Really interesting… via Stuart Elden.
Open Humanities has a(nother!) new book from Bernard Stiegler, blurb pasted below. This is an edited version of Stiegler’s public lectures in various places over the last three or so years, hence Dan Ross’ byline. Dan has done some fantastic work of corralling the fast-moving blizzard of Stiegler’s concepts and sometimes flitting engagements with a wide range of other thinkers and I am sure that this book surfaces this work.
It would be interesting to see some critical engagement with this, it seems that Stiegler simply isn’t as trendy as Latour and Sloterdijk or the ‘bromethean‘ object-oriented chaps for those ‘doing’ the ‘anthropocene’ for some reason. I’m not advocating his position especially, I have various misgivings if I’m honest (and maybe one day I’ll write them down) but it is funny that there’s a sort of anglophone intellectually snobbery about some people’s work…
A colleague shared this fascinating and perhaps difficult piece in the LARB by the highly regarded Derrida scholar Geoffrey Bennington on the publication of the anniversary edition and revised translation of Of Grammatology by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, with a new ‘Introduction’ by Judith Butler. I really encourage anyone with an interest in Derrida’s work, in language and in translation to read this article, I think it’s really quite something.
What is perhaps extraordinary about Bennington’s incisive analysis of the new edition is the acute nature of the problems he reveals with translating Derrida’s insight, which Bennington asserts: “is quite simple, yet in its very simplicity hard to grasp”. For “il n’y a pas de hors-textes“ is just as apposite to the issues Bennington highlights as it is to the understanding of Derrida’s wider project.
I won’t attempt to précis what is an erudite and rigorous article that also necessarily confronts some perceived (it appears fairly) problems and/or errors in understanding on the parts of Butler and Spivak. In this regard, it’s also worth paying attention to the footnotes…
In response to a crisis of political legitimation, the “spectre” of urban solidarity looms; minorities in cities recognise that national and international rights are “out of joint.” In a way, we now need to read Derrida’s idea of “villes-refuges“ in conjunction not only with Lefebvre’s right to the city, but also with the former’s earlier Spectres of Marx, where he spoke of a “New International”; “a profound transformation,” Derrida called it, “projected over the long term, of international law, of its concepts and field of intervention.” This New International is “a link,” Derrida said, an affinity, a suffering and hope, still discreet, almost secret, without status or title, contract or coordination, party or country, national community or common belonging to a class.
We’re not yet sure what this International really is; we can’t name it anything positive. But it’s there nonetheless, we know it’s there, hope it’s there, out on the horizon, if we can look that far. We know it’s more needed than ever before, needed everywhere. It’s a ghostly dream-thought of a new status for the city, a right to and of the city, a will to belong to a democratic urban webbing, a solidarity of confederated assemblies interrogating the essence of politics and the role of the nation-state: just what is a citizen of the urban, a citadin(e) of the twenty-first century? Progressives will have their work cut out in this challenging year ahead. Meantime, Ã la tienne, Henri!”¦
Saw this very interesting conference via Stuart Elden:
A compelling piece on the Institute of Network Cultures‘ “long forms” website by Agnieszka Zimolag entitled “A dream of an algorithm” explores “our” relation to “technology, or (to my mind) technics as the co-constitutional (and originary [not essential]) relation between what we call, in common sense terms, “the human” and”technology”.
Technology is my reflection. Just as if I never see myself unless I look in the mirror, the same goes for technology. Once I plug, once i turn on the devices, I look at my comforting reflection, I can finally become one with my own image. The perception of the self becomes a continuum, a reassurance of my own existence. Zimolag
It’s a beautiful essay and well worth reading/ looking at in full – the images are lovely and there’s some thoughtful prose reflecting upon this relation. I guess where I’d differ from Zimolag is her implied assertion that the technology, what it does/can do somehow comes after ‘the human’; that technology does something to “us” (humans) that alters us. I can see why, in the face of rapid technological change, we might figure things in this way. Nevertheless, I’m inclined to insist that there never was a “human” somehow separate from “technology”. We have an ‘aporetic origin’ in Derrida & Stiegler’s terms, we continually perform the coming to being of “the human”.
As I’ve observed elsewhere, the theory of technogenesis offered by a range of anthropologists and philosophers is the idea that humans and technology co-evolved together, that you do not get one without the other. Humans are irreducibly distinct because of the reflexive transmission of complex cultures made possible by technics and the ‘exteriorization’ of thought. Both Stiegler and Derrida argue that the mental interior is only recognized as such with the advent of the technical exterior: our conscious self-knowledge is only possible with the ability to exteriorize thought as a trace, commonly as language and gesture. Stiegler explains this aporia of origin as a paradox: ‘The paradox is to have to speak of an exteriorization without a preceding interior: the interior is constituted in exteriorisation’ (Stiegler, Technics and Time 1, p. 141).
Technics can be thought of as a technogenetic ‘double-bind’ between being both constitutive and a supplement of ‘the human’. The interior and exterior, and with them the contemporary understanding of the experience of being human and what we understand to be technology, are mutually co-constituted and continue to be so.
In opposing ‘technology’ and ‘the human’, the apparently immaterial ‘algorithm’ and apparently concrete human, we either oppose technically mediated experience to other forms of experience or we oppose our technical life to other, apparently ‘natural’, forms of exis- tence. Either way, we risk reasserting old, problematic binaries: human/technology and nature/society.
To bring this back to ‘algorithms’ and their devices, following Zimolag – they are not our ‘others’. these technologies discussed and depicted in Zimolag’s beautiful essay are materially of and with us, they are perhaps not so much the ‘reflection’ she asserts (above) but rather a mirror that we ourselves have crafted through which to look upon ourselves, but, precisely in doing so, the “we” is irrevocably altered to include the mirror. The knowledge born from coming to know our own images, in Zimolag’s metaphor, is irreducibly tied to technics.
I’ve been re-reading Dan Ross’ excellent chapter in the edited collection Stiegler and Technics entitled “Pharmacology and Critique after Deconstruction” and wanted to post an excerpt because it seems to me one of the clearest interpretations of one of the foundations of Bernard Stiegler’s thought: “composition”. This is a brief excerpt but I thoroughly recommend reading Dan’s chapter, and indeed the whole book – which is really good!
Stiegler inherits more from Derrida than from any other thinker: ‘deconstructive’ thinking is translated in Stieglerian terms into ‘compositional’ thinking:
Deconstruction is a thinking of composition in the sense that composition is ‘older’ than opposition (what Simondon would have called a ‘transductive relation’: that is, a relation that constitutes its terms, the terms not existing outside the relation). It is a relation that is the vehicle of a process (that of différance), one very close, I would argue, to what Simondon elaborates in terms of a ‘process of individuation’ (Stiegler 2001: 249-250).
Deconstruction, pursuing the complex genesis of oppositional pairs, amounts to the elaboration of s process of becoming. It is therefore more consistent than first appearances might indicate with the theories of Gilbert Simondon, for whom the key was not to begin with terms or individuals and then think their ‘relation’; rather, it is the process itself that ‘has the status of being’ (Simondon 1992: 306).
To this relation of differance to individuation should be added the influence of Nitetzsche, for whom existence must be understood as a play of forces, or, better, of tendencies. The formation of oppositions from prior compositions is an expression of this play of tendencies…
And it may turn out that where compositional thought is superior to deconstructive thought is in making it possible to think de-composition […] Deconstruction thus tends, perhaps, to perceive less clearly the pharmacological dangers of the deconstruction of ‘oppositions’, and the possibility that distinctions may on occasion be precisely what need to be preserved, that is, saved.
Ross, D 2015 “Pharmacology and Critiques after Deconstruction”, in Howells, C and Moore, G eds. Stiegler and Technics, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 245-246.
Simondon, G. 1992  “The genesis of the individual”, in Crary, J. and Kwinter, S. Eds. Incorporations, Zone, New York.
Stiegler, B. 2001 “Deconstruction and technology: Fidelity at the limits of deconstruction and the prosthesis of faith”, trans. Beardsworth, R,, in Cohen, T. Ed. Jacques Derrida and the Humanities: A Critical Reader, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.