I already linked to this earlier today, but I wanted to draw attention to Kris’s post on fictions over at Fractured Politics because what he’s up to is so cool. Here’s a taste:
To complement and politicize existing strains of object-oriented philosophy, it is necessary, in my view, to propose a comprehensive theory of fictional objects that not only accounts for such objects along an immanent ontological spectrum, but the manner in which fictional objects are instrumentalized as nonfictional for real objects. In my view, the sovereignty-security nexus revolves around the state’s capacity to regulate an aesthetic assemblage that the renders barbaric the finitude of nationalist fictions, such that the homeostatic organization of the state becomes predicated upon the maintenance of an infinite state of indeterminacy. Fictional objects, for me, are classified according to two contingent dichotomies: referential (fictions with real world referents, like the movie Frost/Nixon) and nonreferential (fictions without real world referents, like Harry Potter), as well as resonant (affirmative fictions) and desonant (negational fictions). Combining these two dichotomies yields four types of fictional objects: rational (referential + resonant), irrational (nonreferential + resonant), crepuscular (referential + desonant), and transfinite (nonreferential + desonant). From there, two processes by which fictional objects are manifested by, for, or within nonfictional assemblages may be detailed: vibration, through which a fictional object presents itself by entering into and dissociating from sets of relations according to its own agency, and superimposition, whereby nonfictional objects attempt to appropriate the agency of and redeploy fictional objects for their own instrumental purposes.
There’s a lot more there so be sure to read the rest. Following Kris’s line of thought, I would argue that any time we talk about larger-scale social entities– nations, states, groups, “cultures”, parties, classes, etc. –we’ve already entered the domain of fictions. To say “we”, “Americans”, “Egyptians”, “Mayans”, “Democrats”, “Object-Oriented Ontologists”, etc., is already to introduce fiction into the world because the parts that compose these objects or assemblages do not themselves share any identity such as is posited by the signifier. The fiction is not something that describes something, but that performs something. But here’s the twist. Far from entailing that these larger-scale entities don’t exist, this fictional component is a necessary element of these objects constituting the reality of those objects. In other words, the fiction is an actant that allows the social assemblage to establish itself as an object.
As I’ve argued in chapter 4 of The Democracy of Objects, objects come either as allopoietic machines or autopoietic machines. The term “machine” is not here a nice rhetorical flourish. Machines (and here I’m not trying to give an exhaustive definition) 1) do and produce something (they are activities and processes, closer to verbs than nouns), and 2) draw on something else to engage in this production. In the case of autopoietic machines, these machines draw on other elements from the world in order to produce their parts and their unity. The cells of my body, for example, produce themselves from elements issuing from other cells and the cells produce my body as a whole as an aggregate unity or substance. This is an ongoing process, not a terminal process that has a final finished product.
Every object contains an internal strife, an object-specific entropy, because it is simultaneously a unit or unity, an object in its own right, and a multiplicity or aggregate of other objects. As Harman remarks in Guerrilla Metaphysics, objects are both units and complexes of relations. They are units in that they are independent entities, while they are complexes of relations because they are built out of other, smaller-scale objects. The larger-scale unit and the smaller-scale objects that compose the unit can and do enter into relations of strife with one another. The larger-scale object, as it were, must manage and discipline (or less negatively, “draw on”) the smaller-scale objects to maintain its own unity and enduring existence. The cells of my body, for example, can “decide” to go their own way as in the case of cancer, or other cells– bacteria and viruses (yes, I know viruses aren’t “cells” –can enter the body and “pursue” their own ends. This entails that every larger-scale object must devise strategies and mechanisms for drawing on other smaller-scale objects in its self-constitution. This is the machinic dimension of objects. Objects always face the problem of how to continue and thus necessarily have a temporal dimension.
In the case of larger-scale social objects, fictions are one mechanism by which these objects institute and maintain themselves so as to maintain their existence across time. Every larger-scale social object faces the problem of herding cats. That is, these larger-scale objects must devise strategies for insuring that they are able to continue drawing on human bodies, resources, technologies, infrastructure, and so on so as to constitute themselves as a fractious unity. Key to these mechanisms are all sorts of “technologies” that produce identification, subjectivization, certain forms of affectivity and desired response-schema to certain semiotic cues and, etc., etc., etc. Moreover, these mechanisms must be produced from moment to moment. Identification with and belief in fictions is one of the key mechanisms by which this autopoiesis is accomplished.