Technology and Culture Reading Group

TCRG – School of Culture and Communication – University of Melbourne

Month: December, 2013

TCRG x AIME 6: “Intensifying the experience of scruples”

by lukevanryn

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We finish the year and the Inquiry with chapter 16: “Intensifying the experience of scruples”. In the previous two chapters, Latour has been unravelling the Economy, and showing its reliance upon three different kinds of beings: those of organization, attachment and morality. Chapter 14, which we read last week,  presented “scripts” as crucial quasi-subjects in organizational life [ORG]. Chapter 15 drew out the importance of attachment (and detachment) [ATT] to economic life. This chapter attempts to understand morality [MOR] as a specific mode of being, even though all Modes contain a form of judgement (452).

…just as no one, once the instrument has been calibrated, would think of asking the geologist if radioactivity is ‘all in his head,’ ‘in his heart,’ or ‘in the rocks,’ no one will doubt any longer that the world emits morality toward anyone who possesses an instrument sensitive enough to register it. (456)

Also included is the conclusion chapter, “Can we praise the civilization to come?”, which provides a summary of the book’s goals and some suggestions for how we might measure its success.

We meet as usual in the Pierre Gorman Room, 1888 Building, at 5pm this Tuesday 17th December. All are welcome.

[PDF] Latour, B. (2013) “Intensifying the experience of scruples” and “Can we praise the civilization to come?” An Inquiry into the Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns (C. Porter, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, ch. 16, 17.

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TCRG x AIMe 6: “Speaking of organization in its own language”

by lukevanryn

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In this chapter Latour tackles the economy, which troubles the Inquiry, because it seems to already have provided a “powerful metalanguage” for the description of everyday life (383).  Latour finds three key problems with thinking about the economy: economic theory describes in a cool, even tone the heat of economic activity (386); economics finds calculation everywhere, and decision nowhere (387); attributes to a different order of being what should be immanent, as one of his interlocutors expresses it:

behind all that agitation you haven’t yet detected the assured presence of the real sources of organization: Society, the State, the Market, Capitalism, the only great beings that actually hold up this jumble (388).

Noting that the Economy relies upon the resources of attachement [att], morality [mor], and organization [org], he spends the bulk of the chapter discussing organization, or as he would prefer to put it, organizing. Drawing on work by John Law and Michel Callon, Latour attempts to get at what is specific to the work of organizing, and the contribution of organization to what we think of as the Economy, particularly through the extended metaphor of the “script”.

We meet as usual in the Pierre Gorman Room, 1888 Building, at 5pm this Tuesday 10th December.

[PDF] Latour, B. (2013) “Speaking of organization in its own language” An Inquiry into the Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns (C. Porter, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, ch. 14.