Latour: Why No Nietzsche?

We (OK, I) complained about Thrift offering a thoroughly Nietzschean argument without engaging hardly with Nietzsche himself.

Latour takes this curious fault to new heights.  In general, and especially when he talks about the disassembling of the subject, he is making a deeply Nietzschean argument.

At times the influence runs to phrasing, such as in this resonant echo:

…the way is open for new versions and refinements of the soul-hypothesis; and such conceptions as “mortal soul,” and “soul as subjective multiplicity,” and “soul as social structure of the drives and affects,” want henceforth to have citizens’ rights in science (Nietzsche, BGE, I:12).


For such an encounter with objects to take place, other circulating entities have to be granted back some rights of citizenry, so that they, too, can have a seat with the older members (Latour, Reassembling the Social, p. 235)

This echo is not hard evidence, of course, but the degree to which Latour depends on Nietzsche is tremendous, and yet he never once mentions Nietzsche in any way.  Similarly, Latour’s argument parallels Deleuze and Guattari so closely as to sometimes use precisely the same phrasing, and yet D&G are never mentioned.  (Only Deleuze’s book on Leibnitz is mentioned in the references).  Of course one could claim that Latour is so similar to D&G because he shares the fascination with Tarde, but still, really?  You so closely parallel such a well-known body of work (D&G), work you certainly have read and were clearly influenced by, and yet don’t see the need to acknowledge or even mention them?  And he is not operating like Foucault, referring to people without saying so explicitly; he is very careful to cite and give credit to many obscure studies of, say, markets or architects or newspaper clippings.

This is all true, by the way, of how Latour treats Spinoza too–never mentions him.  Really?  I am starting to see why there are such yawning and inexplicable gaps in Thrift’s scholarship.

Path to the Possible

Antipode, a radical journal in geography, has a series of symposiums around various themes.  This symposium is a set of responses to the “Communifesto for Fuller Geographies: Towards Mutual Security,” by the Participatory Geographies Research Group.  It proposes a series of ideas and practices for resisting the ongoing privatization of the contemporary university.  I have a response piece in the symposium called “Schools of Our Own.”  I will post that piece separately as well, but of course it will make the most sense in the context of of the symposium and the other responses.

View original post

Object-Oriented Philosophy

I’m starting to hear suggestions from certain disciplines that actor-network theory is making inroads on Foucault to such an extent that ANT might soon turn into the default dominant methodological toolkit in the humanities and social sciences.

I’d not considered previously that that might happen, though the process has been underway for some time. Latour could still become quite a bit more famous than he is now (Foucault is still cited more than twice as often, and it’s interesting to think of how the intellectual landscape might feel if that proportion were reversed). In philosophy Latour’s impact remains negligible, but I’m not surprised to see philosophy come late to the party. We are the slowest-moving of disciplines, though that has its advantages as well.

Someone yesterday was describing how fun it’s been to watch ANT roll into one new discipline after another, with the exact same debates repeated every time:…

View original post 8 more words

UW Scholars Studio CFP: Citizenship

perhaps of interest?

Scholars’ Studio: “Citizen” Research @the Commons
Monday, Nov. 5, 3:30-5:30 p.m.
Allen Library South, Ground Floor

Grad students and post-docs: submit your proposal by Fri, Oct 19

Working on a project, paper or thesis that deals with the concept “citizen”? Looking for opportunities to present your research and meet scholars outside your discipline? Need feedback on your presentation style? Grad students and post-docs: Submit a proposal for a 5-minute TED-style talk by October 19, and join us at Scholars’ Studio!

Sample topic ideas (just to get you started thinking):
Citizen science, Informed citizenry, Citizens and health, Performing citizenship, Citizen rights, Citizen journalism, Historical perspectives on citizenship, Digital citizen identity, Citizenship and migration…Find the topic that suits your work and interests!talk on any aspect of the topic “citizen”.

more info here:

Of Interest?

An article by Alberto Toscono on Spinoza’s influence in radical philosophy…

Toscano con­cen­trates spe­cific­ally on the latest ‘wave’ in the long his­tory of Spinozism, and focuses on three thinkers who have played a cru­cial role in the recent resur­gence of interest in the work of the Dutch philo­sopher: Gilles Deleuze, Etienne Balibar, and Ant­o­nio Negri. More spe­cific­ally, Toscano is con­cerned with how Spinoza has served as a spur for these three thinkers in their rad­ical inter­rog­a­tions of the mean­ing of polit­ics, demo­cracy and the com­mon. He does this by flesh­ing out three con­cepts through which Deleuze, Balibar and Negri respect­ively affirm the rel­ev­ance of Spinoza’s onto­logy and eth­ics to any reflec­tion on the con­tem­por­ary status of the polit­ical: com­pos­i­tion, com­mu­nic­a­tion and constitution.

My Desiring-Machines

In contemporary urban studies and geography there is an increasing desire to conceptualize the built environment as both a result of forces that produce, extend, and reconfigure it in countless ways, and as a social and spatial framework that hosts and affects these same forces. Working within the Spinozistic ontology that takes “relations of movement and rest” as the only constant, Deleuze and Guattari offer an explication of these intensities and lines of force that construct any given milieu, enter into complex and often ephemeral assemblages that operate according to their own logic, and produce what they call a ‘plane of immanence’ and a ‘plane of organization’. In A Thousand Plateaus these planes form the conceptual poles between which both thought and the physical and social constructions that constitute our everyday urban reality are actualized. For example, a private developer undertaking a large-scale urban redevelopment project could assemble a particular…

View original post 512 more words

Path to the Possible

Speaking of academic publishing, the reading group I participate in, Becoming Poor, is reading Bruno Latour’s Reassembling the Social.  It is obviously a significant book, published by Oxford University Press, which is of course no slouch.  And yet it is painfully clear that OUP did not pay to have a copy editor make sure the text was clean.  Latour is ESL, and he makes frequent colloquial slip-ups that any copy editor would have caught [e.g. his French habit of using the infinitive in place of the gerund: “This is one of the many cases where sociology has to accept to become more abstract” (p. 53)]  Not to mention frequent outright gaffes, such as

ANT’s solution is not to engage in polemics against sociologists of the social, but simply to multiply the occasions to quickly detect the contradiction in which they might have fallen into (p. 68).



View original post 177 more words