Pushing dualism to an extreme: On the philosophical impetus of a new materialism [Book Review]

Continental Philosophy Review 44 (4):383-400 (2011)

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Abstract
This article discusses the way in which a group of contemporary cultural theorists in whose work we see a “new materialism” (a term coined by Braidotti and DeLanda) at work constitutes a philosophy of difference by traversing the dualisms that form the backbone of modernist thought. Continuing the ideas of Lyotard and Deleuze they have set themselves to a rewriting of all possible forms of emancipation that are to be found. This rewriting exercise involves a movement in thought that, in the words of Bergson, can be termed “pushing dualism to an extreme.” By this movement, Deleuze has stated, “difference is pushed to the limit,” that is, using Colebrook’s words, “difference is shown differing.” The article addresses the ways in which modernity’s dualisms (structured by a negative relation between terms) are traversed, and how a new conceptualization, and ontology , of difference (structured by an affirmative relation) comes to be constituted along the way. New materialism leaves behind all prioritizations (implicitly) involved in modern dualist thinking since a difference structured by affirmation does not work with predetermined relations (e.g., between mind and body) nor does it involve a (counter-)hierarchy between terms. The article makes explicit the methodology of the current-day rise of non-dualist thought, both in terms of its non-classificatory mode of (Deleuzian) thinking and in terms of the theory of the time of thought thus effectuated (Lyotard’s notion of ‘rewriting modernity’ is not a post-modernism). Throughout the article we will engage with an example in order to demonstrate the ontology that is being practiced following this methodology: How does a new (feminist) materialism traverse the sexual dualisms that structure modernist (feminist) thinking? This example also shows how a feminist post-modernism (found in the canonical work of Butler) has remained dualist, and what makes new materialism “new.” Freed from a dualist methodology, the modernist emancipatory project comes to full fruition in new materialism
Keywords New materialism  Rewriting modernity  Cultural theory  Dualism  Difference
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DOI 10.1007/s11007-011-9197-2
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