I’ve been behind the curve this week because I’ve been fighting a brutal cold and have barely been able to get out of bed. In the meantime some terrific posts related to the DeLanda reading group have appeared. Over at Digital Digs, Alex has a post up on chapter two of NPS. Over at Arhive Fire, Michael has introductory remarks up on his take on DeLanda. I’m really excited to see what Michael does with his later post. When I regain some of my cognitive capacity I hope to write a post expanding on what Alex and Michael have done in their posts. Next up is Mark over at Struggles With Philosophy.
On a somewhat related note, last night it occurred to me that DeLanda allows us to think about economy in a different way. Here I have in mind not only DeLanda, but McLuhan, Walter Ong, Bruno Latour, and Friedrich Kittler. As I argued in a prior post, for DeLanda relation always requires some sort of real connection or relation. It is necessary to show how things are genuinely related to treat them as genuine social organizations or structures. Again, this can be illuminated with respect to OOO. One way of approaching OOO (the traditional hermeneutic/deconstructive approach) would just look at the major claims of OOO as a philosophical theory or ontology. By contrast, an OOO approach to OOO would emphasize real connections among OOO theorists in the genesis and development of OOO. It would look at the networks formed, the technologies that allowed those networks to be formed, conference events, the circulation of certain books that influenced various thinkers, etc., etc., etc. Just as we might think of geographical drift and reproductive isolation in biology when seeking to understand the formation of a species over time, we would approach analysis of intellectual, political, styles, etc., as involving real material or “objectile” connections.
At any rate, the other day I found myself teaching Plato’s analogy of the divided line. I focused a great deal on the lowest level of Plato’s divided line (images), articulating the manner in which reflections in ponds, images in clouds, echoes, etc., all fall under the title of images in Plato, but also media of all sorts. Somehow I ended up talking about economy and it occurred to me that economy as we understand it in a modern context is impossible without communications technologies. The only reason that anything like “an economy” can exist is because there are communications technologies that link together diverse geographical regions around the globe, practices, forms of production, etc., allowing what takes place in China to have an impact on a small village in South America. Put differently, economy as we know it today has to be constructed. As is always the case, whenever the word “construction” is used in the context of OOO, assemblage theory, Latour, etc., we need to be careful to understand that this is not a synonym for “unreal” or “fictional”. Construction should resonate more with what engineers, carpenters, and computer programmers do, than with the idea of imaginary fabrication in a completely smooth space. I don’t yet know where to go with this idea that economy is constructed, but it seems like this should be an important or valuable insight in how we think about economic issues. At the very least, thinking about economy as a phenomenon where real relations must be built would go some of the way towards demystifying economy and avoiding any thought of economy as being akin to something like the “Holy Spirit”.
In other news, in the midst of my flu misery and fever induced ravings I picked up Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Calcida Jetha this week. I’m almost embarrassed to mention that I’ve been reading this book, but it is truly one of the most brutal critiques of contemporary sociobiology I’ve ever read and is leading me to rethink a number of my own (Hobbesian) assumptions about the nature of social relations (and by extension, some of my Lacanian assumptions about society as inherently riddled by antagonism). Ostensibly the book is devoted to refuting the thesis that monogamy and the nuclear family are “natural” and universal human institutions. Read the book description and you might get the impression that it’s a book making a case for free love (which it isn’t). However, the book is really about far more than this. A good deal of the book is devoted to the analysis of the impact that the shift from hunter/gatherer society to agriculture had on us collectively. This was already an issue that interests me deeply as a consequence of my forays in to Jared Diamond and Braudel (and here I think Scu needs to extend his indictment of meat production to agriculture in general). Ryan and Jetha really drive home the impact of the shift to agriculture on every aspect of society home.
Other great aspects of the book? It does a terrific job debunking misogynistic myths about female sexuality and patriarchy, as well as homosexuality. The authors see the function of sex not as reproduction, but rather as the formation of social relations or community (you have to read it to see how they arrive at this conclusion). From this perspective, homoerotic behavior loses its mystery from an evolutionary perspective. They also do a wonderful job tracing the strange diminished role of the bonobos in the sociobiological literature, the privilege of chimpanzees, and the manner in which Jane Goodall’s conclusions about the inherently violent nature of chimps might have resulted from some of her own research practices in relation to chimps. At any rate, if you have the opportunity to pick this book up, please consider doing so. It’s written in a gorgeous, easy going style, full of humor, and is well referenced with respect to sociobiology, evolutionary theory, and above all ethnography. It’s a book about sex, a book about relationships, a book about economics, a book about war, a book about who and what we are, and a book about many other things besides. It’s been a while since I encountered anything that caused me to rethink so many assumptions. It’s a bit expensive yet, but you can download it for 12.99 through iBooks or Kindle.