LATOUR AND RELIGION: Modes are élitist, domains are democratic

This paper is a rough draft that I need to rewrite and expand, and that I would like to publish. All comments, and suggestions for publication, are welcome.

Latour’s modes are hegemonic selections of élite elements in a domain’s assemblage that are given definitory power over the essence of the domain, an essence which Latour considers to be semiotic. In each case a mode of enunciation is put to the trial of the intuition of the experts in that domain, sole interlocutors authorised to “protest” against a proposed characterisation of the relevant mode. In a strange move where the authorities are defined as the only legitimate protestors, Latour enshrines prophets and priests as the “experts” in religious utterance, and the rest must accept their opinion, or be regarded as “gnostics” whether confessional or secularised. Only the experts can protest, the testimony of the gnostics (i.e. virtually everybody) is rejected as resulting from the “wrong” apocalypse.

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2 Responses to LATOUR AND RELIGION: Modes are élitist, domains are democratic

  1. Tim Howles says:

    Can I raise a comment in regard to section (5), where you criticise the sustainability of the trajectory of [REL], which is ‘conversion’, as temporally unfeasible. You cite the example of a priest full of faith needing to ‘convert’ at each mass; how wearying it would be, how could such a plateau be sustained, how could we live like that, etc?

    But surely this where [HAB] steps in? This is the mode by which a subject is able to take his eye off the dramatic gymnastics by which subsistence is ensured, in such a way that he can (as it were) live… It’s the practical, pragmatic way in which quotidien life can function modally, without us exploding in convulsions and confusions. Of course, [HAB] certainly doesn’t mean that one forgets the other modes: when a ‘breakdown’ in habit surfaces and a ‘manual restart’ is required (eg. the 1 in a thousand occasion on which the boiler malfunctions first thing in the morning, p.267, Eng ed.), [HAB] is ready to revert to one of the other modes. But without it, we’d not be able to enjoy the coffee on the 999 other mornings when the boiler is working perfectly well.

    The priest celebrating mass is usually in [HAB], but it’s a habit that is co-operating with the salvific transports of [REL].

    Seems not a million miles away from a good NT principle like ‘imitatio Christi’ to me….


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