Accepted Paper:

On Latour's abundant use of militaristic rhetoric  


Lee Nelson (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

Paper short abstract:

“Science is politics by other means” is a play on the words of Prussian military strategists Carl von Clausewitz. This talk argues that this is just one example of militaristic influences in Latour's work, and that by attending to such instances we come to better understand Latour's politics.

Paper long abstract:

In Graham Harman's recent book on Latour's political philosophy (Reassembling the Political), Harman divides Latour's corpus into three stages. Throughout all of these, one thread of continuity unacknowledged by Harman and others is Latour's frequent use of militaristic language and concepts. While some have criticized particular instances of such use, this presentation argues first (1) that by revisiting Latour's oeuvre and attending to the instances of militaristic influences as integral to Latour's project, we come to better understand his politics and the strategic maneuverings found within his philosophy.

Examples of militaristic language as strategy, tactics, alliances, friends, opponents, and foes frequently appear in Latour's work, as well as such examples as the borrowed framing of "Science is politics by other means" from one of history's most famous military strategists, suggest that such terms are not merely employed but betray how Latour sees himself and his mission as being entrenched on the battle front: "[W]e should accept living in a declared state of war" (2013/2015).

A byproduct of attending to such aspects of Latour's writing is an understanding of his politics. As a deviator from using the traditional categories of Leftist Politics, while nonetheless identifying many of the common enemies of the Left (particularly the Republican Party), the second argument (2) of this presentation is that situating Latour within the Leftist political sphere becomes clearer when we bring to our understanding of Latour's corpus additional terms, ideas, and examples from military history and theory; in particular, "Pitch Battles" with "Fabian Strategies."

Panel T023
Science Is Politics by Other Means Revisited