First let’s dispense with some of the straw man arguments…
- This article is not about capitalism or math or philosophy in general — it’s about post-fordism as a specific historical period.
- It does not say that realism is bad or that realism should be thrown out.
- It does not say that math or software are bad or that they should be thrown out.
- It does not say that “OOO equals capitalism, therefore OOO is bad.”
- It does not say that math entered philosophy under post-fordism — math has always been a part of philosophy.
- It does not deny that math has always been a part of capitalism, prior to post-fordism.
- It is not a defense of humanism.
- It is not a defense of correlationism.
- It is not a Hegelian argument, despite the tone of the final two sentences.
- It is not an indictment of Badiou; it does not say that Badiou is complicit with capitalism.
Let’s go through a number of specific points, starting with the last one…
“Badiou is bad; Badiou is a realist; Badiou is colluding with capitalism” — A number of people seem to think I’m attacking Badiou in this piece. But if you read the article, you’ll see that Badiou is presented as an exemplar. I state very clearly that he *avoids* the kinds of problems discussed in the article. He is featured in the preamble because of his profound influence and the way in which he represents arguably the strongest deviation from poststructuralism and postmodernism.
“Are You a Correlationist?” — Some also claim that I’m simply returning to old-school correlationism, and thus am “missing the point” of speculative realism entirely by rejecting anti-correlationism, one of its essential pre-conditions. Again I should be clear: I am quite interested in anti-correlationism, as evidenced in my work on Laruelle.
“Are You a Humanist?” — Some have read the article and concluded that I’m a humanist. I admit that this might not be entirely clear, particularly with the reference to Sartre at the end. As someone trained in the critical tradition, I am quite interested in various kinds of anti-humanism. Most of my writings on new media, for example, discuss and critique the autonomous materiality of control in object networks. Yet I am not a staunch anti-humanist; attention to both the human and non-human realms is mandatory for critical thinking.
“Software is just a tool. It’s silly/wrong/false to be against software.” — Yes I agree. That’s why I never make any kind of “software is bad” claim in this article.
“Aren’t you simply arguing by analogy?” — A number of people have responded to the piece by saying that I’m essentially arguing by insinuation, that I’ve merely tried to analogize or correlate realism with the mode of production. And thus, since correlation does not imply causation my argument falls apart. The argument would only work if I proved a direct connection between the two.
But this is precisely the heart of the matter. I have no intention of proving causation, connection, or collusion. I’m simply demonstrating *correlation*. This is the so-called Secondary Correlation problem. If the new realism is against correlation, why echo a secondary correlation? This is why the Malabou quote is such an important refrain for me. You can’t be an anti-correlationist and still maintain an ontology that “looks like” today’s logistical infrastructure. (And yes, I do mean “looks like” — argument by correlation is appropriate when the topic is correlation.) In short, analogy is the *crux* of the argument: realism can’t be anti-correlationist *and* correlate to the mode of production at the same time. Take your pick. Either drop the anti-correlationist stance. Or don’t construct your ontology to look like a FedEx object network.
“Why is it ‘correlationist’ to propose an ontology that looks like the mode of production? Doesn’t correlationism mean something different?” — Let’s take Laruelle’s definition of the correlationist principle, “the communicational is real, and the real is communicational.” Now consider Harman and OOO. In the most rudimentary sense, object-oriented software is a communicational apparatus in that it specifies how data can move between different parts of software objects. So for Harman to say that the real *is* that way, he’s a correlationist. But then again that’s hardly fair, since for Laruelle all philosophers are correlationists.
So if you don’t like Laruelle’s definition, take Meillassoux’s use of correlationism. It’s precisely the “in itself” vs “for us” that’s at stake. My claim is that, after Google et al., objects and networks move definitively into the “for us” category. Consider a hypothetical: what if Harman said “I endow the capacity of photosynthesis to all objects.” He might be wrong — at least for non plants — but at least he *wouldn’t* be a correlationist. Yet that’s not what Harman does, he picks one of the most “for us” aspects of contemporary society, the post-fordist infrastructure of object-orientation, and then grants it to all real things.
It’s a bit like a monkey saying “in my ontology, everything is a banana.” Absurd of course. Yet even if it were 100% true, it would still be a “for monkey” ontology. Harman, a non-monkey, seems to be doing something quite similar. We live today in a world of encapsulated, withdrawn objects existing at different scales and connected in networks. And, coincidentally, OOO describes an ontology of encapsulated, withdrawn objects existing at different scales and connected in networks. Why are they the same? Again, let me be clear: this doesn’t mean anything in particular and it doesn’t mean OOO is tainted in any way. It simply means that OOO ought to *explain* the correlation. If you’re striving for the “in itself,” why return to the “for us”?
“What alternative do you propose?” — There are a number of alternate possibilities. I for one am quite interested in the work of Laruelle, but there are other avenues too. For his part Laruelle is quite rigorously anti-correlationist, much more so than OOO or even Meillassoux. And further, as I discussed recently in an essay on Laruelle’s marxism, he has absolutely nothing in common with the infrastructure of distributed networks and objects. For this reason I find Laruelle tremendously useful for thinking about ethics and politics today. In essence what I’m pursuing is a different form of anti-correlationism that doesn’t stem from the Latourian or Deleuzian traditions. This is one of the reasons why Laruelle is so useful.
Let me add, and I think I speak for everyone involved, that this debate has gone on for too long. It’s lead to a lot of bad blood. I’m friends with some of the SR/OOO cohort, and I’d like to keep it that way. This article only appeared now due to the slow timeline of academic publishing. I’m on the record and I’m willing to defend my position. But I’m also interested in moving on to think about other things.