According to Neocleous “the concept ‘nature’ is, of course, deeply problematical” and “an empty vessel to be filled with whatever meaning is politically expedient”. The context for this is not nature “within fascism” but necessarily in itself. That is to say, Neocleous doesn’t see nature as a concept that can be negotiated, but that holds within it an already reactionary character. It seems the main mistake that fascism makes in regard to nature is to think of it as a subject in itself. For Neocleous nature is culturally constructed and thus a kind of artifice attached to human subjectivity. This goes so far as to cause Neocleous to take a negative view towards political ecology and one can almost say he sees being anti-ecological as being on par with an anti-fascist position. He claims that green groups and philosophies, like Deep Ecology (with which I too have issues, though in a different register), make the same mistake concerning nature (that it is a subject in itself) and even aside from that totalitarian political structures would be necessary to carry out the environmental changes necessary.
It is strange, even uncanny, to note how agreeable Nazi and Italian fascist rhetoric is with current ‘green politics’. The projects undertaken within the individual nations, while certainly not being able to stand up to current environmental demands, were far more attentive to creating cultural artifice (i.e. roads) that worked ascetically with the natural environment than even current standards. Of course it would be pure farce for neo-fascist groups, like the American Nazi Green party, to claim a true historical backing for green politics as the war machine fostered within historical fascism and rapid industrialization were environmentally destructive on a massive scale. Yet, Neocleous takes this rhetoric and, oddly, believes it. He seems to believe that fascism has some kind of material concern for nature other than the way it can be used to give weight to the myth of the nation. This trust in the rhetoric completely contradicts his emphasis on ‘positive analysis’ and ‘history’. (Full disclosure – the Latin nasci – to be born – is the root of both nation and nature. Still, I don’t see Neocleous claiming that birth is a necessarily fascist concept. This plays an important role in Lawlor’s book as well, though in a very different direction.)
A new philosophy of nature, especially a vitalist one, must begin by acknowledging that everything is natural. Everything that exists, be it organic and inorganic, is by definition natural. This implies a political and ecological ontology arising out of Spinoza’s metaphysics. Deleuze tells us that Spinoza begins with God to be done with God as quickly as possible. Since the Spinozist equivocation is ‘God or Nature’ one may also say that Spinoza begins with nature to move past it. Not that Deleuze’s reading is completely correct here, as if Spinoza’s Ethics was not pious to God or Nature, rather what Spinoza does is avoid theological quibbling. He gives God or Nature the simplest definition and moves from that truth inward. One of the most obvious implications of this thesis is that, if whatever happens is God’s will (or an outworking from some law of nature), then there is no good or evil from that higher perspective. Since God is perfect we are left in the position of Job crying violence but being made to answer who we are in the face of that impersonal power. A political ecology beginning with this insight may move past the fascist determination of nature. Rather than naming oppressive structures as natural, which fascism did with regard to women and childbirth, a Spinozist pan-naturalism names all the so called deviant behaviours natural as well. Artifice and nature are not mutually exclusive and indeed we have neither without the other, naming a kind of cultural dialectic imposed upon a univocal substance.
Of course, this answers very little, only begins to move toward a non-fascist ontology of nature. From there we must modify St. Paul and say that “Everything is natural, but not everything is beneficial.” In Spinozist terms this ontology is only the beginning of a non-fascist ethics. From here it seems helpful to look again at Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus as both a handbook for non-fascist living and a lengthy prolegomena to any new philosophy of nature or philosophy of life – both together: a new vitalist philosophy.