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Animal Dialectics: Towards a Critical Theory of Animals and Society

Animal Dialectics: Towards a Critical Theory of Animals and Society

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Title: Animal Dialectics: Towards a Critical Theory of Animals and Society
Author: Weisberg, Zipporah
Abstract: Building on the critical theory of the early Frankfurt School, Marxian psychoanalytic theory, and existential phenomenology, this dissertation argues that there is a direct correlation between animal exterminationism-or the systematic annihilation of animals as subjects-of-a-meaningful-life in both theory and practice-and the psychosocial, ethical, and political impoverishment of the human subject in late capitalist modernity. The increasing biotechnological manipulation of nonhuman animals, which enables human beings to seamlessly integrate them with the machinery of production, signals the final and most devastating moment in the history of nonhuman animals' subjugation so far. Animal extermination is not isolated, but is inextricably linked with the repression of human animality. Animal extermination compounds humans' selfestrangement under capitalism, and has led to a host of neuroses and pathological tendencies such as ambivalence, guilt, and misplaced aggression, among other things. However, while the mutual alienation of human and nonhuman animals appears to have reached unprecedented heights in the twenty-first century, so has awareness about the richness of animal subjectivities. The recent rise of animal studies has contributed to the destabilization of the prejudicial presupposition that humans and animals are separated by a vast metaphysical gulf. Unfortunately, with its enthusiasm for boundary dissolution and hybridity, the posthumanist strand of animal studies risks re-affirming rather than undermining the logic oflate capitalism, which thrives on the violation of ontological distinctions between humans, animals, and technics. Other traditions, such as phenomenology and ethology, strike a better balance between asserting the self-unity and co-relationality of the subject and therefore offer a superior platform for restoring, reconciling, and re-enchanting human and nonhuman animal subjects. Despite the anthropocentrism endemic to all forms of humanism, we ought to revive rather than abandon the Left humanist project because its fundamental aims and tenets-namely, the defence of the subject against its reification under capitalism, the pursuit of universal responsible freedom, the revival of the dialectical tradition, and the belief in historical progress-can be easily purged of their anthropocentric biases. Then re-invented beyond the human, Left humanism provides an excellent framework for the development of a coherent and realizable interspecies emancipatory project.
Type: Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/31326
Supervisor: Horowitz, Asher
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Program: Social and Political Thought
Exam date: 2013-09
Publish on: 2016-05-31

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