Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect (International Library of Sociology) by Nigel Thrift

Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect (International Library of Sociology) by Nigel Thrift

Author:Nigel Thrift [Thrift, Nigel]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Biogeography
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Published: 2008-03-25T00:00:00+00:00

Where the people are: by way of conclusions

What I have tried to outline in this chapter is a new fabric of forethought, a new nervous system, coming into being in the world which has at least the capacity to extend environments and make them more articulate (that is, more willing to enter into unexpected connections, provide more expressive opportunities, foster more activity, generate more intermediaries, stand a better chance of being complex, make more entities more active, etc.) or, equally possible, to make them inarticulate by closing all these characteristics down and making the world into a frenzied roundelay of accumulation of not very much at all. The point is that, in these early times, there is a political task to be addressed of producing vital protocols when remarkably few protocols are as yet set in stone and of imagining the new horizons and articulations of momentary enunciation. In other words the new knot of technologies can and should function as means of boosting responsive expression.

I hope that it is clear that I have taken a good deal of inspiration for this chapter from particular forms of process or motion philosophy which stress a recursive metaphysics of association, and in particular the work of Tarde and then Latour, and Whitehead and then Stengers (2002b) and Zubiri (2000, 2003), and Bergson and then Deleuze and Guattari. That work is typified by several key characteristics. First, it earns its living from a relational theory of reality: it refuses to offer an implicit theory of substance existing independently from the relations in which it is involved. Second, it relies on a constructivism of a particular kind, namely a transcendental empiricism (or pan-experimentalism) in which construction never takes place in general but always in relation to a matter of concern and commitment, a lure to our attention which provides an intensification of feeling. Thus, due attention means 'becoming able to add, not subtract, means learning how to get access, not renouncing the possibility of access' (Stengers 2004:5). Third, it understands reality as a series of complex composites based on an ultimate metaphysical principle of invention; 'the advance from disjunction to conjunction, creating a novel entity other than the entities given in disjunction' (Whitehead 1978:21). Fourth, it argues that nature cannot be split into, on one side, a causal, objective nature and, on the other, a perceived nature full of so-called secondary properties like odours, sounds, enjoyments and values. And last, it insists that mode of existence and mode of achievement are always related: thus modes of interpretation literally matter.

This brief exposition is necessary because I want to end this chapter by talking about the vexed question of ethics, I will give this topic much less consideration than it deserves but with good reason. I would think it impossible to dispute that all kinds of ethical dilemmas are surfacing or will surface as a result of these developments, and indeed they should – once we find the sites where it makes sense to investigate these dilemmas.


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