I went to hear Mark C. Taylor this evening, his talk was titled “Religion in the Age of Globalization” but it was mostly about things he apparently discusses in his recent work, namely, on money and markets and on religion and auto-immunity. He talked about all these issues in a kind of “theory of everything” manner which, if I understand it, he tried to summarize in his work on complexity and networks. Now I have to say I had no idea Mark C. Taylor was publishing all this stuff. The last thing I remember him doing were all those things about Altarity and Imagologies. He certainly tried to present his recent research in a kind of basic power-point-like presentation (with very basic diagrams, in fact, so basic that one wonders if he needs to hire a good media person to help him with the visual stuff), but he spent an incredible amount of time trying to explain very subtle economic matters to the audience that was primarily interested in religion and philosophy.
After all was said (and done, I suppose), Taylor’s main proposition about both economic networks and religion was following: that which is designed to stabilize the system is in fact that which causes its destabilization. He quickly then switched to religion and basically said that religious organizations and various types of fundamentalist movements seems to be acting in a way that supports those political and economic policies that undermine the insecurity and destabilization that they are attempting to fight. After two hours this was a very basic “Duh” moment and the first questions from the audience really made that visible. One questioner pointed out that this was the basic thesis of structuralism – any attempt to close the network results in its further destabilization – and that Derrida already said most of the theoretical things Taylor was simply fleshing out. Taylor further illustrated that point by “answering” the question with more illustrations of “auto-immunity” and what Derrida called an alliance of religion and tele-technology in “Faith and Knowledge.” Several other questions from the audience attempts to solicit a sort of more or less ethical evaluation of the whole notion of self-regulating market and increasing complexification of networks, all they really got were more examples of how complex and interconnected everything is.
One curious detail was his hint that there’s a connection between Ockham and Derrida because – get this – Derrida’s son wrote a book about Ockham (Pierre Alferi, Guillaume d’Ockham le singulier) and therefore – like father, like son? – one must look into it. That story annoyed me a bit, because it was one of those “if you knew Jacques like I did, you would know this” type. But in any case, here’s Alferi talking about his poetry and such:
PS. Alferi also translated Agamben’s book on Auschwitz into French – now that’s the kind of sexy detail you can use in a casual pretentious conversation – you will thank me later, dear reader…