A feeling for things: objects,
And things, what is the correct attitude to adopt towards things?
–Samuel Beckett, The Unnameable
Recent years have seen an explosion of scholarly interest in things. From the
‘new materialisms’ to ‘object-oriented ontology’, from ‘thing theory’ to ‘actor-
network theory’, much of contemporary thought is turning its attention to the
world of objects. What are the reasons for this shift? One of the principal motivations behind the turn to objects is a reaction against the ‘cultural turn’ and its
As with all social actions of conscious subjects, the sciences for Weber
function in a rational way not only because they reflect upon their own means
and ends, but mostly because they also bear the infinite potential to reveal
the consequences of their social character, addressing themselves as well as
The triangle of means, ends and consequences, embracing the sciences
in Weber’s work, establishes a solid social ontology for the sciences, and
attributes to society an instigative role with regard to the scientific oeuvre.
For there to be any
social relations, critical theory refuses to privatize the notion of happiness and
in so doing aligns itself with the (negative) truth-content of unhappiness –the
bad that cannot be made good.
Chapter 3 looks at how an affective politics underpins critical theory’s
engagement with the world of objects. The chapter begins by outlining the
recent upsurge in theoretical writing on objects/things, especially within the
much-touted field of ‘object-oriented ontology’ or ‘speculative realism’. After
drawing attention to the major social and political
This book explores modernity, the disciplines, and their interplay by drawing in critical considerations of time, space, and their enmeshments. Based in anthropology and history, and drawing on social-political theory (as well as other, complementary, critical perspectives), it focuses on socio-spatial/disciplinary subjects and hierarchical-coeval tousled temporalities. The spatial/temporal templates reveal how modern enticements and antinomies, far from being analytical abstractions, intimate instead ontological attributes and experiential dimensions of the worlds in which we live, and the spaces and times that we inhabit and articulate. Then, the book considers the oppositions and enchantments, the contradictions and contentions, and the identities and ambivalences spawned under modernity. At the same time, rather than approach such antinomies, enticements, and ambiguities as analytical errors or historical lacks, which await their correction or overcoming, it attempts to critically yet cautiously unfold these elements as constitutive of modern worlds. The book draws on social theory, political philosophy, and other scholarship in the critical humanities in order to make its claims concerning the mutual binds between everyday oppositions, routine enchantments, temporal ruptures, and spatial hierarchies of a modern provenance. Then, it turns to issues of identity and modernity. Finally, the book explores the terms of modernism on the Indian subcontinent.
, which asserts to reclaim
reality, is not as explicit as Luhmann’s, but his main epistemological deficit
lies in his conception of dialectics as being testable within reality. Although
Bhaskar claims to place dialectics within reality, he fails to grasp that his claim
is not enough for an ‘other’ epistemology over which he also claims jurisdiction. He grounds an epistemological ontology that renders dialectics testable
Critical theory and epistemology
but not accountable, which leads him to form more an epistemological methodology and less an ontology
. They are not ways of seeing but ways in which
reality is textured, formed ontologically in perennial fragmentation and
mutual exclusion. These textures are ushered in, angularly and exigently, in
the form of justice.
Justice is the re-entry of the environment, of what-is-not,
into the system, into what-is. Justice is the re-entry of the non-legal into
the legal system, a wind (breeze or gale) that plants in the heart of the
because for Existentialism
the term ‘human’ is better understood as an open-ended question, precisely because it is ontologically underwritten by freedom, asking the
question ‘what can human be?’, rather than understanding ‘the human’
to be a fixed entity.
As far as I can tell, this view of free will is one that is partly accepted
even by those who see frequent, persistent drinking as problematic, for
free will must enter into the equation here as well, otherwise it would
not be possible to contemplate ‘an outcome’ where such drinkers could
characteristic of the cultural turn, since the latter do not readily
acknowledge the ontological or physical excess that precedes and resists our
routine modes of signification. Constructivism cannot account for the manifold interactions and dynamic vitality of matter that occur beneath or prior to
the discursive level. As Diana Coole and Samantha Frost note in their introduction to New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics:
While we recognize that radical constructivism has contributed considerable insight into the workings of power over recent years, we are also
Laclau's view, lay in transferring Marxism's ‘ontological privileging’ of the working class to ‘the political leadership of the mass movement’.
I highlight this anti-authoritarian dimension at the outset because what is most remarkable about the later Laclauian project is that it signally fails to anticipate that authoritarianism is not confined to such a vanguard party model. Rather, it is a contingent prospect in populist formations due to their susceptibility to demagogic
. If authenticity disappears as a guiding light, and
along with it the correlate of responsibility for a self that is of ontological
necessity free, the sense of Existentialism’s social, cultural, and historical urgency is also dispersed. Attitudes may still be deemed ‘Existential’,
usually indicating a reference to one or more of ‘nothingness’, ‘meaninglessness’, or indulgent navel-gazing –what’s the point of anything?
what’s it all about (who cares …)? –and writers and artists may also
still allude to it, but few would set out to produce a work of art that is