The Wager of Sublimation (translation), Petit on Stiegler

[Co-posted at technophilia]

In the book of interviews “The hypermaterial economy and psychopower” [Économie de l’hypermatériel et pyschopouvoir], Bernard Stiegler (with Philip Petit and Vincent Bontems) works through and explicates a range of the political-economic and socio-technical issues he feels are most pressing in the contemporary milieu. In the interviews Stiegler ties together his more ontological arguments concerning the co-constitution of the human/technology with his wide-ranging critique of political economy. At the heart of these arguments are the related issues of sublimation in a libidinal economy (the translation of libidinal energy into social objects) and the hypermaterial nature of our material supports (technology, taken in the broadest sense). Stiegler argues for a revitalisation of the economy by better translating our desires into more fulfilling outcomes, rather than submitting to mindless consumption. This is more an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary imperative, as can also be seen by the manifesto of the campaigning organisation Stiegler co-founded, Ars Industrialis.

At the beginning of the book, one of the interviewers in the book, the philosopher Philip Petit, has written an introduction to Stiegler’s project and to the areas of discussion covered in the three interviews. Petit’s short introductory essay, ‘the Wager of sublimation’ (Le Pari de la sublimation), is a useful, if playful, introduction to the life and work of Stiegler. I offer here a translation of Petit’s introductory essay: The Wager of Sublimation [PDF], I hope it is of interest and perhaps of use. I would like to particularly thank Patrick Crogan for his significant and invaluable help in honing the translation of this piece.

Also useful is the back-cover blurb, which argues that:

Today we live in a new stage of the long history of the technical evolution of humanity: the stage of hyperindustrial capitalism. During the 20th century, the human has not ceased to live through the upheavals of the conditions of temporality, which is also to say of individuation. This new stage has already induced a profound transformation in our existence. Far from disappearing, industrialisation has strengthened its progress, investing in new, invisible, fields, ranging from nanostructures to the neurological foundations of the unconscious through to biotechnologies: the hypermaterial fields, where matter is always already form (as at the quantum level), where form is always already information (which is to say a transitory state of matter produce by a material) and where “the immaterial” is seen for what it is: a fable which fogs the mind [une fable qui enfume les esprits]. Bernard Stiegler formulates anew the issues of cultural and cognitive technologies, as well as biotechnologies and nanotechnologies. They are not without danger for humanity, as he writes, for the “non-human becoming” of the human species. In the future, will man cripple himself, his consciousness and his libido? Or will his becoming continue with hypermaterial technologies? If he submits to sublimation, submits his desire to be captured by powerful machines and networks which already seek to establish pyschopower, one of the consequences will certainly be the auto-destruction of capitalism, which is already well underway. Bernard Stiegler is not a technophobe. He is simply better entitled to warn us (My translation).

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