Publication 6171

Clarke B. (2012) Autopoiesis and the planet. In: Sussman H. (ed.) Impasses of the post-global theory in the era of climate change. Volume 2. Open Humanities Press, Ann Arbor: 58–75. Fulltext at
Excerpt: From its inception in 1971 as a cybernetic theory of biological form, to its current presence on research fronts extending from immunology to Earth system science to sociology, from geobiology, artificial life, and cognitive science to a range of literary and cultural theories, the concept of autopoiesis has developed on the margins, not in the strongholds, of mainstream Anglo-American science. It may be that its persistent Continental and countercultural vogue has made it suspect there, and also, that its outsider status within this scientific academy has increased its extrascientific traffic. Additionally, as a recent Italian commentator has pointed out, “autopoiesis originated in a time-window (the early 1970s) when the world of biology was completely dominated by a vision of DNA and RNA as the holy grail of life. Alternative views about the mechanism of life didn’t have much chance of appearing in mainstream journals” (Luisi, “Autopoiesis” 179). The concept of autopoiesis is interesting, then, for its multifarious cultural history, itinerant discursive career, and contrarian stance. Moreover, it has been particularly important for enabling microbiologist Lynn Margulis to outline a second-order form of Gaia theory (see Clarke, “Neocybernetics”). Here I will connect the conceptual linkage of autopoiesis and Gaia theory to the wider discourse of self-referential systems.

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