Elden, Harman, Latour

Stuart Elden’s Progressive Geographies is one of a few academic blogs I return to on a near-daily basis. Surfing from personal insights into the academic work process to book releases, video links and conference details, Elden provides a rich stream of content across Political, Geographical and Philosophical spheres. There are recurring figures most weeks; Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, Martin Heidegger, Immanuel Kant and Peter Sloterdijk pop up frequently. As does Graham Harman; a feverish blogger himself over at his Object-Oriented Philosophy page. Elden’s latest post is a re-blogged interview with Harman over at The Loyal Opposition to Modernity that can be read here. As Harman is a big reader of Bruno Latour, he brings his name up in conversation, alluding to his appeal to anthropologists, geographers and sociologists over philosophers. Harman also talks of his lethargy with purely relational concepts (in metaphysical terms and then political arenas). In particular Harman says;

Now that relations and events have become king in continental philosophy, these battles have largely been won. Rather than endlessly using these theories to beat up the decreasing number of reactionary holdouts, we ought to take a closer look at the problems with relationality itself.

‘Metaphysical essentialism’, he says later, ‘is politically harmless, but epistemological essentialism is not’. So two problems with essence? The idea that it can be directly known (rather than obliquely), and is eternal (a-historical).

Another great quote is on Deleuzian thought within Continental Philosophy:

We are well into the “Deleuze is compatible with everyone and foresaw everything” phase, the lack of a challenging outside, which always announces the closing decadence of any philosopher’s vogue; Derrideanism got this way by the early 1990’s. And now the Deleuze industry is finally on the point of overheating and excess inventory, and soon there will be layoffs and plant closures.

Latour, as Harman argues, is certainly no Deleuzian (too much flux not enough formation). Harman’s Prince of Networks, from 2009, is a good starting point for thinking about Latour as a philosopher, and how Harman’s own Object-Oriented Philosophy can work with Latour’s Actor-Networks. It’s available as a free pdf from here, but also well worth buying.  

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