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The Allure of a New Orthodoxy: Will “Collapse” Collapse?

Tim Matts over at his beautiful ecocritical, ecophilosophy blog, Violent Signshas some updates on the RealPolitik involved in the positioning of SRism, Harmanism and the various splintering pieces of the imagined movement. He focuses on the disseminating instrument – the  “Collapse” journal – and the coming and anticipated for eco-criticialists, Geo/Philosophy issue Collapse VI. It seems that in the editorial offices there is some worry that the journal will be swallowed up by this emerging Leviathan, ever mutating in its countless discoorinated hydra-heads. Can Collapse stand apart from this growing tide of commercialized thought, can it negotiate the path between meme-like viral fields condensing the aether into impromptu orthodoxy, and the possible failure to hook onto the Next Great Thing?:

Having recently spoken with editor Robin Mackay about the new volume, I can confirm that it is still in preparation, but an announcement will be made soon and advance orders will be possible at that time. Arriving some time in December, “late contributors and general perfectionism have held up publication…” Perhaps more interestingly, Mackay expressed concern over the journal’s affiliation with the latest philosophical trend, stating that “it’s not really centred on ‘SR/OOO’, indeed I’d be happy to distance Collapse from this apparent new orthodoxy!”

It seems that Tim jumped the gun in letting this “distancing” move of the journal out of the bag, and in doing so crossed the no-email-without-permission line that we find to be sacred. Tim felt that this was in good spirits and constructive, an interesting ethical topic in its own right, perhaps to be revisited. Its good to also post the “urbanomic” response, which does not refuse that such a distancing move is necessary, but that it needs to be clarified:

Hi Tim, to clarify – since you’re publicly quoting me from a hurried email response! – it’s not a matter of distancing Collapse from SR/OOO specifically – Rather, from the start the aim of Collapse was to avoid being associated with any philosophical ’school’, and to defy the tendency of philosophers to become jealous partisans of some particular camp or other and to spend their time defining and defending it; both by publishing important philosophical work that doesn’t fit into recognised academic categories – this was the reason for publishing Meillassoux et al in the first place – and by integrating work from outside philosophy.

Although this has always explicitly been its agenda, Collapse has inevitably been characterised in various places as being the ‘official journal of SR’ and suchlike, and even criticised for wavering from ‘real SR’. Whilst I’m more than happy with the association and with playing a part in disseminating that work, I don’t want readers to expect each volume to be some sort of ‘SR update’ and then to be disappointed. That’s why I mentioned it to you, since you were talking about reviewing the new volume as part of an overview of SR/OOO: Collapse played its part, but blogs and other publications will provide a much better overview of the current state of these developments.

I do think that we shouldn’t lose what’s important – the specificity and heterogeneity of each thinker’s work – in the excitement of a ‘next big thing’ and in the drive to determine affiliations and mark out territories.

Wrt your previous post, contrary to appearances, vol. 3 is in fact the best introduction, since it includes the full transcript of the original SR conference (year zero!)

And finally, one of the contributors to the ‘geophilosophy’ volume is Tim Morton, who you also discuss below (’speculative-realist-ecodeconstructionism’ set to become the next ‘next big thing?’

I’m not a great reader of Collapse (it was the home of Harman’s much discussed theory of Causation), but the coming issue certainly does strike a chord of interest, and Tim does a very nice job giving the context of the subject matter. For those of us interested in the local ethic which SR/OOP proliferation involves, the question of what substantive effect this loose theorizing and cadre-building (in particular the Harman/Levi variety) is having upon blogged philosophy, this new Orthodoxy associated chill is perhaps of abiding interest. In this way, as urbanomic says, if Collapse is an “SR update” I’m really not interested in reading it (though perhaps many people will be). Hopefully there will be other, more diverse ideas  involved. From the subject so described, I would have loved to have written on it.

Plus, I look forward to Tim’s promised comments on the question of Orientalization, either in Harman’s thinking (where it runs rampant) or in terms of ecophilosophy.

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Collapse and Emergency

These two words bear close watching. My wife today pointed out to me how odd the word “emergency” was. It caused me to check: OED says, from the late Latin, emergentia. An emergency, ultimately from emergere, “to come forth, come out, to rise up… is what we hear it be if we listen to it, an emergence (curious that an orginal, now rare meaning in English pertained to how bodies would float to the surface of water).

Given this, “collapse” also came to mind. I recalled how habituated heretics were fatefully convicted of being in a state of relapsus, as Campanella was. Falling back. Collapse though is from collaps- the past participle stem of collabi, to fall together. The “co-“, the coming together is what I think should not be lost. The root, Lapus, they tell us is the perfect past participle of labor, “to move gently along a smooth surface, to fall, slide; to slide, slip, or glide down, to fall down, to sink”.

Emergence and sliding together.

We confuse (fuse together). We consider collapses to be emergencies, and often emergenices to signal collapses. When examining each, perhaps best attention is paid to just what is emerging, and what is sliding together, and further and more subtly, how sliding-together is a kind of emergence, and visa versa.

So Sophocles speaks of Time:

Everything, oh lengthy & unmetered Chronos

Produces, the unseen even as the revealed gets concealed.

Nothing is unexpected/hopeless…

Ajax, lines 646-648

And need we remind that “crisis” is from the Greek κρίσις; it is a “turning point”, a trial’s judgment, a discernment, a choice, an election. How the world is a composition of crisises, difference that makes a difference, and perhaps nothing more than such.