Forget OOO

I followed a link here from Levi’s blog. Levi has pointed out that a grad student is working on ways that he sees D&G connect with OOO. My short reply is, they don’t.

“Desiring-machines, what we call objects, are productions of production for D&G.”

I have to disagree with the above if by ‘we’ you mean the OOO crew and ‘objects’ being what the OOO crew call objects.

The concept of desiring-machines comes from Guattari’s post-Lacanian theories regarding a multiplicity of objet petit a (‘why not an objet petit b, c or d?’ Guattari asks). It is not an object in the quaint neo-Heideggarian way that Harman discusses them.

Guattari asks Logos or machines? By already surrendering the ontological terrain to formed objects (ie Logos) and then asking questions about ‘flow’ is to miss the point. To go back to your first post where you discuss BwO, it is like beginning with the Organism and then trying to backform a BwO from it. The BwO (cloud of the virtuality) is remade (or, better, ‘expressed’) with the actual through the process of actualisation. It is why counter-actualisation (or counter-effectuation as it is translated) from the Logic of Sense is possible. An object is better understood as one singularity in a stream of singularities expressed from an event, which is itself another singularity and so on.

I don’t agree with last line of Levi’s quote either. EDIT: Reproduced below:

Consequently, we may retain terms like ‘pre-individual’or ‘transcendental’ field if we like, so long as we understand that this field is not something other than objects, but consists of nothing but objects. (emphasis added 270)

The temporal mechanics of an event are mind-boggling. What if in a self-referential system something incorporates a possible future state of itself in a process, for example when walking down stairs carrying a box (so you can’t see you feet). Your caution will be a product of the present state of affairs with a possible future state of affairs in the event of walking down stairs (carrying a box). The person + box + stairs machine will include affects of mild anxiety expressed as the considerate movements of your foot as you feel to make sure there is another step. This tension will increase the closer you get to the bottom of the stairs. Caution is a positive affect in a social sense, but it actually constrains action based on an uncertainty (where is the step? is there a step?). OOO has nothing to say about this. What does the box do? lol! Yet, if you think about the way we live our lives it is often just like we are walking down steps unsure of where a future singularity (the floor/another step) will be actualised. Now imagine it is not a staircase, but a set of social expectations that are assumed as a social group’s culture. There is a multiplicity of singularities that exist in a problematic contiguity with each other.

My general advice to grad students: I know OOO is active on the interwebs, but be careful how much you try to import into theory mash-ups with poststructuralist theories.

12 thoughts on “Forget OOO”

  1. at some point someone started spreading the rumor that D&G’s can be summed up as “ontology first,” while the opposite is true — it should be “politics first.”

    and as d&g emphasize, assemblages should be evaluated by the lines of flight (queerness, lines of mutation, etc) they engender. unfortunately the OOO stuff is stiff and so focused on a realist ontology (onticology?), it only uses examples in the self-serving manner of re-iterating their nomenclature/metaphysics.

    rather than nit-picking, i think they should be more or less left to expire as the didactic oddity that they are.

  2. awc, I am in general agreement with your comment.

    I am always reminded of Massumi’s comments (from PotV) about Bergson and Zeno’s paradox when coming across OOO. ‘Objects’ are backformed from cessation, D&G is all about accounting for the ‘movement’, which btw is not before or after ‘cessation’. ‘Cessation’ surrenders the spatio-temporal dynamism of becoming for the sake of intelligibility. The ‘movement’ is not of an object either, but the contraction and relaxation of elements of consistency (singularities) that are expressed in the world as the world (or more or less as assemblages, as you say).

  3. Can you explain “quaint neo-Heideggerian”? And are you aware that one of Harman’s favorite descriptions of “object” is—”mechanism”?

  4. Hi Tim, “quaint neo-Heideggerian” is of course a playful dig first, and serious scholarly point second. The scholarly point comes from Harman’s book on Latour and the definition of ‘event’ used. Harman correlates objects with events. In Heideggerian discourse the term for this is ‘ereignis’.
    From Harman’s book:
    Firstly, correlating objects with actants (p. 5).
    Then, actant is an event (p17).
    And again, every actant is an event (p29).
    And, the “universe is made up of nothing but individual actors, events fully deployed at each instant, free of potency or other hidden dimensions lying outside their sum alliances in any given moment” (p30).
    All of the above are very much part of the OOO party line.
    Then Harman does something weird p44:
    “The brilliance of The Double Helix lies in the way that it places hard science, flirtation, gossip, and the lust for honor all on the same footing. All of these are events; all involve actants.”
    The event of an actant being an actant (‘ereignis’) and the ‘event’ discussed in the context of The Double Helix are not of the same character. One is an actant, the other involves actants.
    This second use of event is closer to my understanding of Latour’s work when Latour discusses actor-networks. As Harman readily admits, there is another ‘Latour’ that can be deduced from Latour’s later work. For example Latour has suggested that another term for actor-network theory (in an interview) is actant/rhizome ontology.
    The rhizome (or a concept that does similar work) is absent from Harman’s OOO because of his quaint neo-Heideggerianism. Indeed, the difference between Harman’s OOO and Levi’s OOO is that Levi is doing his best to somehow get around this problem. I am not entirely convinced he has been successful yet, however.

    Re PS Maybe AO and ATP could be considered as such. Not much of the rest of their work fits this analogy.

  5. In addition, Tim, this article from Latour (discovered via a timely tweet by Steve Shaviro) gives a clear indication of the other ‘Latour’ to that outlined by Harman in his book.

    FN13 “Mediation, by contrast, is defined as that which ensures not a transfer, but a translation, and hence cannot be black-boxed, but instead remains visible, exceeding its inputs and outputs and having the character of an event.”

    Or as Steve tweeted:

    P28 “each event exceeds its conditions and exceeds its artificer.”

    Translation as event, not necessarily object as event.

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