This article begins by examining the concept of the pharmakon that is developed in Derrida’s essay ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, as it is here that the idea of a medium that is simultaneously poisonous and therapeutic is developed in relation to the discursive effects of writing. The author then goes on to look at Stiegler’s attempt to reconfigure the ‘orthographic economy’ of deconstruction, particularly his account of how the ‘tertiary supports’ of virtual and information technologies have transformed the experience of the real (...) in the regime of global capitalisation. Finally, he argues that the appearance of the pharmakon as a matrix idea in his work, sharpens his account of the aporia of technological society: for the impossibility of human culture being reduced to either the disorientated life industrial populism, or to idealist notions of reflexivity, is what, for Stiegler, offers the chance of a new politics of spirit. (shrink)
The noble aim of sociologists to "tell the truth" has sometimes involved ignoble assumptions about human beings. In this major discussion of truth in the social science, Ross Abbinnett traces the debate on truth from the "objectifying powers" of Kant through more than 200 years of critique and reformulation to the unraveling of truth by Lyotard, Foucault, and Derrida. Truth and Social Science gives students an exciting and accessible guide to the main sociological treatments of truth and can also be (...) read as an account of the collapse of modernity and the rise of new forms of thought, which treat difference and ambivalence as positive values. The book will be of interest to students of sociology, social theory, and philosophy. (shrink)
With the recent deaths of both Jean Baudrillard and Jacques Derrida, it is an opportune moment to consider their respective contributions to social and cultural theory. The purpose of this article is not to establish an unbridgeable gap which allows no communication between Baudrillard and Derrida's thought. Rather, I will argue that there is an underlying assumption which brings them into close proximity: the idea that the dialectical order of the social, and its relationship to human mortality, has been radically (...) altered by the media-technological systems through which `the real' is represented. Baudrillard's concept of simulation attempts to show how the mass media have become the exclusive condition through which the social is staged, and that there is nothing outside of their operational logics. Derrida's conception of the spectre, on the contrary, presents a `quasi-messianic' figure which haunts the system of simulation; it is s/he who arrives through the intensification of social performativity which Baudrillard understands as completely self-referential. My aim is to show that the most political way of approaching Baudrillard is to read him as a kind of `evil genius' of simulation; as a provocation to acknowledge the spectral bodies who hover between life and death within the system of the hyperreal. (shrink)
The problem with remembering Auschwitz is that the neoliberal paradigm of economic utility, demotic happiness, and programmed consumption has tended to erase its facticity from public consciousness. Technoscientific capitalism functions as a regime of amnesic performance that prevents a ‘working through’ of the Nazi genocide. I argue that Agamben’s work on the implicit violence of the biopolitical paradigm gives a crucial insight into the fate of humanity in the time of global capitalism. However, I contend that the idea of testimony (...) he presents in Remnants of Auschwitz recapitulates a Heideggerian ontology of experience that is enacted outside of the technological dynamics of trauma and memory. I employ Stiegler’s concept of epiphylogenetic memory, first, to explore the economy of fascisms that has emerged within the networks of global capitalism and, second, to examine the material affects through which Auschwitz returns to the scene of this economy. (shrink)
This article is primarily concerned with Zygmunt Bauman's ‘adoption’ of Levinas's ethic of primordial responsibility, and his attempt to found a ‘sociological’ critique of postmodern ambivalence upon the erasure of the face and loss of moral proximity. I have argued that the reading of Levinas which Bauman presents in Modernity and the Holocaust and Postmodern Ethics is radically incompatible with the redemptive significance of the Levinasian commandment; and that consequently, his attempt to determine the cognitive and aesthetic forms involved in (...) the adiaphorising trend of postmodern societies is unable to salvage the ethical relation from its own comprehensive/totalising necessity. I have also suggested that Derrida's reading of Totality and Infinity, discloses a certain ‘provocation’ in Levinas's writing; one which gestures towards a conception of ‘the ethical’ as an unforeseen possibility deployed within the resources of social identity. Thus, the idea of ‘situating’ Bauman's thought refers to what I consider to be his ambiguous position with regard to the ‘reflective’ project of a critical theory, and the transcendent necessity of the Levinasian commandment. Ultimately, it is this ambiguity which structures Bauman's writing of the ‘postmodern condition’. For having described the overwhelming powers of cognitive and aesthetic ‘heteronomy’ in the postmodern world, his only recourse is to a ‘politics of distant consequences’ in which the absolute difference of the face would have its originary demand intensified and retransmitted. Such a programmatic demand, I have argued, is radically at odds with an ‘ethical’ reception of racial, sexual or cultural ‘otherness’. (shrink)
The purpose of the article is to evaluate the ethical and political conclusions that Ulrich Beck draws from his account of ‘civilization risks’. I have argued that the categories of ‘life’, ‘the organic’, and the ‘technological’ which are presented in Risk Society, presuppose a certain metaphysics of ‘natural’ human identity; and that it is the inscription of this identity in the politics of risk administration which opens the possibility of an absolutely legitimized regulation of nature, humanity, and society. Thus, in (...) order to evaluate the ‘risk’ entailed in the ethical and political strictures of Beck's ‘world risk society’, I have had recourse to the expositions of time, presence, identity and technology which Derrida has given in Of Grammatology and Specters of Marx. It is through these expositions that I have tried to work through the idea of an ecological politics that would remain sensitive to the events of difference and alterity precipitated by its own ‘cosmopolitan’ interventions. (shrink)
The idea of the Anthropocene postulates that, epistemically and ontologically, we must consider the climatic, geological, and biological systems of the Earth as essentially bound up with the technological systems that have been developed by human beings. This idea has been aesthetically configured through images of ‘Spaceship Earth’ and in the orbital pictures of light patterns emitted by human settlements across the globe. I will argue that this shift towards the idea of the Anthropocene is complicit with a certain kind (...) of technological messianism, which assumes that the most serious problems of global warming and environmental despoliation will be solved by future technologies. Furthermore the impact of this futural orientation, which includes the idea of transhumanist adaptations to the consequences of climate change, has been to intensify the nexus between technological innovation, neoliberal economics, and entrepreneurial heroism that has come to shape the collective imagination of the future. This, I will argue, has profound consequences for the way human beings orientate themselves to their ethical and political responsibilities in respect of climate change, human suffering, and cosmopolitan democracy. (shrink)
Authors from the social sciences and humanities discuss the neoliberal re-structuring of higher education and the possibilities for progressive change to the social production of knowledge in universities.