For anyone who’s interested, my summer book project will be The Domestication of Humans: A Prolegomena to Posthumanist Sociology. This will be something of a sequel to The Democracy of Objects, working through the positive implications of OOO for social and political analysis. To date, OOO and SR have remained mired in a merely negative stance towards humanism embodied in its critique of correlationism. The positive correlate (pardon the pun) of anti-correlationism is posthumanism. Posthumanism, unlike antihumanism, does not abolish the human-world correlate, but rather pluralizes correlation, such that human-world correlation no longer enjoys pride of place, but where, rather, we must now theorize a variety of different and distinct systems in examining the social world. Put a bit differently, the social world, artificial life, under this model, can no longer be thought as consisting exclusively of humans, but rather includes a variety of different agencies above and below the human, ranging from microbes to animals, climates, topo-geographies, economies or markets, media systems, technologies, corporations, political movements, etc.. Unfortunately, “posthumanism” carries the implication that somehow humans have been surpassed (and in a way they are), suggesting that humans can be abolished. A more accurate characterization of this form of thought would be “alien theory”, following Bogost’s “alien phenomenology, where the alien is taken into account and treated as a genuine actant in situations.
Drawing heavily on Luhmann, von Uexkull, and first- and second-order cybernetics, I will argue that any form of social and political thought that fails to take into account this pluralism of agencies involved in collectives is doomed to pose questions of ethics and politics in a distorted manner due to the absence of these other actants in our analysis of situations and deliberations about situations. The “domestication of humans” thus has two valences or significations within the scope of this project. On the one hand, it refers to the theoretical domestication of humanism run amok in philosophy, social, and political theory that has led to an entire series of poorly posed questions resulting from the privileging of the human-world correlate. For too long entire sets of actants or agencies have been entirely invisible to our social and political thought due to our correlationist and humanist assumptions, thereby preventing us from properly analyzing the social assemblages that populate the world. Second, the domestication of humans refers to the manner in which agencies other than the human have formed the human in a variety of ways so as to further their own ends (their own reproduction and conquest of the world). These agencies include things such as microbes, many plants and animals, economies or markets, technologies, media systems, etc. When we abandon the non-immanent approach to, for example, machines, where we treat machines as mere tools that humans use for their own ends, we discover an entire domain of hyperobjects and systems that have their own aims and ends that use and mold humans in the furtherance of these ends. Failure to properly take this into account entails that our social and political questions will be hopelessly confused as they will be haunted by all sorts of missing masses or variables… That is, they will be haunted by covert and hidden actors of which we’re scarcely aware.