One of the central theses of psychoanalysis is that the manner in which we interpret others says more about the structure of our own desire than the desire of the other person we’re interpreting. I am not sure one even has to be an advocate of psychoanalytic theory to endorse this thesis. Given that we don’t have access to the minds of other people our attributions of motives to others must proceed by analogy to ourselves, such that we attribute motives to others based on what motivates us. It is with this thesis in mind that I’ve found myself amused by a certain claim that has been floating about the blogosphere lately. Here the thesis is that I and a few others are forming relationships with other academics such as Harman simply for the sake of promoting our own academic careers. In other words, the suggestion is that I do not blog as much as I do for the reason that I’m genuinely engaged with the things I blog about, nor because I genuinely appreciate the philosophical positions of folks like Harman, but because somehow these relationships will advance my academic career.

This is a truly peculiar and baffling thesis. First a little reality check. I am a Continentalist. If there is one thing Continentalists almost viscerally despise, it is any form of realism. Whenever the signifier “realism” is evoked, one of the first charges you hear is “naive positivism!” or “reductivism!” If one is truly looking to land a plum position in a Continental philosophy department, hanging your hat on the peg of “speculative realism” is hardly a wise strategy for doing so. Similarly, it would be no exaggeration to say that Continental philosophy departments are dominated by Heideggerians and phenomenologists. Harman’s work, as admirable as it is, has generated a tremendous amount of hostility from Heideggerians and phenomenologists as a sort of sacrilege. Working on the premise that job committees in Continental departments are very likely to have at least one scholar representing this movement, one is certainly not doing themselves any favors by siding with object-oriented ontology. Additionally, Latour’s work is often looked down upon in philosophy departments as either a relativistic postmodernism as depicted by Sokal, or as that of a second string French thinker trailing far behind big daddies like Derrida and Deleuze. One certainly isn’t doing oneself any favors by taking Latour seriously.

Second, the way to advance yourself in your career is to publish in the most prestigious journals and with the most prestigious presses. You don’t exactly do yourself any favors publishing in obscure journals that aren’t recognized as the primo journals in your field, nor do you do yourself many favors by publishing with currently unknown presses as I will soon be doing with The Democracy of Objects. Moreover, for the non-established academic the simple fact of blogging, I think, can be a black mark against you. On the one hand, blogging remains suspect for many old school academics. This is especially true in philosophy where attitudes tend to be somewhat provincial and luddite in character. In addition to this, blogging leaves a long trail of comments where your less than stellar moments, your poorly thought out ideas, your weird ticks and passions, etc., are there for everyone to see.

No, if anything, hanging one’s hat on the peg of speculative realism and object-oriented ontology looks more like an act of career masochism than a way of advancing your career. I am not holding my breath for DePaul, Villanova, Penn State, Memphis, etc., to come knocking on my door. If I do these things things then this is because I am passionate about philosophy and ideas and believe there is genuine merit and importance in these positions. What is intriguing is an interpretive frame that suggests that advancing one’s career is the most likely and most plausible motivation for writing a good deal or interacting with other thinkers. This is especially absurd when said writing is on a blog rather than in publications in prestigious peer reviewed journals that count on your CV. Such an interpretation seems to say more about one’s own relationship to philosophy and writing than the motivations of others. I also find myself surprised that folks who were patronizingly and insultingly criticizing others for “beating up” on a “poor defenseless grad student” are suddenly beating up on a grad student who has taken the initiative to start an academic journal. Then again, these things never make sense.