Graham Harman: Bruno Latour – Reassembling the Political

4 November 2014 by

Just published: Graham Harman: Bruno Latour – Reassembling the Political (Pluto Press)Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Political

Bruno Latour, the French sociologist, anthropologist and long-established superstar in the social sciences is revisited in this pioneering account of his ever-evolving political philosophy. Breaking from the traditional focus on his metaphysics, most recently seen in Harman’s book Prince of Networks (2009), the author instead begins with the Hobbesian and even Machiavellian underpinnings of Latour’s early period and encountering his shift towards Carl Schmitt and finishing with his final development into the Lippmann / Dewey debate. Harman brings these twists and turns into sharp focus in terms of Latour’s personal political thinking.

Along with Latour’s most important articles on political themes, the book chooses three works as exemplary of the distinct periods in Latour’s thinking: The Pasteurization of France, Politics of Nature, and the recently published An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence, as his conception of politics evolves from a global power struggle between individuals, to the fabrication of fragile parliamentary networks, to just one mode of existence among many others.

Graham Harman is Distinguished University Professor at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. He is the author of numerous books, including Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects (2002) and Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics (2009).

Annemarie Mol: “Relative realities, theoretical sensitivities”

4 November 2014 by

Annemarie Mol: “Relative realities, theoretical sensitivities”

Landscapes of Terminal Capitalism, Aporias of Responsibility, Myra J. Hird

17 June 2014 by

Chapter 10: Learning to Respect Appearances

16 June 2014 by

AIME Research Group

Title: Habitual Care:  The Mode of Existence of Habit and its Politics

Author: John W. Wright. Point Loma Nazarene University.

Chapter 10, “Respecting the Appearances,” engages “the question of essence” (p. 264).   Why does it arise?  Latour argues that the question of essence gestures toward another “mode of existence.”  This mode of existence, later in the chapter named “habit,” accounts “for the apparent continuity of action” amid a world characterized by fissures, gaps, and heterogeneities – in other words, a net.  Latour calls “habit” the “most indispensable” mode of existence:  “the one that takes up 99 percent of our lives, the one without which we could not exist” (AIME, p. 264).  As Latour works through the chapter, he clarifies his overall ontology and the deeper ethical/political concerns that fuel the plasma that circulates unseen underneath his ontology.

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Latour -How to Better Register the Agency of Things, Semiotics

15 June 2014 by

pt 2 on Ontology

Bernard Stiegler’s Automatic Society

14 June 2014 by

Zygmunt Bauman – Lessons of the Holocaust

13 June 2014 by

Bernard Stiegler – About a Philosophy of the Automata & Automaticity.

12 June 2014 by

Challenging the ‘New Descriptivism’ – Rod Benson’s talk from QualPolComm preconference

11 June 2014 by

“ANT-takedown” via

Qualitative Political Communication Research

Rod Benson (NYU) served as a respondent at our conference on Qualitative Political Communication Research in May at ICA in Seattle.

His response created quite a stir (it has become known in some circles as his “ANT-takedown”) and was clearly aimed at more than the four particular papers on the panel.

We are happy he has agreed to share the text of his talk, posted below. It’s very good, provocative, and we hope it will spur debate.

Rodney Benson

“Challenging the ‘New Descriptivism’: Restoring Explanation, Evaluation, and Theoretical Dialogue to Communication Research.”

Remarks at the Qualitative Political Communication Pre-Conference,

International Communication Association

Seattle, May 22, 2014

Given time constraints, I will cut to the chase. I’ve been asked to stir things up a bit, so I’ll see what I can do.

We’ve just heard two excellent ANT (actor-network theory) papers (Joshua Braun; Burcu Baykurt) and two excellent systems/institutional theory papers…

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Human Reflexivity in Actor-Network-Theory , Philip Conway

10 June 2014 by

Human Reflexivity in Actor-Network-Theory , Philip Conway

Perhaps in theory actor-network theory neglects human reflexivity; in practice, however, ANT accounts are full of fully reflexive humans all reflexively reflecting in their own ways. Mol’s The Body Multiple is a paragon of self-awareness and empathy. Latour’s Aramis is replete with engineers agonising over engineering, politicians opportunistically politicking, etc. In Gomart and Hennion’s A Sociology of Attachmenteven drug addicts aren’t reducible to their vice; their vice, instead, provokes instances of subjectivation.

[G&H] reveal a subtle interweaving between being abandoned to an external power and the virtuosity of practices, of manual, and of social skills. The user passes between active and passive. That is, between ‘I am manipulated’ (because I agree to it) and ‘I manipulate’ (an object which is stronger than myself). (p.243)

There are no more ‘network dopes’ than there are ‘cultural’ ones.

And so on and so on.

Nowhere are human beings reduced to being mere ‘mouth pieces’ of networks; however, the mere fact that humans have reflexive self-awareness isn’t allowed to be the be all and end all, the thing that separates humans from other things so fundamentally that they have to be dealt with in separate chapters or with distinct conceptual vocabularies.

Where does that craving for a kind of ontological cordon – a prophylactic for humanness, an agency-shield – come from? It can only come from the fear of automata, the belief in beings that are pure clockwork and simply reproduce their constitutive causes without alteration. ANT dismisses this as a possibility and so the lack of human agency is never really an issue, at least not a priori.

Certainly people are repressed but always in particular times, in particular places and always by particular networks. If something or someone is without agency (and for a human this must mean that they are incapable of understanding what it is that they are doing) then this is something remarkable that must be explained, it isn’t something that justifies letting nature bifurcate all over again.

If you are convinced that human beings are engulfed in totalitarian social structures that threaten to drown them in determination then it makes sense to worry endlessly about reflexivity and to make it the alpha and omega of your sociology. If, however, you grant everything agency (of whatever sort and of whatever strength and intensity) as a matter of course and then proceed to understand the meshing of these infinitely variegated agencies in concrete situations then this never becomes a problem since the presence or absence of any kind of freedom is always explained by concrete forces deployed in the case at hand.

In short, actor-network theorists routinely deal with human reflexivity, they just don’t make a big song and dance about it.

The above tenets are, of course, entirely questionable and open to criticism; however, unless ANT is criticised for what it does rather than what its humanist critics like to think that it does we’ll never get anywhere with anything.

ANT deserves to be critiqued – but it deserves to be critiqued well.