I’ve spent less and less time looking at philosophy directly (been looking at thing with more of an autonomous sociological bent, doing collective work and trying to cobble a book together), but the prophet of non-philosophy discussed here is someone I have been dabbling in from a distance, largely through secondary literature – particularly the works of what I’ll call the “New York School” of media theory (Galloway, Thacker, Wark, etc.)
My impression from these theorists and their work on digital media technologies is that Laruelle is being used not so much as source material, per se, but as a means to explore the Guattarian concept of post-media. This makes it much less a Laurellean project, but more of a usage of non-philosophy as a tool for a sort of speculative ‘edgework,’ to borrow a phrase from Hunter Thompson… taking things right to their limit,recasting them in a new light, and gaining new insights and possibilities from there.
Galloway and Thacker continually look to the future of technological social dynamics for the routes that political struggles will follow, and they pose the notion of “hypertrophy,” which is pushing information and media technologies to their contextual breaking point, beyond their ‘traditional’ usage. This means new configurations and modes of becoming in a technological sense; as Deleuze noted in his work on Foucault, technology is always social before it is technological. It has been overcoded, bracketed by the signifiers of power, and thus, any sort of “hypertrophy” would take on the dimensions of a wide-ranging and complex social struggle. The social (or more properly the organizations of power in contemporary institutional form) dictates the parameters of technology, but the functions of the social are continually shaped – and updated and mutated into new forms, both on the terrain of power and resistance – by the forces of technological flow. Thus, hypertrophy differs from the accelerationist tendencies, be it the neoliberal-nihilist or ‘leftist’-Promethean currents, that it could so easily be attached too.
Galloway and Thacker quote Barthes – “There is only one way to way to escape the alienation of present day society: to retreat ahead of it.” The real touchstone here, I think, is Deleuze and Guattari’s own schizoanalytic understanding of acceleration and their usage of the George Jackson quote – “I may take flight, but all the while I am fleeing, I will be looking for a weapon.” For Thacker and Galloway, the weapon here is Laruelle’s non-philosophy.
There was eventually that split between Deleuze and Guattari. In the famous essay on the Societies of Control, Deleuze pondered a potential politics of non-communication, or as Galloway sees, perhaps one were “silence” becomes a potent tool. For late Guattari, it is a matter of generating a rhizomatic ‘post-media,’ one of a pure communication. But are these two diametrically opposed? Not properly: Deleuzian non-communication is an urge for new forms of communication that evade power dynamics, yet one that is line with the discourse in A Thousand Plateaus about ‘Becoming-Imperceptible.’
If the goal of (radical) philosophy is the creation of conceptual tools, then there is no contradiction in eclectically hoping from divergent philosopher to divergent philosopher in eeking out potential lines of flight.
Ironically, I feel that the New York School falls victim in some ways to variations of the protocol that Galloway has spent so much time analyzing, namely, an inadvertent trap generated by post-structuralist theory. Deleuze and Guattari’s overarching project is an assault on power, yet the overall trajectory of their collective works (I’m excluding their solo outputs here) positions itself as the “last word” in philosophy, which is something Laruelle dares to acknowledge. All philosophy that comes after their last work will be tinted by it, and this is may be the reason that Laruelle is so important at this stage : non-philosophy may be one (of the undoubtedly many) mediums by which we push back about the hegemony of thought itself.
Beyond this brief philosophical impasse, however, we must consider that it may be time to not assign the philosophers, thinkers, and theorists that have so inspired us to the dustbin, but to move beyond them, to quit thinking of the world in the terms that they rendered decades ago. As Thacker and Galloway (among so many of us) acknowledge, we seem to be on the cusp of massive reorganizations of the social, capital, and transnational organizations of power. It is dire that we do not endlessly cast these things in a language generated back during transformative ages in the past. We need to build a new vocabulary, a new mechanism for communication (or not communicating) anticipatory ways of thinking, being, and becoming in attempts to ward off or evade the coming changes.
I was recently convinced that Laruelle may be the key to theorizing new work in the digital, the withdrawal from representation, and a politics beyond Deleuze. To begin, I’m reading Philosophies of Difference, The Concept of Non-Photography, and Galloway’s forthcoming book.
Anyone else tackling these issues?