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Monday, 4 November 2013

Allagmatics: a proletarian metaphysics

Simondon’s focus on the processes and operations that generate the sunolos with singularities is a way out of a substance ontology. He compares individuation through a principle – either through matter or through form – as the individuation conduced by those who are outside the workshop and only see what comes in and what goes out. To understand individuation in its energy allagmatics one has to leave the command position and get into the workshop (and in fact, he adds, into the particular mold that allegedly is doing no more than fabricating a shaped matter out of brute matter). Individuation, thought in this allagmatic manner, is in a sense to be placed within the genesis of the sunolos and therefore neither in the matter nor in the form. This genesis makes the individual inextrinsically relational: it is not in relation, it is the relation. Now, when Aristotle (which is undoubtedly his point of departure) talks about substance as having (a specific) form and matter and opposes them to accidents (see form instance Metaphysics, H, 5), he is thinking about what makes something something. What makes something be wine, say. His answer involves what is at work (en-ergeia) but also what is present potentially. To think about substances involves already normativity: a position of command. Wine should be wine (and not simulacra), a book should be a book (no matter what special thing happened in its production, in its allagmatics). Substances contrast to relations because they are not about operations. They are about what is and not what is becoming through the action of operations. The view of things from their constitution is the worker’s view: the view from the vicissitudes of matter and form. Allagmatics.

Allagma is an interesting word. It comes from allos, another, the other. It is translated as vicissitude but also as change (allag-hé) – to become something else. It is vicissitude because it is connected to meeting another, to pay the price or go towards the prize. It could be associated to paying the costs (cf. Latour’s insistence on how often we have to pay the price of transport in a re-duction). Allagmatics is the action of operation, the acts of change. Allagmatics is process itself, not the cataloguing activity of ready-made substances. As such, allagmatics contrasts with what I called in my 2008 book Excesses and Exceptions an ontology that harbors a kernel of fascism. It is not about a single agent giving rise to shaped matter (a demiurge) but rather about the processes coming from all agents. To be is to operate.

Through operation, repetition takes place from one instance to another. There is no model that presides what has to be. Repetition contrasts with a commnand position (and a substance ontology) because it takes place thoroughly on the ground – it makes no reference to what is beyond the sensible. It takes the sensible in all its vicissitudes (and all its virtuality). Individuation is the emphasis of allagmatics – it is not about what is produced, but rather about how it is produced. This has also echoes in D&G’s Anti-Oedipus emphasis on the how, on the operations. In fact, Deleuze and Guattari were inspired by this change of perspective: look at what promotes the individual, look at what mechanisms and operations make the individual stay put. They follow this road to consider desire, sexualities, natural objects, laws and representations. Foucault, in his introduction to the American edition of the Anti_Oedipus translate part of what the book intends to do in terms of injunctions, one of them reads: Don’t base your action on individuals, individuals are a product of (operations of) power.

Allagmatics is about production, about operations. It opens a key to a metaphysics beyond the market place that is rather grounded on the actions associate to work (at work) and on the viewpoint of the working person. It is a concern with production and not a concern with produced substances. It is not about what is commissioned, but about how the substance choreography gets executed. Simondon opens up a whole path away from substantiality thought in terms of commodities. It is not about what can be the object of the fetish associated to things that got done (notice that substances, secondary substances, can be always assigned a price, as workers can be priced but only through their results, not through their path through vicissitudes). It is also a way to think beyond the individual, beyond the ready made subject and its relations – Simondon dives into the world of how and by means of what relations hold (and individuals, including subjects, arise). The focus on operations is a way to think beyond the (slowing down) limits of the constituted individuals. It is a way out of objects that present themselves as already individuated. It is also a way to find what can be faster than the flow of capital between pockets (individual pockets of physical persons and corporations). Maybe there is a Simondonian accelerationism that would rather look at the way pockets are individuated. But this only shows how far-fetched can be the consequences of an allagmatic take on the world.

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