and last… February 3, 2009
2. I have never said that ontology is apolitical!!!
What I have said is:
(a) philosophy is not the handmaid of politics. And for us that means emphasizing that philosophy is not the handmaid of leftism, since leftism is by far the most respectable political orientation in avant-garde circles of continentally-oriented thinkers. Philosophy is also not the handmaid of the natural sciences, or of anything else. We can all laugh at the way philosophy became an instrument of theology in an earlier time, but there are commitments today that are every bit as strong as the earlier theological ones. And we can’t sell out the autonomy of philosophy to those commitments.
(b) every ontology does have political implications, but they tend to be polarized rather than a tangible political content. Every possible political thing has been done with Hegel and Nietzsche. This is even true of Nazi Heidegger. (And generally speaking, the greater the thinker, the greater the polarizations.) Though most Heideggerians do tend to be temperamentally of an authoritarian twist, we’ve seen Marxist Heideggerians, and it’s quite easy to imagine a massive wave of Green Party sorts of things inspired directly by Heidegger’s technology writings. It’s probably already happened, I’m sure. Maybe he’s already one of the heroes of deep ecology, a movement I don’t know well. He’d probably be a good fit.
Ontology and Politics January 12, 2009
Surely an ontology has political implications, but it seems more likely to me that those implications are polarized as to content– 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 Right– whereas in principle Zizek could.
I’d be careful of going too far with this, of course. I wouldn’t want to claim that explicit content is entirely irrelevant to a thinker’s position, which would be a sort of hyper-McLuhanite gesture— and a rather troubling one since it would reduce all political oppositions among thinkers to surface fluctuations in the ontic. So I’d be leery of going that far, but there’s a certain ingredient of it at play in philosophy, I think, and that ingredient is missed if we try to correlate ontologies directly with the details of political platforms. Posted by doctorzamalek Filed in Badiou, Deleuze, Latour, Nick Srnicek, Peter Hallward, Zizek
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 – namely the presupposition that ontology is necessarily political. This idea is seen in any number of continental works, from Deleuze’s constructivism, to Derrida’s 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.
Where the structuralist reduces the social to a single ontological strata (language), and where the systems theorist reduces the social to a single type (communications), the assemblage theorist discerns connections between signs, language, technology, persons, natural entities, media, etc., etc., etc. In other words, there is not one ontic domain that is privileged over all the others, but rather a heterogeneous where very different ontic domains must be woven together in ways that never quite work out. This ontological pluralism significantly broadens the possibilities of political engagement, while also shifting us to a hybrid mode of analysis that is happy to concede that often we artificially limit what is analyzed for the sake of research, while also recognizing that there are many other differences that make a difference and that are irreducible to the difference being analyzed.