Gaian Systems

Lynn Margulis, Neocybernetics, and the End of the Anthropocene

2020
Author:

Bruce Clarke

Gaian Systems

GAIAN SYSTEMS: PLANETARY COGNITION LAB

A groundbreaking look at Gaia theory’s intersections with neocybernetic systems theory

Gaian Systems is a pioneering exploration of the dynamic and complex evolution of Gaia’s many variants, with special attention to Lynn Margulis’s foundational role in these developments. Delving into many issues not previously treated in accounts of Gaia, Bruce Clarke describes the history of a theory that has the potential to help us survive an environmental crisis of our own making.

Often seen as an outlier in science, Gaia has run a long and varied course since its formulation in the 1970s by atmospheric chemist James Lovelock and microbiologist Lynn Margulis. Gaian Systems is a pioneering exploration of the dynamic and complex evolution of Gaia’s many variants, with special attention to Margulis’s foundational role in these developments.

Bruce Clarke assesses the different dialects of systems theory brought to bear on Gaia discourse. Focusing in particular on Margulis’s work—including multiple pieces of her unpublished Gaia correspondence—he shows how her research and that of Lovelock was concurrent and conceptually parallel with the new discourse of self-referential systems that emerged within neocybernetic systems theory. The recent Gaia writings of Donna Haraway, Isabelle Stengers, and Bruno Latour contest its cybernetic status. Clarke engages Latour on the issue of Gaia’s systems description and extends his own systems-theoretical synthesis under what he terms “metabiotic Gaia.” This study illuminates current issues in neighboring theoretical conversations—from biopolitics and the immunitary paradigm to NASA astrobiology and the Anthropocene. Along the way, he points to science fiction as a vehicle of Gaian thought.

Delving into many issues not previously treated in accounts of Gaia, Gaian Systems describes the history of a theory that has the potential to help us survive an environmental crisis of our own making.

Gaian Systems

Bruce Clarke is Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Literature and Science in the Department of English at Texas Tech University. He is the author or editor of ten books, among them Neocybernetics and Narrative (Minnesota, 2014) and Posthuman Metamorphosis.

Gaian Systems

Contents

Introduction: An Epistemological Transition

Part I. Gaia Discourse

1. A Paradigm Shift

2. Thinkers of Gaia

3. Neocybernetics of Gaia

Part II. The Systems Counterculture

4. The Whole Earth Network

5. The Lindisfarne Connection

6. Margulis and Autopoiesis

Part III. Gaian Enquiries

7. The Planetary Imaginary

8. Planetary Immunity

9. Astrobiology and the Anthropocene

Acknowledgments

Notes

Bibliography

Index