Saturday, March 17, 2012

Latour on Sloterdijk

Balder started an IPS thread on Sloterdijk's trilogy Spheres. Therein a link was provided to a book about Slot called In Media Res. We'd previously discussed the "affair" wherein Slot was accused of being a neo-fascist pig by a few of Habermas' mouthpieces. So I was curious if this book addressed it. From the introduction:

"Sloterdijk reiterates some of the more familiar libertarian critiques of the welfare state, and he literally sides with the idea that the unproductive feed off the productive, over the leftist idea of the exploitation of labour by capital. Given the fact that, worldwide, the poor work under overwhelmingly deplorable conditions to produce what the rich buy for next to nothing, Sloterdijk’s plea is not difficult to interpret as a form of ideological ‘desolidarization'.... Honneth provides a critique of Sloterdijk’s (recent) work, not just of Sloterdijk’s intervention in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and diagnoses it as the ideological legitimation of a new conservative political and economic elite" (17).

I  read chapters 3 and 4, which were to specifically deal with this. But they both were so full of technical philosophical jargon and obfuscated writing that they were virtually useless to me. All the more ironic because the intro complained about this very type of intellectualism and boasted how the chapters were of a more embodied reason. Not to me, anyway.

Latour's chapter, however, was a revelation after the other two. Favorite quote: “Global is always a lot of globaloney” (159). I very much appreciated his clarity of style, which synchonously enough was the main point about design being part of the matter. Recall my discussion of Bryant's lucid style, which itself is a performance of his content. Content without style is so much abstract and disembodied reason, whereas Latour's content is embodied in well-reasoned style.

This especially in light of previous discussions about a being that pre-dates reason, a nonconceptual being to which we can return in some kind of pristine heaven. Latour though says that one aspect of design is in the sign, that meaning and interpretation is not apart from the thing-in-itself but rather tied to it from the start. Semiotics goes to “core of objectivity” (154).

I also appreciate the notion of explicitation, of making things explicit, rather than the focus on what is implicit. This defuses so much of the hegemonic Whole that seems to accompany notions of the implicit. And ironically enough, it seems that the implicit is generally explicated within a very particular frame, one that has rigid boundaries and does not admit much of the foamy multitude of concrete polydoxa.

I also understood from this chapter why Habermas was so upset, for the above challenges the modernist notion of objects, which are lifeless materials devoid of design qualities. Here we see sympathy with OOO's rehabilitation of objects, which to Habbie's eye can only be translated as objectifying humanity. “It is somewhat understandable that when Sloterdijk raised the question of how humans could be 'designed,' that is, artificially nurtured, this invokes the old phantasm of eugenic manipulations” (160). Whereas it is more like humanizing objects. That's not quite right if by humanizing we mean modern sensibility of subjectivity versus objectivity, since that would then commit the anthropocentric, epistemic fallacy. Rather in the spirit of the article it is more of a redesigning the boundary between the two. For example:

“Humanists are concerned only about humans; the rest, for them, is mere materiality or cold objectivity. But Sloterdijk is not treating humans matter of factually as humanists claim. Rather, he treats both humans and non-humans as 'matters of grave and careful concerns' …. This little shift in the definition of matter modifies everything” (160).

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