Crediting James

Graham Harman, from Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics:

We are now amused to think that there used to be two kinds of physics, one for the earth and one for the sky. But it is equally absurd that we still recognize two different kinds of reality: one for hard scientific fact and another for arbitrary social power. What exists is only actants: cars, subways, canoe-varnish, quarreling spouses, celestial bodies, and scientists, all on the same metaphysical footing.

I’ll say it again: as far as I can tell Actor-Network Theory (ANT) is nothing more than the most radical form of Pragmatism, which has advanced from its humble clean, abstract, conceptual infancy to a truly radical maturity, which for Pragmatism means a dirty, concrete mess of real life observations and real life applications of the understandings so derived. The most radical form of Pragmatism is practical Pragmatism.

The concept of “actant” is an ontology of Jamesian “cash value”, with all (other?) metaphysics (as such) bracketed — not negatively, but positively as something with force of some kind. When Latour uses accounting language — “I am perfectly happy with the resonance of the word [accounting] not only with Garfinkel’s accountability but also with ‘accounting books’, since the weak but essential link of accounting with economics has been one of the most productive, and unlikely, domains of science studies.” — it seems to me that it is precisely this pragmatic cash value inhabits the cells of the ANT spreadsheet. And really, money is a very human thing, and is embedded in the etymology of some of our most exalted words. It seems that extreme love or hatred of wealth seems symptomatic of of an individual’s rejection of being human.


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