Saturday, June 15, 2013

Speculative realism, constructivism and politics

In Bryant's Speculations IV article he's discussing the signifier, signified and the referent, wherein the first two are constructed and do not represent an inherent property or meaning to the referent. Those who argue to the contrary are coming from a metaphysical essentialism.

Recall my experience with the hermetic perennial tradition has it that words conjure the thing itself, and thus the magic and control of heavenly language over the world, thereby explicitly demonstrating this kind of metaphysics. It's that same form of magical thinking that permeates essentialist accounts where classes of people are the natural order of things. While we're off performing Egyptian rituals virtually unchanged from the master-slave society in which they inhered is ludicrous. And that the priest class was most guilty of this practice is not lost, since they controlled access to Reality and the afterlife. This form of power relation is inherent to the rituals themselves and often mask the power hungry control of those that seek these 'modern' expressions of magical practice. Thank God (tongue in cheek metaphor for human evolution) constructivism came along to advance human rights and denounce this atrocity.

And of course this is not limited to magic-mythic cultures like the Egyptians of that time. This form of essentialism is alive and well in contemporary models of hierarchical complexity, both in having Platonic ideals and in reifying Aristotelian categories as inherent to the things themselves. (See this thread for more.) Which of course carry over into kennlingus developmental models, complete with the same kind of power relations of hero-king at the top of the hierachy with subservient classes following. It's the same kind of metaphysics involved, including an unabashed promotion of capitalism, the epitome of such a metaphysics as Marx so aptly pointed out.

Back to Bryant. He argues that speculative realism, in attacking correlationism, risks underming all of the important political advances of contructivism and thereby inadvertently reinforcing the kind of realism that sees such essentialist inherent categories. You even seen this form of attack from the kennlinguists in calling out constructivism as a mean green relativism. And yet he continues that there needs to be something added to typical constructivism, a form of realism that accounts for the non-constructed aspects of the real. Hence the speculation about the Real in its own domain apart from the Symbolic and the Imaginary in Bryant's terms. But his Real maintains a non-essentialist flair while kennlingus embraces it whole-heartedly.

Bryant's real has to do with science and its grasp of the material. Granted science itself can veer into scientism, or reducing everything to its domain. Nonetheless it must be considered and its scientism reduced via the kind of science we see in pomo complexity, which takes account of the other domains as well as the virtual side of the real. I'm thinking here of DeLanda more on the science side, and Latour more on the study of science in broader contexts. And it is here that Bryant brings in his Borromean knot to 'tie' these domains together while allowing them their own paradigmatic methodologies. He'd also add four sub-domains into the mix for understanding our political structures: geopolitics, infrapolitics, thermopolitics and chronopolitics. See the article for more on that.

I can say that Rifkin is addressing all of these concerns with his next wave socio-economics in real time with real governments. That he is not at all addressed by Bryant is therefore all the more curious, since it would add practical support to his own theses, and avoid critiques such as mine that he himself is guilty of the kind of academic posturing he so vehemently opposes.

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