IMMUNONOLGY OF THE PANIC ROOM

Read an interesting review of Peter Sloterdijk’s work here today. I was discussing the phenomena of ‘panic rooms’ with a friend recently and the following quote from Bubbles seemed to resonate with the (pathological) spatialized immunitary logic they exhibit:

corporate_safe_room_articleimage

“To oppose the cosmic frost infiltrating the human sphere through the open windows of the Enlightenment, modern humanity makes use of a deliberate greenhouse effect: it attempts to balance out its shellessness in space, following the shattering of the celestial domes, through an artificial civilizatory world. This is the final horizon of Euro-American technological titanism.”

Keith Ansell-Pearson also had a recent review of Sloterdijk’s You Must Change Your Life here. I have not had a chance to read this latest book yet but am interested to find out more about his concept of “anthropotechnics” and his discussion about engineering human existence for the future.

Sloterdijk is a tricky thinker: he undoubtedly has a mastery of Western philosophy, literature and culture – and indeed of Eastern thought (although I am not sure if some time spent in India makes this anything more than a token gesture) – and is a master rhetorician, packing more new ideas onto a page than many venerable types manage to squeeze out of a lifetime. But the conceptual super-abundance always threatens to drown his overall point and the teaming cornucopia of new ideas he presents but never finishes frequently raises the suspicion that he is an arch-sophist, gratuitously gorging on his own erudition. Although he seems to lean to the Right it is not quite clear how. His occasional polemics never quite amount to ‘outbursts’, taking the form of rather watery Nietzschian critiques of the Left (whether Marxism or the social-welfare state) or a brazen but somewhat ironic embrace of neoliberal dogmas. He seem motivated by little more than a desire to ruffle the feathers of liberals and leftists with controversial discourses, which in itself is no bad thing (I have often joked that he is something like a Right wing Zizek, the ever protean gadfly of the academic Left). But beyond the rhetorical showmanship and distracting maze of tangents that characterize Sloterdijk’s work and his problematic politics he does have a admirable passion for engaging with Big Ideas that move far beyond the scope of most contemporary Continental philosophy and dare to risk constructive, propositional thought rather than simply elaborating critical stances.

Perhaps a worthy philosophical antagonistic who might bring conceptual struggle on to new terrain, or just a prose performer worth glossing while in the bath to pick up ideas you can run with, but in a different direction? ‘Anthropotechnics’ might be one such idea – perhaps the necessary framework for thinking a human future in the ‘Anthropocene’.

Sloterdijk’s work is of particular interest in so far as his analysis focuses on the shifting relationship between spatiality, epistemology and ontology, or rather the shifting spatial technologies through which humans attempt to align themselves with changing existential conditions. Indeed, he has joked that his three volume Spheres was an attempt to write Being and Space and sequel to Heidegger’s Being and Time which correct its flaws. Whilst Sloterdijk’s analysis of the changing spatialities of human existence is filtered through simultaneously exhilarating and deadening conceptual excess that he brings to bear on any subject, his attempt to think being spatiality are worthy of consideration, especially given that he does not assume a fixed ahistorical relation between these terms but seeks to feel out the shifting modes of their mutual constitution through material processes and epistemological changes – a project he appears to extend in to speculative stabs at envisioning the future in You Must Change Your Life. The significance of Sloterdijk as a spatial thinker has already been recognized by a number of geographers not least of which Stuart Elden, but also Pete Adey, Oliver Belcher, Eduardo Mendieta, Pepe Romanillos and Nigel Thrift amongst others. There is doubtless more work to be done in teasing out how some of Sloterdijk’s ideas may find application in geography and related fields and how the many suggestive conceptual nuggets he leaves undeveloped might be carried further.

Advertisements

Capitalism and the Earth – Punctum Books

space_debris_large

I am excited to announce that the ever-brilliant Nigel Clark, Arun Saldanha and Kathryn Yusoff are editing a book entitled Capitalism and the Earth to be published with Punctum Books next year.

It will build particularly on the two sessions Nigel, Arun and Kathryn have put together at the upcoming RGS-IBG conference in London on the theme of Geo-Social Formations: Capitalism and the Earth (the second of which I will chair).

The book will bring together a number of critical geographers committed to thinking through the relationship between capitalism and the earth philosophically and politically, in ways that critically engage with debates around the Anthropocene – taking them seriously whilst troubling them conceptually. The book will contain contributions from the three editors, Kai Bosworth, Noel Castree, Stuart Elden, Lesley Head and Chris Gibson, Kevin Surprise, Jan Zalasiewicz and myself (and perhaps a surprise special guest).

The collection is sure to make an important contribution to a growing set of debates around the philosophical and political stakes of Geo-Social relations in light of the Anthropocene and the emerging climate catastrophe. Earlier this Spring I had the good fortune to attend, back to back, the Critical Climate Change Scholarship Workshop at the University of Minnesota (organized by Jessi Lehman and Sara Holiday Nelson) and the five Anthropocene sessions at the AAG (organized by Elizabeth Johnson and Harlan Morehouse), both of which played a key role in focusing these discussions and producing a genuine intellectual community working on these issues (with the forthcoming book’s editors and a number of others, such as Stephanie Wakefield [CUNY], also taking part at both events).

Elizabeth, Harlan, Jessi and Sara have done a great job in keeping momentum from these sessions going with the wonderful GeoCritique blog which features a news feed and commentaries on related themes by the site’s editors and guest contributors, such as Arun’s recent work on Geo-Communism. Kathryn Yusoff, in her new capacity as reviews and open-site editor at Society and Space has also done great work in organizing the recent set of on-line interventions around the Anthropocene, 400ppm: Exit Holocene, Enter Anthropocene.

The sessions on Geo-Sociio Formations: Capitalism and the Earth at the RGS-IBG and the panel discussion I have put together there on Thinking the Anthropocene with Nigel, Kathryn alongside Angela Last and Jan Zalasiewicz will provide a further opportunity for some of the issues to be thrashed out and for future collaboration to emerge. Elizabeth, Harlan and I are also drafting a call for papers around the Geo-Social and Geophilosophy for next year’s AAG which will appear soon. Harlan, Kai Bosworth and I also plan to collaborate on an extended on-line review of Ben Woodard‘s excellent On an Ungrounded Earth: Towards a New Geophilosophy in the coming months, to which he has generously agreed to provide a written response.

It is also great to see that Punctum Books, a brilliant Brooklyn-based open-access press, will be putting the book out. They are leading the charge of quality open access publishing and already have a great record of related publications including last year’s superb Making the Geologic Now: Responses to Material Conditions of Contemporary Life, edited by Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse (of Smudge Studios / F.O.P) and On an Ungrounded Earth. The press has also played a central role in the development of debates around object oriented ontologies/philosophies and ‘speculative realism’ through Leper Creativity, a collection of essays on Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials, and the journals O-Zone: A Journal of Object Oriented Studies and Speculations: A Journal of Speculative Realism (although this phrase is increasingly redundant, seemingly more a mechanism of capture and dismissal than indicative of any common trajectories of thought).

For my part, I am particularly interested in developing some ideas around Geophilosophy and the politics of planetary thought in relation to broader debates on the Geo-Social and climate crisis on the one hand, whilst on the other, exploring the geopolitical and philosophical importance of emerging extra-planetary geographies. I have included below the abstract for my contribution to Capitalism and the Earth where I hope to make some initial tentative steps in this direction.

Capitalism and The Extra-Planetary Condition

Social science scholarship has increasingly turned its attention to the complicated, mutually constitutive relationship between the earth’s systems and human social formations, a trend to which frequent reference to the anthropocene bares witness. However, this literature has for the most part not only understood human social be bound to the earth but to principally take shape on the earth. This paper will argue that the relationship between social formations and the earth is neither limited to the terrestrial surface of the earth nor the planet as a whole, including its atmosphere. It will rather examine the ways in which human social formations are tied to the earth through an extensive and expanding network of extra-planetary relations. Indeed, it will be argued that the system of orbiting satellites now constitutes an integral part of social relations on earth but further of the earth’s systems, amounting to a novel extra-planetary strata that expands socio-geological relations – and hence the anthropocene – beyond the bounds of the earth’s atmosphere.

But what relation does capitalism have to this cosmic anthropocene? Whilst orbiting satellites have been integral to human-earth relations and the global economy for over half a century and space exploration was a key part of the so-called Cold War ‘space age’ the recent emergence of commercial space exploration marks a new development in relations between capitalism and the earth. The dominance of speculative extraction points to the expansion of the existing capitalist economy into the cosmos with new forms of astral-accumulation emerging to compliment the existing mineral basis of the capitalist economy and the wider energy economy it relies upon. But might this be a sign not of the confident extension of capitalism in to the cosmos but an indication that capitalism is an earth-bound social formation that has exhausted its mineral basis and met its planetary limitations?

The further question arises as to what political significance the expansion of capitalist economics into the cosmos might entail. Will it see the emergence of what some have referred to as ‘astropolitics’ – a field of supposedly realist determinism complimenting an earthly and earthy geopolitics – and the extension of existing concepts of territory, sovereignty, citizen and property into a new extra-planetary frontier and an intensification of existing inequalities on earth? Or rather will a new politics accompany these new spaces of intervention defined by new political formations in planetary and extra-planetary space?

This paper will argue that these questions are not confined to the realm of science fiction even if they have been largely overlooked within the critical social sciences and excluded from respectable philosophical and political discussion. Rather, these are questions that have important bearing on key questions about the existing and future nature of social relations and the ways in which they are bound to the earth’s systems and indeed the cosmos, that deserve critical attention as the commercial space age rapidly accelerates.

Carl Schmitt and Space

I started this blog in a rush a few weeks ago to post notice of the event I recently organized with Jenny Jaskey at Miguel Abreu Gallery in New York, which featured Ray Brassier, Suhail Malik and Reza Negarestani in conversation around the themes of Reason, Freedom and Enlightenment. This will be the first of a series of events we will organize under the name Happy Hour. Those interested in reading the forthcoming transcript of the conversation and hearing about future events can find more information from the Happy Hour site.

I’d planned a rabid flurry of posts to follow but have been too busy to devote the time to it. At any rate I think its probably better to build up slowly at first as I feel out how I might want to use this forum. So for now, sporadic bursts rather than steady invective!images

The first thing to do is to give a quick update on the project which absorbs most of my time, a book, due out next year, on Carl Schmitt’s spatial thought. I am co-authoring the book, On Schmitt and Space, with Claudio Minca of Wageningen University’s Cultural Geography Group, my former PhD supervisor, and it is contracted to Routledge as part of their Interventions Series, edited by Jenny Edkins (Aberystwyth University) and the wonderful Nick Vaughan-Williams (Warwick University).

My doctoral thesis, The Crisis of Political Form: The Question of Space in the Work of Carl Schmitt, completed last year at Royal Holloway, University of London’s Geography Department, provides the broad outline of the book. The book will confirm the central arguments presented in the thesis and follow its diachronic approach, charting the development of Schmitt’s spatial thought in relation to his changing political and personal circumstances and various lineages of modern European political and geographic thought. However, the analysis will be extensively developed by drawing on work we have done on Schmitt both separately and in collaboration (see for example our contributions to Stephen Legg’s edited volume Spatiality, Sovereignty and Carl Schmitt. Geographies of the Nomos and our recent guest editorial in Political Geography, The Trouble with Carl Schmitt).

The section of the book addressing Schmitt’s spatial thought during the Nazi years will be particularly informed by Claudio’s previous work on Schmitt’s conception of the border (with Nick Vaughan-Williams, here), his relationship to Nazi geographies (with Trevor Barnes and Paolo Giaccaria, here and here) and his influence on Italian political thought, particularly Giorgio Agamben and Carlo Galli (here and here). The later sections of the book will bear the traces of work I am currently developing on the peculiar ‘spatial histories’ I argue structure Schmitt’s late works such as The Nomos of the Earth, The Theory of the Partisan and the fascinating but overlooked Land and Sea (a poor translation of which you can read on this dreadful American neo-fascist site if you care to!). I will publish some of this material in the coming months but was grateful for the opportunity to have presented elements of it at this year’s AAG conference in Los Angeles as part of a panel on Space and violence (here) and  as part of a panel on Eschatology and World Politics I co-organized with with Ross Adams (London Consortium and Bartlett School of Architecture) at the forthcoming RGS-IBG conference in London (here).

I’ll post more about the book project and related matters as it develops but now back to writing it!

Ray Brassier, Suhail Malik & Reza Negarestani – New York, Sat July 20th

hole-head

This seems a fitting occasion to launch this long-nascent blog:

I’m happy to announce that on Saturday July 20th, Jenny Jaskey (of Artist’s Institute) and myself will be hosting Ray Brassier, Suhail Malik and Reza Negarestani in conversation on the themes of ‘Reason’ and ‘Enlightenment.’

Miguel Abreu Gallery have been kind enough to let us use their new space on Eldridge Street for the event (please note the event will not be held in the Orchard Street gallery). More details to follow.

Ray Brassier, Suhail Malik & Reza Negarestani
Sat July 20th,7pm
88 Eldridge Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10002
For details of future events and the forthcoming transcript see: http://happyhr.org/