Saturday, 22 September 2012

And now for something completely different: Ebonising Alder, Luthiery

Endless rambling on about politics and philosophy is fun and all but I think this blog could do with a bit more variation.  Fortunately it turns out that I have other hobbies too.

I'm currently building a guitar from parts and I finally have all the pieces together:

I've not done this before so it's all very exciting (for me if not for anyone else!).  I'm having a local luthier do some of the more tricky jobs (installing the bridge and the nut, dressing the frets) but I'm going to stain, finish and bolt everything together myself.  The guitar is going to be black from tail to toe, apart from a bit of chrome here and there.  Very rock 'n' roll.

Being the adventurous and slightly obsessive soul that I am, however, instead of using paint, polyurethane or woodstain I've decided to colour the wood using a kind of chemical ebonising treatment that involves rusty iron dissolved in vinegar.

This is a fairly well known technique and lots of information can be found online about it.  The iron/rust + the acetic acid in the vinegar (roughly 5%) = iron acetate and this reacts with the tannins in the wood, changing the colour of the wood fibres themselves.  On darker woods such as mahogany the wood can go completely black.  However, lighter woods turn a greyish-blue colour, which can look very nice but isn't what I'm after.

One method for strengthening the chemical reaction is to treat the wood with tea, which increases the tannin content of the wood and, consequently, makes the wood much darker when the iron acetate is added.  However, I wanted to see how far I could take the process so I bought 100g of pure (minimum 96.5%), powdered tannic acid for £7.79 plus shipping from an online chemicals shop.

The tea method works well but the pure method is astonishing.

But let's back up: there are several how-to guides online but here's what I did:

To make the iron acetate:
1. Take some 0000 grade, oil-free (wash if necessary) steel wool, fray it (i.e. pull it apart a bit), get it damp and leave it out for a few days, until it turns rusty.
2. Put the resulting rusty mess into a jar and add just enough vinegar (I used normal, clear pickling vinegar) to submerge the wool.
3. Cover it up but be sure to leave some way for gas (mostly oxygen) to escape as the jar might burst otherwise.
4. Leave the concoction for a few days until the wool has mostly dissolved.
5. Strain your solution through a coffee filter into a fresh container to remove all remaining bits and lumps.
6. Let the solution settle and you should have a clear-ish layer on top and a load of reddish-orange gunk underneath.

The clear-ish stuff is your iron acetate.  Apply this to the bare wood and you'll see the reaction in a few minutes.  To strengthen the reaction using tea just brew a small amount as strong as you can and apply it to the wood, letting it soak in a bit before adding the iron acetate.  This works well enough.  With the powdered tannic acid I took just half a teaspoon (a tiny, tiny amount) dissolved that with just enough water to dissolve the powder and applied it to the wood in the same manner as the tea.

Here I've added a stripe of tea (on the right) and tannic acid (on the left).  I let it all dry before adding the iron acetate:

Immediately (approx. 10 seconds) after adding the iron acetate (left=tannic acid+iron acetate, middle=tea+iron acetate, right=iron acetate on its own):

And after letting everything dry (took about 10 minutes):

Up close with tannic acid:

Up close with tea:

Up close with just iron acetate:

As you can see the reaction with the tannic acid is spectacular.  The colour changes instantly (it's like adding milk to coffee -- it's that quick) and it dries with a really nice, solid black result.  The tea-treated and un-treated stripes look about the same in these pictures.  In reality the tea-treated one is a slightly darker.  Regardless, between the tea and the tannic acid there's no comparison.

I'm still experimenting with the technique (as you can see!):

One treatment is enough to turn the wood black but I think several treatments with a light sanding inbetween works better as it smooths out any raised grain, removes any excess residue and gets the colouring a little bit more even and consistent.

This is a very, very cheap and really satisfying way of colouring any kind of wood.  I reckon I could colour hundreds of guitars with that 100g bag of tannic acid and if it works on something as pale as alder it should work on anything.  The best thing with this technique (and this is exactly what I was hoping for) is that because you're actually changing the colour of the wood fibres themselves in accordance with their own chemistry you keep the detail of the grain visible up close instead of just piling layers of pigment on top of it.  You get a nice, dark finish but the natural variation in the wood's texture, grain structure and chemical composition still leaves a little variation in the end product.

What a way to spend your weekend.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Einstein and Hayek, On Planning

Dark Chemistry posts a nice Einstein quote (I won't re-post the whole thing -- that's thunder-stealing):

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. ...

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. ... How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Very interesting.  As it happens I'm just reading Hayek's essay 'The Use of Knowledge in Society,' which serves as a useful counterpoint to this.

The question of economic planning as both a problem in the sociology of knowledge and political theory (not to mention economics) doesn't get anywhere near enough attention from leftists.  The right-wing polarisation of the debate between totally 'free' decentralisation on the one hand and, monolithic Big Brother-esque central bureaucracy on the other is incredibly important but isn't widely challenged.  What we've tended to end up with in policy terms is a Third Way mishmash of centralisation and decentralisation -- a mix that, in some ways, might be the worst of both worlds.

Hayek's discussion of these issues (in the aforementioned essay at least) is actually rather more sophisticated than the manner in which his acolytes have appropriated his ideas.  While I find his solutions absurd he raises some very serious problems for socialism, problems that I'm not sure have ever found a decent answer -- something that Einstein himself seems to hint at.

Michael Meacher, Tax Avoidance Bill

Mr Meacher seems to be fighting an uphill battle to get his General Anti-Tax Avoidance Bill the time of day in Parliament.  He was restricted to just 11 minutes to introduce the bill because of Tories deliberately delaying previous business.  It's par for the course for the Tories, but some Lib Dems fare little better -- in particular my local MP, Stephen Williams.  While numerous Labourites have backed the bill it doesn't seem to have gotten much traction with the front benches.

Tax avoiders have many friends in very high places.  Still, I think it's very interesting how this issue has gained so much ground in just a few years.  It wasn't even remotely on the agenda in 2008 but now even the right-wing papers routinely criticise the practice.

It's also an interesting fissure between the neoliberalism present in all three parties (to a greater or lesser extent) that wishes to hack back the state and see tax avoidance as justified because it does just that and the state-based nationalism of the general public who find tax avoidance abhorrent.  It's given politicians some serious headaches on both sides of the Atlantic, having to reassure their backers that they won't expect them to play by the same rules as everyone else while duping the public into believing that the contrary is true.

Monday, 17 September 2012


Dark Chemistry writes to Levi Bryant:
“Ontology has value insofar as it is difficult to form being in the way we aim for if we do not have a knowledge of what being is and what entities are active in assemblages.” When you use the term ‘knowledge’ is this actually an admission of a need for some interaction with an epistemological perspective onto ontology? And, if so, then wouldn’t there be a need to see epistemology and ontology as reinforcing each other than as divisive enemies vying over territorial jurisdictions? I mean, it seems that there is a need to formulate some form of dialectical interplay between the two domains of epistemology and ontology, which even for Aristotle was a not seen as a problem since in his systematic thinking he formulated both an ontology and epistemology.
I know it wasn't addressed at me but I'm going to think this question through from a realist perspective, for whatever it's worth!  (My brain started whirring and I had to write it down before I forgot it, so I thought that I might as well post it now.)

If 'ontology' names the practice of providing *accounts* of being then it does not name being itself.  Therefore, ontologies are items of knowledge.  Since all knowledge is known by someone and all knowers are finite then there are practical preconditions for and limitations on all knowledge, including ontology.  If 'epistemology' names the practice of providing accounts of the preconditions for and limitations to knowledge then ontology can, of course, be analysed epistemologically.

This does not, however, make epistemology a *precondition* of ontology.  You can produce ontological accounts without having first produced epistemological ones -- you can make claims about what is without first laying out the epistemic preconditions for your claims.

Ontologies qua items of knowledge presuppose finite knowers and, consequently, conditions for and limitations to knowing.  But such conditions and limitations on knowing are not epistemology itself, they are its object.  Ontology presupposes the conditions and limitations studied by epistemology but not epistemology itself.

Therefore, ontology does not *need* epistemology.  You can have ontologies without epistemologies (and vice versa).  Ontology owes nothing to epistemology.  Its first, foremost concern is being.  It's primary duty is that of providing accounts of being.  Epistemology is not even a secondary concern, it is separate concern entirely.

Whether or not you choose to ally ontology and epistemology or set them at each others' throats is entirely up to you.  There is no strict need for a dialectical relation between the two.

The main reason to ally your ontology with an epistemology is in order to make the latter, as Latour would say, a political epistemology.  Epistemologies are generally devices meant to convince people of the legitimacy or illegitimacy of certain ways of knowing.  To addend an epistemology to an ontology is to go one step beyond making claims with respect to what is and saying, additionally, why it is that you're right and why people should agree with you.

So, yes, they can reinforce each other but they needn't do so.  They bear each other no a priori commitments -- no arranged marriages!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Politics and Ontology: Yet More

Alexander Galloway responds to my previous claims:
My reference to Citizens United simply references what we might call the “Personification problem” in Harman. When people quote only those two sentences, they’re unfortunately doing a straw man on me. But if one reads *the very next sentence* you’ll see that I address these concerns. 
Anyhow, here is the personification problem laid out in more explicit language: 
1) Harman assigns the as-structure to all objects. (Rationale: This is self evident, since it’s the central thrust of Harman’s tool analysis.) Specifically, Harman locates the as-structure in the sensual or phenomenal part of the object, as opposed to the real or noumenal part of the object. 
2) The as-structure is the essential ingredient of personhood. (Rationale: this is just straight phenomenology. In Heidegger, from where Harman borrows it, the as-structure is the key ingredient in Dasein, which we know is the special mode of being that is associated with the human person.) 
3) Thus to assign the as-structure to all objects is equivalent to granting personhood to them.
Sorry if I misunderstood you, it wasn't my intention to misrepresent anyone.

I can't argue with the specifics of the Heidegger stuff since I don't know him very well though I must say that just because Harman takes this idea from Heidegger it doesn't necessarily mean that he has to take everything that goes along with it.  Just because (a) this is the criterion of personhood for Heidegger and (b) Harman extends it to objects generally this doesn't preclude the possibility that (c) Harman can supply a separate criterion of personhood that separates political or legal persons from objects altogether.  If he fulfils the latter then your point 3 doesn't hold for him.  Assigning "the as-structure to all objects" is only "equivalent to granting personhood to them" if the Heideggerian concept is both adopted unmodified and if there is no other ontological distinction between objects and persons addended to that concept.  From what he's said it seems that this is just what he claims -- that personhood follows on from bare objecthood and it isn't implied by it and, therefore, that he doesn't swallow the Heideggerian concept whole.

If you're saying that using Heidegger's personhood criterion to define objecthood *suggests* the personification of things while it doesn't strictly *denote* it then your critique really just amounts to 'guilt by association.'  You've not demonstrated any concrete link, just hinted at a vague and possible one and taken that to be a symptom of a deeper ideological prejudice.  I'm sorry but, with all due respect, that's weak.

I appreciate that the above quote was out of context.  Here's what you say just after the Monsanto bit:

"The way out of this problem, at least for Bogost and Bryant, seems to be a kind of cake-and-eat-it-too Animal Farm koan: that all objects are equal, but some objects are more equal than others. This seems to be rather nonsensical, since on the one hand they want to reject correlation and put all objects on equal footing, but on the other hand retain a pop science view of the world in which some equal-footed objects nevertheless have more “gravity attraction” than other equal-footed objects. What this produces is a kind of marketplace ontology that essentializes and reinforces hierarchy even as it claims to circumvent it. The only thing worse than inequality is an inequality founded in equality. But that’s capitalism for you: everyone is equal in the marketplace except for, ta-da, the 1%."

In other words, they claim that (a) all objects equally exist but (b) they don't exist equally (or exist as equals).  In their view, there is no contradiction between a 'flat ontology,' metaphysically speaking, and between social or political inequality.  A slave and a plantation owner equally exist but they don't exist equally -- it'd be absurd to say that one is more real than the other due to social subordination and it'd be equally absurd to say that their position within the social hierarchy is equal because of the bare fact of them both existing as material beings.

But then I suspect that you know this.  What you really seem to object to is the very notion of 'equal existence' (the first part) since you suggest that equal existence implies existing equally.  You refuse the separation between the two because you find it nonsensical.  And because you refuse the separation you can then say that OOO adopts a 'marketplace ontology' and is neoliberal in character, etc. since there is no longer a reasonably maintainable difference (in Bogost or Bryant's own accounts) between being equally materially existent and being socio-economically equal.  Collapsing the two together by pointing to their alleged absurdity makes the critique possible.

So, the disagreement here is really on the possibility of collapsing the separation between equally existing and existing equally (or existing as equals).  You say that this separation is based on little more than pop-science and so on.  Maybe, but that isn't a good enough reason, in my opinion.

Can the separation be maintained?  I think so.  To be honest you don't really provide any particularly strong argument to contradict this claim, you just make suggestions to that end.  This is important since, as I understand it, your entire critique hinges on it.  If the separation is absurd and unsupportable then equally existing can be taken to imply equal existence and torn asunder for all that implies.  If, however, it is a reasonable separation then taking equally existing to mean existing equally is just over-reading or over-reaching -- the connection hasn't been demonstrated or justified but the same conclusions are drawn regardless.  Again, it's guilt by association.  And, again, that's just weak critique.

I don't think that intellectual condemnations should be made on the basis of such loose, undefined and vague connections.  To be honest it comes across as being ideological itself.  Gaps in the reasoning are bridged not by reasoning but by rhetorical fiat.  It is just declared to be so.  This is ideology just like the reactionary who denounces the immigrants who 'come over here are steal our jobs' and simultaneously 'sit around and mooch off our welfare system.'  The obvious contradiction points to a deeper cause: hatred of foreigners is being rationalised according to whatever narratives are available.  Similarly, here it seems that you just plain don't like what Harman et al. are saying so you're trying to find reasons to justify that dislike but, upon inspection, the dots just don't join up.  There's a clear drive to tear these arguments apart but it's done in such a way that doesn't hold together.  There just are too many unjustified inferences.

At least that's my critique.  Harman, Bryant and the rest say that they do not believe that objecthood denotes personhood or that flat ontology denotes marketplace-esque equivalence between things or humans.  Because you take each of these things to connote each other (but you don't by any means demonstrate that one follows from the other) then I don't think that your critique holds water.

Perhaps I'm still getting it all wrong -- it's perfectly possible.  I've certainly rambled on for long enough.  However, I don't think that I can be much clearer.  A large part of these disagreements results from poor communication.  I hope that I've at least communicated well enough!

Repeat after me: 'Explanation is not justification ...'

There's one similarity between the embassy-centred violence in the Middle East in the past week and the riots in Britain last summer that sticks out at me.  Indeed, it's something common to all instances of members of an underclass doing something shitty: all attempts at explanation in terms broader and more sophisticated than the typical reactionary 'evil-doers do evil - burn them!' are accused of excusing or justifying the acts.  Those who tried to point to the socio-economic causes of the riots were accused of justifying them, or taking the rioters' side.

Explanation is to justification what correlation is to causation: the one is not the other.

The Clean, Neat Lines of Fundamentalism

Glenn Greenwald writes:
[T]o act as though Muslim anger toward the US and Israel is primarily the by-product of crazy conspiracy theories is itself a crazy conspiracy theory.
True, though it does beg the question: why is it the nutty conspiracy theories and faux-spontaneous outrage at cartoonish prophet-mocking that form the lightning rods around which these larger angers vent themselves? (Please excuse the mixed metaphors.)

Those who claim that the US is responsible for everything good that happens and those who claim that it's responsible for everything bad are just two sides of the same fundamentalism. There's a purity to conspiracy theories that both sides love since they are unburdened by any of the actual messy complexity of a reality characterised more by finitude, contradiction and accident than awesome, looming, all-powerful super-baddies.

Politics and Ontology: The Question of Racism

Sara Ahmed writes:
I am using the example of racism to show the entanglement of ontology with politics which is not the same as saying all ontology IS politics (or all politics IS ontology).
I don’t think anyone ever claimed that politics and ontology aren’t entangled. It’s just that two things can’t be entangled if they’re not two different things to begin with. There doesn’t seem to be much disagreement here. We can give examples of where politics and ontology are all bound up together or examples where they aren’t. I think the point is that it’s casuistic. On that we would all apparently agree.

I think part of the problem here is that, to take the example of racism, we live in a society where racism has already been made political. It is, in a manner of speaking, an historical a priori. A racist act such as a racially motivated shooting is understood to be political because there has already been decades upon decades of campaigning, protest and so on in order to politicise such events. We encounter such events as being a priori political, historically. With this I see no problem. However, this is not the same as saying that racism is essentially political — as if it were a priori political regardless of the history of the thing.

Because racially motivated killings are already widely regarded as political issues, when such an event occurs it only takes a minimal push to enroll that act into the wider political networks — the networks are there ready and waiting, as it were. For that reason it may seem as though such an event is essentially political; that it’s political character is simply given. However, if we imagine a time or place where racially motivated killings aren’t widely accepted to be political then any given instance of such violence would be very difficult to enroll into the political networks.

The claim that racism is political as an historical a priori is, I think, basically compatible with an OOO or ANT understanding of the situation. That it is political according to some more abstract a priori — this I can’t imagine. If anyone believes this to be the case I can only ask: how?

Universal Politics, False Radicalism

For some it is the epitome of radicalism to extend politics to cover everything but actually I think that this is the most conservative of moves since if everything is always already political then the work that I believe is necessary to make something political, to tie it into those networks, is unnecessary.  The universalisation of politics, far from being intellectual radicalism writ-large, is a conceptual rationalisation of political quietism and a justification for inaction.  We need only sit around and lament.

If politics is nothing without politicisation, on the other hand, then we're not faced with a universe of politics that some people are too stupid to open their eyes and see but rather a meshwork of politics that hasn't gone far enough, yet.  The tasks required to set the latter straight are, if not simple, then at least thinkable.  There's no mystery.  The tasks necessary to solve the former, however, are so gargantuan as to be frankly unthinkable.

Politics and Ontology: More from Agent Swarm

Agent Swarm remarks on an old comment of mine on the politics/ontology question:
Harman scores points against a very silly opponent: “Once blog exchanges reach a certain point of fruitlessness, I tend to stop reading them. Hence it came as a shock to me to learn that anyone ever made the argument that if I say that corporations are real objects, I must therefore support corporations”.

If we go back to Alexander Galloway’s original post, we see that nowhere does he say this. Something like this is falsely attributed to him by a commenter called Philip, of Circling Squares: “And as for the claims that granting reality to corporations justifies their political enfranchisement … well, my mind boggles at that. That would only be the case if ontology and politics were fused. Only then would the granting of ontological thing-hood simultaneously be the granting of political personhood”.

Once his position has been caricatured in this way, the caricature can live a life of its own and be”refuted” effortlessly in both curt (Harman) and long-winded repetitious (Bryant) versions. And the original argument, containing (horror!) concepts, can be forgotten.
From Alex Galloway's "A response to Graham Harman’s 'Marginalia on Radical Thinking'":
This brings out a secondary problem with OOO in that it falls prey to a kind of “Citizens United fallacy”.. everything is an object, and thus Monsanto and Exxon Mobil are objects on equal footing just like the rest. Like other (human) objects, Monsanto is free to make unlimited campaign donations, contribute to the degradation of the environment, etc.
For what it's worth I did read the post that I commented on. I didn't just take Harman's word for it. And I agree with his interpretation of what I've quoted above. It seems to me that Alex made ontological thinghood and political personhood one and the same thing and used that supposition to critique the philosophy of Harman et al. Harman's claim, like mine, is that this doesn't follow. Whether or not a thing is a political person is a property of that thing, not a question of the thing's bare existence. Saying that an object exists tells you nothing about what kind of object it is. Therefore, nothing about saying that corporations are real necessarily means that they are or should be political persons.

Simply, the claim that ontological realism vis-a-vis corporations necessarily entails the granting of political personhood to corporations is a non sequitur. I don't know what 'concepts' of Alex's got lost in my interpretation. As I read it his post was a fairly weak caricature based upon some simple misunderstandings and/or misrepresentations. It was actually rather light on concepts.

p.s. I try to avoid engaging in the malice that these discussions seem to generate so I hope that this comment is met in the spirit of friendly discussion that it is intended, rather than the vindictive turf wars that these things seem to all too often degenerate into!

Politics and Ontology: The Multiplicity of Regimes

 The Agent Swarm blog writes:
The attribution of ontological commitment must take into account the regime of enunciation, otherwise you are guilty of the declarative fallacy: reducing all enunciations to the declaration of facts. Levi Bryant’s example is typical: “if you tell a person that your mother is seriously ill and going in for surgery and they reply by saying “I will pray for you”, their statement, whether they realize it or not, presupposes an ontology. Minimally such a statement presupposes ontological claims about the types of beings that exist and about causation.” Not necessarily, Latour would tell you that religious enunciation does not have the same ontological commitments as “double-click”discourses. Lyotard’s philosophy of phrases in THE DIFFEREND converges with Latour’s analysis. Bryant’s technique of revealing the ontological commitments of enunciations does not take into account the heterogeneity of regimes of enunciation. I agree that the enunciation (not the “statement”) does have ontological presuppositions, but not those that Bryant describes.
On the contrary, as I understand it, Bryant's answer is premised upon the heterogeneity of regimes of enunciation. This is why he claims that politics and ontology are separate -- because they belong to different regimes; different practices, with different rules. They can overlap and one can depend on the other but that's the thing with enunciation regimes: they needn't be distant in space and time. Any one person can speak from a number of regimes at once. They can speak ontologically, politically, scientifically, all jumbled up together. The important claim is that these this spatio-temporal co-existence doesn't detract from their difference qua regimes (I think this is broadly Latour's position and Bryant's claims vis-a-vis discourse are basically Latourian). Their difference qua regimes depends on their different rules and internal operating principles, not on their being confined to any particular place and time. Consequently one can speak politically while having ontological presuppositions without politics and ontology becoming coterminous. The fact that there are different kinds of ontology shouldn't make a difference. Perhaps there is a specific kind of ontology particular to political talk -- that'd have to be demonstrated. But even so that wouldn't make them one and the same thing, it'd only establish a meshwork of relations between the two.

Politics and Ontology: Entangled but Several

I confess that I’m thoroughly baffled by the question of what politics an ontology should entail. I readily recognize that an ontology can be pervaded by illicit ontological assumptions and that these should critiqued, but still maintain that as a regulative ideal, our claims about what is and what is not should not be based on our political and ethical preferences. ...
This again! I agree with Levi.

Politics and ontology are both human discursive practices — two different practices. You can think about politics ontologically and you can think about ontology politically — but you’re either ontologising or politicising, either way.

Either ontologising or politicising may or may not be the right thing to do in any given circumstance — it depends. For example, if someone approvingly repeated Thatcher’s claim that ‘there is no such thing as society only individuals and families’ then clearly that is an ontological claim that needs to be attacked both ontologically and politically. But the manner of attack would differ depending on which approach one chose to adopt. It’d involve different kinds speech acts, different regimes of truth or modes of enunciation. These modes and regimes can be mixed and matched even in the course of a single sentence but they’re still part and parcel of different practices.

They’re just not the same practice. The only way anyone can make out that they are is if they do the ‘everything is political’ trick, which really just amounts to demonstrating that anything can be politicised and inferring from that that everything is therefore political, which doesn’t follow. Frankly I’ve never understood it since if everything is political then no work ever has to be done to politicise anything — everything just is political, always already, regardless of whatever anyone does about any of it. How?

But what I fail to wrap my head around most of all is why people seem to want politics to be omnipresent — and for apparently political or moral reasons. Politics is an ugly, inglorious business much of the time (and I’m not just talking capital P, parliamentary politics either). Why would anyone want that ugliness to be universalised? If omnipresent politics sounds blissfully utopian rather than horrifically dystopian to anyone then I can only question your rather blinkered and peculiar definition of politics!

I’m really quite glad that politics is, as Latour might put it, restricted to its own particular conduits — just like everything else is. It can be made to overlap with any other practice and, in practice, it has been spread far and wide, insinuated in some small part into most aspects of our lives but each extension of the network was nevertheless an event and it cannot ever cover everything, like Borges’ proverbial map did. Thank goodness!

Anything can be politicised but politics is still a practice limited to its own variegated and widespread but still particular and partial networks. If you want to extend it to something hitherto unattached then do so — but it’s folly to pretend that politics is a reality somehow there already, under the surface just waiting for us if only we’d shed the scales of ideology from our tired, downcast eyes. Not that such surreptitious objects of our ignorance don’t exist but calling them ‘politics’ is a misnomer. Latour called them another P-word — ‘plasma’ — meaning that on which the requisite formatting work has yet to be performed in order to make these things circulate in social (or, in this case, political) networks. This seems to be a far stronger ontological basis for thinking politics, to me.


‘Politics is everywhere’ — yes.

‘Anything can be politicised’ — also yes.

But: ‘Everything (including ontology) is always already political’ — I don’t think so.

Consequently, ontology can be politicised but it must be politicised and, therefore, one should present a reason for doing so rather than just lazily claiming that it must be because everything is. Often that politicisation is perfectly justifiable but such justification must be casuistic, not universal.