Eric Kluitenberg on Sat, 14 Oct 2017 13:45:04 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Constitutioanl radicalism

Dear felix, Brian, Keith,

Just a few notes here as comments on this discussion and the question of how to translate into "a political, social and cultural practice” that felix raised.

Though I have critiqued Latour’s Thing politics in the “reDesigning Affect Space” essay also posted here a week or so ago, the title nonetheless derives directly, though implicitly, from Latour’s thinking and public interventions. Like Brian I am deeply moved by his recent work summarised under the heading “Facing Gaia”, but the reference in the title is mostly towards Latour singing praise to the virtues of ‘design’ - all the way back in 2008 actually, see my excerpt and source reference below.

At the time Latour was speaking out against the notion of ‘revolution’, assuming that such a gesture would only end up strengthening the existing power-structures. Instead he advocated the idea of specific political formations as always being ‘designed’, in a particular way, favouring certain interests, etc. Building on that idea he suggested to think about ‘redesign’ instead of revolution - in Latourian speak 'reconfiguring the network of associations' (of humans and non-humans).

In terms of political and cultural practices then, the idea is to unravel how existing practices are ‘designed’ and then to reconfigure them by ‘redesigning’ them, where the five advantages of design he addresses in this particular lecture can help to guide the process of redesigning (though this is by no means exhaustive and itself up for critique I would say..).

What I take from this, personally, is to think about the notion of ‘political design’, as opposed to insurrection, revolution, rupture, negation, subversion, etc.. And having followed the amazing lifecycle of the so-called ‘movement(s) of the squares’ from 2011 till roughly 2016 (Nuit Debout), and importantly their politically ineffectual demise, it has become clear that the nitty gritty groundwork of political redesign is desperately necessary here.

The place where I look for this most is ‘Laboratory Spain’ (even despite the recent affect-fuelled regionalist insurgency in Catalonia) where substantive political groundwork has created a unique political and cultural biotope that offers clues how a shared political / cultural practice’ might be constructed / designed.

This does raise the question, however, how to understand this notion of ‘design’ itself, and how it relates to established political / cultural practices, such as activism, art, theory, critique, public administration, electoral politics? Certainly all these cannot be equated to each other.

The proposition here is to redefine design as ‘any type of deliberate intervention’, which clearly puts it in opposition to the affect-fuelled politics of both the ‘movement(s) of the squares’, as well as the alt.right and associated reactionary political practices.

Now, obviously, this does not provide a concrete answer to Felix’s question, and that is precisely the point. I think we need to shift from thinking in terms of solutions to thinking in terms of methodologies to finding solutions for each and every specific situation, and we can draw on all the critical registers we have to find them; theory, critique, art, environmental practices, political organising, activist tactics and strategies, etc.

In Latour’s terms - though I would not insist on them in any way - this would be part of the process of composing the good common world (of humans and nonhumans - the ‘collective’), and yes Gaia does provide us with a perimeter for that, which includes all political factions (even those in outright denial) - this is a perimeter, which is to say a final boundary to which we are drawing ever closer, and not an infinite horizon which recedes as we move forward. The end of infinity (of art, techno-science, and advanced capitalism) is a new condition to which all of these factions have to answer in one way or another. 




Latour - Five advantages of the concept of “design”:

1) As a concept, design implies a humility that seems absent from the word “construction” or “building”.

2) An attentiveness to details that is completely lacking in the heroic, Promethean, hubristic dream of action.

3) In the design of some artefact the task is unquestionably about meaning - be it symbolic, commercial, or otherwise.

4) Design is never a process that begins from scratch: to design is always to redesign. There is always something that exists first as a given, as an issue, as a problem.

5) The fifth and decisive advantage of the concept of design is that it necessarily involves an ethical dimension which is tied into the obvious question of good versus bad design.

Source: A Cautious Prometheus? A Few Steps Toward a Philosophy of Design, Keynote lecture for the Networks of Design meeting, Design History Society Falmouth, Cornwall, September 3 2008.

> On 14 Oct 2017, at 12:19, Felix Stalder <> wrote:
> On 2017-10-14 12:01, Keith Hart wrote:
>> Are we sure that privileging the social has served or will serve
>> humanity well? The shift to deconstruction and construction presumes, to
>> my mind, that the question of homo duplex has been resolved and I don't
>> think it has.
> I think Latour's answer (and I would largely agree with him) is that
> it's precisely the individual-society divide that its problematic,
> first, because neither can exists without the other and, second, because
> it implies that these two categories are the only ones that count.
> This not only raises the question who counts as a full human being (and
> we all know how unstable the answer to this question has been and still
> is), but also what about all the non-humans.
> So, in many ways, one of the key challenges to Western thinking is to
> move beyond this individual vs society framework and envision broader
> and more heterogeneous entities of con-viviality.
> Intellectually and technically, we are quite far advanced in this route.
> We can make trees speak about their feelings in real time and can talk
> about, observe and measure Gaia as an integrated system with us being
> one of the actors, along with animals, plants, microbes etc.
> How to translate this into a political, social and cultural practice, is
> up for grabs.
> Felix
> all the best. Felix
> -- 
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