From Marxism to ANT and back


Nick Srnicek over at Speculative Heresy asks some interesting questions about the relationship between marxism, non-philosophy, speculative realism and actor-network theory.

What if capitalism-qua-system is as much a product of Marxist theories as it is of any physical and social reality? (…) How to resist something that is non-systemic, non-totalizing and more heterogeneous than previously presumed? (…) How to square the circle and incorporate Marxism, non-philosophy and ANT together?

Explicitly or implicitly, his questions touch on a number of controversies, such as the micro-macro quandry in social theory, the “explain or describe” dilemma, the nature of critique and the relationship between social theory/philosophy and political action.

Does ANT’s commitment to empirical description though have to necessarily lead to local studies incapable of grasping the big picture? The proponents of ANT often argue against making a priori distinctions between the local and the global or the micro and the macro, focusing instead on describing the equipment that produces distinctions like these. In theory at least it is possible to imagine that various descriptions of apparatuses operating in a variety of domains (from financial markets to healthcare to entertainment) can be connected to construct a more complete picture of how the prevalent socio-economic-technical etc. modes of ordering sustain themselves.

How about combining  ANT and Marx into an analytical apparatus called ANT-MARKS, dedicated to studying the burrows that ant-like actors leave behind during their ongoing construction of the global capitalist system?

Incidentally, it would be interesting to find out what happened at “The State of Things” conference earlier this year, which conducted some explorations along similar lines…


2 Responses to “From Marxism to ANT and back”

  1. David Berry Says:

    Boltanksi and Chiapello theorise this issue of critique as (necessary) motor to capitalism in The New Spirit of Capitalism page pp36-43. There is an interesting ANT dimension to their theorisation (tests of strength, assemblage, enrollment etc).

  2. Andrzej W.Nowak Says:

    Some time ago I try to combine Latour and Wallerstein view of modernity, I think it was fruitful. I open to suggestion how combine micro level of ANT and macro level of world-system analysis.

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