oddhack + theory   40

‘Labour Does You’: Might thinking through pregnancy as work help us radicalise the politics of care? // New Socialist
Maggie Nelson’s poetic account of labour ‘doing you’ proposed that, in crafting human life, we touch something we seemingly have to forget—the limits of our agency— along the way. But I want us to ask: what kind of care might emerge from gestators’ commitment not to forget that encounter with death? How might we generate conditions in which such not-forgetting is possible, and less scary, for instance, because the violence of gestating has been reduced to a minimum through a universalisation of healthcare and a communal redistribution of its burdens?

‘Care’ may or may not be an adequate name for what happens inside uteri; frankly, for my part, I’d say that—like a lot of care that takes place inside the family—it’s care all right, but it’s very bad. Like families, gestating wombs are often very harmful zones; harmful, in part because they are currently, for everyone involved, capitalist workplaces. So, what I’d like to know is: might uteri help expose the limits— and thus, better define the value— of the ‘care’ framework? Because, even if care is all we’ve got, that’s no reason to spare it from critique, or to believe it somehow doesn’t need thoroughgoing remediation, transformation, and automation. More than just ‘care’— any old care— we need to become fluent at good care, comradely care: a mode of social reproduction that, in itself, un-reproduces and destroys the present state of things.
sophie_lewis  care  surrogacy  parenthood  theory  labour  gender 
14 days ago by oddhack
digital | visual | cultural | visual/method/culture
New project from Gillian Rose and Sterling Mackinnon.

"That notion of visual culture as the visuality that dominates a particular place and time, structuring how it sees both itself and others, should always therefore be contextualised. In part this can be achieved by focussing on specific ‘ways of seeing’. John Berger’s elaboration of a ‘way of seeing’ points to the power dynamics embedded in specific forms of vision. It especially asks us to interrogate who is seeing what, where, and with what effects. Gillian Rose has argued that these questions must be at the heart of any critical visual methodology. And they have been elaborated by a range of critical scholars, not least among them Donna Haraway in her account of the ‘god trick’ of seeing everything from nowhere.

This moment of the profound digital mediation of images and ways of seeing thus gives rise to a range of pressing questions: What sorts of viewers are co-constituted with these complex re-formations of social relations and digital visualising technologies? How are all-too-familiar visions of class, race, gender and sexuality being reaffirmed? What new forms of human life (now perhaps better described as posthuman) are emerging? What does pleasure, fun and play look like? What forms of digital nonhuman life are also seeing, doing and being? What now might be an oppositional gaze, to use bell hooks’s term, and what does it see? And what critical theoretical tools are needed to proffer answers?"
visualculture  waysofseeing  gillian_rose  optics  geography  theory  anthropocene  donna_haraway  methodology 
may 2018 by oddhack
Ontogenetic machinery | Radical Philosophy
Media, as considered by media philosophy, are not what you expect them to be. In the first place, they have almost nothing to do with information, or transmission, or communication, or storage. They do not as such produce sense or distribute meanings. If they do so, it is as a side effect or a secondary function. In the first place, media are complex assemblies of material objects, and operations, and handlings, mostly technical apparatuses and gestures, but not exclusively. But not only do media base themselves on, or integrate, physical or biological matter in operations and actions. The sociology of the so-called ‘actor network’ as developed by Bruno Latour, John Law, Michel Callon and others states that the inverse is as true: any physical practice, any relation to objects, and any making and producing of things is dependent on mediating processes, such as reference, or transformation, or translation. Since reference and translation are in their turn based on material media, we might say that through media things cooperate in the production and reproduction of things. Specific media thencould be seen as specific sets of material operationsby which the things involved in one medium producethings, reflect and represent things, and reproduce themselves as material collectives. Hence, media function as operators by which the material world which surrounds us is generated in the first place. Media are ontogenetic machines.
media  theory  philosophy  technology  thesis 
april 2012 by oddhack
Socio-Cultural theory
More great links and resources from Martin Ryder
sociocultural  theory  vygotsky 
november 2011 by oddhack
Bruno Latour: "politics as the composition of a common world"
Bruno Latour on modernity, ecology and new politics (h/t Scu): “On governments the question becomes complicated because we are now talking about the politics of Nature and that's a rather new quandary.” - Bruno Latour

An Interview with Bruno Latour, thinker and social anthropologist.Bruno Latour is one of France's most innovative, provocative and stimulating thinkers and social anthropologists. Given French Cartesian orthodoxy, it is not surprising that he is more appreciated in the Anglo-Saxon world, where his books such as “We Have Never Been Modern” (1993) are better known than in his native France. Jon Thompson, the publisher and chief editor of Polity Press, London, described him as France's most original and interesting thinker and in 2007, Bruno Latour was listed as the 10th most-cited intellectual in the humanities and social sciences by The Times Higher Education Guide. Mr. Latour's seminal work has been in the field of Science and Technology Studies. With his “Actor Network Theory” he has advanced the notion that the objects of scientific study are socially constructed within the laboratory. Thus scientific activity is viewed as a system of beliefs, oral traditions and culturally specific practices, reconstructed, not as a procedure or as a set of principles but as a culture. Mr. Latour will be in India this week conducting workshops in New Delhi. In this exclusive interview with The Hindu's Vaiju Naravane in Paris, he discusses the new challenges facing humanity and of India's role in the climate debate.Q: I wish to start this interview with a discussion of one of your most famous books — “We Have Never Been Modern”. Could you explain what you meant by that? What made you write this book and where do you go now? LATOUR: The Great Narrative of the Western definition of the world was based on a certain idea of Science and Technology and once we began, 30 or 40 years ago to study the practices of the making of science and technology, we realized that this definition could not sustain the old idea of western rationality taking, in a way the place of archaic attachment to the past. The Great Narrative was based on the idea of Science which was largely mythical. Science has always been linked to the other cultures of the Western World, although it has always described itself as apart — separated from politics, values, religion and so on. But when you begin to work on a history of Science — Galileo, Newton, Pasteur, Einstein, Kantor or whoever, you find on the contrary, that things have never been severed, that there has always been a continuous re-connection with the rest of cultures and especially with the rest of politics...
nature  ecology  techne  episteme  theory  modernity  spirituality  anthropology  bruno_latour  discourse  flesh  ontography  praxis  politics  archivefire  from google
february 2011 by oddhack
Simondon on Ontogenesis
Gilbert Simondon (1924–1989) was a French philosopher best known for his theory of "individuation" and his influence on thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze and Bernard Stiegler. "Simondon developed a theory of individual and collective individuation in which the individual subject is considered as an effect of individuation, rather than as a cause. Thus the individual atom is replaced by the neverending process of individuation. Simondon also conceived of "pre-individual fields" as the funds making individuation itself possible. Individuation is an always incomplete process, always leaving a "pre-individual" left-over, itself making possible future individuations. Furthermore, individuation always creates both an individual and a collective subject, which individuate themselves together." [source]I have been putting off reading Simondon because he seems like one of those authors who had already articulated ideas that have been percolating in my brain for some time now. I always try as much as possible to avoid being 'contaminated' by the formulations of others before I work out my own thoughts on particular philosophical issues. However as Simondon's work continues to be translated, and as I keep encountering his ideas in various settings, I think its time for me to begin swimming upstream in that river.I begin with this essay by Simondon in which he attempts to lay the conceptual groundwork for a wider understanding of how individuals come to be in the world:The Position of the Problem of Ontogenesis By Gilbert SimondonThe reality of being as an individual may be approached in two ways: either via a substantialist path whereby being is considered as consistent in its unity, given to itself, founded upon itself, not created, resistant to that which it is not; or via a hylomorphic path, whereby the individual is considered to be created by the coming together of form and matter. The self-centered monism of substantialism is opposed to the bipolarity of the hylomorphic schema. However, there is something that these two approaches to the reality of the individual have in common: both presuppose the existence of a principle of individuation that is anterior to the individuation itself, one that may be used to explain, produce, and conduct this individuation. Starting from the constituted and given individual, an attempt is made to step back to the conditions of its existence. This manner of posing the problem of individuation--starting from the observation of the existence of individuals--conceals a presupposition that must be examined, because it entails an important aspect for the proposed solutions and slips into the search for the principle of individuation. It is the individual, as a constituted individual, that is the interesting reality, the reality that must be explained. The principle of individuation will be sought as a principle capable of explaining the characteristics of the individual, without a necessary relation to other aspects of being that could be correlatives of the appearance of an individuated reality. Such a research perspective gives an ontological privilege to the constituted individual. It therefore runs the risk of not producing a true ontogenesis--that is, of not placing the individual into the system of reality in which the individuation occurs.Read More (PDF) @ ParrhesiaFrom Fractal Ontology:In his review [of Simondon's L’individu et sa genèse physico-biologique], Deleuze stresses that Simondon articulates a rigorous distinction between individuality and singularity due to an examination of the principle of individuation. Simondon begins with the problem of inferring a principle of individuation because current schools of thought tend to view the individual as a given. This confers an ontological privilege to an already constructed individual. But Simondon sees this view as a backwards approach, or what he terms reverse ontogenesis. In fact, because Simondon believes that individuation is merely one stage in the becoming of a being and thus is not the totality of a being, individuality falsely attributes a unity and identity to a heterogeneous milieu of forces from which the pre-individual nature of a being enters into communication with another order of magnitude. Thus, instead of focusing on the individual in order to infer the principle of individuation, Simondon asserts from the beginning that his project is to understand the individual in terms of individuation, which can be considered now as ontogenesis itself. (Taylor Atkins)Fractal Ontology also has a short list of key concepts here - along with a few translations and several post about Simondon's work. I'll update with my own notes as my thoughts begin to congregate on this material.
ontology  adaptation  theory  causality  ontography  gilbert_simondon  archivefire  bernard_stiegler  ontogenesis  from google
february 2011 by oddhack
One further note on Foucault, concerning methodological individualism
In my previous post, I neglected one point.  Reading Foucault is one useful path out of extreme positions of methodological individualism.  By methodological individualism I mean the view that "method aimed at explaining and understanding broad society-wide developments as the aggregation of decisions by individuals," as Wikipedia puts it.

Foucault understood how actual historical explanation relies on the use of broad categories, classes, and exemplars, and in a manner which is not logically reducible to statements about individual beliefs and desires.  The writer (theorist) has nothing close to a complete mental model of how the interacting categories reduce to component individual parts, and so some or most of the moving parts of the explanation retain their autonomy at a partially macro level.  The Austrians will kick and scream on this one, but if you combine imperfect information and the sense/reference distinction, methodological individualism ends up as more of a slogan than anything else.  There is a reflective equilibrium to the explanatory process, and micro relies on some macro foundations, not just vice versa, and individuals rely on the social for some of their cues.  Atomistic reduction to the level of the individual in general will not succeed.

The denier of strict MI is not committed to extreme Hegelian views about the autonomous existence of collectivities and it is debatable how much even Hegel himself made that mistake.

I grant that Foucault takes his own method too far in the anti-individualist direction, as did Hegel.

Foucault is by no means the only or even the best path out of extreme methodological individualism.  See this article by David Levy or late Wittgenstein or William James on pluralism, for instance, or more recently Geoffrey Hodgson, perhaps the best place to start.  Here is a quick overview of some of the debates, though it does not cover the best criticisms.  Neuroeconomics, and modular models of the mind, also can be read as critiques of MI, suggesting, as did Nozick, there is no particular reason to stop at the level of the individual in doing the explanation.

Oddly, for all their talk about methodological individualism, economists hardly ever engage in the medium for which it is most appropriate: biography.

A while ago I wrote a review essay on biography and economics.  Here's a challenge: if economics is so powerful, and MI is so persuasive, try writing a biography of a person, using economic tools, and see how much of that person's life you can explain.  It is a humbling and instructive experience and you can read my attempt here.
michel_foucault  methodologicalindividualism  sociology  theory  tyler_cowen  from google
january 2011 by oddhack
Learning Change
All a bit complicated for my tiny brain. An educationalist (Giorgio Bertini) applies Deleuze & Guattari to learning and stuff. To revisit with a clearer head!
learning  pedagogy  deleuze  theory  complexity  rhizome  education 
november 2010 by oddhack
Chantal Mouffe: Stickle-​brick pol­i­tics
Chantal Mouffe is quite interesting on the museum as a political space; it’s nice to see her descend from the heaven of the political to say something about some specific politics. But consider:

Similar considerations could be made with respect to the role of the state, which, after years of being demonized, has recently been reevaluated.

Capital was able…to neutralize the subversive potential of the aesthetic strategies and ethos of the counterculture…. To this hegemonic move by capital, it is urgent to oppose a counterhegemonic one.

In other words: once upon a time capital was in favor of the state, so the left was against it; now capital is opposed to the state, so the left should be for it. This tells us a lot about why Mouffe’s conception of hegemony is so wrong.

First, we have the idea of counter-hegemony as a simple inversion of hegemony, which renders any counter-hegemonic project simply reactive. To be fair to Mouffe, she doesn’t always consider counter-hegemony to be quite such a straightforward inversion; nonetheless, I think her concept of hegemony always leaves the initiative to capital. Mouffe defines a hegemonic project as a process of dearticulation and rearticulation, but note that what gets dearticulated and rearticulated are elements of an already existing hegemony. Now of course it’s true that we have to start from where we are, but I don’t think left-wing politics can let the coordinates of its imagination be limited to the coordinates of the existing order. Despite a few quasi-structuralist gestures towards the way in which the meaning of a term depends on its position in a chain of signification, blah, blah, blah, I’ve never seen Mouffe pay serious attention to ways in which left politics might create genuinely new ways of thinking and acting. Should any such novelty occur it is, apparently, both fortuitous and extra-political.

Second, this view of hegemony sees the terrain of struggle as being purely that of capitalist ideology, and so ends up taking capitalist ideology at its word, undermining any possibility of critique. The idea that capital before 1970 was “for” the state, and since 1970 is “against” it, comes from a Reagan speech, not a Marxist analysis; in fact, neoliberalism depends on the state just as much as Fordism did, but it depends on a different kind of state. To fail to realize this, and to simply posit the left as being “for” the state, both supports neoliberal ideology and precludes the kind of rethinking of organizational forms that the left so desperately needs. Mouffe actually makes more-or-less this point in The Return of the Political; the reason why she fails to follow through on her own advice, I think, can be found in a further weakness of her theory of hegemony. Mouffe emphasizes the contingency of the articulation of different elements within hegemony, which is not a bad thing in itself, but it seems to me this contingency is made such a central feature of the ontology that supports hegemony that there is no space to analyze the constraints that operate in any actual political practice. Despite the lip-service paid to the importance of power in constructing hegemony, actual operations of power seem to drop out of the theory: contingency becomes an arbitrary recomposition of given political elements according to the whims of the theorist.

And so, Mouffe’s theory of hegemony ends up turning politics into something like playing with stickle-bricks.

Related posts:
Ide­ology, or, “she would say that, wouldn’t she” The minor flap over the Hilary Clinton Walmart vidWhere do we go when there’s no more pol­i­tics? You think it was politics. That particular dance, Recipes for the delica­tes­sens of the future Discussions of the recent communist conference hav
Politics  Theory  from google
july 2010 by oddhack
We Have Never Been Blogging: Where does Meillassoux stand?
Paul Ennis on Meillassoux, science, access, idealism, the contingency of knowledge
quentin_meillassoux  theory  speculativerealism  science  philosophy 
june 2010 by oddhack
A Critique of Play - Sean Cubitt
Postmodernists and radicals have seen play as pure form of revolt against capitalism etc. - form of 'instrumental irrationality'. But play is as historical and as open to exploitation as any other 'natural' or innate drive like hunger or sex, it cannot be used uncritically as a form of innocence and subversion.
play  theory  capitalism  work  innocence 
january 2010 by oddhack
Jack Martin and Jeff Sugarman - 2001- Interpreting Human Kinds: Beginnings of a Hermeneutic Psychology
During the past decade, a number of theoretical psychologists have argued that the subject matter of psychology is distinct from that of the physical sciences in ways that require interpretation as a method of inquiry.

Rejecting what they regard as a mistaken scientism in the conduct of traditional psychological research, these hermeneutically inspired theorists also have been critical of what they regard as overly strong anti-realist, anti-subjectivist and relativistic aspects of postmodern social constructionism as it has been developed by some psychologists. In this article, we elaborate a distinction between natural and human kinds, summarize concerns that have been expressed with respect to Gergen's social constructionism, review recent attempts to develop a hermeneutically informed interpretative psychology, and highlight central features of this developing approach to psychological inquiry.

Theory & Psychology, Volume 11, Number 2 (April 1, 2001), pp. 193-207
theory  psychology  hermeneutics  constructionism  postmodernism  science  epistemology  interpretation  gergen 
november 2009 by oddhack
Gregson N, Rose G, 2000, "Taking Butler elsewhere: performativities, spatialities and subjectivities" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 18(4) 433 – 452
This paper is concerned with exploring the potential of performance and performativity as conceptual tools for a critical human geography. We then argue that, although the geographical literature is apparently characterised by two contrasting discussions of performance (those of Goffman and of Butler), these accounts form a consensus around Goffman. By contrast, and along with Butler, we maintain that performance is subsumed within and must always be connected to performativity—that is, to the citational practices which produce and subvert discourse and knowledge, and which at the same time enable and discipline subjects and their performances.
social  theory  butler  goffman  performativity  practices  space 
october 2009 by oddhack
Thrift N, 2004, "Remembering the technological unconscious by foregrounding knowledges of position" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 22(1) 175 – 190
In this paper I provide a description and preliminary analysis of the current 'technological unconscious'. Because of the potential vastness of the topic, I concentrate on just one form of positioning and juxtapositioning, namely the construction of repetition. The paper is in three parts. The first part provides a capsule history of how a very few templates of position and juxtaposition have become powered up into a capacious and effective background. In the second part of the paper I argue that in recent years the practice of these templates has been changing as a full-blown standardisation of space has taken hold. This standardisation is gradually leading to the crystallisation of a new kind of technological unconscious. In the third part of the paper I argue that the traces of this new kind of unconscious are taking hold in social theory as well, leading to the assumption of a quite different event horizon which can be thought of as a different kind of materiality.
thrift  unconscious  space  repetition  social  theory 
october 2009 by oddhack

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