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:


“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.

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