INFLeXions No. 3 - Micropolitics: Exploring Ethico-Aesthetics (Oct. 2009)
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Bruno Latour: BL
BM: We would like to start with the question of the economy and the concept of value and evaluation in the work of Gabriel Tarde, a concept you address in " Gabriel Tarde : The End of the Social "
BL : This is Tarde's first and oldest idea. It's the concept that kept him going throughout and right away in his second article - the year after - he applies it to the economy. His second article is on the economy. He's always worked with this idea that the economy is a bit like the amazonian forest: when people arrive in the amazonian forest, they think the forest is very rich and deeply rooted in the European way, while in reality, as pedologists have shown, the amazonian forest is hung on the sky in a certain sense. It is almost ungrounded - it hangs from the top through a rapid water circulating system, the circulation of nutrients, of organic products. If you cut the forest, the ground immediately disappears and you find that the forest is attached by its branches to the sky and not rooted into the ground. The economy for Tarde is the same. This is a metaphor but Tarde saw right away that the economy was in fact inversed. We plunge it into what we think of as material infrastructures when it is in fact attached or connected to what he calls « passionate interests, » that is, evaluations of belief and desire.
This is the concept I depart from in my preface on Tarde, which has become all the more apt now since we have begun to hear that as regards the economy, "everything rests on confidence." It may be the case, but were we speaking of this before the economic crisis? And if it's true that it was always a factor in production, perhaps we should have put it before the definition of factors of production… It's strange because it's really a rematerialization to ground the economy in the passions and balancing acts, as Tarde says, the constant logic duals that we are all engaged in on the subject of desire and belief. This is a rematerialization upside down, so to speak. If it's true that Marx put Hegel back on his feet, then Tarde puts Marx back on his feet. He turns the economy upside down. What is really quite extraordinary is that we still do not know where to situate the economy.
EM: Through Tarde, you bring back the question of quantity. It's an interesting problem, a complex problem for us, since where you situate the concept of quantity via Tarde, I would often replace it with quality or James' radical empiricism. I was wondering, if we return to the context of the economy, where we're at when the economy becomes purely speculative, when there is little or no quantity as such. In such a context, how would you situate the concept of quantity as Tarde understands it?
BL: For Tarde there are quantities but we must always attend to the difference between measuring measure and measured measure. These are real quantities. That is to say that measured measures quantify: each monad quantifies from the moment that it evaluates and evolves as more or less. The problem is that afterwards you have to see what you can do with this real quantification. And I'm speaking here of measuring measures - that which affects the judgments of others. The very nice example that Tarde uses is that of the advent of the printing press - now we would say "before Google…" - before the advent of the press we didn't know how to measure value, how to assess the respective glory of literary writers, novelists, etc. Once the printing press comes into existence, we become capable of making this judgment, which obviously does not mean that we measure the reality of what literary glory signifies - measured measure - which continues to count but in the form of a plurality of dual logics, specific to those for which there is no simplification or unity.
This is quite a paradoxical argument. On the one hand, Tarde says "the monads always quantify." But since there are millions of monads that quantify tons of things, he admits that we will never fully be able to fully quantify due to the lack of adequate instruments. But on the other hand, when we have a measuring measure, the potential for descriptability and the judgment of others increases. For example, when my economist colleagues want to hire someone, they no longer speak about what this person does. They go instead to Google Scholar to check the "publish and perish" site and see what this person's score is. This is exactly what interested Tarde. They grasp a tiny bit of the measure which in turn simplifies judgments, even more so due to current standardizations. This then allows for an understanding between people, which leads toward what Michel Callon calls a performative economy (Tarde does not use this term). This is what it comes down to: quantity grasped as a block allows us to describe the real.
I was talking to an economist this morning who was telling me: "it's wonderful - I spent 2 weeks in Indonesia and now I really get the Indonesian economy." He was obviously not saying that he had understood everything - this would be arrogant. He was saying that because of economization, the Indonesian economy has become susceptible to description for someone from the outside. This is what measured measures refer to - they simplify judgments, creating effects of coordination. We no longer have to go into the details of what really constitutes an economist - we just have to say what their score is on Google and that's it. The fundamental point Tarde makes is that this is a quantification of the qualitative, which would be a kind of classical version of an economic critique which would purport that the economy calculates while our passions are incalculable. Tarde, on the contrary, says that our passions are quantifiable and you economists can only quantify a very small fraction of them.
BM: Does this mean there is a third term? Measured measure, measuring measure, but also the measurable? A term that would perhaps escape measure since it represents an activity of appetition that is always already elsewhere, like a kind of force…
BL: Yes but I'm not sure that - I mean if we are speaking of Tarde…
BM: No, now we're speaking of you…
BL: Tarde's argument - wait, you were saying unmeasurable or measurable?
BM: Measurable. Like something that escapes each measure since as you say it can only be grasped in a small way, which means that there is a reserve or, as you say, a part that escapes and that returns to this coming together of belief and desire and returns as well to measure, to structure.
BL: Yes, right, but I think it's measurable in the sense of measured measure. In principle these are quantifications, they are vectors - more than and less than. There's a very nice passage where Tarde says that the best situation is an economy of war; or, in an economy of war that is well organized, there is also continual chaos. (Remember, this is written in 1902
- imagine saying this of Marxism and in this period!). This doesn't mean that it's due to the qualitative -there are many quantifiables, much that is measurable. This is a very clear argument that seeks to avoid the idea of a simple economic critique that would objectify human passions. For him it's just the contrary. He wants to found an economic science that is quantitative, but operates in the good quantities. The economy is about taking the right measures…
EM: This reminds me of the difference that Whitehead traces between appearance and reality. Appearance for Whitehead is the limited prehension, while reality is always there in its totality but cannot be submitted to (or directly prehended) since it is unmeasurable, virtual. Would there perhaps be a link?
BL: Isabelle Stengers doesn't like us to say that there might be a link between Tarde and Whitehead since she finds Whitehead wonderful and Tarde banal… The argument is that the whole is always inferior to the parts. It's simply that since the whole is not a superior being - this is Tarde's argument against Durkheim - the whole is an abstraction, an extraction. To facilitate this extraction, we have measuring instruments that simplify judgment and make the social readable to itself. It's a question that really interests Tarde, the press. He would have been fascinated by Google and
the Internet, he would have jumped for joy, since all the elements that make the social readable to itself, including glory, reputation, appetition, purchasing are there… He would have spent hours on Amazon trying to understand why Amazon tells you to buy this or that, making the social traceable. This is really part of Tarde's argument.
EM: We read Didier Debaise's article on Tarde1, perhaps you know it…. He has a nice quote from Tarde. To the question "what is a society," Tarde responds with extraordinary simplicity: "reciprocal possession through extremely various forms of all for all." This reminds me a bit of what you are saying - what do you think of this idea of possession…
BM: This also brings up the question of ecology that in your work comes together with the question of the environment.
EM: So the question of possession. It seems to me that when I think of possession, religion immediately comes to mind. We think of exorcism: when we are possessed, we are possessed by a force that undermines the notion of the subject, of the self as such. Is this the idea of possession we find in Tarde's work?
Debaise, Didier. 2009. "11. The dynamics of possession: An introduction to the sociology of Gabriel Tarde". In Mind that Abides, Skrbina, David (ed.), 221-230.
BL: No, no, I don't think so. Not at all. There is nothing religious in Tarde. He's just not interested in it. He uses possession in a very technical sense, a way that fascinated Deleuze, as it does Debaise. It's based on the argument that having is much more interesting than being for the excellent reason that when you say "I have," you are linked to the thing you have, whereas when you say "I am" you are cut off, you are defining your identity as a subject, separately. Thus the whole argument on possession and property is important since he says that the equivalent of identity is property, what "I have." Give me your properties and I will tell you what you are. The notion of property in everyday language is at once what we possess and what we are, our identity. This is the paradox. To have is stronger than to be. To have is to have property, so we also have being. When we have being alone, we have nothing. This is a nice reversal. He has this famous sentence: "philosophy would have been wholly other had it worked with the verb to have rather than the verb to be." Because the had and the having are linked while being and non-being are separate. So I imagine the history of philosophy with Parmenides asking himself not "to be or not to be" but what is the relation between the had and the having. With the had and the having we would have a completely different history of philosophy. This must have really amused Deleuze - also the notion that to exist is to differ.
BM: I wanted to return to the question of quantity since you also lay claim to James' radical empiricism and his idea that relations are as real and primitive as beings. In this thought of quantification that you were speaking about just now, where do you place the relation? Could you bring together this Tardian way of thinking the economy with relation in the radical empiricist sense?
BL: Tarde is a sociologist, he is trying to understand, he is very interested in the social, contrary to Durkheim, his opponent, for whom society is foremost a religious and moral argument. The link I see with James concerns radical empiricism, this extraordinary notion, as you just pointed out, that relations are in the world and not in the human mind and then added to the world. Obviously in the case of evaluating monads, this is a general property, a property of the world. Valuation is a property of the world. My argument that follows on this, if you allow me, is based on the idea that if relations are given in the world, we must be able to differentiate them. So let's differentiate these relations - this is what I call the enunciative regime or mode of existence - and we will find the economy but in a completely different form. James' argument is a radical argument in fundamental metaphysics that probably would have interested Tarde, but I don't know what he would have done with it other than say "yes, obviously, monads evaluate and are related by desire and belief, thus relations are part of the world." In this sense, yes, they have something in common. But the specialist on these questions is Debaise, it's he you should ask.
BM: Is there a philosophical movement that links these major philosophies of the economy - ecology as cosmopolitics?
BL: For Tarde, economy as a science is not the house, the oikos, where we live. Our house is another oikos, the ecology. But the passage from one to the other house is difficult. First because the economy, by definition, has externalized too much and internalized only a very small proportion of the beings to "be taken into account" and, what's more - and here we're back to the problem we were discussing before - we are limited to the capacity of the instruments to measure what is measurable, in the sense this time of "bottom line" and "red ink." We are missing the instruments that would permit us to take good measures.
It's evident that the economy is at the interior of ecology as an instrument of measure - in the inside of the house, so to speak. So the economy is not the world where we are, we don't live in the economy - this is one of Whitehead's arguments - any more that there are Galilean objects in a Euclidean space. Locally, yes, there are Galilean objects in Euclidean space, but they don't interweave. It is therefore incumbent on us to find the intellectual tools to understand what becomes of the measuring instruments of the economy in the house of ecology.
Economics and economy are two completely different things. Actually we know very little about economies. Precisely because of the arguments concerning measuring measure, we know a lot of things about economics since that is what we measure. There is the whole issue of the immersed continent of the economy, "economy-thing," in opposition to economy as a discipline. And we know very little - with the exception of some writing by anthropologists and of course our own experience as consumers, buyers, the homeless - which is very difficult to decipher, precisely because we only have the language of economy as a discipline, of economics, which in the end is not that interested in the "economy-thing" since it formats and organizes it. In the end, what we called nature in modernism is economy, much more than biology or physics. As soon as you look a little further in biology it begins to proliferate in all directions. This is a little less true in chemistry, less true in physics, but this is not from whence the danger of the notion of nature emerges. The danger, the poison in the notion of nature, is really an idea that comes from economists. And the question of ecology is fascinating: will ecology be capable of comprehending economy, in the sense of absorbing it, of including it?
EM: To continue with the question of ecology, there is a quote from your work: "Ecology is not the science of nature, but the reasoning, the logos about how to live together in livable places." Could you say more about livable spaces?
BL: What is it to live together? Do whales belong to the commons? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. But suddenly everyone is asking themselves political questions about all kinds of beings externalized up until now. These are really fundamental questions and, certainly, the language of economy does not deal well with them. But if we say that economics are measuring instruments, the performers for Callon - what he calls calculative devices - then we can situate them in the interior of the political house of ecology. And behind, or beyond, or this side of it, there is the immense continent of that which we must be able to study by other methods, the economy-thing, in the sense of the uncountable relations of evaluation between subjects, between goods and words - it's an immense continent. It is the reversal we were speaking about earlier: the economy is like the amazonian forest, it has its roots in the sky, and so the earth is not very well known, it is evaluated very badly.
EM: What concerns us these days in our own milieu at the SenseLab, is the question of what the potential of the political is at the level of collaborative practices. How can we work at the level of the micropolitical such that it may have global effects?
BL: Yes, but the political has always been cosmopolitical so… The work around the question of the political is another undertaking. This work requires many successive operations. First, we need to liberate the political from science, separate science from the State, as the good Feyerabend would say. The political idea is very influenced by epistemology. It's an enormous work because we always come back to the idea that we cannot found the political without turning to epistemology as a crutch. And since this dates from Plato, it won't be transformed quickly. So, this is a first point. To detach, in a sense, the conditions of enunciations proper to the existence of politics which are very particular, of a foundational dream based on economic science, a historical science - read rhetorical - that remains a very strong aspiration for a whole slew of rationalists in every sense of the word rationalist.
And then the problem becomes even more complicated because we need to characterize the very specific curve of the political. And here the ecologists up until now have not been particularly useful, and I'm speaking of professional ecologists since in the end we have here a bizarre mix of a very classical technical dream, a very modernist expert-based approach that is even apocalyptic if not religious. How to detach from this a political space, where politics no longer means a politics that is
founded on nature as its ground? And not a simple critique or a deconstruction. So, a definition of the political as the composition of a commons that has not yet been achieved. I think my position is quite easy to validate now - in any case, my argument holds. We cannot continue to attempt to found politics in reason, saying "the commons is already there, it's the universal, the rights of man, it's a whole series of values, it's the economy, it's modernization, in any case things that are already there and that politics will sort out"… This is the idea of cosmopolitics in the sense criticized by Stengers and used in David Held, for instance, it's exactly that - cosmopolitical principles are born universals in a certain way.
So here we reverse the idea. We say that the composition of the commons is not there yet, we have to create it, we have to compose it. And this is the cosmopolitical in the sense of the politics of the cosmos that Stengers proposes, where the political is there to prevent that cosmos become "nature" and cosmos is there to prevent that politics be occupied only by humans. In this sense, the cosmopolitical takes over the place usually occupied by nature. There is no longer any nature as such but instead a political debate about nature.
Who are the ecologists who have taken up this argument? I don't know. It's a very complicated problem. But the main difficulty is that having undone ourselves of the question of nature, having deepistemologized politics, we now have to characterize this particular curve which is political enunciation. And this curve is very strange. We constantly rationalize it even though it's impossible to rationalize. Or, rather, it is rational but in the sense of working within conditions that are extremely demanding. And so, we lose it all the time - we think we have it and we lose it.
EM: When you speak of your project, you seem to be speaking of a project that cannot be situated as such. Is it an "instaurative" (instauratif) project?
BL: For me the term "project" has a very precise meaning. It is what allows us to think technique not as an object but as a project. This is a key element in my philosophical thought. I define project as a very particular mode of existence. We need to try to understand why technology, technique has everywhere been so badly understood by philosophy with the exception of a few rare cases which can be counted on one hand. The word "project" is a way of trying to avoid the notions of object, subject etc. - it's a way of trying to make apparent an interest for technicity. As Bergson says, all philosophy is the realization of a unique project, a unique intuition.
BM: You referred earlier to the curve of politics and its complexity within your thought. It emerges from an encounter with the non-human and then there are all the vicissitudes of capture, the developments, that raise problems for the public, all of which ends up creating a certain commons that is never beyond contestation. As a result there is a repoliticization of already closed questions. The question this non-disciplinarity of philosophy raises concerns the fact that this encounter with the non-human remains external to or infra to these captures by the disciplines. So if philosophy is indeed the non-discipline of thought, are there political practices, assemblages, techniques which can target the pragmatic level of philosophy?
BL: It's a complicated question. There is perhaps a misunderstanding with respect to the human/non-human. Saying that this sociology or this philosophy is interested in human or non-human relations is not enough to bring non-humans into political thought. Relations between humans and non-humans are found as much in art as in science, in techniques obviously, in the economy, in religion. What is odd is the modernist version where the relation subject-object creates the dichotomy human/nonhuman. The originality of the argument does not rest in the idea that in politics we are interested in the non-human. The originality rests in making strange or unthinking, retrospectively rendering almost incomprehensible, even monstrous, the fact that humans and non-humans have been related only as subject-object.
And here the argument is uniquely critical. This is to say that there is no sense in creating a modernist story by saying that this is the story of the relations between subjects and objects. Once we have seen that there are millions of different assemblages of the human/non-human relation - which is evident today - we arrive at a wholly other description of the world, which I summarize for my students by saying that rematerializing is resocializing, resocializing is rematerializing.
All of this is a massive argument, and valid, I think. But then there is a whole necessary operation for the isolation or the extraction of one of the relations which would be the political relation. And this political relation is not the same one that I might call economic or organizational etc. The political relation is very specific. One of the aspects that interests me concerns defining this particular specificity. It is specific for the simple reason that it is the political relation that constitutes the aggregates, the identities - mobile as they may be - and one of the elements of what we call representation - the notion of speaking for someone or something else.
It's going to be a very different endeavor if you engage the political relation in a technical project, or in an artistic one, in the creation of a market or an institution. As regards the moral question, there will necessarily be a link between humans and non-humans, but the political question, the isolation of a mode of existence that is properly political, this is a complicated question that demands close attention. If you take Deleuze and Guattari in What is Philosophy, you find that politics is not conceived as a singular mode. But you do find philosophy considered as such (this is difficult for me to understand, but this is another question). It would be interesting to use this same kind of approach to explore what is the proper being of the political. As they do for philosophy - in this case it's the concept - and for science - where it's the functive. We must define this proper being of the political, no matter whether we position ourselves on the right, the left, the micro, the macro, the meso etc. We will always need to be able to define something that circulates.
And so I engage in this search for the being of politics and I do this by focusing, as I often say, on the adverbial contrast between "speaking of politics" and "speaking politically." It's not the content of the proposition
but a certain twist, a certain spin that defines the political and permits us to say "there something is going and it really is political."
EM: You say: "Make politics turn around topics that generate a public." I really like this idea that there is not yet a public that preexists the political.
BL: Yes, this is the fascinating argument I take on from Lippmann. No issue, no politics - this is an expression from Noortje Marres. The trajectory and natural history of "issues," the way in which they circulate, recombine, transform, would be a mode of reinterpreting the question of the content of politics. I was speaking recently for instance of pixilation - the political is the image, but if you isolate each pixel, then you have an issue, an affair, a concern. Each issue begins with a certain attachment, a passion, a certain type of representation. This is a somewhat bizarre metaphor but political science extracts from all issues a certain number of common elements that they name "the problem of representation," "the problem of institutions," "the problem of governance" and in a generally unrigorous way, even the question of revolt, isolating what each of these have in common. I find interesting in the turn toward objects (what I call the politically-oriented-object) this idea of "give me your issues and your movement and your navigation and I will know something about politics." Here the Web becomes interesting, since the Web is a good mechanism, in this regard, for measuring measure, a good way of following the development, the deployment, the confusion, the isolation and the disappearance of issues. This goes pretty well with Tarde's early argument
- made long before the Web at the epoch of newspapers and the beginning of public opinion and even the very concept of the public. In the end perhaps I am redefining what you call the micropolitical?
BM: I am trying to think of an example of a meeting with the non-human and what comes to mind is whale song. The interest in whale song erupted at a certain moment in the 1960s and was taken up and recontextualized by a number of different disciplines and domains. There were artistic engagements, mystical ones, quasi-religious responses, biological experiments, and all kinds of mobilizations and political or pragmatic position-taking - all of which emerged from this same point of encounter. For us, the micropolitical or transdisciplinarity are conceived as points of emergence or irruption that differentiate themselves through different modalities, bringing with them a plurality of new problems for the public, new issues, thus becoming nodes for negotiation and contestation. In the end, they are regulated, but only to eventually be put back into question. This is the idea of "instauration." Could we imagine a technique, an activity, that would correspond to this? Would this be a pragmatic philosophy? A micropolitics? An aesthetic practice in a larger sense?
BL: When you speak of micropolitics, are we speaking of the microphone that registers whale song? Just kidding. Whale song is interesting. First, the dimension of the problem of whales is not defined. It changes with respect to the public. So it's not particularly micropolitical. For the Japanese, for instance, it's an essential problem of identity, so for them it's not micro. Speaking of which, last week the campaign for whaling took off again, so it's not micro at all. What concerns me about micropolitics is that it is always in rapport with the institution that would be invested in the politics of what we call "macro." What we absolutely have to avoid is that the micro position itself against the political institution, when the real question is how to deal with the political institution at all its levels.
It's a problem of political positioning - this time in the classic sense of the term as Deleuze uses it. We have to be careful. For me the question is, "is it politically-oriented-object" politics? Because if it is, if it's object-oriented, whether this be revealed by artists or militants who want to hear whale songs, or be it scientists who want to create sonar technology to register the sound for the first time, it doesn't matter. The only way to follow this kind of thing is not to become obsessed with which position is the artistic one, the scientific one, the political one - it's to follow the whale song.
So this is really a good example of politically-oriented-objects, but not because it's particularly micropolitical. Here we see a new composition or a new being. Now the whales singing become part of what needs to be absorbed into the commons. We see here - if "instauration" means the entry of a new being into the ensemble of what it means to co-inhabit in a livable world - a nice example of instauration.
Just yesterday I read in the Greenpeace journal that this year they are no longer attacking whaling boats. The reason is interesting: what matters, says Greenpeace, is to convert the Japanese. Boat attacks create such negative reactions, and what interests Greenpeace is to make the Japanese think as they do. Here we see the proper being of politics in motion. Before we wanted to create an issue, to create an affair through acts of provocation and opposition. Now we enter into another phase: we must convince and turn Japanese opinion in our favour. These are moments of one and the same cycle, of the same curve. I am reconstructing Greenpeace's position, which seems quite subtle to me. We needed to make visible the insanity that was the scientific pursuit of whales, and we had to make ourselves seen in the media, but now we have to do something different. We see the issue in motion, and we see the positions of those who want to move the issue change. The issue is transforming itself. And this is very interesting because it's a mode of recharging in a certain way the definition of politics, in the banal sense of the term. I am adding a pixel in the definition of the commons, in a certain sense. The important difference for me is first "is this object-oriented or not" (is there objective content in some sense) and secondly, does the curve of politics, what I call the circle of the political, tie itself around this object. It's here that politics becomes really interesting.
BM: What makes visible this project of constriction and forces different domains to come into relation, at more than one level? Would it be possible to provoke conditions for a point of irruption (as the whale song did), or are these always aleatory events? Is there a term that I could use to describe this activity, or does this activity not have a status in the world of practices?
BL: Abundance… It's the pragmatic problem. The multiplicity of beings that are asking questions, this is not what is lacking right now. What is lacking are artists, political thinkers, scientists, militants, capable of listening and articulating. The problem is not a deficit of emergent or "instaurated" beings, the problem is that our academic organization is so poor, so unwell that we have enormous difficulty representing the beings with which we must pose the questions and compose the world.
In the end whale song is an explanation of something we already knew, something we chose to ignore and the connection, the rhizome, between the sound engineer, the researchers, the artist, the militant, the political thinker make it present to our common consciousness. The question is not, it seems to me, how to do it, but rather how is it possible that we know so little. And so, the connection: how is it possible that we have such difficulty making links between artists and the social sciences? Artists are always expressive of an extremely rich mode of being, one that is sadly too often themselves! Whereas social sciences too often believe that they must imitate the hard sciences despite the fact that the hard sciences engage the concept of objectivity in quite a different manner. The problem is the extraordinary archaism of the intellectual-political tools, and this is what is really alarming. We are completely unadapted, and the problem is not the beings we need to represent, the problem is that we live an extremely limited intellectual life.
EM: This reminds me of a sentence where you say that for Etienne Souriau what is important is to grasp the work - to become work (faire oeuvre) - while avoiding the question of what comes from the work and what comes from the artist.
BL: This is the problem: in all these questions of projects, of works, the problem is the institution. The question is how to transform the notion of the institution into a positive concept. And evidently how to create an institution capable of becoming-work (faire oeuvre) - and this is altogether another challenge. Anti-institutionalism doesn't help... We must also somehow manage to rework the notion of the institution at a political level, to link instauration and institution. There is a link but to my knowledge it hasn't been thought for a long time.
BM: You spent your career of engaging in critique in the name of constructivism. Now you seem to be replacing the issue of construction with the idea of instauration. Could you say a bit about the reasons you find it necessary to distance yourself a bit from the notion of construction or constructivism?
BL: Constructivism… We tried everything with constructivism. Construction, deconstruction, reconstruction, and we never even arrived at that concept you mentioned just now from Souriau. The advantage of instauration is that we leave the lexical field of critique where the notion of construction is completely immanent. Isabelle Stengers has made a great effort to speak of constructivism in a positive way. I completely failed at this perhaps because I tried to do it in the sciences, which is precisely the place where it is most forbidden to speak of constructivism. Afterwards I tried to upset the balance by saying that the important question was to engage the well and badly constructed to replace the opposition between the constructed and the not-constructed. Here, it starts to look like instauration.
I am a militant constructivist, convinced, yet I no longer use the concept, it's true. Instauration is a way of giving sense to the idea of construction and creation… This is why Souriau does all this work: he finds in the aesthetic realm the only place that has not been contaminated by the constructed/non-constructed opposition. In the sciences of the time this would probably have been impossible - he speaks very little about science, or religion. After all, he is writing in the 1930s…
This is my experience: I tried everything with construction, all the possible combinations for thirty years, so I have a long experience with the concept and still I never managed to make it stick. And every time I fell into the same trap, so to speak. If I had been engaged in aesthetic issues, aesthetic philosophy, as Souriau was, it would not have been such a problem. The problem is that doing constructivist work on the sciences where the distance between the constructed and the non-constructed is more vast - it's obviously more difficult.
BM: And also in politics?
BL: In politics, you see, it's the inverse: everyone is a "deconstructionist." So you have to be naïve in politics. You have to say yes, the representation is faithful, but only on condition that you understand this very strange curve that is the political. The obsession of the political is truth, it is to tell the truth. But if you say this, you look extremely naïve since you are forever speaking to people who have deconstructed in advance any confidence we might have had in the political. This is what we undertook, for instance, in Making Things Public. We tried to recharge the political through mediations. According to the domain, you have to be differently constructivist. In science, I am still a militant constructivist, since it is necessary to keep fighting against the same old stupidity - it's a domain, in France at least, where ideas do not move an inch. In this case, you have to be insufferable, unpleasant, you have to bark, to bite, as I did when I was thirty. But not at all in politics. In politics you have be completely different, there you have to be naïve. To each domain its
constructivism, its mode of existence, its own instauration, what Souriau calls its "anaphoric path " -translated by Erin Manning
|INFLeXions No. 3 (Oct. 2009)
Micropolitics: Exploring Ethico-Aesthetics
History through the Middle: Between Macro and Mesopolitics - an Interview with Isabelle Stengers