Archive for the ‘Theoretical Reflection’ Category

Following my involvement in the ‘Decoloniality and the Social Sciences’ Panel Series at the ESS meeting in New York City on March 1st, the editors of Installing(Social)Order have invited me to join the discussion of the theme of Decoloniality with one contribution to their blog. I proposed two different ones. The choice was, eventually up to me. I felt that ‘On Genomics’ was a better fit, and now publish ‘On Magic.’ on my own blog. As a sort of primer: Many decolonial writers have made the argument that should not be reduced to the geographical division of Global North and Global South. Coloniality happens in many forms – which is why they should be resisted, according to Walter Mignolo, with ‘epistemic disobedience’ – in many places, including within and across the societies of the Global North. The following is a meditation on and diffractive reading of the ‘question of technology’ and ‘postcolonial science studies’.

‘Any sufficiently advanced technology’, the bromide goes, ‘appears indistinguishable from magic’. I prefer to speak of a ‘bromide’, rather than of a ‘proverb’, a ‘commonplace’, or a ‘saying’, for ‘bromide’ by definition as well as by homonymic qualities illuminates that a once profound insight has disjointed (temporarily) the popular perception of technology from the actual techno-scientific Zeitgeist and thereby become both effectively and affectively useless. It’s lost, so to speak, its magic, precisely because its magic has had an effect. In much the same way, in Japanese, ‘bromide’ is still used to denotate photographs taken of celebrities and ‘Idols’, even though in our digital times hardly anyone still uses bromide paper to take a picture. Bromide did its magic in having been its own vanishing act.

This is, I think, characteristic of all magic. Alan Moore (2015), perhaps one of the greatest practitioners of magic of our times, has recently (and repeatedly) emphasized what I understand to be a similar point about the deployment of magic:

‘Do you really want that? Make up your mind before you go in the door, because that’s the thing about magic being something to do with language; you have to be very careful what you say. All words are magic words, and you can find them coming back to haunt you. And in my experience, magic always gives you exactly what you ask for.

[…Y]ou’ll start to notice that it’s changing the way you think, it’s giving you a different language of symbols to work with. And having a different language is the same as having a different consciousness. It’s a linguistic phenomenon.’

Any language is a technology of this kind, any language as a language of technology is a kind of magic: In his effort to unravel the Western colonial Magic [sic!] of power, Walter Mignolo (2012) argues that the key terms of Western languages, such as for example in their inherent I-You structure, have accomplished just that.

Our initial bromide, however, some of our dear readers may know this, is actually the third of Clarke’s Three Law attributed to his essay on the Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination (1972). This failure of the imagination occurs when certain facts are appreciated but the ‘vital facts’ remain ‘undiscovered and the possibility of their existence is not admitted’. Even with merely passing familiarity with STS or sociology of science literatures, one should be able to sense the Foucauldean implications of Clarke’s musings. How long is the time from the discovery to the admission? It’s the time it takes to co-ordinate the temporalities that are in play in the different practices: The practices of discovery and of admission on the one hand, but, more importantly on the other hand, the practices of making up one’s mind, the practices of saying the words, and the practices of noticing one’s mind changing.

To deploy another bromide: We will find that by the time we have ventured far enough into the impossible to ‘discover the limits of the possible’ (Clarke) that ‘Time is out of joint’. But perhaps this is what we have learn to admit: It is not ‘time’ but it is ‘temporalities’ that are really out of joint. For this conclusion, even if accepted, we have yet made no words and concepts to comprehend this outcome, except to take notice of it and consider that any magic even if insufficiently advanced will still have to be called technology.

20 years ago, Colin Scott (1996) made the attempt of imparting that lesson upon anthropologists, sociologists, and STS-ers, in stating that

‘achievements of indigenous ecological knowledge […] are neither mysterious nor coincidental – they result from intellectual processes not qualitatively different from those of Western science. Western science is distinctive not through any greater logical coherence or empirical fidelity [,…], but through its engagement of particular root metaphors in specific social institutional and socioenvironmental settings. Any number of root metaphors, situationally elaborated in the course of practical engagement with the world, may inform rational explanation and the effective organization of empirical experience. Equally, any number of the same metaphors may obstruct effective knowledge through a dogmatic misplaced literalism.’

At issue, in both magic and technology, is therefore only how we organize the world effectively – and, of course, affectively – but therein, as they say, ‘lies the rub’.

[Next up: ‘Dry Rub Fo Yo Chicken: What STS and ANT can learn by actually cooking up some stuff’.]


Clarke, Arthur (1972) ‘Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination’ in A. Toffler (ed.) The Futurists. New York: Random House: 133 – 150

Mignolo, Walter (2012) The Darker Side of Western Modernity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Moore, Alan (2015) ‘Interview’ in Mustard, Issue #4, 2015, retrieved at: http://www.mustardweb.org/alanmoore/index.htm, last accessed on: March 3, 2015

Scott, Colin (1996) ‘Science for the West, Myth for the Rest? The case of James Bay Cree knowledge construction’ in L. Nader (ed.) Naked science: anthropological inquiry into boundaries, power and knowledge. London; New York, NY: Routledge: 69 – 86


Read Full Post »

In the past few years, I have begun developing a theory of nomadic statehood (see, for example, my 4S Guerilla Paper, reprinted on these pages). One of the main concerns that led to this line of inquiry was and is the fact that corporations take on an increasing number of functions that usually reside with what we commonly think of as ‘states’, which is why I ventured to declare corporations are quasi-states and on the road of attaining statehood. Naturally, some criticism has been voiced, pointing to issues ranging from ‘defending citizens’ to accusation of my simply accepting this development uncritically, etc.  I will certainly address these various issues over time, in subsequent and more elaborate versions of my argument.  For the moment, let me sum up that my main line of response ontowards most criticisms will derive from my critique of ‘the territorial’ as an epistemic trap stemming from the Western colonial matrix.


Here, I want to quickly illustrate another matter, that will however, prepare a critique of territoriality and offer some conceptual clarity, what is meant when I say statehood and state, and I will go on to venture an idea, picking up on Colin Crouch’s post-democracy discourse, that corporations are just a vanishing mediator – perhaps, more leftist inclined interpreters will run with this even further and claim that corporations are the vanishing mediator in the rise of pure ‘non-territorial capitalist states’.

Classically, Crouch’s argument in his critique of Neoliberalism states that the traditional dyad of ‘state versus market’ has long been turned into a three-party system in reality, even if folk views of econo-socio-political sciences along with many experts still treat the system from the point of view of a dyad. However, Crouch’s line of argument, which I largely agree with in this detail, points to the fact that corporations and corporate rationality come form a different place than the market, that the idea of a truly free market is actually detrimental to the goals of corporations, and that, finally, corporations and the ‘Chicago school’ neoliberal legal thought have created a momentum of destroying the free market in the name of freedom – and, I would add in Kantian politico-psychological twist, in putting freedom against autonomy.

If one can accept, if only for the moment of entertaining my line of argument in order to see how far it goes justifiably, that this triadic constellation exists between state(s), market(s), corporation(s), then a number of points of inquisitive entry open up that allow me to specify the concept of statehood.

To begin with, working with Sabrina Weiss, we have in the past few years also become intensely interested in the concept of thirdness. Naturally, a triad of the kind that is presented here for the post-democratic macro-structure, begs the question of thirdness, i.e. are corporations ‘emergent thirds’ of the kind that Weiss and I are talking about. Independently of her, in this case and for the moment, I would intuitively say that the answer is ‘No!’.

On the contrary, I think that corporations should be conceived as a temporary emerging and vanishing mediator, because corporations are becoming a form of state and, perhaps, have even been a developing form of statehood within the market, drifting from one attractor (Markets) to the other (Statehood), from the start.

That would, of course, be quite the theoretical bluster, now would it not. The problem with any possible discontent that one may have with this line of argument lies, I think, in the states in Crouch’s triad of market-corporation-state. I think that the ‘states’ in this triad are only a sub-category of state that is described in ‘statehood’: The actual states, that we find in the works of Crouch and many others, refer to concrete territorial state apparatuses and largely to actor-perspectives, whereas any wider concept of statehood that wields a concepts of de-territorialized states will have little problem arguing that the dyad Market-State exists on a different level than the triad market-corporation-state: Market-State refers to the wider concept, wherein statehood includes but is not exhausted by (concrete) territorial state apparatuses, such as nation states. The triad, markets-corporations-state holds corporations as a vanishing mediator, because corporations are only for a brief time distinctly visible and discernible in their transition from Market to Statehood, form being a Market force to becoming a State force (I use ‘force’ for the moment to avoid using actor, performativity, or something else, but I will probably come to prefer, in line with semantic agency theory [SAT], to denote them as ‘assemblies’). This also explains, why corporations are not a genuine emergent third, since they do not really exist on the meta-level Market-State, their transition happens on the level of market-state, where they emerge as a transitional object, a vanishing mediator. The notion of State, therefore, will bracket together [territorial state apparatus, corporations, x,y,z].


Of course, this is only a sketch or a bridge towards a much needed further elaboration of the inquiry and responses to criticisms. However, I think that the pieces are beginning to come together rather nicely, and this little shift in perspective, in arguing that ‘corporation’ is only a transitional concept is a major step forward – although I must admit, that it does invite two possible interpretations in line with Norbert Elias idea of monopolizing process, one in favor one against my argument: If corporation are part of a monopolizing process in the way Elias described the process for taxing and for violence, one could disembark onto one route and argue that monopolization happens on the Market, leaving intact the dyad Market-State ;the other route would, of course set this up as a monopolization of Market versus State, whereas the drift of corporations towards States means that the allocation of resources no longer occurs through markets but through States in a monopoly, putting an end to Market, which would lead to a monopolizing process occurring within the State level between territorial state apparatuses and corporations (and x,y,z???? x,y,z, could be for example, religious apparatuses). Some polarized comparative accounts of the current developments of China and the US, i.e. a model of the authoritarian state capitalism versus a model totalitarian corporate capitalist state, would then be an indicator that the later monopolizing process is already under way.


Read Full Post »

There exists a need to engage in a provocative enterprise that upsets the Western mode of thinking, particularly in academia. which follows conceptually from the literatures of Dipesh Chakrabarty, Walter Mignolo, Sandra Harding, Rosi Braidotti and Vandana Shiva among surprisingly few others. There is a tendency in Western scholarship and science to accept the post-/de-colonial mode of thought into their (academic) discourses and the subjects that enunciate post-/de-colonially who are or were located geo-/bio-graphically situated  in these discourses into the Western institutions (universities) – however, they do not accept post-colonial modes of thought or epistemic divergence/difference from those who were not ‘originally’ located so  geo-/bio-graphically. Thereby, they merely tolerate the ‘others’, and tolerance becomes, again, just the act of violence of othering, two-fold: in othering the geo-/bio-graphically differently situated ones and in excluding those who think differently; thereby they only reify  the patriarchichal, parochial, racist operation of the colonial (center-margin) matrix of power  that exists in economy, authority, gender and sexuality, and knowledge/subjectivity). To genuinely become different, comprehensive, integrative and genuinely innovative, Western academia must accept difference in their own ranks and stop tolerating and instead comprehending post- and de-colonial modes of thinking, indeed, a n entirely different mode of thinking is required that manages to radically historize, radically de-colonialize and radically immigrate/integrate in practices of epistemic discobedience.

Read Full Post »

4S Guerilla Paper on Nomadic Statehood: Toward a theory of the question ‘When are States’?

EDITORIAL NOTE: This is the notes of the actual talk. The paper version is longer, and will be uploaded at academia.edu and also published properly.

  1. Introduction

What is now on the agenda is a ‘futurist’ or ‘constructivist’ opening-up of fields of possibility.

The unconscious remains bound to archaic fixations only as long as no assemblage exists

within which it can be oriented towards the future;

and in the future that faces us,

temporalities of both human and non-human nature

will demand just such an existential reorientation.


Our objective should be to nurture individual cultures,

while at the same time inventing new contracts of citizenship:

to create an order of the state in which singularity, exceptions, and rarity

coexist under the least oppressive possible conditions.

– Felix Guattari The Three Ecologies

Thank you for having me here today, outside of the official program of 4S 2012, to deliver my paper, which serves a second purpose as a protest against the disappointing lack of social justice, accountability, and transparency within our own organization.  In response to a series of inquiries and complaints regarding the tripling of conference fees from last year from myself and others, the organizers of this conference have been dismissive and parochial, refusing to engage our concerns or to even provide a reasonable explanation for the cause of the price hike. We must never forget, in our scholastic endeavors to critique the ways of the world, to remember to turn our gaze inward to ensure that we enact the virtues we wish to see in others.  This presentation, as a gesture, is therefore best called a guerrilla paper – it is fitting that its subject matter, as a matter of the political imagination, is the notion of nomadic statehood..

If I were not presenting here on short notice, if, indeed, I had had time for a prolonged preparation – and perhaps, it is for the better then, that I did not – I would have perhaps asked of you to tell me who of you could dance, have asked one of the responders down here to the podium and made you dance to the music. Indeed, when talking analytically about the State (and the same goes for body-mind, the two are connected in mutual intra-action through the political imagination1), the question we really have to ask is: How do you separate the dancer from the dance?2

Unlike the fine presenters who have preceded mine with their fantastic, insightful and inspiring papers, I will not be presenting you a final result of a research project or a finalized version of a theory, but I – no, we – shall partake in theoretical discourse in becoming: We do not yet and will not for quite some time have a theory of the State for our times.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things we can’t say or use for analysis or intervention – indeed, there has always been a strange relationship (or should we rather say: strange attraction) between political theory and practice.

Our task is to appraise/assess theoretical contributions we have, let go of those that don’t hold up, and graft useful tools onto our current discourses: We need to (re-) how to ask the questions. Nothing brilliantly novel I am saying here, I know, but how about we did it for real this time around? So, let’s bring the State back in – as if it had ever left.

Recent scholarship in international law and systems theory3 focused on regime collisions, that are considered the result of functional differentiation on a global scale. Because of these differentiated regimes cannot call on an original foundation of practices of conflict resolution such as would eb found in the constitution of a nation-state, it is argued that the state of and practice of law is now a fragmented affair (the state of affairs): Global legal fragmentation is supposedly the mirror result of global social fragmentation, and as such fragments are only ‘weakly compatible’. Hence, no constitution, no State, good-bye. We have all heard that story, now, have we not; but, hey, let’s cut the crap, shall we? Passoth and Rowland begin their seminal paper on the actor-network state4with the very one question that really seems to matter in this discourse, or that, at least, should have matter: What are states?

  1. What are States?

I criticize the use of the concepts ‘The Market’ and ‘The State’.

Not because they are a duality, but because both are reified generalities that do not really exist.

Adding a third term, like “The People,” would not help.

What we need is to replace the reified generalities with concrete assemblages:

many bazaars, many regional trading areas, many national markets…

each with a date of birth and (potentially) a date of death.”

– Manuel Delanda (in Dolhijn/van der Tuin)

…. a hot mess.”

– Chromeo, Business Casual

In looking at what it means to view the State as an actor and/or as a network, Passoth and Rowland begin their argument by taking away the monotlithic character of statehood, instead discussing the performativity of statehood. I agree with them for the most part5.

My main concern, however, might be that their account, while progressive and inspiring and highly useful, might still be ‘too contained’, too limited, too constraining as a result of some specific limitations of ANT (actor-network theory) in the realm of political theory: ANT does inherit a certain obsession with spatiality from its discourse with the theories of Michel Foucualt and A. Greimas.

This notwithstanding, Passoth and Rowland do indeed manage the impressive feat of decolonizing the state-concept; meaning, it is not necessarily bound to the quality of actor-hood described in nation-stateness, but it can be captured in richer concepts such as Foucauldean gouvernmentality6, however, thereinthe governed, the techniques, the measurements, and histories are still geometrically and geographically bounded. This has to do with Foucault’s conceptualization of language in a dialectical relationship with spatiality7.

As they themselves say about key concepts in ANT (826f.), such as the concept of translation8, which has “a geometric meaning that refers to attempts to mobilize human and non-human resources”.

The socio-technical assemblages that ANT deals with refer to markets, bodies, states, these are not abstract entities but “concrete localities”, which, by way of their assembled relations in borders, taxes, pink forms, actual bodies, etc., constituted state actorhood.

States ‘have’ sizes as actor-networks – size is also another spatial concept. Let me emphasize: I am not against analyzing spatiality. What I am trying to say is that we cannot focus on spatiality alone, because we would be missing something. Harold Innis made this point, in reference to the use of the ‘fallacy of misplaced concreteness’ (Whitehead) in his “Plea for Time”9, arguing that a monopoly of time was followed by a monopoly of space. In political theory and practice since Innis ‘plea’, 1950, we have not seen much of a pendulum swing away from spatiality. Moreover, I argue, we do not need another monopoly, but we need to stop the reification of these generalities and to think space and time.

So, what are states? States are topological, a relationscape in space, local, in situ. They are relationscapes10: of course, this is just another technical term, but it is intelligible and useful for the future development of this issue:

Topological spacetime refutes this dichotomy between the abstract and the concrete. Topo-logical spacetime is not 1 + 1 but n + 1, always more-than.[…] Topology refers to a continuity of transformation that alters the figure, bringing to the fore not the coordinates of form but the experience of it. Topologies suggest that the space of the body extends beyond Euclidean coordinates to more abstract spacetime. In topological geo-metry, I am both here and there, actual and virtual, real and abstract. Topology potentially deforms linear progression, rendering the concrete abstract.” (2007: 142)

Being in space is, therefore, not all.

You can guess what I am getting at: I want to talk about something to do with time but more than (the monopoly of) time.

  1. When are States? (How are States?)

The idea that we know already how all past discourses have been generated,

that we have the secret of all past conceptual systems,

and that we can therefore engage in meta-theorizing based on that knowledge

is deeply mistaken.


I also reject the neo-Kantian thesis of the linguisticality of experience.

To assume that human

experience is structured conceptually is to dehistoricize the human species:

we spent hundreds of thousands of years as a social species, with a division

of labor (hunters, gatherers) and sophisticated stone tool technology.

Language is a relatively recent acquisition. Are we to assume that those

ancient hunter gatherers lived in an amorphous world waiting for language

to give it form? That’s Creationism again, you know: ”

– Delanda in Dolphijn/van der Tuin

States can be translocal or they can exist because of a translocality. This, translocality, is my first suggestion for the deterritorialization and transformation of the discourse on the State.

Translocality means broadly that stake-holders and stock-holders do not share the same space of cause and effect, however, they share the temporality of affect, only resolutions are usually localized in specific sites – in this fragmented constitution lie both the discontent and hope for a future grounding of an epistemic and communal concept of democracy and the State): States perform the negotiation between stake-holders and stock-holders, they are brought into play,

into existence through the performativity of this negotiation. Yet, the problem is not spatial but the fact that negotiation is necessary lies in the double separation of stake and stock, and cause and effect. And the events enacted are a narrative of sorts. I say that because stake-holders and stock-holders have separate narratives, conflicting narratives aka conflicting of practices that need to be negotiated.

Practices, even conceptual practices, are not exhausted by linguistic practices. Lingusitic practices are practices, too. But I use the notion to mean more than linguistics aka textual practices. I see practices as discursive and non-discursive, and among discursive practices there are textual and non-textual ones. The theory of semantic agency that I have outlined elsewhere11 refers to the comprehensive notion of practice not to the reduced one.

I like things simple, so I’d like to go here with the simplest concept of narrative possible and sufficient, which is Barabra Tversky’s concept12 which states that “narrative is the sequentialisation of (at least two) events in time.”

So this is my problem with the focus/monopoly on spatiality, that in the monopoly, the focused gaze through a singularized lens,13 there is no space, pardon the pun, for temporalities.

Temporalities14 are the sequentializations of events in time. Various temporalities coincide and need to be aligned:

Boiling water, cutting15 mushrooms, heating pan, adding cream, etc; well, aligned, we get a tasty Pasta with ‘shroom’n’cream-sauce when it’s all done. Wanna have omelet you gotta break some eggs16.

When are States? I don’t know but I sure want to find out.

When we bring the State back in, the question is was it away? Where was it in the meantime? Or was it ever? Did it, perhaps, never stop?

I find these questions wildly confusing, yet vitally important, and I feel like we have been missing out on something in not asking them.

So this, temporality, is my second suggestion for the deterritorialization and transformation of the discourse on the State.

  1. Quasi-States

[S]tates as we know them will not last forever,

and may soon lose their incredible hegemony.”

– Charles Tilly

In the recent discourses on neo-liberalism and post-democracy, Colin Crouch has created a vital argument by pointing out that a ideologically informed comments and analyses of late have been blind-sided by their focus on two actors, market and State, while there should be a minimum of three actors under consideration: States, markets, and corporations.

I do agree with Crouch that with regard to a plethora of political and social theoretical questions, ranging from power and influence to structuration and (social) agency, we need not only bring the State back in, or need to accept that it has never left, we also need to accept that the corporation is in, and may have been in for a long time17. Secondly, we need to address the concept of the corporation the same as we did the State, beginning with the question what18 are corporations and moving towards the questions of when.

Think about it19 : Are corporations their corporate headquarters (a location), or are they their corporate identity, are they management or the stockholder? Are they the performativity of the relations between management and the stockholders? What/who are stockholders and who/what are stakeholders? What are events that are sequenced/sequentialized in time?

Mono-causal and linear logic of production and location?

Cause: Production

Effect: Stock prize

Production: China

Stock-Exchange: London

Event Reactions:n Stock plummets in London, job loss in China

Temporalities, matter, you see. Nation-states, as we know them, do intervene in these logics, they create conditions, reactions, potentialities, agencies20. So yes, territorial states do matter, But there is more to reality than just this: corporations do need well-educated staff and workers that embody a particular form of the companies memory through tacit knowledge they both construct and acquire in performance, and corporations do need to hold on to them, bind them and their competencies for lenghty periods of time. Sure, they also have a Mitt Romney styled fun time in firing people, but they simultaneously have a hard time hiring also: Labor vs. skilled labor!

And yet, specialization has that kind of price-tag: skilled laborers need incentives to come and work for you, and more so to stay.

At the same time, corporations expand into more and more markets, not just through a monopolization mechanism21, that too, but also by sucking up more and more previously ‘public’ aka state functions (health care, education, research, infrastrucutre, etc.) by way of public-private partnerships and privatization22.

It is not unusual that corporations offer health care services or higher education and training to their employees directly, or education and care for their offspring.

They offer services to their (internationally migrating) employees that nation-sttaes used ot offer to their citizens, sometimes to help circumvent nation-state’s influence sometimes because the bureaucracies of health care, education, and pension systems of nation state’s just have found themselves unable to process internationally mobile professionals. At the same time, corporations help turn these services into products and structure them as markets. For example, Most Ivy League universities are now major corporations, and corporations buy into or fund universities, such as in Britain and the US – or try to influence the the way ‘universities think’ by introducing the ideology of ‘creative destruction’23. Corporations offer services that were once deemed functions24 of the State. Corporations offer services to their employees and recreate them as markets while they seem to ‘take them away’ from the state – the nation-state, that is – through privatization and lobbying. In doing, so, I argue, corporations are becoming (already have become) quasi-states. They are not states in the ‘conventional’, the territorial sense; but in assimilating more and more state functions, they become more and more ‘like states’. As a consequence, are they actually becoming states? Can this process be reversed or, at least, controlled? Are they maybe already states?

  1. Nomadic Statehood

This, then is my third and final suggestions – all good things come in threes – the concept of statehood itself must be reconceptualized, with the the territorial state being merely a special branch. Any future theory of the State must conceptualize statehood as nomadic statehood. The challenge that quasi-states and the question ‘when are states?’ pose in the issue of temporalities will lead us, perhaps via Deleuze and Guattari, to the insight that we must embrace nomadism, that we must learn to think in deterritorialized ways, and this is hard. Perhaps, we begin by dancing, and ask how to separate the dancer from the dance? Perhaps we can’t, and perhaps our question must be? How do we dance the State?

[The Guerilla Talk ended here]

1See: Hengehold, Laura The Body Problematic. Penn State UP, 2007

2On this question, see my STS Italia 2012 paper, “’My body is dancing with a yodeling dog’, the STS scholar said.”, available via academia.edu


Teubner, Guenther Verfassungsfragmente. Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2012; Teubner, Guenther. “Constitutionalising Polycontexturality.“ Social and Legal Studies 19, 2011: 17-3; Teubner, Guenther. “Fragmented Foundations: Societal Constitutionalism Beyond the Nation State:“. In: Petra Dobner und Martin Loughlin (Hrsg.), The Twilight of Constitutionalism? Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010: 327-341. Fischer-Lescano, Teuber. Regime-Kollisionen. Frankfurt aM:Suhrkamp. See also my ASA 2012 paper ‘Seeing ourselves and the State through the Heteroscope’

4Passoth, Jan-Hendrik, Nicholas Rowland. ‘Actor-Network State’ International Sociology Vol. 25, 2010: 818-841

5The agency of States is not the agency of actors. With Karen Barad, I think, we need to begin by conceptualizing agency at a different level first before we can include ideas of choice and politics – which should, however, not go unnoticed:

Agency is “not something that someone or something has to varying degrees, since I am trying to displace the very notion of independently existing individuals. This is not, however, to deny agency in its importance, but on the contrary, to rework the notion of agency in ways that are appropriate to relational ontologies. Agency is not held, it is not a property of persons or things; rather, agency is an enactment, a matter of possibilities for reconfiguring entanglements. So agency is not about choice in any liberal humanist sense; rather, it is about the possibilities and accountability entailed in reconfiguring material-discursive apparatuses of bodily production, including the boundary articulations and exclusions that are marked by those practices.” (Barad in Dolphijn/van der Tuin)

Once this is clear, we can go on to conceptualize the matter ot of how humans affect and are affected by agencies and ecologies, including their own. This is what Sabrina M. Weiss and I have been doing in the concept of anthropocology

see: Stingl with Weiss “Before and Beyond the label” in: Dellwing, Michael, ed. Krankheitskonstruktion und Kranheitstreiberei. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag, 2012; Restivo/Stingl/Weiss Worlds of ScienceCraft. Surrey:Ashgate, 2013

6I do disagree with their passing note, taken from Thomas Lemke, that linking ‘govermentality’ to mentality is a misconception. Indeed, many interpreters who have done so have created this account as a misconception and misconstrual. However, to deny a certain anthropological/semiotic link in Foucault’s concept between governance (State), techniques of self (imagination), and mentality (psyche/mind) is problematic: Mentality can be translated into the German concept Gemueth which is prominent in Kant’s anthropology and political philosophy (Enlightenment), the life-long and recurring reference point in Foucault’s work. I feel as though Lemke et al forsake the anthropological dimension for the political one. However, I think, you cannot have one without the other.

7See my paper “How to map the body’s spaces” Myth-making, myth-breaking in history, Bucharest 2011, and (forthcoming) Anthropos’ Scaffoldings. Lampeter: Mellen.

8I do not have time here for the discussion of sociological concepts of translation in other schools of thought, such as in the fictional accounts of social phenomenology. I needn’t stress that I find social phenomenology a la that Austrian banker and systems theory a la Luhmann of very limited use, if any.

9Innis, Harold.The Bias of Communication. Toronto: University of Toronto Press,1951

10Manning, Erin. Relationscapes. Cambridge, Ma.: MIT Press,2009. Manning, Erin. ‘Relationscapes” Cultural Studies Review Vol. 13/2, 2007: 134 – 155

11Stingl, Alexander I. “Truth, Knowledge, Narratives of Selves” American Sociologist Vol. 42 (2/3), 2011; although upon the time of its writing, my concept of narrative was not yet radical enough as I discovered Tversky’s work only afterwards. Also, I identify with much of what new materialism has to offer. Here in particular with regard to extra-linguisitic practices as being discursive, I think Karen Barad has much to say on agential realism. See also:

Bennett, Jane, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, Durham, NC: Duke UP (2010); Ahmed, Sara, On Being Included. Durham, NC: Duke UP (2012); Connolly, William E., A World of Becoming. Durham, NC: Duke UP (2011); Coole, Diane, Samantha Frost, eds. New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency and Politics. Durham, NC: Duke UP (2010); Barad, Karen “Posthumanist Perfomativity” in: Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28, (2003): 801 – 831 Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2008; Chen, Mel Y. Animacies. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2012; Dolphijn, Rik, Iris van der Tuin. eds. New Materialism. Open Humanities Press. 2012


Tversky, Barbara “Narratives of Space time and Life”Mind & Language, Vol. 19 No. 4 September 2004: 380–392.

Again, this isn’t about stories or fiction; that stuff is for (social) phenomenologists, who have no responsibilities other than to their own essentialisms (fans, disciples, pay-checks). But beyond just-so stories and nice-to-know studies, social phenomenology isn’t really a lot of help for anything – just think about the mutilations William James’s or Henri Bergson’s work suffered under the Austrian banker’s gaze. Shutter-click, bracket-bracket, the single-lens camera, a pseudo-intellectual’s guillotine, the illusion of objectivity. That still is true for any reificative gesture that essentializes translation when acting as if translation enables its own relations sui generis. While a ‘nice notion’, analytically or pragmatically, it provides…. nothing. A concept of ‘translation’ as presented by fictionalist phenomenologists [ANT is a different matter!!!!] is only a singularizing digital mode that reifies center-periphery spatialities, same old, same old. I hear those ‘contributions’ and I hear people admitting that while they wrote about Whitehead, they never understood him. That is the point, there is time and there is temporality: When they are treated like center and periphery, nothing is gained, but, at least, they seem fashionably ontic. Perhaps it is time we bury Heidegger and the (crypto-)phenomenologists. Indeed, in his “La phobie d’Etat” (Liberation Vol. 967, 1984) even Michel Foucault denied the road to the possibility of a political phenomenology and a phenomenology of the State in constructing the state as a ‘mobile effect of a regime of manifold gouvernmetality’ and arguing convincingly that the State has ‘no essence’. [My disagreement with Foucault lies in the possibility of theory, because I argue for nomadism in theory.]

You may think I am hard on these….people. But I am not. They, the social phenomenologists, are so concerned with matters of fact while at the same time black boxing ‘fact’ itself, that they do not or chose not to see matters of concern and matters of care, moreover, they work very hard to exclude and punish people who dare think differently, employing what, I think, Karen Barad (in Dolphijn/van der Tuin) has so vividly and adequately called “practice of negativity […] about subtraction, distancing and othering”.

13Like the single lens camera, the single lens of the spatialized (and actor) state suffers from problems: It ‘blacks-out’ the image during exposure. the reflex mirror‘s movement takes time even though it is not to sequentialize events but describes time-holes between events, that limit the reaction speed, while, at the same time, the mechanistic compoments result in noise and vibrations.

14My concept is similar to Schrader’s but not identical. I developed my approach oblivious to her work, but am very happy and grateful to having discovered her insightful studies. See: Schrader, Astrid “Responding to Pfisteria piscida (the Fish Killer): Phantomatic Ontology, Indeterminacy, and Responsibility in Toxic Microbiology” Social Studies of Science Vol. 40, 2010: 275 – 306; here :

“Pfiesteria are not only context-, but also history-dependent, in which case we are dealing with an entanglement of two indeterminacies – between ‘bodies’ and ‘environment’ and ‘past’ and ‘future’ – that cannot be resolved at the same time. As soon as a ‘time’ as an external parameter that auto-matically orders events chronologically can no longer be presupposed, the differentiation between ‘bodies’ and ‘environment’ depends on what I call temporalization– the establishment of a relation between ‘past’ and ‘future’.”(293)

15Remember how Deleuze conceptualized the event: There are two sides to it, such as in the event of cutting, there is the knife that actualizes a potentiality, that of cutting (instead of murdering) but the actualization is an event in the knife cutting and the mushroom being cut – cutting and being-cut are the event.

16Or break some unquestioned certainties. Certainties are eggs! Instead of certainties, perhaps we need confidences! I am hardly ever certain, but usually quite confident.

17See for example the popular but insightful historical analysis by David Rothkopf, Power, Inc.:
The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government—and the Reckoning That Lies Ahead
, Farrar, Straus&Giroux, 2012

18For the moment, I presume that a question of where are corporations or where is a state are resolved in the question what they are.

19The debate between Michael Callon and Daniel Miller is a very insightful exchange that makes a good head-start in this discussion:

Miller, Daniel. “Turning Callon the Right Way Up.” Economy and Society XXXI, 2002: 218- 233;

Callon, Michael “Why virtualism paves the way to political impotence. Callon replies to Miller”, Economic Sociology (European Electronic Newsletter) vol. 6, 2005: 3 – 20

20It would be interesting to review these matters through the diffractive lens of speculative literature such as slipstream and new weird, that deals with how realities are made, such as China Mievielle’s Bas-Lag Series an the two opposing concept of crisis energy and possibility mining.

21Norbert Elias (Process of Civilizations) described such mechanisms for monopolies on taxing and on violence, as a king-making mechanism, we see a similar pattern with corporations on markets. Since Elias did also write On Time, it’d be interesting to completely re-theorize Elias’s works through actor-network theory (ANT) and semantic agency theory (SAT), see my “Truth, Knowledge, Narratives of Selves”

22On this point, see Crouch, Colin The Strange Non-Death of Newoliberalism, Cambridge, UK/Malden,MA: Polity, 2011

24On the issue of functions, I follow here a philosophical consideration of etiological accounts. That would in and of itself require an in-depth discussion, how political theory is affected by this way of conceptualizing function through selection, warrant and entitlement, originating the complex discussion of Tyler Burge’s original arguments by various scholars, including – for my purposes, Peter J. Graham “Epistemic Entitlement” in: Noûs Volume 46,  2012: 449–482

Read Full Post »

Beyond ontological realism as a perennial philosophy are good reasons that speak in favor of some kind of grounding or principles in order to understand how interlocutors can have any foundation for understanding one another in their actions: Metaphysics as the ‘understanding of understanding‘ and with the ‘principle of principle‘ and the conclusion that they are related in the ‘governance of governance‘ This is found in ‘Arché, archein, archeology’ as a Foucauldian notion of The principled governance of Self and Other(s). The principle of principle has a classic and Aristotelian formulation in the concept of arché and the verb-form archein. Klaus Lichtblau1 does remind us, determining a classical quasi-zero-point or locus classicus, can aid in any effort of an arche-ology2of the rational and semantic iso-topia that aregoverningthe existing global epistemic community, or, alternatively, in determining its precisely an-archic nature, which Lichtblau identifies as the Deleuzean project: Arché identifies as ‘principle’, yes, but it also means ‘beginning’, ‘foundation’ or ‘ground’, which Deleuze finds in the history of German philosophy since Leibniz on both sides of the archic and the an-archic: Der Grund3. As both a conceptual principle of the real and of cognition4, arché candenote simultaneously a principle of a matters cause and of its becoming. It is non-surprising that in its verb-form archein, it comprehends (Lichtblau) ‘being/becoming first’ as a polymorph or multiplicty, referring to ‘leading’, ‘ruling’, ‘dominating, ‘governing’, as much as to the expected meanings such as ‘begins’ ‘being fundamental’ ‘being the ground of’ or ‘reason for’.

Given that it has been frequently remarked by critical commentators and interpretants that Michel Foucault’s seminal ‘archeology’-concept supposedly is not sufficiently internally ‘connected’ to his genealogical nor his ethical project5, or that in his last years he supposedly ‘re-discovered’ the subject or ethics, etc. therefore proving the ‘disruptive’ or ‘de-legitimazing’ disconnect in the the epistemological, anthropological, historical and ethico-political levels6 of his work, we should not this with interest and, more importantly, in the light of Kant’s concept of archeology, which Foucault was privy to from the start, given his life-long relationship with Kant’s writings on anthropology and politics beginning with his comment on Kant’s Anthropology in a Pragmatic View and ending with his final lectures and essays on government, enlightenment and the self-other relation. Kant’s archeology is the philosophical archeology of reason as a derivate of the history of nature in the form of a ‘philosophical archeology of philosophy7. Given the comprehensive etymology of ‘arché-ology’ – which both Foucault and Deleuze most certainly have been aware of, in lieu with Kant’s anthropology and ‘philosophical archeology of philosophy‘ on the ‘nature of human reason’ (Kant), can their enterprise not also rightfully be called political? Are they not busy with a search for the “grounds and principles of the governance of reason and nature” found(ed) in language as the space of historic ontology (Foucault) and the intensive ontologies of temporality (Deleuze)? If we can accept this, it follows that Laura Hengehold’s project of a negative anthropology8, based in Kant, Foucault and, to some degree, Deleuze, is a metaphysical project that accounts for these grounds in the concept of political imagination as the point of convergence between the body and the State, wherein each can equally be subject to ‘re-imagination’ through the other, is a project that is a consequent continuation of Kant-Foucault/Delezue conflation of philosophy, anthropology and political ethics. Therein, given that the key concept of our times of mass-democracy and mass-media is information, we now “only” need to re-conceptualize what this conflation means today. Where others like Habermas or Lichtblau do not fully enter into the issue why the ancient Greeks in the actual construction of policy conceptually preferred the Platonian kratylos over archein, for our times, Foucault and Deleuze at least argue why in the same discursive field we should not trust a mere propaedeutic pedagogics to accomplish this re-conceptualization but why we need a a concept of psychagogy (Foucault) or a pedagogy of concepts (Deleuze), instead: Foucault’s lecture project from the 1980s can be seen as an argument against Derrida (March 2, 1983)9, arguing that Plato’s rejection of writing did not occur due to a defense of a pure logos, but “a silent work of self on self which disqualifies all logos, written or oral.”. The issue, with reference to Derrida, is not between written or oral. Instead Foucault saw the difference between a “logographic mode of being of rhetorical discourse and an auto-ascetic mode if being of philosophical discourse”. Thus, philosophy for Foucault’s Greek philosopher is in relation to parrhesia a kind of psychagogy, unlike rhetoric, which is tasked to influence and persuade, philosophy (or theory) is an operation with

will enable souls to distinguish properly between true and false, and which, through philosophical paideia, will provide the instruments to carry out this distinction.“

Paideia means a rich concept of enculturation through education and exercise of practice. In relation to Plato’s Phaedrus , it is also striking that Foucault discusses this matter on the example of medicine, Hippocrates, therapeutic regimes and the body, culminating in the strong statement that echos our criticism of current Western medicine and its focus on Neo-Kraepilinanism, (bio-)medicalization and pharmacologicalization:

[I]t was Hippocrates who thus substituted or completed medical art, or enabled it to be not just the application of a recipe, but well and truly an art of curing through knowledge of the body.”10

It is also in this context one must see Deleuze in the discourse of the Foucauldian project in its entirety from Foucault’s earliest works on Binswanger and Rene Char as well as his reflections on Cassirer and analysis of Kant’s anthropology, toward his writings on the heterotopic relation between language and space, to his final musings on Enlightenment: An anthropology without anthropos. For Foucault was asking the Kantian question „What is man?“ not as an encyclopedic nor analytic enterprise: Foucauly and Deleuze do not understand the question to mean that we must take (hu)man, the anthropos, as degre zero or zero-point. They do not accept the anthropos as the subject or object at face value. Foucault and Deleuze are asking for a concept of the human sciences, that goesbeyond and also ‘to the ground’ of whatNorbert Elias’s calls the Menschenwissenschaften. A concept that enables a critical anthropology that would ask for the conditions of possibility of ‘humanity and the concept of human’, including the political dimensions; in other words for the conditions of possibility of anthropos that was, however, at the same time neither explicitly nor, more importantly, implicilty including the question for the anthropos. Such a type of question would have made it anthropos into a telos, teleologically (humanities) of teleonomically (social sciences – this is the problem of the idea of the ‘social’ as explanatory, which Latour warns about), or would have implicitly and, that is the more dangerous and in the natural sciences too often occurring route of inquest, merely reified the concept without its actual appearance, however in effect thereby negating it in ts technological advances: The veiled idea of ‘human’ in the natural sciences will, eventually, destroy humanity, in eroding qua technology the necessary conditions for the existence of the human beings and for the peaceful and cooperative means to cooperate (polis) that constitute humanity.

1Lichtblau, Klaus. Die Zeitalter der Entzweiung. Berlin: PHILO, (1999): 38ff.

2Even if we assume that the only arché-ology possible were a media-archeology. See: Parrika, Jussi “Operative Media Archeology”, Culture, Theory&Society, 28 (2011): 58 – 74

Parrika, Jussi, Erki Huhtamo, eds. Media-Archeology. Berkeley: Californa UP (2011)

3Deleuze, The Fold, London/New York: Continuum, (2006)

4Lichtblau, Zeitalter (1999), 40/41

5Han, Beatrice Foucault’s Critical Project. Stanford UP, (2002)

6Habermas, Juergen Der philosophische Diskrus der Moderne. Frankfurt aM: Suhrkamp (1985)

7McQuillan, Colin. “Philosophical archeology in Kant, Foucault, and Agamben” in: Parrhesia, 10 (2010): 39 – 49;

Djaballah, Marc. Kant, Foucault, and the Forms of Experience, New York: Routledge, (2008)

8Henegehold, Laura, The Body Problematic, 2007

9Foucault, Michel. The Government of Self and Others. Lectures at the College de France 1982/83. New York, NY: Picador (2010)

10Foucault, Government, 384

Read Full Post »

What counts as new in the human world? Not many things. Boris Groys, I think, has suggested over a decade ago that ‘things’ (Sachen) cannot be new for they are not real in the sense that, Groys points out, things “are not what lies behind their cultural descriptions and representations”, what is actually real, he states, are the relations between cultural activities and their products. in his work if I understand him correctly,, he also wants us to understand that the qualification ‘new’ is not something that is bestowed by either authenticity or the market. I have long been puzzling about this issue myself, in particular with regard to the market. It is a consequence of my own theory of semantic agency and, furthermore,  recent theories of relational communicative leadership, thirdness, and narrative empathy have continued to lead me on a path to understanding and conceptualizing this relation as problematic. The ‘new’ as a label is not actually and truly ‘new’. ‘New-ness’ is a narrative device (ambassadorial, at the very least, more likely a broadcast narrative empathy [Suzanne Keen]), embedded in a culture of empathy [Fritz Breithaupt] that is supposing a theory of mind, but a highly reductive concept of mind. That is exactly the point, that is what the market does, it reduces variations and contingencies of new-ness narratives. The market, from the point-of-view of ‘new-ness” narratives is the anti-evolution.

As semantic agency theory assumes, true new-ness would be un-intelligible and un-communicable. It would be a newdity. It would be truly naked – a naked singularity, even? And as such, it would be an object of shame. Not its subject, it would not have to be ashamed, because the culture of the newdity knows no such taboo, but in emerging in our culture (that is market culture and therefore the culture of anti-new, of anti-evolution) the newdity’s appearance as naked causes others to feel ashamed and gaze away not seeing it, even wanting to un-see it. In being so shamed, because it is naked and comes without the apparatuses of seemingness without the cloaks of appearing as ‘novelty or innovation (that is none: a ‘novation’ that is already ‘in’ cannot be truly and actually new)’, the newdity should it feel this shame – which it doesn’t know before for its nudity is not something that would make it stand out among other newditities for that is, after all, their natural state – will have begun a process integration via putting on ‘appearances’: This is why ‘in-vestment’ in ‘innovation’ always is a cloak-and(sometimes)-dagger  affair: Interest in a new thing is vested because it is vestimentary, a fancy dress. This is why we confuse fanciness with newness, and innovation – though never anything truly new – is considered ‘fashionable’: the cell-phone that can store more movies, is garnished  with more bling, and can be furnished with more upcoming and novel apps. However, the true and actual newdity will not be so easily ‘innovated’, upgraded, dressed. It does not commute into these discourse being so un-communicable and un-commutable. For its nakedness, it knows no shame, and therefore, has no excuses (Breithaupt). for it (intelligibility) nor knows it how to make them up (communcability). Newdity is not easily found in contemporary human culture, because to be filtered through the still not dead (or undead and zombie) notion of ‘human'(anthropos), means to dress up in excuses. But if it is always just same old same old, how are we to progress? We need to stop being afraid of our natural state of our nakedness and embrace the (old/new?) culture of newdity.

Read Full Post »

Kantianism as negative instruction or negative anthropology is the very gist of  scientific method against Cartesianism: 

So many people are stuck with Descartes; well, of course you can go up to a heap of stones, declare it is a house and sit on top of it, and freeze to death when winter comes. No the good Kantian. A good Kantian who goes to a heap of stones, says, ‘look a heap of stones’ s/he makes a plan (architecture/theory) how to build a house and builds it, sitting in front of a comfy warm fire place in winter, thinking “A good to have tried that architecture thing, dude”. It is puzzling (I am intrigued by the problem as a STS research question), why so many scientists and philosophers (specifically in and around the zone of biomedicine) are stuck with a Cartesian sitting on a heap of stones, even while the Kantians “Cry winter!”.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »