Frames /sing


The Play of Fascist Objects: Object-Orientation and Latour: Updated

Adriano has a really articulate comment he put up under my posting on Latour’s implicit Fascism, Fascist Bindings In Latour: The Blinding Glory of Non-Human Agency. I have to comment on this later, but his essential Bourdieu vs. Latour political point is certainly a compelling one. Its has a double-edged blade when put to Harman and Levi because Harman declaratively wants to ignore any political complicity or consequence of his thinking (he embraces its Orientalism to no ill effect), while Levi who tries to preserve his social justice credentials and his hatred (yes hatred) for Neoliberalism wants to read Marx as essentially Latourian. For those interested in Levi’s self-proclaimed in-name political radicalism (and I am not, other than its implicit hypocrisy) Adriano’s pressing of a political, sociological critique is quite germane. For those interested in Harman’s implicit Capitalized logic (which I am), the question of Latour’s Neoliberalism which grounds Harman’s attempt to glue Husserlian objects to Heideggerian ones, Adriano’s point again presses home. The question arises, What is so sexy about objects?, if one could put it that way.

As Fuller writes in the article I cited, the very object-orientation of the concept of “translation” as a strong counterpart in our conception of desire:

” “Translation” was meant broadly to cover the process whereby one thing represents another so well that the voice of the represented is effectively silenced. Central to this process is the capacity of something to satisfy—and thereby erase—a desire. Callon and Latour exploited the Latin root of “interest” as interesse (“to be between”) to capture this capacity, which reverses the ordinary meaning of interest by implying that it is the presence of an object that creates (or perhaps reorients) a desire which the object then uniquely satisfies. That object is the mediator.”

When Latour’s very theory of objects as actors itself is seen in this light, as the “object that uniquely satisfies or fully orients our desire”, when our consciousness is defined by its objects, we of course lose the capacity to critique that desire itself, and the matrix of powers/desires it finds itself in. Is it not that the very verticality of ontology (aside from Harman’s fantasy of four-fold sensuality), the leverage point upon which ethics is built? And is not the very absence of an ethics from Latour, Harman and Levi, the mark of the failings of their ontological construction? In short, perhaps….where is Bourdieu?

Here is Adriano’s comment:

Well yeah, as we have coincide before: the foundational imposture that Latour retains is the source of the problem. But its also worth to mention that neither Harman nor Levi bothered themselves to take Latour`s work critically. Like i have said elsewhere, Latour´s work departures from a very and detailed systematic anti-bourdieusian imposture, say like ‘phantomizing’ Bourdieu´s constructive/conceptual preoccupations. So from this reactive foundation he is doing a cinical counterargumentation of all the work done by Bourdieu, and he keeps on feeding his stands by doing that.

Its seems that the position that Latour is occupying between the philosophical and the sociological fields is one of an ideologue who denies the relation that social research is meant to have in respect with other fields of knowledge, and this, in order to presume and to exalt the illusion of an absolute autonomy of the scientific field. But as he does this cynically, those who follow his work without any critical margins are meant to fall into a blinded spot in the exercise of their own practice, while they reproduce it as a naturalized scholastic point of view which gives a ‘fair’ sense of justification to their objectual laboratory. This is what i was trying to say to Nick the other day.

So the problem is also the lack of interest in adapting their work into the social research procedures: neither Harman or Levi are much worried to do this in the right way so to contemplate and conceive other critical angles regarding to what is known about the latourian assertions.They don`t do this because it would imply to realize how urgent is it for their sake to drop out a big part of what sustains their work. For instance, as a bourdieusian, its seems to me that they had never triangulate Latour`s work with Bourdieu`s, not even when there is a clear critical struggle underlined between these two sociologues. So they took an unquestioned part on Latour`s favor without knowing the specific and confronted vis a vis details of this very particular struggle, and obviously without getting to know closer the bourdieusian frame of work.

The results are evident: blinded spots within their practice that are reproduced through their pragmatic academic and granted commodities. This also means that they may not be aware how they are reproducing specific ideological interests that also might point out to their own social class and habitus) and this, in despite their good intellectual and ontological will. An object-oriented-naivety that ends to be self-oriented while they insist to defend it in they mean to fiercely embrace it.

UPDATED: For those interested in the Levi opera, I include here a link to a thorough-going response Adriano had to Levi’s separation of ontology from politics, which Levi in his usual fashion of refusing to publish critical objections to his position, deleted, in an effort to shape the impression that his position is both achieved through some kind of dialogic with all objections, and the production of a kind of consensus: here. He of course also has deleted any number of similiar critical questionings of his concepts by me, as well.  A discussion of these issues follows in the comments section below.


9 responses to “The Play of Fascist Objects: Object-Orientation and Latour: Updated

  1. adr November 20, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks for your words, Kevin 🙂

    Of course, this has a lot to do with intellectual honesty and with the ability to make helpful epistemological ruptures in respect to what we sooner or later presume to be our ‘work’. But mostly with the practical ways we all have to approximate to what we shall understand as our ‘object’ of study. Bourdieu never got tired to insist in this kind of professional reflexivité. I am just trying to wield a bit of his ‘common sense’ here, as i think it is the least thing i can do against Latour`s cynical imposture.

    • kvond November 20, 2009 at 7:05 pm

      And thank you for your lengthy, thought-out comment on Latour and Bourdieu. I was quite happy to repost it. As far as intellectual honesty goes, I think that Harman is very sincere in his embrace of Latour, as Latour’s object-world allows him a kind of locus for his Husserlian fantasy of sensous representations. It is just that Harman’s lack of concern for the social, political consequences (or sources) for his metaphysics, “My word, I’m doing ONTOLOGY, ontology, don’t you get it! Just like the scientist does science!”, IS his blind spot. While for someone like Levi who likes to parade as a social justice fellow and incriminate anyone who criticizes him as a Nazi, this inherited blind-spot from Latour, does compose a certain kind of lack of intellectual honesty, or at least self-investigation. When one pretends that having one’s metaphysics associated with Neoliberalism is the equivalent of being called a Nazi (Reid Kane of course made the mistake of making the association between Levi Bryant and Neoliberalism), one would think that one would take stock of one’s theories a bit better, and at the very least position oneself to the divide between Latour and Bourdieu, exactly on this issue.

      Then again, Levi is a very haphazard thinker, and rather likes to create the impressions of a “position” or a depth of thinking and analysis. It is just in this vein perhaps that he imagined that Marx was an Objectologist, or a Latourian, one imagines. Watching Levi change positions in relation to his Lacanianism is like watching Oedipus struggle with his father at the cross-roads. Less than interesting once you realize how its all going to end.

      • adr November 20, 2009 at 7:48 pm

        Yeah, i do think that Harman is too honest regarding to his work and with his lack of interest of the social, so blindly honest that he just ends up to reify his rampant naivety. But still this is just a superficial justification that its not acceptable at the end of the day. Yes, he thinks he is doing ontology, but he just wants to avoid the fact that ontology is also a political issue. However, I elsewhere wielded to Levi a rude bourdieusian frontal comment against what he was defending regarding to the distinction between the questions of politics and the questions of ontology. A comment that of course he was not brave enough to publish on his blog:

        There i explain how naive is to think that such distinction is an absolute one. There i even bring Heidegger`s historical case, so to demonstrate how the questions of politics do have a lot to do with the questions of ontology. The irony is that i exemplify such case using Bourdieu`s little book on the political ontology of Heidegger, which is meant to demonstrate how Heidegger worked out his idea of ontology to institutionalize his political fascist tendencies in order to construct and reinforce the refractive illusion of an absolute autonomy of the philosophical field. Of course we can perfectly endorse and extend such comment to Harman`s naivety.

      • kvond November 20, 2009 at 8:06 pm

        I hope you don’t mind but I inserted the worthwhile critique’s link back into the body of my post, because the point is quite important. Levi of course has deleted any number of such sincere attempts to engage his so-called “philosophy” (who knows how many other person’s objections have been deleted). Only those who have experienced understand this. I recall once after my contradictory point had been removed, he then said something like, “All great questions asked by everyone yesterday” leaving the impression that his position was the result of answering all objections. Frankly, on a small scale, this is Fascist image-making, exactly the kind of false image of the absence of contradiction that drives totalitarian society. That it happens on the small scale, in the mouth of a so-self-styled Marxist, well, what can one say?

      • kvond November 20, 2009 at 8:13 pm

        As for the substance of your point, I don’t think that Heidegger’s Nazism is a mere “accident” of the “essence” of his metaphysics. People get all twisted over this, as if we are being SO unfair in drawing lines from the life lived and the metaphysics imagined, as if the metaphysics was not in some way justifying the life lived, as least with SOME critical value.

        Is it preposterous that I find Harman to be quite Orientalizing, something that has Colonialist ramifications, and the coincidence that Harman lives as an All-American mid-western fellow in Egypt, of all places, a place with a history of all kind of Western fantasy and colonialist difficulties? Does it matter that Harman Orientalizes Egypt in his descriptions of it, making the exotic come out everywhere? Why would someone NOT make this connnection? Harman leaves its breadcrumbs everywhere. This is not so say that he is a bad fellow for indulging in this Exoticism of Egypt, but that his metaphysics, especially as it itself is an Orientalizing picture of the world (self-admitted by Harman), begs to be considered in this context.

      • adr November 20, 2009 at 8:15 pm

        Of course i don`t mind 🙂

      • kvond November 20, 2009 at 8:23 pm

        As to the connection between ontology and politics that Levi tries to carry out, the guy is horribly consistant on this. He likes to invokes the so-called “Epistemological Fallacy” (the name of the term is rhetorically designed to stop criticism and argument, “oh, I’m committing a fallacy, how foolish of me”). On the other hand when we were in discussion and more friendly, and Levi was on something of a Spinoza kick (he changes influences ever 20 minutes), I pointed out to him that this fallacy has no foundation from a Spinozist point of view. Because ever epistemological change is an ontological one (and vise versa), Spinoza wrote a metaphysics which was titled an “Ethics” with very strong political dimension. Levi completely agreed with my point, and only conceded that this was something he was working on. Well he stopped working on it, and just went back to invoking his imagined fallacy in the same shallow way, always taking the opportunity to degress into well-rehersed explications of other positions. Sigh. So it goes with Levi. Trying to get coherence out of him is a rabbit hole.

        Now Spinoza argument of the coincidence of Ontology and epistemology is not the same as Bourdieu’s politicization of the ontological. Personally I would like to Spinozify Bourdieu and take him out of some of his reflexive contraditions that Schinkel points out (from the Latourian perspective). And Spinoza’s answer to truth also points out just what is missing from the Flatness of Latour’s ontology, so I have important work to do in fleshing out the verticality necessary to Latour found in the ontological change that occurs in the increase knowledge of causes. In any case though, whether from a Spinozist or Bourdieuian perspective, I completely disagree that the political and the ontological are divorced.

      • adr November 20, 2009 at 9:13 pm

        In fact, in respect to all this situation, Bourdieu even take into account Spinoza`s Politico-Theological Treatise to recommend it to the philosophical hermeneutists adepts as a program that founds (I`m translating here) a truthful science of the cultural oevres, a program that promotes the rupture of the ritual embalmment that endorses any textual canonization, in order to put such oevres into an historical investigation, that shall determine (paraphrasing Bourdieu quote on Spinoza): “not only the life and the habits of the author that wrote it, in which epoch, and for who and with which language such oevre was written, but also to determine in which hands such oevre fell into, who decide admitted it as canonic, etc…”

        This all can be read in Bourdieu`s most sober philosophical book, his Pascalien Meditations, specially a chapter entitled “The critique of the scholastic reason”, where he states his famous “radical doubt radicalized” procedure. Something to enjoy 🙂

      • kvond November 20, 2009 at 9:29 pm

        Most helpful on Bourdieu and Spinoza. Very much so.

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