Agents fleeing law have become subjects regulating their actions according to the world. Rejecting or leaving behind the laws of God or of nature—religious, moral, and political law that once regulated and measured their actions by making agents participants in a community, whether church, political body, or family—subjects have tended more and more to assert their rights and to pursue their interests in the unlimited space of the world by forming an immense system of action that has gained an authority over us that is without rival, under the name of the global market. The rule that the law no longer gives us, or that we no longer want to receive from the law, we seek very precisely at the end of the world, in these commandments that are sent back our way, with a power that subjugates the will and dumbfounds thought, by the world as the totality of human beings as rendered effective by the market or by markets. These are recent developments, but they were, as it were, contained in the Cartesian project of making us “like masters and possessors of nature.” What is striking in this project is that it proposed an immense horizon of action, which opened up an unlimited career for this project, without attaching any rule or measure to it. Today the project has come up against its limit. We ask ourselves anxiously how to protect nature against its master and possessor; we seek in nature itself the law of our lawlessness. If what we have said up to this point has any pertinence, this question will remain vain. This is not to say that it is not necessary to preserve nature as much as possible, but the idea of protection in itself bears no rule of action any more than does the idea of the mastery of nature. We will effectively protect nature only if we rediscover the rule of human action, that is, law.
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