Prince of Networks #4: Bergson

Earlier discussion here, here and here.
It is clear that in his book Prince of Networks on Bruno Latour and on his blog, Harman is trying to make room for a concept of time as a series of cinematic-instants. He argues against an allegedly Bergsonian conception of time in Deleuze’s work that is organised around duration. One of the things that struck me about Reassembling the Social was its distinctive Deleuzian tone. From Latour’s Reassembling the Social:

A terminological precision about network
The word network is so ambiguous that we should have abandoned it long ago. And yet the tradition in which we use it remains distinct in spite of its possible confusion with two other lines. One is of course the technical networks—electricity, trains, sewages, internet, and so on. The second one is used, in sociology of organization, to introduce a difference between organizations, markets, and states (Boyer 2004). In this case, network represents one informal way of associating together human agents (Granovetter 1985).
When (Castells 2000) uses the term, the two meanings merge since network becomes a privileged mode of organization thanks to the very extension of information technology. It’s also in this sense that Boltanski and Chiapello (2005) take it to define a new trend in the capitalist mode of production.
But the other tradition, to which we have always referred, is that of Diderot especially in his Le rêve de d’Alembert (1769), which includes twenty-seven instances of the word reseaux. This is where you can find a very special brand of active and distributed materialism of which Deleuze, through Bergson, is the most recent representative. (129)

This is here as a note to which I shall return to try to answer the question, If Harman presents a Heideggerised Latour, what would be a Deleuzian Latour?

2 thoughts on “Prince of Networks #4: Bergson”

  1. Totally agree with you Glen in this line reasoning. A reading of Deleuze and Latour would be far more productive (we’re briefly discussed this before at CSAA a few years back). Even more so since Latour explicitly refers to the network as a rhizome (actant-rhizome-ontology), and additionally as a series of transductions. I think this notion of Latour innovating the ontogenetic philosophy of Deleuze into a pragmatics of ethnographic research makes far more sense.

  2. Indeed that was a very fruitful conversation! I think it was just after I had read Reassembling the Social when it was published and Latour valorised my favourite Latourians, Gomart and Hennion, in the final chapters for their event-network theory.

    Harman has responded on his blog to this post, and I am glad he is speaking frankly about things as that is the tone I try to cultivate online just as I would in person.

    He suggests I miss the point. Yeah, maybe. He argues that Latour has actors producing time:

    “It is Latour who makes room for it, by stating explicitly that time is produced by punctiform actors. He doesn’t use the word “punctiform,” but does say that “everything happens in one time and place only.” An actor is completely rooted in a single instant for Latour.”

    Awesome. So my quote above from Latour about Bergson that Harman suggests has nothing to do with time produced by actors doesn’t preclude the temporality of networks. I apologise for not making that clearer in the original post. What is the temporality of networks? (Maybe they exist as time out of joint? Perhaps we need to turn to Derrida…? J/K)

    I have also argued in various comments around the place as part of this discussion that actors do produce a spatialised or ordered time, where it is sensible to talk about instants. I am largely following Foucault’s notion of a space of possibility and Negri and Hardt’s insertion of the possible into the passage between the actual and virtual.

    Regarding non-Bergsonian conceptions of time in Deleuze: The Logic of Sense has a non-Bergsonian temporality of incorporeal materialism added to a Bergsonian temporality of bodies and the passions of bodies, and A Thousand Plateaus has the Duns Scotus of haecceity — ‘thisness’ — that is a qualitative conception of the contemporary moment that is more useful than speaking in instants.

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