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Everyday EnvironmentalismCreating an Urban Political Ecology$
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Alex Loftus

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816665716

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816665716.001.0001

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When Theory Becomes a Material Force

When Theory Becomes a Material Force

Gramsci’s Conjunctural Natures

(p.75) Chapter 4 When Theory Becomes a Material Force
Everyday Environmentalism

Alex Loftus

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter differs from other in the book in that it works far more directly with the conjunctural politics of postapartheid South Africa. Seeking to build on the example of Antonio Gramsci, for whom concepts needed to be wrestled with in the concrete and complex realities of the world, it seeks to develop a clearer understanding of what happens to this emerging consciousness when it articulates with previous memories of struggle, comradeship, alliances, and enmities. Gramsci sought to build on Marx’s philosophy of praxis through respecting the struggles and conceptions of what he was to term “subalterns.” Far from romanticizing subaltern conceptions of the world, he sought to understand how these often fragmented and “incoherent” understandings contained within them a potential core of radicalism that could become a “coherent” view that fused theory and practice into world-changing praxis. The chapter demonstrates how Gramsci might have understood such a transformation as operating within a socio-natural context. It examines the contested waterscape of Inanda, a postapartheid informal settlement in South Africa, considering not only how the environment is shaped by particular mental conceptions, but how this then serves to stabilize particular worldviews at particular times. In large part this is related to how ideas articulate with prior historical memory. Building on an immanent critique of the nature of everyday life necessitates a much clearer understanding of this articulation of past and present.

Keywords:   postapartheid South Africa, Antonio Gramsci, Inanda, waterscape, nature, everyday life

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