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Animals and Nature: The Co-modification of the Sentient Biosphere

The Capitalist Commodification of Animals

ISBN: 978-1-83982-681-8, eISBN: 978-1-83982-680-1

Publication date: 30 November 2020


From an interdisciplinary position, I discuss the historical and epistemological roots of the objectification and commodification of nature, which emerged from the hegemony of instrumental rationality. This rationality—synthetically, a technological, political, social, ethical, and esthetical universe of thought and action—has created both wealth and environmental destruction due to the progressive domination of nature through science and technology. The objectification of nature and nonhuman animals is associated with the legacy of René Descartes based on some excerpts of his famous Discourse on the Method in which the idea of animals as machines established a powerful and pervasive metaphor that remains today. Speciesism, which involves forms of discrimination practiced by humans against other animal species, also dominates Western perspectives. However, studies reveal that nonhuman animal sentience and conscience is a scientific fact. While there is no ethical or scientific ground to support speciesism, the colossal number of animals commodified in a myriad of contexts, especially in animal agriculture, proves that our society is very far from overcoming this issue. A possible path to change is education. Nevertheless, profound transformations are mandatory as formal education—even “environmental education”—carries in its philosophical foundations the Cartesian, instrumental paradigm that favors the objectification and commodification of nature. I present how the concept of instrumental rationality, especially as proposed by Herbert Marcuse, establishes as a unifying and solid ground to address the roots of the objectification and commodification of nature (including nonhuman animals), as well as to confront the epistemological bedrock of our speciesist nonenvironmental, traditional education.



Brügger, P. (2020), "Animals and Nature: The Co-modification of the Sentient Biosphere", Clark, B. and Wilson, T.D. (Ed.) The Capitalist Commodification of Animals (Research in Political Economy, Vol. 35), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 33-58.



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