Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sign me up!

"The moderns are quite right to want reality, language, society and being all at once. They are wrong only in believing that these sets are forever contradictory…

"Are you not fed up at finding yourselves forever locked into language alone, or imprisoned in social representations alone, as so many social scientists would like you to be? We want to gain access to things themselves, not only to their phenomena. The real is not remote; rather, it is accessible in all the objects mobilized throughout the world. Doesn't external reality abound right here among us?

"Do you not have more than enough of being continually dominated by a Nature that is transcendent, unknowable, inaccessible, exact, and simply true, peopled with entities that lie dormant like the Sleeping Beauty until the day when scientific Prince Charmings finally discover them? The collectives we live in are more active, more productive, more socialized than the tiresome things-in-themselves led us to expect.

"Are you not a little tired of those sociologies constructed around the Social only, which is supposed to hold up solely through the repetition of the words 'power' and 'legitimacy' because sociologists cannot cope either with the contents of objects or with the world of languages that nevertheless construct society? Our collectives are more real, more naturalized, more discursive than the tiresome humans-among-themselves led us to expect.

"Are you not fed up with language games, and with the eternal scepticism of the deconstruction of meaning? Discourse is not a word unto itself but a population of actants that mix with things as well as with societies, uphold the former and the latter alike, and hold on to them both. Interest in texts does not distance us from reality, for things too have to be elevated to the dignity of narrative. As for texts, why deny them the grandeur of forming the social bond that holds us together?

"Are you not tired of being accused of having forgotten Being, of living in a base world emptied of all its substance, all its sacredness and its art? In order to rediscover these treasures, do we really have to give up the historical, scientific and social world in which we live? To apply oneself to the sciences, to technologies, to markets, to things, does not distance us any more from the difference of Being with beings than from society, politics, or language.

"Real as Nature, narrated as Discourse, collective as Society, existential as Being: such are the quasi-objects that the moderns have caused to proliferate. As such it behoves us to pursue them, while we simply become once more what we have never ceased to be: amoderns."

— Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter, 89-90