LATOUR’S INVISIBLES: on getting emotional about psychogenesis

Why all this sudden flurry of quick and dirty refutations of “the pluralist”? It comes in a context where others have cited Latour and Stengers, but the refutations are of some generic oddball position of abstract inflexible de-contextualised robotic pluralism, reduced to accepting, by the power of the Principle of Pluralism, that racism and sexism are OK, and exorcism is great for treating eplipsy, etc. Latour’s position does not entail all these absurdities, nor does that of Feyerabend, Deleuze, Lyotard, Serres, Connolly, Pickering, etc.

Latour does not talk about “other cultures”, but now that he has left behind his structuralist relativism of networks he talks in terms of “we, moderns”. His claim is not that we must politely, or “diplomatically”, accept the equal validity of voodoo cosmology and superstring theory. This is not his concern. He does talk about invisible, metamorphic, psychogenic entities that have been called “supernatural”, but he rejects this vocabulary, just as he does traditional psychoanalytic vocabulary.

No exoticism here! Latour talks about our experience of emotions, and our ways of dealing with them. He remarks that they are not the property of a “subject” but move us without being inside us or being owned by us. They are taken up in psycho-genic networks such as the media and the institutions of the family, school, and psychological care. Nothing is more amusing than a “materialist” devotee of psychoanalysis waving his hands and proclaiming that “we moderns” know that all this is material, and that any other ontology for such phenomena is erroneous.The word “material” becomes emptied of all content, a feel good rubber-stamp to apply to whatever one has been led to espouse for the moment.

All this is expounded in an abstract void where Latour is first transformed into “a pluralist”, this pluralist is then transformed into an abstract monster preaching equal validity of any and all “worldview” (itself transformed into a system of “beliefs”), this fabricated equal validity thesis is then transformed into an infallibility thesis for all beliefs, and a judicious concoction of unanalysed abstractions expressed as “striking” examples, such as the vision of Latour trying to heal someone in an epileptic seizure with crucifix and prayer-book, and the whole set of subtle discussions and developments of pluralism are swept away, never heard of, never seen, and so never confronted.

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