The Schizoanalytic Critique of Althusser on Ideology

terenceblake:

Very interesting critique of Althusser’s concepts of ideology and the subject. Badiou’s THEORY OF THE SUBJECT (1982) is at the origin of an alternative response to the same problem of Althusser’s absorption of the subject by the structure. Bruno Latour does not choose between the two. He locates Althusser’s interpellated subject in the religious mode (but thinks it a good thing) and the schizophrenic subject in the metamorphic mode (but calls it “psyche” rather than subject). For Deleuze and Guattari the nomadic subject is transmodal.

Originally posted on Nomad Scholarship:

This is the first installment of an essay on “Nomad Citizenship revisited” (announced and outlined in a post here at the beginning of February).

Deleuze and Guattari’s fundamental agreements with Althusser are numerous: the attempt to salvage Marxism from Hegelianism by drawing instead on Spinoza; the “Problematic” status of the economic as a virtual structure expressed and masked by actual solutions; the importance of the division of labor as social multiplicity (relative to class struggle); and the “becoming-necessary” of a mode of production as a result of machinic processes rather than as a point of departure.  Yet despite these fundamental areas of agreement, Deleuze and Guattari vehemently reject the notion of ideology – even the new and improved version Althusser proposed, drawing on Lacan, in his famous essay on Ideological State Apparatuses.  They rejected standard notions of ideology for overemphasizing cognition and ignoring the primacy of desire: ideology would not be…

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Nomad Citizenship revisited

terenceblake:

Interesting reflection on “nomad” citizenship which has much in common with Feyerabend’s “free” citizenship. The discussion of the “transcendent model of organisation” of institutions is useful in articulating the shortcomings of Bruno Latour’s modes of existence project.

Originally posted on Nomad Scholarship:

I’m planning to write what would be in effect a “last chapter” to be added to my book on Nomad Citizenship. In that book, I argue that nomad citizens should self-organize in groups that constitute alternatives to state citizenship, in order to participate in markets and other forms of exchange that constitute alternatives to capitalist markets.  In this additional “chapter,” I propose ways that nomad citizens can intervene in existing institutions, in addition to forming nomad groups of their own.  The aim, in other words, is to develop a political theory of the institution, drawing on both schizoanalysis and nomadology.

My point of departure will be Althusser – for despite fundamental agreement with him on some issues, Deleuze & Guattari vehemently rejected the notion of ideology – even the improved version Althusser developed in his famous essay on Ideological State Apparatuses.  For Deleuze & Guattari such “apparatuses” or institutions belong…

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IS TWITTER MAKING US STUPID?

Is Twitter making us stupid? Not necessarily. It all depends on what use you make of the medium. In my own case, I was initially disoriented, which led me to caricature both my language and my attitude, and I may have offended some people in an attempt to get myself a hearing and to find my own voice.

But I have now found a more productive modus operandi, where I begin with a “plateau” of tweets clustered around a single theme, and discuss the ideas if possible (this is still rather rare), later I Storify them, then I write the stories up into blog posts, then I assemble the posts into an article that I publish on academia.edu. So my digitality is still evolving. One day I will assemble these articles into a book on PLURALIST REALISM. Why not?

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SUBSUMING LATOUR’S AIME IN A VASTER PLURALISM

I have been a “Feyerabendo-Deleuzian” pluralist for many years, but I am beginning to get interested in Badiou again after long having rejected him, and I am finding his recent ideas quite attractive. I wish to do some work on his IMMANENCE OF TRUTH subjective turn, and am looking for a format that will allow me to be both useful and honest. After frequenting as far as possible both the ideas and the milieus of Bernard Stiegler and of Bruno Latour I have come to the conclusion that there is something missing philosophically in their work that I am beginning to find again in Badiou. So, despite my being critical of some aspects of his thought and style, my recent contributions are meant to be explorations of the positive value of his recent work.
Similarly, I have an ambivalent relation to Bruno Latour’s AIME project, that I have been criticising a lot lately to rid it of its dogmatic residues. I am not “against” AIME, and I never have been. It is a very important contribution to the ongoing evolution of pluralist thought. I came to France in 1980 after 10 years of being criticised or ostracised for being a pluralist, first in my Catholic high school, then in the University by the Analytics, the Althusserians, the Lacanians, and the Derrideans. I attended the lectures of Deleuze, Lyotard, Foucault and Serres. So my coming to France, and staying here, was for love of pluralism. This is why I immediately became enthusiastic, and critical, about AIME. I am a fellow-traveler. I wish AIME well (but different).
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DÉNI DE SYSTÈME: Bruno Latour et la suture de Gaia

On ne peut pas parler en dehors des des jeux du langage. Dans le cas de la philosophie, soit la tentative produit des propos incohérents (non-sens),  soit elle s’appuie de fait sur un jeu de langage implicite (suture).

Lorsque Bruno Latour parle de Gaia il efface par l’emploi d’une rhétorique consensuelle le jeu de langage dont ses propos relèvent. Strictement, “Gaia” est une hypothèse scientifique et relève du mode d’existence des êtres scientifiques, qui est décrit par Bruno Latour dans son ENQUÊTE SUR LES MODES D’EXISTENCE.

Gaia et les êtres de religion [REL] relèvent de jeux de langage incommensurables, et leur croisement non-réglé est interdit par le système EME. “Gaia” telle que Latour en parle ne se situe dans aucun mode d’énonciation, ou d’existence, proposé par son système. Pour parler de Gaia, Latour est obligé de se situer en dehors des règles de tout mode d’énonciation, et donc il “prophétise”. Il fait peut-être un beau discours de motivation, mais il a quitté le terrain de la philosophie en général, et de son propre système en particulier.

En prophétisant ainsi, Latour peut dire tout et son contraire, en dehors des règles de sens et de vérité constitutives de ses jeux de langage. Plus rien ne l’empêche. Donc il peut aussi lier dans le même discours Gaia et REL, malgré leur incommensurabilité.

Ceci est conforme au diagnostique de Badiou concernant les post-modernes, dont Latour fait partie, malgré son déni. Selon Badiou le pluralisme de jeux de langage incommensurables est un fait banal et évident de notre monde contemporain. Nous sommes tous pluralistes.  La pensée philosophique qui dénie son statut de philosophie se suture à une de ses conditions et simplifie la pluralité en imposant l’hégémonie d’un seul jeu de langage. Badiou n’inclut pas la philosophie parmi ses quatres procédures de vérité, néanmoins il la traite comme un jeu de langage déterminé dont on peut énoncer les règles.

En revanche, Latour ne donne aucun statut à la philosophie telle qu’il la pratique, préférant user des métaphores. Ces métaphores effectuent une première suture, de surface: Latour suture sa philosophie à la science (REF, dans son système). Donc il appelle son livre un traité de “métaphysique empirique”. Certains des détails de ses analyses ont été suggérés par des recherches en STS, mais le système latourien dans sa globalité n’est absolument pas le fruit de recherches empiriques. Il est dominé par des exigences idéologiques.

Nous allons voir que la suture de surface, de la philosophie à la science, cache une suture plus profonde du système à la religion. En fait, Gaia est le cheval de Troie pour faire entrer la religion dans l’ontologie. Pour Latour nous sommes ontologiquement Catholiques.

Le problème ne vient pas de l’utilisation rhétorique et motivationnelle que Latour fait de Gaia, il surgit plutôt dans l’association non-fondée qu’il instaure entre Gaia et son système ontologique. Latour n’offre aucune explication dans les termes de son système pour son souci de Gaia, il sort Gaia comme un lapin politique de son chapeau ontologique.

Pour Badiou la philosophie configure les vérités qui font événement dans les conditions de vérité d’une époque. Donc Badiou est justifié, en termes de son système, en se référant aux mathématiques post-cantoriennes, et au principe égalitaire d’une politique “communiste”.

Latour aurait pu arguer de façon badiousienne que l’hypothèse Gaia fait événement dans les sciences, REF, et que la philosophie doit en parler. Mais son système interdit l’extraction d’un contenu de son jeu de langage d’origine, pour ensuite le ré-utiliser dans un jeu de langage différent, ou même hors jeu. Il passe son temps, dans un long livre, à expliquer que pour chaque être il y a des conditions de félicité qui règlent toute énonciation à son sujet. Et ensuite il se met à parler de façon sauvage, non-règlée, de Gaia. L’incohérence est totale.

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EVALUING LATOUR’S AIME: diplomacy, originality, testability, digitality, democracy

DIPLOMACY

First let us get rid of a false criterion, that of diplomacy. Latour talks about diplomacy a lot in relation to AIME, and he gives it several incompatible meanings. However, despite the prevalence of this rhetoric there is not the slightest diplomacy in Latour’s work, all talk of it is metaphor and theatre. Latour represents noone but himself and his project, he certainly does does not speak in my name or in the name of my modernity. His modernity, including his religiosity, has been dead for over 60 years.

On the question of religion, I have no objection to Latour’s Catholocism. If this gives him the perspective and the strength to contest scientism I am all for it. However, I do object to Latour inscribing Catholocism, however refined, into the description of the Moderms, i.e. to his imposing Catholocism on us all. I find the idea that we are all ontologically Catholic to be ridiculous.

Latour’s poetic theology (thanks to Dirk Felleman for this term as applied to Latour) is very reminiscent of books on Wittgenstein and religion as a non-referential language game, which became popular in the sixties. Yet also in the sixties popularity grew for people like the beats, Alan Watts, the whole counter-culture, which had no equivalent in France. I think that in the English-speaking world the “refined” approach to religion often involves turning towards Eastern religions, but that this is far less so in France. I find Latour’s theology not poetic enough, and even Badiou makes a far better job of integrating poetry into his thinking.

ORIGINALITY

This is another illusion to be dispelled. Much of what Latour has to say about the Moderns is already to be found in Lyotard’s works of the early 80s, from JUST GAMING and THE POSTMODERN CONDITION to THE DIFFEREND. This is where Lyotard elaborates his ontology of phrases and of their various régimes (that Latour calls “modes”). Unlike Latour, Lyotard took seriously the critique that a tolerant pluralism of language games was in danger of merely repeating and legitimating the current state of capitalism, unless its was reworked by a more active political Idea. Lyotard proposed the Idea of justice to prevent the hegemony of any one language game forcing all the others to translate their phrases into its terms and to obey its grammar (Latour’s “felicity conditions”).

Latour gladly adopts the multiplicity and the heterogeneity of language games, and applies the principle of non-hegemony. An important difference is that Lyotard considered that capitalism was itself a language game that was trying to submit all others to its rule of maximising profit and thus was translating all values into quantifiable criteria. All trace of this idea is absent from Latour’s system, in its place there is: Gaia.

It is desolating to see how badly Latour treats Lyotard, when he deigns to mention him, while parasiting so much of his work. This was also the case with his treatment of Deleuze. However, the pressure of the contributions published on his site has given rise to a false impression of due acknowledgment of Deleuze, which was absent at first. This changing face of AIME, presented as a positive feature of the site, implies a corresponding flaw: the danger of digital humanities as digital parasitism. The AIME site can absorb and neutralise critique by pretending that it had always already replied to it.

Latour’s site is philosophical in content, it develops and articulates an ontology. It’s results are to evaluated principally in terms of philosophical criteria.  The site is a pharmakon, in Stiegler’s sense. It’s success is to be measured in terms of the impulse given to ontological research. Not in terms of its contribution to the edification of paradigmatic consensus and groupthink (thanks to   for this last point).

DIGITALITY

Latour claims that his AIME project represents an exemplary contribution to the digital humanities. The old methods of research and exposition are quickly becoming antiquated in the light of new technology. The demands of bringing education to a greater number and of making it more relevant are slowly making themselves felt. Latour talks a lot about “digital humanities” yet he consistently insults blogs. He repeats habits belonging to the academy that he is trying to escape or transform. For example, he replies only to articles published by professors. Despite his contempt for the terrible things that happen on blogs, his own AIME site is basically a heavily moderated blog, with the text of his book displayed in a searchable side bar. Latour’s site is no pedagogical model for the digital humanities, it is a thousand times more authoritarian than a university.

In contrast, I am totally digitally based, and so is my treatment of his book and project. I was one of the early adopters and of the early contributors to his site,  and an early reader of his book, which I bought when it first came out in French and then in English. I was an early commenter, both on my own blog and on a high quality blog devoted to his book and project: https://aimegroup.wordpress.com/ . I was an early, digitally based, reviewer of the book, and posted one of the first long reviews. All my articles are assemblages of posts that first published on my blog, AGENT SWARM, then gathered together, re-written and posted on my academia.edu page.

My contribution to the debate around Latour’s book has not been purely critical. Aside from the engagement with the book and a couple of contributions to the site, I defended Latour from Graham Harman’s annexing and “correcting” of his positions. Ialso defended Latour from Levi Bryant’s ill-informed criticism during the “pluralism wars”. I tried to correct Latour’s one-sided account of recent philosophical history.

So I have long been a fellow-traveller to @AIMEproject. Where is the place in Latour’s paradigm of the digital humanities for such work?

TESTABILITY

Packed amphitheaters, theatrics and Gaiatrics have nothing to do with confirming such an ontology. Theoretically Latour is a Popperian, he talks about the necessity for “trials” or Popperian tests. Practically Latour is a Kuhnian, he talks about the values of team work for research, a shared vocabulary and enduring commitment, and close reading. His model is normal science in Kuhn’s sense, where he provides the framing paradigm and calls for “contributions” i.e. for puzzle-solving activities that never question the fundamental assumptions of the paradigm.

Popper seeks bold speculative conjectures and equally bold attempts at refutation, Kuhn seeks to maintain the paradigm and to turn puzzles into confirmations. Critical discussion and the demand for testability are refutation-oriented. Packed amphitheaters, close teams, and modest contributions are confirmation-oriented. AIME’s digital platform allows only “contributions” i.e. confirming instances. There is no room for trials that end up disconfirming or profoundly modifying.

This is bound up with the basic rule for a contribution: no commentary, no critique, no discussion of the foundational hypotheses, just a dicussion that confirms or extends the paradigm and that provides a confirming document or reference as proof. In this way, all critique is discouraged, minor revisions are welcomed, but major trials are excluded. The time frame of the digital platform and the invisibility of a contribution before it is published precludes any authentic discussion. AIME is not a discussion platform but a director’s cut. Disconfirming instances and analyses are simply not published.

DEMOCRACY

My problem with AIME is not it’s supposed “relativism”. It is in fact a pluralist and realist project, that is why I defended it during the pluralism wars. Rather my problem is that even though it is pluralist, which is why I pay so much attention to it, it is not pluralist enough. Unfortunately its pluralism is incomplete, and this flaw is tied to its perpetuation of a closed and non-democratic academic habitus.

Latour likes to give the impression that all the critics of his project are monists and reductionists. This is not my case. My objections are intra-pluralistic. I am a fellow traveler with AIME in the struggle against scientism and other reductionisms. The big problem here is that Latour’s modes are élitist, whereas the domains he derives them from are, at least potentially, democratic. For example, REL is élitist, while religion is democratic i.e. “gnostic” in Latour’s terminology.

The only trial that Latour allows for his descriptions of modes is the intuition of the relevant experts. The only protest of experience that he allows is the protest of the experts. Authoritarian protest must be converted into acceptance, so Latour’s conceptual radicalism is finalised by his aim of obtaining expert consensus and consent. The modal authorities are defined as the only legitimate protestors.

In the case of religion, priests and pastors are defined as the relevant experts on REL, those who need to be convinced. Ordinary people who practice a religion must accept their judgement, or be regarded as “gnostics”. Only the experts can protest, the testimony of the gnostics (i.e. virtually everybody) is rejected as resulting from the “wrong” apocalypse.  Latour applies the same élitist grid that he uses for science (experts vs people, modes vs domains) to religion.

This anti-democratic élitism is written into the very terms of the system, for instance in the difference posited between mode and domain. Latour extracts an essence out of a domain in which people of many different types participate, and elevates this essence to the status of a “mode” of existence presided over by experts. Latour’s thought here is extremely bifurcationist: modes are bifurcated from domains, experts from citizens. Yet AIME is constantly shuttling back and forth between modes and domains. It could not get any interest without this constant exchange and interference, that it is obliged to see as confusion.

The distinction between a mode and its domain can only be local, temporary , and controversial. It cannot be decreed once and for all. In everyday life, domains interfere constantly in the modes and transform them, this is both legitimate and necessary, not only for progress but for the very content of the discourses and the practices in play.

Latour’s system is anti-empiricist, anti-Jamesian. Experience should not be just that of experts and their special interests and demands. The very naming of the modes is oriented towards already existing a priori requirements. Why is the scientific mode called REF, and the religious mode REL? Calling the scientific mode REF should be a democratic move, subsuming science under a more general category open to everybody. Who knows referentially for Latour? Just scientists or eveyone? Similarly, the psyche is taken from the exclusive hands of the experts (psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychoanalysts) and subsumed under a more general, and potentially democratic, category – MET, the beings of metamorphosis.

So why is the mode corresponding to religion called REL? Why isn’t religion subsumed in a more general and more democratic category? The religious mode is called REL because Latour has already decided in advance. He will do anything to have religion as a mode, this is not an empirical finding but an ideological requirement.  This ontological legitimation of religion goes with the abandon of all empirical description and the promotion of an élitist abstraction. To enter the religious mode you must go through a semiotic apocalypse, or stay outside as a secular gnostic. Thus REL is totally anti-democratic.

More generally, this shows the elitism of AIME: it is not an anthropology of all the moderns but only of certain privileged groups.

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LEVI BRYANT ON DELEUZE: complete is not entire

Note: I am indebted to a facebook conversation with John Appleby for helping me clarify these ideas.

In his reply to Bryan Bannon’s review of ONTO-CARTOGRAPHY, Levi Bryant conflates the concepts of undetermined and indeterminate in Deleuze’s book DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION. On page 207 we can see that complete determination applies to the virtual part of the object, and that it leaves the actual part indeterminate. So Bryant is wrong both about Bannon’s claim that the virtual is “indeterminate” (as Bannon was talking about the indetermination of the virtual object with respect to its actualisation) and about Deleuze’s own view. Bryant misunderstands the notion of “complete” determination in the passage he cites, where “complete” refers only to the virtual object, and as Deleuze himself says it “lacks…the whole set of relations belonging to actual existence”.

Here Bryant confuses Deleuze’s thesis of the complete determination of the virtual, where “complete” is used in a technical sense (i.e. limited to the virtual), with the affirmation of the absence of any need for determination. He found a sentence that seemed to confirm his interpretation ( “far from being undetermined, the virtual is completely determined”) but he didn’t read further down to see what it actually meant in this context. Unfortunately, the full text shows that Bryant’s interpretation is wrong and that Bannon’s is right. The complete is the virtual, and so remains indeterminate as to its actualisation. The complete object “lacks the whole set of relations belonging to actual existence” (Deleuze). It is thus completely determined (as to its virtual existence) and wholly indeterminate (as to its actual existence). The word to watch here is “complete”, which does not mean what Bryant is taking it to mean. “Complete” is not everything, but just the virtual part.

I read Bannon’s review and thought it was OK in its contentbut a little too diplomatic in its style. Then I read Levi Bryant’s response and was disappointed that he did not reply to the more general argument, but was content with replying to an abstruse point about the interpretation of Deleuze.

Bryant seems to think he has found a “clincher” quote to rebut Bannon, but on reading this sentence in context it does not say what Bryant would have it say. I think that Bryant was playing fast and loose with the distinction between differentiation as determination of the virtual object, and differenciation as determination of the actual object. But he is probably only simplifying deliberately to score a point against Bannon. However, this is only a side issue to the more general argument.

Bannon’s more general argument, and mine, is that Bryant wants to create a conceptual synthesis of the objectal and the machinic paradigms, but that the mix has still not gotten to the stage of a real synthesis. The price Bryant is paying for this premature, and perhaps ill-advised, attempt at synthesis is too much abstraction and vagueness despite his call for concreteness.

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