LET’S MAKE MORE BADIOUS: Marketing metaphysics in the epoch of speculative capitalism

I do not believe that a historical epoch is characterised by one episteme to the exclusion of all other ways of perceiving, thinking, and being in the world. The present is more complex and more multiple than this monist vision of the episteme may suggest. There are also relics and remainders of past epistemes, germinal sketches of epistemes to come, parallel epistemes developping and deploying their régimes of perception and of practice nearly unperturbed by the transformations and sedimentations occurring around their field of influence. Yet one episteme may come to embody and to dictate, to reflect and to reinforce, the dominant self-understanding of an age. Such an episteme may come to expression in pure or distorted form, or it may lead a more obscure, unstated and unperceived, but nonetheless potent existence beneath the threshold of awareness or knowledge.

Badiou states in its purest, most general form the speculative metaphysics that corresponds to the currently dominant episteme. Unfortunately, his philosophy is a mere make-do compromise bridging the gap between his great pluralist predecessors (Deleuze, Lyotard, Foucault, Derrida) and the pluralist wave (Laruelle, Latour, Stiegler) that has already succeeded him without him or his followers even noticing. Badiou’s ontology is not a new start but a spatialising recuperation of the attainments of the previous philosophical generation. Spatialised pluralism, synchronic pluralism, is a caricature of what has gone before, yet conserves even in reduced form some of its conceptual demands and some of its vitality. But even here Badiou was obliged to complete his synchronic ontology (and epistemology) with a diachronic supplement, in his doctrine of the event.

Speculative metaphysics is back, we are told by some commentators. But in fact it never left us. Be that as it may, the new speculative experiments and reseach programmes must choose either to align themselves at least implicitly with the Badiousian paradigm (this is the OOOxian choice as it generates naturalised, lacanian, machinic, de-politicised, de-scientised, or more simply “artistic” and “literary” variants of the same general meta-ontology). Or they must confront the more radical pluralism of Laruelle, Latour, and Stiegler, and leave behind the new conformism that the OOOxian version of Badiousism is trying to impose more by rumour and marketing than by actual argument. Regression and stasis are not progress, no matter how much a tiny lobby may assure us of the contrary.

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14 commentaires pour LET’S MAKE MORE BADIOUS: Marketing metaphysics in the epoch of speculative capitalism

  1. stellarcartographies dit :

    « the new speculative experiments and reseach programmes must choose either to align themselves at least implicitly with the Badiousian paradigm (this is the OOOxian choice as it generates naturalised, lacanian, machinic, de-politicised, de-scientised, or more simply “artistic” and “literary” variants of the same general meta-ontology). Or they must confront the more radical pluralism of Laruelle, Latour, and Stiegler, and leave behind the new conformism that the OOOxian version of Badiousism is trying to impose more by rumour and marketing than by actual argument. »

    So…not really that complex at all. What lays before us two different versions of philosophy circa 1972. Why are the explicit liberals more politically radical than Badiou, the avowed communist/Maoist?


    • terenceblake dit :

      Last night I watched Stiegler’s latest online course here: http://pharmakon.fr/wordpress/cours-du-2-mars-2013-20122013-seance-7/. The day before I listened to Louis Morelle’s talk dated 12 March 2013 on Latour’s recent (2012) book: http://www.atmoc.fr/seances/, where he spends some time discussing his pluralism. So I’m not sure what you are getting at with your « 1972 » reference. But feel free to update me, I love it!
      Stiegler and Laruelle are certainly not liberals, and I don’t think Latour is. His recent Gifford lectures suggest something else entirely.
      In the quote from my blog I talk about « more radical pluralism », which you transpose into « more politically radical » in a sense that remains to be specified – by you, as its your expression.
      What’s the beef SC? Complexify me all you want. But don’t confuse me with anyone else. I criticise Badiou for something he himself seems to recognise as important, ie the best way to compose together synchronic and diachronic aspect.
      I do not make the ridiculous move of saying that Badiou is committed to being able to conjure up a tree by pure thought. I do not make such inept assertions as matter whatever it is is something physical whatever that is. Or even worse: things must touch in some way to affect each other in some way. I don’t even know what century that’s a throwback to.


      • stellarcartographies dit :

        My political comment was more in reference to this question of « marketing » that you apply to Badiou as a way to attack Bryant and Harman. (This marketing critique can already be found in Brassier’s dismissal of the crew that you are after, but in a form which does not implicate Badiou.) Or when you assert: « Regression and stasis are not progress, no matter how much a tiny lobby may assure us of the contrary. » I guess I find this construction of Badiou into a name of a generalised category that includes the OOO/OOp-ers, a move accomplished through a critique of abstraction, as a rather strange one (one that I have not fully thought through). While I get that one does not have to recognize oneself in a category (as Harman does not recognize himself with Badiou) in order to belong in that category, I still don’t think that the construction of said category is a legitimate one. This, of course, does nothing to save OOO/P from its own errors. I will give you that the construction of this category is more legitimate than asserting that a tree pops out of Badiou’s head with every thought of a forest. All in all, the question I have is whether this is truly the most effective line of attack. I problem that I had with Galloway’s move a couple of months back.

        As for the 1972 comment, it was a lazy one. But I have always placed Badiou on the side of french philosophy (a side occupied by Deleuze) against those who have offered little more than « Heideggerianism » (textual Heideggerianism or not). I would place the entire line of Derrida on this Heideggerian side. As for Badiou’s book on Deleuze, I don’t see it as being to far afield of a particular Deleuzian reading of the history of philosophy. After all, it takes a particularly amazing reading of Nietzsche to tells us that the « eternal return of the same » really means « the eternal return of difference. » Thus, I particular enjoyed « The Clamor of Being » in that it offered to place Deleuze within a field of thought that was not the overgrown jungle of deconstruction and desire. That the most basic insight was incorrect seems less important to me.


  2. Bill Benzon dit :

    This ontologies business is most curious.

    As I understand it, OOO maintains the world consists of one kind of thing, various called objects, machines, units, or actants, and no (kind of) object is « more real » than any other kind. Objects may have radically different powers, affordances, and capabilities, but that’s not a matter of ontology. A pebble is no more or less real than an elephant or a mathematical theorem. This is sometimes called a « flat » ontology.

    That’s one thing. That, as far as I can tell, has nothing to do with pluralism. Pluralism is something else, I think. Latour has been calling himself a pluralist for some time now and is now deep into elaborating a scheme of modes of existence. Those modes seem to be structures of actants. And those modes are something else.

    I my own work last year I elaborate a scheme of Realms of Being, which are a bit like Latour’s Modes of Existence. They are structures over objects.

    The OOO folks seem to have little or no interest in this sort of thing, though they profess admiration for Latour. Harmon, of course, does more than profess such admiration. And Bryant’s rather cavalier assertion that you’re a cultural relativist seems, on the surface, to be an antipathy to this sort of pluralism.

    My point, though, is simply that this is an aspect of ontology that is something other than flatness ( or not).

    And then you have something like mind-body dualism, where the body is constituted of one kind of substance while the mind is constitute of an utterly different kind of substance. The question then becomes, of course, one of how these different substances interact. I’ve been thinking about this because the NYTimes recently ran a philosophy column about two well-known thought experiments aimed at this issue, one about a color-blind neuroscientist named Mary and the other about (philosophical) zombies, creatures purported to be physically identical to human beings, but lacking in consciousness. These thought experiments are designed to suggest that consciousness cannot be physical. While I don’t find these thought experiments terribly convincing, that’s neither here nor there at the moment. My point here is simply that, while this is an ontological issue, it’s not the same as the first, which is about powers and capabilities, nor the second, which is about arrangements among things. This business of substance is different from the other two issues.

    But they’re all intertwined.


    • Bill, It confuses me, so I took a logical deconstructive approach to Harman,

      Graham Harman writes about objects. When considering two ‘objects’ he notes their interaction. For instance, he writes about cotton burning, “the cotton burns stupidly.” If all objects are ontologically, or in their Being (Sein) ‘democratised’ or equal, then a certain philosophical ground arises from this proposition. Since these objects are equal, that is to say, the same ontologically, then it follows that they can be interchangeable – ontologically – with any other objects. Objects are objects. Moving from the ‘objects’ of cotton and fire, interacting as they are through what Harman calls a ‘sensual vicar’ – another object that is created from the interaction of the two objects, let us apply this proposition to another case. When a Monk in Tibet sets himself aflame, when he self-immolates in protest against China’s occupation of Tibet, does the Monk too ”burn stupidly?” Since the Monk and the cotton are in-their-being totally equal, an Object is an Object, the Monk, just another ‘object’ can be said to “burn stupidly.” Political ideologies to light to Monks and cotton are all ‘objects’ for Harman. The object withdraws, as ‘we’ or ‘I’ or another object can never fully know its being. This is a proposition he picks up from Martin Heidegger the Nazi philosopher. Harman associates himself so much with Heidegger that he says he is more of a Heideggerian than Heidegger himself. Given Heidegger’s support for the discrimination and even extermination of Jews and other (objects), we can deduce via Harman’s object-oriented ontology that he would, at an ontological level (that is at the level of Sein) find no problem with Nazi ideology, for it is simply another object that withdraws and relates with other objects. We must then ask, given Harman’s fetishising of Heidegger and his objectification of everything, does “the Jew burn stupidly?” That is to say, does the life of the Jewish person under the object of Nazism represent a mere interaction of equal objects via a “sensual vicar?” This is why I question Harman as a (proto-) fascist. Harman’s theory is far from destabilising the ‘anthropocentric’ views of philosophy (his aim is at Kant), but rather intensifies the human-centricity. Harman’s theory is neither post or trans humanist (e.g. DonnaHaraway), but a “weird” (his word) anti-humanism, a form of self-hatred that expresses itself in his love of Heidegger and in his complete objectification of everything. Does Harman ‘write stupidly” is a far too gentle question for a “philosopher” committed to- obsessed with- ‘objectifying’ the entirety of reality. The ant and a missile are the same for Harman, in-their-being. He opposes ‘over-mining’ and ‘undermining’ objects, that is he opposes measurement, from small to large as ‘we’ homo sapiens experience phenomena. Yet this is a deeply humanist view considering that he presumes a level between ‘over-mining’ and ‘undermining.’ Harman is not a post-humanist thinker, he is an anthropocentric, anti-humanist. (Potentially with severe self-hate and undealt with emotional trauma, and serious blog-addiction, I mean have you seen how many things he posts? When does he bloody teach? Harman needs a psychiatrist.)


  3. Bill Benzon dit :

    Ah, Latour talks of his modes in terms of « felicity conditions, » which has an epistemological cast, doesn’t. The structures business is more my own take.


  4. terenceblake dit :

    SC, I do not apply the category of marketing to Badiou, just the homology argument, which he himself accepts as a valid objection to be answered by his doctrine of the event. I like Badiou’s works and I appreciate his conceptual depth. I found hid DELEUZE very interesting, despite being so wrong-headed. But I do think he is in regression conceptually compared to Deleuze, Lyotard, and Foucault, and even to Derrida. It is the OOO team that pretend that after all the deconstruction the time has come for a new construction, and so they present their OOO as « progress » when it is at best stasis (OOO) grafted on to regression (Badiou).
    My line of attack is against the synchronic ontology. I defended Galloway’s stuff because I think the homology argument is important, but only suggestive. I just couldn’t stand the hypocrisy of those who pretended not to understand the argument, and the smug incomprehension of those who really didn’t understand it and were proud of it.
    I am all for taking Deleuze out of his context and placing him in a quite different one. Psychoanalytically I place him with Jung and the post-Jungians, epistemologically I place him with Feyerabend.
    On the more specific question of « the eternal return of difference » even now 33 or so years later I am undecided. Sometimes I just think he is banally right, as everything is difference in becoming. Sometimes I think that he has never really explained in what sense there is a « return ». I take heart that after his encounter with Guattari he drops this expression and just talks in terms of the plane of consistence, ie of difference (multiplicities) without return.


    • inthesaltmine dit :

      Would you care to say more on this idea of « eternal return of difference » or point me in the right direction? I am assuming it stands in a certain contra-distinction to Nietzsche’s eternal return of the Same… Best wishes.


  5. Zegreus Moole dit :

    Terrence – I would like to see Badiou and Deleuze well integrated. Badiou aligns subtraction with abstraction so that his philosophy allegedly has no place for time or technology. He is modernist in a way that refuses contemporary terms, and it’s said that this forces him to oscillate between timeless mathematics, and local existential conditions. Now, this oscillation can be considered as a weakness in Badiou’s thinking, but i would instead consider this a family resemblance with Deleuze. This seems like the oscillation Deleuze described between Chronos and Aoein. This conceptual pair should be treated as a flash-point for their encounter – especially when you consider the admiration that Badiou and all the Lacanians expressed for Logic of Sense. Then considering Badiou’s critique of Deleuze, here his main target seeems to be a form of dualism associated with Bergson. There is a disequilibrium in Bergson between duration and space, and I think Badiou is charting how that disequilibrium bifurcates through Deleuze’s thinking. So getting a descent translation between Badiou and Deleuze may require a comparison of their undulations, and it seems their thought-forms could be distinguished as alternate responses to Bergsonian undulations running through the avant garde. Maybe this is a direction for Laurellian scientific investigation. I think it’s important to keep Deleuze well intact, which means treating the eternal return as his motivating problem, and recognizing Klowsowski and Blanchot as his main interlocuteurs.


    • terenceblake dit :

      Yes, I didn’t go into the Klossowski influence, but it is clear that Deleuze’s interpretation of the eternal return (and of intensity) is indebted to Klossowski. And though in some ways Blanchot goes farther in the deconstruction Deleuze makes use of Klossowski to read Blanchot in a way that avoids the literary idealist readings that one often used to see.
      I admire Badiou’s writing a lot and I am often glad to have him around to contradict the prevailing mediatic intellectual doxa. But I still feel his system is flawed. It all comes down to the proper dosing of synchronic and diachronic dimensions, and Badiou is too spatialising, too synchronic. I think too that his holding on to Lacan seriously limits the repercussions of his pluralist ontology not only by a too limited understanding of the possible processes of subjectivation but also by keeping subjectivation cut off from the other truth procedures.
      I have always favored being able to translate between philosophers such as Deleuze, Badiou, Lyotard, Foucault, and even Latour, to overcome the one-sidedness that ossifies otherwise pluralist thinking. Deleuze was an ardent practitioner of such translation. The article where Deleuze tries to persuade Foucault that the correct translation of « desire » (Deleuze) as « pleasure » (Foucault) would allow Foucault to see how close their thought was, is a case in point. Foucault chose not to see the validity, or the felicity, of such a translation, which is both sad and a loss to thought. Unfortunately, Deleuze did not practice his translation-as-becoming in the case of Heidegger, and that too is a loss to thought, as I don’t see why, as I once used to think, one has to choose between Bergson-Whitehead and Heidegger, or between vitalism and mathematism.
      Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the abstract machine is that to get to the concrete abstraction as such is not the problem. Bad abstraction or insufficinet abstraction is the problem, making us cling to a form of concreteness that is just the embodiment of an unperceived unquestioned abstraction taken to be concrete.


  6. Zegreus Moole dit :

    Terence, I’m a bit struck with your statement that these guys (Laurelle, Latour, Steigler) are not liberals. This is obviously touchy semantics, but my preference is to go the other way, to dispense with the commitment to radicalism, and to defend these guys as liberals. I think we’ve passed diminishing returns on the whole frame of radicalism, which now has the distinct odour of adolescent identity politics. It’s strange to assume that anything liberal is complicity with the atrocities of neo-liberal finance. If the legitimacy of liberalism is not recovered, then I think we get caught in boring debates over who is more radical.


  7. terenceblake dit :

    ZM, like you I would like to avoid boring debates over who is radical and who is more radical. In relation to the pluralist reading that Feyerabend gives of John Stuart Mill’s ON LIBERTY I would say that the three authors cited are liberal in that sense, which has nothing to do with neo-liberalism.


  8. Terrence, excellent piece. You are on a roll, as they say! Anyways, reading Wilhelm Reich’s « Mass Psychology of Fascism » and I came across a sentence where he notes that mysticism and metaphysics can/do drift us into reactive – or conTROLLED positions. Harman’s OOO is OOO-oozing with objectification and Badiou’s a great marketer, he lives in a Huge Head in Central Paris I hear 🙂


  9. Ping : Alain Badiou – Handbook of Inaesthetics | onderwijs filosofie

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