“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Monday, May 21, 2012


One of the objections to OOO, I think, is purely institutional. Not even to do with the content of institutions, but with their dynamics as systems, with some human psychology thrown in as part of the basic energy that circulates in them.

Systems, like other beings, exist in a state of tension between inconsistency (existence) and consistency (absorption into some other system). To maintain the system, there must be some kind of constant reinvention-while-remaining-the-same: inertia.

It seems as if some scholars, in particular those emerging with freshly minted Ph.D.s, are keen to establish themselves, quite naturally, within the inertial system of the humanities. This involves, in the main, triangulating oneself in relation to one's main adviser and one's secondary sources. These sources tend to be Elders of the tradition in which one seems to find oneself. Thus when I started out, it was acceptable to triangulate myself via my main teacher and Derrida or Marx. But not so much Deleuze and Guattari. It was 1992, and they were not yet considered Elders, but rather disruptive brothers who might pull things in a very different direction. This was difficult for me, a huge fan of their work.

This seems to be happening with OOO. A small group of siblings versus the Oedipal tension of triangulation. (One of the triangulation points can now be, but need not be, Deleuze and Guattari, rather ironically, for those who know their work as an assault on Oedipus.)

Our other sin appears to be to do with not-being-French. Distance is required for accurate triangulation, and French texts supply this for us Anglo-Americans, just as brie triangulates jack cheddar.


Anonymous said...

Being one of those scholars "with freshly minted Ph.D.s" myself, the point you're making here is well taken. And especially the closing bit of OOO metaphorism you use to drive it home: "just as brie triangulates jack cheddar"! Beautiful.

Anyway, it was nice to meet you, if only so briefly, in Milwaukee. Hope you're settling in well to my native Texas. (On the basis of my accent, distorted by nearly 13 years in Germany, Jordan Peacock "called bullshit" on me over at his blog recently, but I swear I'm from Texas--and miss the heat!)


Igor da Silva Livramento said...

I know this is an old post, but I'm discovering OOO just now. I have got my hands on your books, but since ecology is far from my primary area (linguistics+literature) I won't be reading them until vacation or so.
I have seen a website critique OOO for its "culture of bloggers and Facebook posts" and such. Being myself a "blog thinker" it sounded pretty stupid to me. Since this place (the internet) communicates faster than any essay or article or paper I might ever publish, why not use it? Two benefits at once, since I don't have to quote anymore. (thank the deities!)
Anyways, I'm liking figuring you all guys out (Bogost, Harman, Meillassoux, Grant, Srnicek, Brassier, and others still, like the accelarationists).
Cheers from a brazillian undergraduate and keep up the great work.