August 2012

For the last couple of days, I’ve found my thoughts haunted by McKenzie Wark’s brilliant interview over at Occupy Times.  Apart from Wark’s provocative claim that politics doesn’t exist– though perhaps it could come to exist, in a sense analogous to how Meillassoux talk of a “virtual god”? –this passage, in particular, stuck out to me:

…the problem is:  how do you occupy an abstraction?  Power has become vectoral.  It can move money and power anywhere on the planet with unprecedented speeds.  You can block a particular site of power, but vectoral power routes around such sites.

The abstraction Wark is talking about is, of course, contemporary capitalism.  Contemporary capitalism seems to be characterized by two features:  First, it has the characteristic of being everywhere and nowhere.  You can’t point to a particular site of contemporary capitalism and say “there it is!”.  Rather, it pervades every aspect of contemporary life, while nonetheless being absolutely non-localizable.  Contemporary capitalism is an example, I think, of what Tim Morton has in mind by “hyperobjects”.  As Morton puts it,

hyperobjects are viscous—they adhere to you no matter how hard to try to pull away, rendering ironic distance obsolete. Now I’ll argue that they are also nonlocal. That is, hyperobjects are massively distributed in time and space such that any particular (local) manifestation never reveals the totality of the hyperobject.

When you feel raindrops falling on your head, you are experiencing climate, in some sense. In particular you are experiencing the climate change known as global warming. But you are never directly experiencing global warming as such. Nowhere in the long list of catastrophic weather events—which will increase as global warming takes off—will you find global warming.

In the language of my machine-oriented ontology or onticology, we would say that we only ever encounter local manifestations of hyperobjects, local events or appearances of hyperobjects, and never the hyperobject as such.  Hyperobjects as such are purely virtual or withdrawn.  They can’t be directly touched.  And what’s worse, contrary to Locke’s principle of individuation whereby an individual is individuated by virtue of its location in a particular place and at a particular time, hyperobjects are without a site or place.  They are, as Morton says, non-local.  This, then, is a central problem, for how do you combat something that is everywhere and nowhere?  How do you engage something that is non-local?  If an army is over there I can readily target it.  If a particular munitions factor is over here, then I can readily target it.  But how do we target something that is non-local and that is incorporeal?  This is the problem with occupying an abstraction.

read on!



The latest issue of continent., with a provocative review of The Democracy of Objects by Duane Rousselle.

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