it to human activity and awareness of the human lot. The word revolution has also been used for a description of natural events, from the orbit of heavenly bodies to the dramatic transitions between geological epochs. The essential element here is the cyclical factor associated with natural processes. For further consideration of this subject, use is made of Bruno Latour's modern consitution concept, operating with a strict division, but at the same time with the hybridization of two spheres – the representation of things in natural sciences and the representation of citizens in politics. Disaster is then seen as the incursion of natural cycle time (not necessarily calculable) into the linear time of human history. This prism is then used to interpret two key 19th century economic conceptions – those of Malthus and Marx. Both warn against the approaching disaster, which might nevertheless be avoided, or even taken advantage of, by appropriate political intervention to keep humanity on the linear path of progress. Both Malthusian and Marxist issues are urgent to this day, as we face the lack of social and ecological sustainability in our economic system. Are we heading towards disaster as the dénouement of a tragedy in which man is doomed to an inevitable conflict with nature?

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