LATOUR’S STYLE: blindness and cynicism?

Another example of de-philosophisation is the way Latour is read and sometimes even defended in English. This reception represents all the worst excesses of banal relativism couched in borrowed French jargon. This is a reading that Latour has gone to great pains to distance himself from, often to no avail. Or worse: in reaction to this relativist reading Latour’s philosophy is absorbed into the trend to object-oriented ontologies.

The problem with Latour is his anxiety of influence, and his consequent covering his tracks by changing the terminology he employs away from that of his philosophical predecessors (or agonistic partners).

The result is that it is nearly impossible to reconstruct the underlying ontological dialogue that Latour is involved in, whether he wants to or not, and to pursue it further. The mere act of comparing the systems of Latour and of Badiou is greeted with incredulity, hostility, and condescending rejection.

In an interview Bernard Stiegler diagnoses both blindness and cynicism in Latour’s denials of philosophy and of philosophical influence. This is an insightful but inadequate way to characterise Latour’s stylistic strategy, which seeks to mimic the conceptual blindness of OOO but without actually engaging in de-concepted expression. The conceptual blindness is affected, as Latour’s work is conceptually very rich and innovative.

As to the charge of cynicism, I think rather that Latour has been trapped inside his own strategical game. The choice of maintaining an allure of connivance with OOO has led to widespread confusion as to Latour’s ideas. Inside the philosophical microcosm this has allowed their illegitimate appropriation and absorption by an alien philosophical movement.

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