January 23, 2009

Speculative Realism/ Politics/ Ontology

I'm still frustratingly busy, but just want to give a quick nod towards the discussion of speculative realism and politics reignited by a tremendous post from Nick at The Accursed Share., sparking responses by Jon at Posthegemony and Graham Harman (Object-Oriented Philosophy: high quality blogging at Twitter speed... Graham's frequency of posting has the effect of massively speeding up the already accelerated time of cyberspace, so this discussion already seems ancient.)

Nick begins like this:

    It seems to me that one of the most contentious and unremarked upon effects of speculative realism has to do with its attack on a piece of continental dogma Ė namely the presupposition that ontology is necessarily political. This idea is seen in any number of continental works, from Deleuzeís constructivism, to Derridaís deconstructions of presence, to the social constructivists, gender and identity theorists, among others. The basic idea being that ontology is always constructed through a political battle, a conflict over what exists.

My instinct would be to reverse this, i.e. it's not that ontology is always constructed through a political battle, but that politics is always constructed through an ontological battle. Politics certainly presuppose ontology - to take a glaring example, the key slogans of Thatcherite capitalist realism, for instance ("There is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families" and "There is no alternative") were explicitly ontological claims, claims about what sort of entities can be said to exist in the world. But that isn't to say that all ontologies presuppose a politics.

Graham puts it like this:

    Surely an ontology has political implications, but it seems more likely to me that those implications are polarized as to content Ė think right or left Hegelians, Nazi or Marxist Heideggerians, free-love or bourgeois Freudians, reactionary or anarchist Nietzscheans.

    At the other extreme are authors like Chomsky, who (at least in his non-linguistic work) is offering pretty much nothing but specific political content, and as a result I doubt Chomsky has any following on the RightĖ whereas in principle Zizek could.

    Iíd be careful of going too far with this, of course. I wouldnít want to claim that explicit content is entirely irrelevant to a thinkerís position, which would be a sort of hyper-McLuhanite gestureó and a rather troubling one since it would reduce all political oppositions among thinkers to surface fluctuations in the ontic.

This connects with Graham's claims about style and philosophy, which in turn chimes with his interest in formal cause and its theorists (McLuhan, Baudrillard). But that's another story...

So I'm left with the question: are there any necessary political implications of Speculative Realism, then, or is its role in this respect simply to scorch the earth, to make uninhabitable the ontological territories which continentalists had colonised with their versions of politics?

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January 12, 2009

A Kantianism for inanimate objects and other announcements

    Itís not a matter of forgetting Kantís exclusion from the in-itself. Itís a matter of questioning why he gives humans a monopoly on such exclusion. In a sense, Iím trying to let rocks, stones, armies, and Exxon join in the fun of being excluded from the in-itself. A sort of Kantianism for inanimate objects.

One of many delights now available at Graham Harman's predictably wonderful new blog, which, as I'm sure many of you have already seen, has started at a cracking pace, reflecting the ebullience, enthusiasm and energy of its author.

Related:

New Metaphysics

Series editors: Graham Harman and Bruno Latour


The world is due for a resurgence of original speculative metaphysics. The New Metaphysics series aims to provide a safe house for such thinking amidst the demoralizing caution and prudence of professional academic philosophy. We do not aim to bridge the analytic-continental divide, since we are equally impatient with nail-filing analytic critique and the continental reverence for dusty textual monuments. We favor instead the spirit of the intellectual gambler, and wish to discover and promote authors who meet this description. Like an emergent recording company, what we seek are traces of a new metaphysical "sound" from any nation of the world. The editors are open to translations of neglected metaphysical classics, and will consider secondary works of especial force and daring. But our main interest is to stimulate the birth of disturbing masterpieces of twenty-first century philosophy. Please send project descriptions (not full manuscripts) to Graham Harman, graham@rinzai.com. Open Humanities Press is an international Open Access publishing collective. OHP was formed by scholars to overcome the current crisis in publishing that threatens intellectual freedom and academic rigor worldwide. All OHP publications are peer-reviewed, published under open access licenses, and freely and immediately available online through www.openhumanitiespress.org.

Elsewhere in the k-punkosphere:

Simon Reynolds on the Hardcore Continuum

11 February 7.00pm

£7.00/£5.00 (Members & concs)

Shout out to all UK ravers - renowned author and music journalist Simon Reynolds (Energy Flash/Rip It Up and Start Again) brings rave music to FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) in Liverpool as part of current exhibition DING>>DONG.

In a talk illustrated by seminal tracks, old and new, Reynolds will outline his oft-quoted and sometimes controversial theory of a "Hardcore ContinuumĒ: a thread linking the UK's rapidly mutating genres of electronic dance music Ė from hardcore rave to jungle, speed garage to 2step, grime to dubstep to bassline and beyond Ė through a set of shared influences, including Jamaican sound system culture, digital technology, drugs, and pirate radio.

Reynolds presents the idea in depth, in person, for the first time while addressing its continued relevance and vitality against a backdrop of new genres (funky house), a shift of focus to the North (bassline), and a digital revolution that has new forms of distribution (from peer-to-peer sharing of DJ sets to MySpace) gradually eclipsing the traditional media of pirate radio and vinyl.

Plus, in a special Wire Online exclusive, Reynolds reaches deep into the archive to introduce seven features from The Wire magazine, written from 1992 to 2005 on the (then) emerging genres of ardkore, jungle, drum & bass, speed garage, 2step, and grime. Offered for the first time as a series, the articles will provide a sneak preview of what to expect at FACT.

The event will also feature a discussion between Reynolds and Mark Fisher, Acting Deputy Editor of The Wire and the man behind the influential blog K-Punk, with an audience Q&A session.

Tickets available at http://www.picturehouses.co.uk

In association with The Wire

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I'll be back with more proper posts soon. Note to anyone interested in hiring my services: my tenure as Acting Deputy Ed of The Wire is coming to an end in the next few weeks, so, come February, I'll be a gun for hire again.

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