Friday 23 May 2014

Steve Fuller on 'Dark Ecology'

At the slowlorisblog there's an interesting guest post from Steve Fuller. It's a good read but I have a quibble with one of his comments:
To understand OOO and dark ecology (I take the latter as a specific extension of the former), one needs to understand the intuitive appeal of actor-network theory, which is that you’re better placed to understand the full range of agency in the world if you yourself are not an agent, but simply a mouthpiece for agency.
I really like the essay but that's false. There are plenty of human actors and agents in ANT. The central tenet of ANT is that every node in a chain of translations transforms what it carries, conducts, transmits. Therefore, humans can't be written off as mouthpieces; or, equally, even mouthpieces translate what they mouth.

The problem with ANT is that it's a method that got out of hand; that it got exploded into being a complete philosophy of everything. Somewhere Latour remarks that ANT is a combination of Garfinkel's ethnomethodology and Greimas' semiotics. OOO ignores the former and only takes up the latter. So, OOO eradicates what remnants of phenomenology there was remaining in ANT. It's essentially a dumbing down and, simultaneously, a massive overextension that arbitrarily excludes the ethno-sociological heart of the matter (which is very much there, and beating, if you look closely).

To understand Prof. Fuller's take on this one needs to understand that he's been waging war on ANT, etc. for decades and his readings are always uncharitable—sometimes productively so but, for my tastes, he's a way off the mark.

More constructively: I think the principle intellectual-political product of this 'dark ecology' would be the whole 'accelerationism' thing. This explicitly grows out of Nick Land's sophomore-entrancing shtick and is very zeitgeisty at the moment. Moreover, it explicitly sets itself up as a radical political project rather than just an intellectual one.