Laruelle

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I was recently convinced that Laruelle may be the key to theorizing new work in the digital, the withdrawal from representation, and a politics beyond Deleuze. To begin, I’m reading Philosophies of Difference, The Concept of Non-Photography, and Galloway’s forthcoming book.

Anyone else tackling these issues?

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6 thoughts on “Laruelle

  1. At this stage of the game, most Laruelle scholarship is pretty terrible. Most people come to NP with their own preconceived ideas and projects, and a lot of them end up interpreting it as metaphilosophy, completely missing the point. Personally I’d recommend sticking with source texts: Laruelle, A.-F. Schmid (L’s wife), and Brassier. I’m also partial to the work of Kieran Daly, who really captures everything that’s worthwhile in NP.

    In regard to ‘the digital’, Dominic Fox (a programmer/philosopher) has a lot of interesting ideas and is very familiar with Laruelle’s work. People ‘in the know’ have told me that Galloway’s use of NP leaves a lot to be desired, though I guess we’ll have to wait till his book comes out. Personally, I thought his “Laruelle, Anti-Capitalist” essay was vacuous tripe, but I’m very picky about that sort of thing.

    As for politics, Nandita Biswas-Mellamphy has wrote a bit on situating Laruelle vis-à-vis Nietzsche and Simondon, and William Watkin has a book coming out (Agamben and Indifference) that interprets Agamben through NP, though I’m not sure with how much success. I’ve been thinking for some time about how one could integrate NP and politics, but with little luck except on the economic front; if you’re interested I’ll (hopefully) be posting something soon on ‘econo-fiction’.

    NP certainly breaks from representational thought, but your choice of the word ‘withdrawal’ brings to mind SR, and APS in particular has tried to show that the two are very different (notes & link here). Given what I know of your general approach, I personally don’t think Laruelle’s work is what you’re looking for. NP abandons everything people like about philosophy: it’s (rigorously) boring as fuck—philosophy deprived of any sort of consolation. Moreover, it’s radically transitive and doesn’t lend itself to a priori ‘speculation’. If you had a particular political theorist whose work you wanted to (inoperatively) rearticulate in terms of radical immanence, that might work. As for a post-Deleuzian (non-)politics, I’m really skeptical—but a good person to talk to might be Nick Srnicek, who’s written a little on L and did his MA thesis on “the political ontology of Gilles Deleuze.”

    If you actually did manage to rigorously articulate a non-politics, a lot of people (including me!) would be immensely grateful. In terms of opportunity cost, however, I can’t possibly imagine how it could be worth the work involved.

  2. Reblogged this on Deterritorial Investigations Unit and commented:
    I’ve spent less and less time looking at philosophy directly (been looking at thing with more of an autonomous sociological bent, doing collective work and trying to cobble a book together), but the prophet of non-philosophy discussed here is someone I have been dabbling been from a distance, largely through secondary literature – particularly the works of what I’ll call the “New York School” of media theory (Galloway, Thacker, Wark, etc.)
    My impression from these theorists and their work on digital media technologies is that Laruelle is being used not so much as source material, per se, but as a means to explore the Guattarian concept of post-media. This makes it much less a Laurellean project, but more of a usage of non-philosophy as a tool for a sort of speculative ‘edgework,’ to borrow a phrase from Hunter Thompson… taking things right to their limit,recasting them in a new light, and gaining new insights and possibilities from there.
    Galloway and Thacker continually look to the future of technological social dynamics for the routes that political struggles will follow, and they pose the notion of “hypertrophy,” which is pushing information and media technologies to their contextual breaking point, beyond their ‘traditional’ usage. This means new configurations and modes of becoming in a technological sense; as Deleuze noted in his work on Foucault, technology is always social before it is technological. It has been overcoded, bracketed by the signifiers of power, and thus, any sort of “hypertrophy” would take on the dimensions of a wide-ranging and complex social struggle. The social (or more properly the organizations of power in contemporary institutional form) dictates the parameters of technology, but the functions of the social are continually shaped – and updated and mutated into new forms, both on the terrain of power and resistance – by the forces of technological flow. Thus, hypertrophy differs from the accelerationist tendencies, be it the neoliberal-nihilist or ‘leftist’-Promethean currents, that it could so easily be attached too.
    Galloway and Thacker quote Barthes – “There is only one way to way to escape the alienation of present day society: to retreat ahead of it.” The real touchstone here, I think, is Deleuze and Guattari’s own schizoanalytic understanding of acceleration and their usage of the George Jackson quote – “I may take flight, but all the while I am fleeing, I will be looking for a weapon.” For Thacker and Galloway, the weapon here is Laruelle’s non-philosophy.
    There was eventually that split between Deleuze and Guattari. In the famous essay on the Societies of Control, Deleuze pondered a potential politics of non-communication, or as Galloway sees, perhaps one were “silence” becomes a potent tool. For late Guattari, it is a matter of generating a rhizomatic ‘post-media,’ one of a pure communication. But are these two diametrically opposed? Not properly: Deleuzian non-communication is an urge for new forms of communication that evade power dynamics, yet one that is line with the discourse in ATP about ‘Becoming-Imperceptible.’
    If the goal of (radical) philosophy is the creation of conceptual tools, then there is no contradiction in eclectically hoping from divergent philosopher to divergent philosopher in eeking out potential lines of flight.
    Ironically, I feel that the New York School falls victim in some ways to variations of the protocol that Galloway has spent so much time analyzing, namely, an inadvertent trap generated by post-structuralist theory. Deleuze and Guattari’s overarching project is an assault on power, yet the overall trajectory of their collective works (I’m excluding their solo outputs here) positions itself as the “last word” in philosophy, which is something Laruelle dares to acknowledge. All philosophy that comes after their last work will be tinted by it, and this is may be the reason that Laruelle is so important at this stage : non-philosophy may be one (of the undoubtedly many) mediums by which we push back about the hegemony of thought itself.
    Beyond this brief philosophical impasse, however, we must consider that it may be time to not assign the philosophers, thinkers, and theorists that have so inspired us to the dustbin, but to move beyond them, to quit thinking of the world in the terms that they rendered decades ago. As Thacker and Galloway (among so many of us) acknowledge, we seem to be on the cusp of massive reorganizations of the social, capital, and transnational organizations of power. It is dire that we do not endlessly cast these things in a language generated back during transformative ages in the past. We need to build a new vocabulary, a new mechanism for communication (or not communicating) anticipatory ways of thinking, being, and becoming in attempts to ward off or evade the coming changes.

    1. The clause “in terms of opportunity cost” is key here. Politics is a rich enough field that AwC could write about anything he wanted, but NP demands a sort of rigor that dissuades any attempt to take ideas and ‘run with them’. As I’m sure you’ve found, one really have to immerse oneself in Laruelle in order to understand and especially write about NP. Since so many well-educated commentators (most recently, the author of the shitty review of P&NP) completely misunderstand NP, it seems to me that one really can’t go halfway with Laruelle, quoting little snippets like one does with other authors. All of this takes a lot of time that could be more productively spent doing other things, especially if we consider things like publications and tenure. A lot of people like the idea of Laruelle because they anorexically judge themselves by the degree of abstraction they possess—yet, they show no desire to stop doing philosophy; they remain interested in data and events only insofar as they can be philosophized about.

      In my own case, there’s really no such thing as philosophy of economics, so I have little opportunity cost in that sense. Moreover, I’ve found that econ is structured so as to preclude any sort of philosophical thinking, and that NP is helpful in removing conceptual prejudices. I use philosophy to get interested in business-related ‘regional knowledges’, with the intent to throw it away (like Wittgenstein’s ladder) once I’m good at them. This of course implies an eventual cessation of doing philosophy altogether (including NP), and I look forward to that day.

      Some people like Daly are doing a ‘post-Laruellean’ NP that articulates its insights without making use of Laruelle’s (often quite silly) rhetoric—which is able to be intransitive without violating NP’s spirit. (Others have tried to do this, and fail miserably.) Personally I think what’s valuable in NP is how it gives you a sort of distance from philosophy, and lets you gestalt-switch from conceptual thinking to non-Decisional ‘regional knowledges’. In my own experience, many of the answers that philosophy gives ‘about’ capitalism are quite unsatisfying or even vacuous from an economic point of view (and, as the endless Humanities literature attests, vice versa). Yet, Laruelle seems to imply that all of politics is Decisional, insofar as it operates through episteme and via a World. Kolozova tries to avoid this through a focus on human suffering as pre-discursive, and my own focus is on quantitative realpolitik (risk analysis, infrastructure and so on) as non-conceptual. So while it may be feasible to do a transitive non-politics (of which there can be as many as there are political philosophers), the sort of ‘null politics’ that AwC appears to have in mind would be an extremely long and ungratifying project. For someone to choose to spend their time doing this rather than one of an infinite amount of alternative political projects, they would have to be pretty whacked-in-the-head.

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