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Traces of (Un-) Sustainability

Towards a Materially Engaged Ecology of Mind

Peter Graham

Persons only develop in relation to environment, much in the same way we develop psychologically in relation to our parents and caregivers. Neither child nor parent is properly conceptualized, modelled, or understood without the inclusion of the other in the map or model of psychological/ecological development. Likewise, we perceive, think, and feel with and not just about environment and material artifacts. The achievement of sustainability then implies making changes to minds that are mediated, extended and distributed across brains, bodies, and the materiality of one’s environment. Our inherited world, however broken, guides our individual and collective becoming much as a parent guides the development of a child.

The traces of (un-) sustainability perspective refutes the economistic conceptual model whereby rational economic actors are misperceived and misunderstood to have the moral right, if not the duty, to actively participate in the destruction of our collective future with ethical immunity. The presumed intelligence and naturalness of the market-based economic system is exposed as primarily a historically inherited culture-based delusion. If values and attitudes can be at least partially transformed by transforming the mundane materiality which is co-constitutive of our social mind, then an important milestone will have been achieved in our understanding of (un-) sustainability.

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Chapter 5 traces of sociocultural anxiety


This chapter will endeavor to explain an influence on, and by-product of, the marketing economy: sociocultural anxiety. To begin this discussion, we need to recognize that, as already argued, any economic system entails specific mediational means embedded in the specific models of subjectivity operating and being operated by that system. The contemporary system of global capitalism is especially pernicious in this regard. What keeps an economic system in place is always a healthy dose of tacit knowledge situating peoples in ways they cannot fully express in words. Any adequate description of the dangers of capitalism is therefore difficult, if not impossible, to express in language alone. This is how unsustainability continues to penetrate the core of our being ever more deeply. We might also have to recognize the importance of what Skoll terms a shift from logocentric to iconocentric forms in late capitalism.

The rise of iconic representation as the dominant form of communication and consciousness marks an even greater epochal shift than the transition from a capitalist to a postcapitalist world system of political economy. The shift from the logocentric to the iconocentric began approximately in the mid-twentieth century. The advent of television signaled it, but should not be confused as its cause. Image began to replace text as the preeminently authoritative sign. The iconic shift strengthened the effectiveness of the fear culture, as characteristics of icons lend themselves to more emotional and less analytic styles of thought. (Skoll, 2010, p. 115)

The rise of...

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