In comments Jeremy asks whether it is possible for an object to be a part of two other objects. Within the framework of OOO the answer is emphatically yes! This is especially common with social objects. I am an object that is a part of, at least, three other objects that I can think of off the top of my head. I am a part of my family, I am a part of the college where I’m employed, and I’m a part of the United States. Note carefully that many of these objects are not parts of each other. For example my family is not a part of either the United States, nor the college where I’m employed, and the college is not a part of my family. My family is an object distinct from me, my daughter, and my partner, even though it draws on us to exist (I’ll explain this another day when I’m not writing on my phone).
In my view, a good deal of social theory is horribly simplistic. On the one hand we get structuralist and functionalist (often based on holistic organism based analogies) that illicitly homogenize and unify the social as a total system. On the other hand, we get “nominalist” models that are the equivalent of sociological atomism, where the only valid units are individual persons and where aggregates are treated as effects of these individuals. Regardless of how much I’ve been influenced by his thought and how much I admire him, I think Latour tends towards this latter model. What we need, in my view, is the thought of a hyper-complex mesh with heterogeneous units existing at all levels of scale, all of which are characterized by autonomy and independence. With Harman we need to think objects wrapped in objects, wrapped in objects without these relations forming a holistic unity. This, I believe, would generate a revolution in social and political thought, or, at least bring greater clarity to existing trends.
Above all, we need to get over this claptrap of thinking objects as static and reified things. Trees grow, bodies grow, my coffee cup continuously changes as it enters into new exo-relations. Where did theorists ever get the odd idea that objects are opposed to processes? Being a unit and being fixed are not synonyms. What a weak and riculous conception of substance we have. One more effort on behalf of substance, comrades! And lest we believe that these weird mereological relations belong only to the social realm, let’s not forget that cancer is a phenomenon in which cells announce their independence from the higher scale object of the body. Likewise with all those hairs in weird places as we grow older. Every object is simultaneously a unit filled with it’s own operations and a crowd composed of other units doing their own thing. This weird relation, however, is no reason to abandon the concept of substance.