ON LATOUR: against taboos to thinking

Latour has no sense of religiosity as being founded in the body, which is at most the seat of “metamorphosis” for him. Latour is in flight from the body and metamorphosis into religion. Subjecthood is the goal of religion in Latour, the ideological interpellation into unity of personality.

He does not invite us to unfold the mode of existence that does justice to our body. There is no sense, as can be found in Deleuze, of modes if existence as modes of individuation. This would be too “metamorphic”.

Discontinuity of modes is not the last word. The modes of existence are not as separate as Latour’s talk of avoiding category mistakes and invalid crossings implies. This “latent continuity”, as Badiou calls it, is what I have tried to argue for using Laruelle’s quantum hypothesis: https://www.academia.edu/9639078/LARUELLES_QUANTUM_HERMENEUTICS. This is also the idea behind Feyerabend’s later ideas on realism as implying that the discontinuities are not absolute barriers, but are relative to various “cuts” that are constructive just as much as descriptive.

History or diachrony is another weak point in Latour’s system, along with the body and democratic exchange. For Latour, the history of the modes is a given. This is because a mode is an all or none affair, an entity either belongs to a mode or it doesn’t. There is no overlap, no room for ambiguity. I would argue that the refusal if ambiguity and the maintaining of the discontinuity of the cut is a spatialising gesture. In contrast, the search for or acceptance of latent continuities is tied to re-diachronising the barriers of extensity.

Latour cannot bear ambiguity in his system, he calls it a category mistake and strives to eliminate it. Each mode is univocal, and this allows him to spatialise ambiguity, in order to eliminate it. Latour’s system is analytic, and has no room for dialectical ambiguity. Ambiguity is too metamorphic for him, and must be contained.

Latour talks about being-as-other but imprisons it in his modes, cut off from time and the body. The modes are too univocal and too organised. Latour refuses to let being-as-other disorganise them. Latour should say activate your being-as-other, multiply your modes, enter into free and democratic exchange, but this is too metamorphic for him.

Ambiguity, time, history, body, the psyche, and democratic exchange are all too metamorphic for Latour. His pluralist system is fraught with taboos. But religion is the greatest taboo. Latour’s particularist protectionism in the domain of religion is of a piece with his flight from democracy into diplomacy.

Latour’s maxim is love only that which maintains the order of the modes, contain your metamorphosis.

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3 Responses to ON LATOUR: against taboos to thinking

  1. Gertjan Buijs says:

    Thanks for your insights. I haven’t read much of Latours work unfortunately, but I’m working on Deleuze, so I can follow you at that.

    I do agree that there should be some space for ambiguity. Also, I don’t see the worth of the endless determination by means of the too large stream of analyses. I think often people are trying to be as “objective” as possible, and thus try to get rid of normativity.

    But still I’d like to ask:

    “Latour should say activate your being-as-other, multiply your modes, enter into free and democratic exchange”

    If Latour doesn’t want to do so, why accuse him of this? Should he be democratic? Does that make him less diplomatic?

    Also, I didn’t quite get your point on religion. If you feel like responding and elaborating a bit further on it, that would be great.


  2. terenceblake says:

    This is a sort of postscript to my paper (very much a draft): https://www.academia.edu/9863626/BRUNO_LATOURS_METAPHYSICS_OF_RELIGION. Latour actually attibutes primacy to being-as-other on the AIME website, but has trouble integrating that insight into his thought, as it menaces the clear boundaries traced by his system. In the light of various other pronouncements on heterogeneity, the omnipresence of transformation and the necessity of pluralism Latour should be more democratically oriented, and I feel his “diplomacy” is more a rhetorical lure than a real concept.


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