Enigma of revolt reprise: Storming the castle

Derek Gregory, who blogs at Geographical Imaginations has some thoughts on Andy Merrifield’s essay in Adbusters on Kafka, public space and revolt here. Dr. Gregory is more sympathetic to Merrifield’s argument than I was in my earlier post, where I wasn’t sold on the idea that there are no shared lampposts for action and that we live ‘naked lives’.

Derek Gregory posts more directly on the spatial dimension of a scene where Joseph K. (the main character in Kafka’s The Trial) attempts to breach a castle; which stands as a symbol for a certain kind of bureaucratic rationality that is fortified against internal dissent. Gregory throws this idea of spatial politics into contrast with Merrifield’s remarks on Occupy, which focus on a set of external confrontations with the logic of the systems Occupiers presumably have in their sights (i.e. capitalism).

I remain unconvinced. In part, because the idea of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ rationalities to different political spaces sets out a fairly straightforward set of relationships. Either you submit to the internal logic of bureaucracy or you do not. If you don’t, good luck changing it. If you do, no issues arise. Or, if you seek a form of public space with an external logic then you open up the possibility of new external spaces. Merrifield wants the to-and-fro between internal and external logics of space to set out the domain in which things are ‘enigmatic’. But I tend to think that Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter’s analysis in The Rebel Sell is still a good rejoinder. Like many, I wouldn’t agree wholly with that book, but that is primarily because I don’t see dichotomies between inside/outside, internal/external as offering a compelling alternate vision of social space or its possibilities. So I would perhaps be partial to an alternate set of critiques. Nevertheless, their ideas for why the culture can’t be jammed when it itself provides the safety net for alternate visions of society, seems plausible to me. Heath just received a Trudeau Fellowship, a prized Canadian award for scholars across the social sciences and humanities.

Anyways, to me those sorts of dialectics of internal/external and so on, and the assumptions about the world they embed, represent (to use Richard Rorty’s phrase) a world well lost. I am at present using some of Rorty’s ideas in a new paper; so will return to this on-going engagement again.

Latour’s new book: Modes of Existence

Bruno Latour’s new book: Modes of Existence is now out. An english translation is due out with HUP in the new year. Details here.

The result of a twenty five years inquiry, it offers a positive version to the question raised, only negatively, with the publication, in 1991, of ”We have never been modern”: if ”we” have never been modern, then what have ”we” been? From what sort of values should ”we” inherit? In order to answer this question, a research protocol has been developed that is very different from the actor-network theory. The question is no longer only to define ”associations” and to follow networks in order to redefine the notion of ”society” and ”social” (as in ”Reassembling the Social”) but to follow the different types of connectors that provide those networks with their specific tonalities. Those modes of extension, or modes of existence, account for the many differences between law, science, politics, and so on. This systematic effort for building a new philosophical anthropology offers a completely different view of what the ”Moderns” have been and thus a very different basis for opening a comparative anthropology with the other collectives – at the time when they all have to cope with ecological crisis. Thanks to a European research council grant (2011-2014) the printed book will be associated with a very original purpose built digital platform allowing for the inquiry summed up in the book to be pursued and modified by interested readers who will act as co-inquirers and co-authors of the final results. With this major book, readers will finally understand what has led to so many apparently disconnected topics and see how the symmetric anthropology begun forty years ago can come to fruition.