On Latour’s plasma


Marcus A. Doel has an article forthcoming in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, in which he discusses Latour’s notion of plasma. The article is entitled “Miserly thinking/excessful geography: from restricted economy to global financial crisis.” Here is an extract from the abstract:

Pitching itself against miserly thinking, the paper unfolds a form of thought animated by excession rather than immiseration, by a world given as excess rather than as privation. This is accomplished in four parts, the first of which dislodges the grip of miserly thinking by recourse to George Bataille’s notion of general economy. The paper then considers arguably the best-known form of excessful thinking: Marxian political economy, as rendered by David Harvey. Nevertheless, while this successfully reveals how social formations are animated by surplus rather than by scarcity, its desire to restitute excess remains mired in miserly thinking. Consequently, the third part of the paper considers the fate of excess once it suffuses the whole of existence. With its ontology of association, Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory has gone the furthest in this regard. However, this ontology runs aground upon an inconsistent excess held in reserve: plasma. The final part of the paper addresses the limitations of Latour’s actor-network theory by way of Alain Badiou’s ontology of subtraction. In the final analysis, the sequence of ‘lack’, ‘surplus’, and ‘association’ gives way to the constellation of ‘multiplicity’, ‘situation’, and ‘event’, which is illustrated with reference to the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.

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