Political Geography: Is the state an object in Object-oriented Ontology?

I am not a cultural critic, nor an expert in Object-oriented Ontology (though I try to keep up on it), but I recently published a short response to an article in Political Geography that applies OOO to interpret a favorite t.v. show of mine: The Wire.

My critique, and the authors’ response to it, are both up online now. A central point I raised is that to be consistent with OOO, any treatment of the state (qua object) must treat it as both real and retreating – which is based on a reading of Harman’s work and his interpretation of Heidegger’s tool analysis. This idea runs counter to a lot of political geography, which doesn’t want to reify the “state” or its space as the basic unit of analysis. Initially, it puzzled me that the original paper didn’t engage with what OOO might say about the state as both real and retreating.

The authors’ response is intriguing. They abandon defense of OOO before recovering the points of their article they wish to highlight (and about which I raised no contest, though linking up OOO to Deleuze and co. raises other questions too).

This leaves my original question open: what does OOO have to say about the state? And what can/should political geographers do with its tools?

It is far from clear to me that OOO must reify the state in ways that have worried political geographers. In fact, it may have some nice elements to add (presuming, of course, one is willing to accept the larger philosophical package it comes with).


  1. getting my usual soapboxing in that most “objects” don’t “withdraw” they just exceed our grasps, let me move on to say that in general I’m not convinced that “hyper” objects are actually objects (I know that “states” are not as they do not actually act, figures of speech aside), now to the degree that such reifications can productively function as works of Jane Bennett style anthropomorphizations/metaphors than I suppose that is open to experimentation, and along these lines I’m pleased to hear TiMorton talk recently about making toys to be played with rather than laws/principles to be enforced, my preference is of course instead to speak of prototypes and let the related moods arise as they do and not try and force people to be playful or such.

    • I’ve tried to, and am remaining, non-committal on OOO; particularly on hyper-objects, which I did not find compelling.

      • in the beginning I was taken with Tim’s idea as it tried to bring folks to come to terms with phenomena that exceed our calculative response-abilities (cognitive-biases and all) and our literal-minded attempts to come to terms with them (pun intended), but I’m afraid it just fed into peoples’ sense that they could grasp and even overcome such event-ualities, not unlike Derrida’s largely failed attempt to rattle our habitual cages with his “différance”

      • Yup.

        I think the idea (of HOs) could have some merit – I’m just not convinced by the account offered.

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