the challenges of reading Latour

One of the problems with Laruelle and his disciples is that they produce critiques of thinkers who have already advanced the same critiques and moved on. Alex Reid rightly cites Bruno Latour’s AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE as escaping from Galloway’s objections. AIME contains the results of Latour’s autocritique, and de-emphasizes networks in favour of a panoply of concepts of a different order (the multiple modes and the diverse felicity conditions). Latour thus recognizes the danger (and not the necessity) of sufficiency in his previous work and proposes a far more nuanced and differentiated way out of that sufficiency than Laruelle’s clunky scientism. I do not think that Galloway’s complaint is basically political. Alex Reid points out that his portrait of Latour’s work is based on an incomplete and erroneous reading. My impression is that Galloway cannot abide Latour’s pluralism, and its critique of scientism. This pluralism finds one of its models in networks, but then goes beyond the network model to the modes of existence model, thereby deepening its exploration of pluralism.

Alex Reid

A couple of Latour-related articles have been going around lately, particularly this article in the NY Times and more recently this critical piece by Alex Galloway at least partly occasioned by the Times article. Galloway’s rejection of Latour (and Deleuzian, new materialism in general, if one reads other works of his) comes down to the infelicity of this kind of thinking for his political project. That is, it is, in my view, an ideological objection. And I don’t have any problem with that. Well, let me rephrase that. I don’t have any problem with people–academics or otherwise–having a goal and selecting the best tools for achieving that goal.

That said, at the end I think the only conclusion you can draw is that Latour doesn’t share Galloway’s political commitments, is not seeking to carry out Galloway’s political objectives through his research, and that therefore Galloway believes his work has little…

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