Objectivist Movement and Objectology.

UPDATE: Utisz points out an interesting story that throws my original observation out for a creepy loop: woman marries Eiffel Tower following her long and torrid love-affair. Talk about a bizarre fetish for inanimate objects. I wonder what would be an orthodox objectological take on fetishism here? Money quote:

“Someone who falls in love with objects can control that relationship on their own terms,” he said. “Their objects will not let them down. That is extremely attractive for a person who is otherwise often desperately lonely.”

Objectology as a perfect philosophy for control-freaks without any visible attachment to human beings and plenty of feelings for inanimate objects? Jump on this one, kids, once objectology is as mighty and popular as it claims it will inevitably be, you can make a career with this interpretive approach.


This is an interesting essay from THE (Times Higher Education) on Ayn Rand:

A characteristic peculiar to Rand that detracts mightily from her works in a spectacular way is her enthusiasm for such inanimate objects as machines, trains, high-tension wires, factories and industrial areas of cities. Her unstinting praise of the so-called geniuses of entrepreneurial bent is difficult enough to swallow; but her paroxysms of delight as she ponders smoke-belching steel mills or grease-covered railroad bridges, page after page, will cause thoughtful readers to experience feelings of profound and abject embarrassment.

This reminds me of something, but I cannot quite put my finger on it.

26 thoughts on “Objectivist Movement and Objectology.

  1. I guess I haven’t followed the recent developments too closely, Bryan, they happen so fast. My superficial knowledge of Marx seems to be all wrong then, I thought it was all about humans and their exploitation and struggle, not really material objects as such – but of course I might be quite wrong here, I probably am actually.

  2. Please refrain from exposing the OOO project to bring in the neo-liberal age by drawing the blood from Marxism 😉

    I must admit to being a little startled. I never heard of Rand until I met an American convert a couple of years back but from what I know OOO being all speculative probably means the Randroids see it as another mad continental metaphysical merry go round.

    Anyway ouch and double ouch!

  3. I saw Fountainhead once, didn’t like it. I’m sure there’s plenty of people who still believe in “free market” and “invisible hand” (the rest of that article is interesting as well), I just came across this passage on smoke-belching steel mills and it got me thinking…

  4. I think Zizek calls Fountainhead the greatest American movie of all time in his documentary. Go figure. I can understand the appeal of Rand – everything tied up in a neat little bow. The world is all that is the case – now go out, be a hero and make some cash.

  5. I think you’re describing a general capitalist attitude, Randians seem to be specifically dismissive of any altruistic motives, any humanity apart from some magical self-interest – fascination with smoke-belching steel mills and not the workers that are exploited there is very characteristic of the approach, it seems. Kind of like a fascination with objects in objectology – but I could be wrong, of course…

  6. It is interesting that Harman’s theory of causation is solely based on the “sensual” concept of “allure”. Objects allure us into a relationship with them. As I have argued elsewhere that Harman’s concept is an orientalizing one:


    Indeed it is based upon the very capacity of projection, how the sensual or really sensuous, controls the material. What I find compelling about the comparison between object love and human love, for instance, is the way that causal connections operate as a kind of “reality principle” the way in which we encounter or experience parts of ourselves because of how another person (or thing) resists us. Projection and allure is not enough to describe the full “outside of ourselves” that world encounters enable. Precisely in the failure of OOP to account for real causation, it seems also to failue to account for personal human change and the normative corrections that that involves. Instead, objects (of which humans are only a type) mix and combine and separate in a myserious process of allure and potencies.

    (Harman’s encounters sound a bit like people in a club, making obscure connections in the dark of strobes while the music of the universe is pounding. Which is fine as it goes, but probably not sufficient for the founding principles for how the Universe IS.)

  7. “her paroxysms of delight as she ponders smoke-belching steel mills or grease-covered railroad bridges, page after page, will cause thoughtful readers to experience feelings of profound and abject embarrassment”

    I have little doubt that if he reads this Graham Harman will order the complete works of Ayn Rand via Amazon immediatedly and then announce it once he has received them on his blog. Probably Rand does not get the profound metaphysical point that steel mills and railroad bridges are vacuum packed objects that infinitely withdraw from all possible relation to the smoke they belch and the grease that covers them, but hey, dont you just love it when people talk about inanimate objects with no human beings on the scene? That is a feat which few philosophers ever accomplish, and the unmistakable signature of a Great Mind at work.

    To be fair to Rand, though, she doesnt just make lists of miscellaneous objects and claim to have thereby invented a radical new form of realist metaphysics. “Will philosophy continue to casually lump together monkeys, tornadoes, diamonds, oil and mail boxes?”, writes Harman, casually lumping them all together. A feeling of profound and abject embarrassment? Yes indeed. Who could NOT feel that about a lame pastiche of Latour proclaiming itself to be the saviour of philosophy other than, maybe, a few overimpressionable postgrad students who like being told that philosophy is as easy as painting pretty pictures with words?

    • Ouch, I’m going to race Harman and order the complete works of Rand myself and blog its step by step arrival, including the amusing details of the local customs.

      I’m sure though that there is a complex philosophical explanation of how objectology is not a simple perverse form of objectophilia – I’m sure someone is working on it right now casually throwing in together Marx, Latour, Lacan, and some obscure figure that this new study will return to everyone’s stupid attention (because Harman was reading that guy in grad school when all the others were reading Derrida and Foucault, such losers). Well, I’m eager to see where this one goes – hopefully someone eventually marries one of those vacuum packed smoke belching mills, they are surely not marrying regular people, too unreliable and too human, not very object-like: “Why didn’t you pick up milk like I asked you to?” – “I’m sorry, honey, I was too vacuum packed”…

      • Again you flagrantly display your correlationist bias by elevating all forms of grocery purchasing discourse to human-human interactions. Maybe the milk DIDN’T WANT to be picked up by you and your dirty, lascivious paws. The milk has needs too, god damn it, needs that only I can provide it with. Which is why Milk and I are getting married next week. I meant to inform you sooner, but I knew you might take it the wrong way.

    • Tobias, I like the ‘vaccum packed’ analogy. It would remind us that someone did the vacuum packing…or built the vacuum packing machine.

  8. I was just now tickling my wife and she was like, no, no, and I was like, stop yer complainin’, you’re vacuum sealed, so she said dude, knock it off yer poppin’ my vacuum.

  9. From The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq, pp. 312-313:

    “Their aim, of course, was first to do away with money and sex, two pernicious factors of which they had been able to recognize the importance through the collective human life stories. It was equally a question of casting aside any notion of political choice, the source, they write, of ‘false but violent’ passions. These preconditions for a negative order, indispensable as they were, were not, however, sufficient in their eyes to enable neohumanity to rejoin ‘the obvious neutrality of the real,’ to use their frequently cited expression; it was also necessary to provide a concrete catalog of positive prescriptions. Individual behavior, they note in Prolegomena to the Construction of the Central City (significantly, the first neohuman work not to have a named author), was to become ‘as predictable as the functioning of a refrigerator.’ Indeed, while writing down their instructions, they acknowledged as a main source of stylistic inspiration, indeed more than any other human literary production, ‘the manual for electrical appliances of medium size and complexity, in particular the video player JVC HR-DV 3S/MS.'”

  10. Laugh if you like; but, meet the Extropians, carriers of the Randian flame (with qualifications, of course) and already weaponizing the essential extracts of Eliminative Materialism. Even now, some assemblage with a spare $billion is preparing to initiate either The Flood or The Waterless Flood by seeding the atmosphere with Like it or not, you will ultimately be uploaded into their simulation..

    “Nothing is easier for things than to connect, to metamorphose one into the other. To prevent that – to obtain a purely contingent world – we need to suppose an infinite will and energy… But all of this is based on the flawed hypothesis of a chaotic world … Everything, on the contrary, is fatally, admirably connected – not at all according to rational relations … but according to an incessant cycle of metamorphoses, according to the seductive rapports of form and appearance” (Baudrillard, “The Object and Its Destiny”)

  11. Carl, Alec Eiffel is a great reference here, and an awesome song of course. I’m sure there has to be a way to make an I Believe In Space or Motorway To Roswell reference as well. Please try to figure that out for me. (And who says second hand living just won’t do?)
    Mikhail, I can’t tell how much of your initial comment is sincere and how much is sarcasm. Assuming the doubt you express in your reading is at all sincere, I think you’re dead right. Marx is very explicit that machinery and so on doesn’t create surplus value, only humans do, and actually only that subset of humans who get paid wages. If that comment is all sarcasm then pay me no mind.

    • Nate, I was not sarcastic about my puzzlement that someone would care more about “smoke-belching mills” and not the people who are exploited there – in a fit of masochism I’m rereading Capital and all that stuff about “socially necessary labor time” and so forth is very much at the top of my list of things to think more (especially vis-a-vis state and law basically serving to guarantee that the conditions of “successful” exploitation stay in place – not in these precise words, but I think it’s fair to summary the issue this way). So I’m confused why people would care for stones (although they are much “nicer than people” because they don’t talk back) when, if one were to believe David Harvey, the number of global proletariat doubled since 1970s – I think it is in this sense that any fascination with objects is not just silly, but simply idiotic…

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