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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2 Responses to SUBSUMING LATOUR’S AIME IN A VASTER PLURALISM

  1. This is how I see AIME at the moment

    Anthropology is a business of the western moderns (I use this term because there may be other collectives too with history who do not consider themselves western moderns). In anthropology the moderns use their own discourses to assimilate the experience of other collectives (obviously I speak as a heavily modernized person too).
    Anthropology of the moderns is a subfield in which most probably there are many people working and not just Latour (it would be a bit peculiar). Latour and the AIME team are engaged in the anthropology of the moderns and they think that they detect unconscious “double talk”: They claim that the best way to describe what the western moderns do does not coincide with how they (even some very literate “they”) describe themselves. But the western moderns are vast in their engagements. So Latour and AIME embark in a process of outresourcing where they try to teach practitioners in different domains of modern western life AIME’s vocabulary and AIME’s discourse and ask them to judge if this new description that AIME is offering of the domain of experience that they feel they intimately know creates in the practitioners the conviction that they found something more faithful to their experience than previous descriptions.
    This seems reasonable.
    Being far away from the center of events I find the support for learning the new vocabulary and discourse weak (given that I am a practitioner with poor philosophical background), relying too heavily on texts (written or electronic) and not taking into account the wrong drafts that people have to make to learn something very new and the feedback they need. Description is HARD work, so it needs a lot of scaffolding (as people in the learning sciences say) especially when addressed to practitioners in other domains.
    The second weak point that I find is that it would be peculiar if there existed only one way to describe the modern western experience. Description then would play the role of “solid facts”. I think that some of your points on pluralism may refer to this too. If this is somehow considered in AIME, it is not clear to me.
    These do not seem to me uncorrectable weaknesses.
    Both of them I think are connected to the second aspect of AIME, the negotiating aspect. I am not speaking so much about negotiating with Gaia but about negotiating with the non-(western moderns).
    My strong feel is that there is no care for non-westerners to take part in the construction of a new self-description of the moderns. If negotiation is a true concern and if indeed there are multiple possible descriptions of modernity, would it not serve better a future negotiation if non-westerners were part of the process of developing such a description? But where is the Muslim teacher, the Buddhist monk, the Eatern monk, the Sufi, the Balkan storyteller, the Jewish Orthodox rabbi or any people who have their own different system of participating in life (at least some of them!) , participating in all these meetings that took place during the running of AIME?
    It looks as if in AIME
    a) Western moderns want to work everything on their own and THEN present themselves to the others
    b) western moderns believe that since they have anthropological accounts made by westerners they do not really need the non-westerners as live participants since westerners “know” what the others have to bring. Perhaps they think that they know it even better than non westerners themselves know it (through anthropology). Perhaps they think that not only they at last gave voice to electrons and dams but that they also gave real voice to all the other collectives.

    For example I like AIME and find its concepts very attractive and try to understand them. But I do not consider myself representative of more traditional members in my collective (the Greek one). (although I self-describe myself as semi-modern)

    So suppose things go well and AIME provides a sturdy vocabulary and practices for the self description of the moderns. And then comes the “negotiation”. The moderns will come with their ideas worked out (quite benevolently having considered what their anthropology tells them about the others) , with heavy rhetorical support from various institutions, with financial, legal, military might and then there will come the others. Boy, what a negotiation that will be! (it reminds me a little be of the negotiations of the current Greek government with the Troica)

    And what about this old saying, that it is very difficult to convince somebody about something that has real distasteful consequences for them?

    I wonder if the issue is facing Gaia or rather constructing a Gaia that will be formidable enough to crash (like a stone thrown by Polyphemus) whatever others will be found in the way of western moderns. Or a Gaia that will be a discernible enough [REP] razor to select the “elected” who will enter the new compact with Gaia (the new Jerusalem on Earth) from those who will not make it.

    I do not think that this is AIME’s goal. My opinion is that there is a big contribution coming from the limited EU funding for such a project. A project like this needs bigger funding and longer time if EU wants to engage in peaceful negotiation (perhaps more professional management honed to this kind of enterprise too if it had such size) . Otherwise the others may sense the fakeness of the negotiating procedure and act accordingly.

    So I hope that AIME was a “proof of the concept” project and something better will eventually be funded (though I wonder if , given that Latour is growing older, there is built through AIME a lively enough group of AIME-rs, who are core participants in that community, that will take over)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. terenceblake says:

    I agree that one might better conceive of AIME as a preliminary thought experiment aimed at arousing interest in such a project of anthropological description. The description should not be just a monologue presented to the other-than-moderns in view of initiating dialogue but should itself emerge out of that dialogue. Latour is contradictory in that he both outsources and wants to keep centralised control of the process. He thus imposes convergence on the “best” description, rather than allowing for divergence and multiple descriptions – these are both non-pluralistic and non-democratic aspects of his system.

    I am less optimistic about Latour’s use of “Gaia’s Razor” to separate out the elect from the damned. In his talk about the apocalypse provoked by awareness of and espousal of Gaia, he does seem to exclude the modern “Gnostics”.

    On the question of pedagogy, I think that the AIME site actively excludes any discussion. Pedagogy is not just magisterial exposition, but dealing with objections, a more messy business than the aseptic process of approving, or disapproving, “contributions”.

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