New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies (2012)

New title in Harman and Latour’s New Metaphysics series. It’s available to download from the Open Humanities website, here. Rick Dolphijn and Iris van der Tuin are the authors, both in the Department of Media and Culture Studies at Utrecht University. The first half comprises of interviews with Rosi Braidotti, Manuel DeLanda, Karen Barad, and Quentin Meillassoux, whilst the second half is devoted to the ‘cartographies’ of a new materialism. There seems to be an obsession at the moment with using cartography as a metaphor for new ways of thinking in philosophy. I’m kind of interested in folding all that work back into the study of digital mapping technology itself.

On another note, here’s a section from the interview with DeLanda where he talks about his rejection of Marx, and yet retains a commitment to leftist, and thoroughly-materialist work (40-41):

Q3:…In several of your writings and interviews… you mentioned various problems with Marx’s thinking. You consider yourself to be left-wing, but you do not share many of the dogmas, institutional preferences and economic solutions offered by the Left, premised on Marxism. In terms of economics your interest seems to be much more in institutional or evolutionary economics (think of the writings of Donald now Deirdre McCloskey and Phil Mirowski) and the way in which they now reread Adam Smith (especially his Theory of Moral Sentiments from 1759). Nevertheless, what you do take from Marx is his interest in the oppressed, that is, his anti-Aristotelianism that allows us to conceptualize the self-organizing power of “matter” without the “meaning” that should overcode it. Combining your rejection of Marx and your appraisal of materialism, could we then label your new materialist thinking as a non-humanist and even nonanthropocentric materialism?

MD: The political economy of Marx is entirely a priori. Although he was sincerely interested in historical data (and hence, in creating an a posteriori theory) the actual amount of information available to him was extremely limited. Today we have the opposite situation thanks to the work of Fernand Braudel and his school. In addition, the old institutional school of economics (perhaps best represented by the work of John Kenneth Galbraith) as well as the neo-institutionalist school, offer new models that go beyond classical economics. (The two authors you mention, though, are mostly useless, being meta-economists and non-materialist.) It is our duty as Leftists to cut the umbilical cord chaining us to Marx and reinvent political economy. Deleuze and Guattari failed miserably in this regard. Marx’s theory of value was indeed anthropocentric: only human labor was a source of value, not steam engines, coal, industrial organization, et cetera. So in that sense the answer is yes, we need to move beyond that and reconceptualize industrial production. In addition, Marx did not see trade or credit as sources of wealth, but Braudel presents indisputable historical evidence that they are.

Delanda goes on to talk of how ecologists are ‘well placed’ (41) to help re-formulate a left-leaning materialism; one that does away with some of Marx’s humanistic assumptions, and re-distributes some of the energy to other things. DeLanda is perhaps equally well-placed to theorize these kinds of moves too.

P.S. Check out Tammy Lu’s work. Her artwork adorns the cover of Dolphijn and van der Tuin’s book, as it did for Bryant’s Democracy of Objects too.


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