Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.748934
Title: Fragmented horizons : multinational firms & ethical life in the Anthropocene
Author: Choquet, Pierre-Louis
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 7790
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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Abstract:
In this research project, I engage in the task of delineating the conditions of possibility of human action in the institutional structures of contemporary capitalism, in the age of the Anthropocene. In other words, I reflect on the circumstances required for people to relate appropriatively to the socio-ecological practices they deploy at the workplace, so that these resonate with their fundamental aspirations and thus positively contribute towards the collective search of the good life, with and for others, in just institutions. Once described as the 'blue planet' which sphericity could be admired from outer space, the Earth has become, with the advent of the Anthropocene, a thin, tiny, fragile pellicle - a critical zone with frail equilibriums in which human beings have to live, and that admits no outside. However, as most societies have embarked on an unprecedented spiral of acceleration, attempts to redefine sustainable ethical horizons and to articulate corresponding transformative practices stumble over the rigidity of existing social structures, which technological lock-ins inherited from the past significantly reinforce. This inertia is particularly critical in the case of the fossil fuel industry: it is indeed now widely recognized that the unchecked extraction of hydrocarbons is a key propelling force to the perturbation of the core biophysical processes that regulate the Earth system. The 'business-as-usual' activities of public-listed oil and gas multinational firms generate a non-negligible share of these material flows: as such, these significantly contribute towards re-shaping nature-society relationships by accentuating climate change. The doctoral work I have developed addresses this conundrum through the prism of an empirical case study, and draws for that matter on a fieldwork research conducted between 2015 and 2017 with the employees of the French corporation Total, both in France and in the Republic of Congo. In this dissertation, I develop an in-depth analysis of the empirical material gathered by interpreting it through the concept of alienation, which I argue can fruitfully be 'put to work' to assess the ethical experience of individuals at the workplace in the fossil fuel industry. More precisely, I demonstrate that the concept of alienation accommodates the resources required not only to outline fine-grained descriptions of the multi-layered social reality in which Total's employees evolve, but also to develop a normative critique of the generic form of life that gets articulated in the corporate realm. This leads me to introduce the concept of dwelling as a dialectical opposite to alienation, and to suggest that it can be used as a normative yardstick to describe constructive relationships with the self and the world. More particularly, I put this concept in tension with empirical reality in order to identify workable, context-sensitive institutional principles that would enable to re-embed human work and business firms in their background social-ecological framework. By undertaking such an intellectual project, I hope to formulate an argument that builds insightful bridges between social philosophy and political ecology by both honouring and offering a fresh view on a longstanding tradition of critical, humanist thought in the social sciences.
Supervisor: Hahn, Robert W. ; Clark, Gordon L. Sponsor: ESRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.748934  DOI: Not available
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