Further comments on week 4 / Simondonian clarifications

Below Chris offers some of his reactions to the first part of ‘Technology and Anthropology’, set against critical reflections on Stiegler and the text as a whole. I’ve also added a resource page for Simondon, to which Chris also helpfully adds some pointers on Simondon for those of us less familiar with him as well as several pertinent quotations from Muriel Combes’ (quite explicitly counter-Stieglerian) book that was published recently.

I have to say I found this is a frustrating section of Technics and Time, not because it’s particularly difficult, but because it combines extensive passages where far too little is said about far too much (see 85 – 91) with the pointless (to my mind) setting up of straw targets. Why not extract what is productive from other bodies of work (including their productive mistakes, as Althusser does with Rousseau in his “Materialism of the Encounter…” essay for example) rather than highlight what are pretty obvious inadequacies anyway? Why draw on texts which are both outmoded and shackled by the narrowness of their discipline, when so much other material is available, all of which Stiegler is certainly aware of? Perhaps a willingness to let the dead bury the dead is one difference between the mindset of a critical theorist and that of a philosopher.

Steigler seems particularly keen on setting up false problems in order to solve them at great length. It must surely be a commonplace to any anti-essentialist thinker that there is no opposition between being and becoming other than at the level of representation, so why belabour the point? Similarly, why spend two paragraphs setting forth an absurdly limited definition of technics for the sole purpose of demonstrating the impossibility of doing so? Stiegler seems caught at moments by a residual and of course untenable will-to-objectivity.

One thing that came up in discussion was Stiegler’s conservatism, exemplified – for me – by his recent comments in a lecture series to the effect (I am not quoting directly) that he didn’t care where “the solution” [to particular problems of psycho-power] came from, whether from the left or the right, as long as it came.” Although it can safely be said that Stiegler, with his insistence on understanding all technics as pharmaka, in no way conceives of there actually being “a solution”, the fact that he can even imagine that a project of the political right and its associated economics could offer a positive (i.e. creative rather than merely reproductive) implementation of technics is disturbing. The borderline paranoia of many of the passages in the six pages noted above seems to me consistent with this failure of political awareness. Perhaps it also gives rise to the careless ethnocentrism of certain moments in the text.

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