Coercive Accountibility


I just got a hold of Gaye Tuchman’s Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University and came across this passage:

..the “audit society” enables “coercive accountability” carried out in the guise of transparency, trust and public service.  As an organizational order, the audit society is dedicated to encouraging organizations (including governments) and their members to measure their aspirations, fears, and accomplishments against the hopes, worries and activities of peers and competitors and to accept that those measurements have consequences.  It entails both forced and voluntary surveillance, as individuals and organizations audit themselves and subject themselves to audit by others.  Of course, to do so, they must make both their organizations and themselves audible.  That is, they must transform both their organizations and themselves into entities that can be defined, delineated and measured.  That transformation and coercive accountibility associated with both an audit society and its culture helps to constitute an accountability regime--a politics of surveillance, control and market management disguising itself as the value-neutral and scientific administration of individuals and organizations (12).

It’s like she’s been following me around at work.

83 thoughts on “Coercive Accountibility

  1. When I used to measure healthcare outcomes, doctors had the same gripe: it’s just a way for managers to keep professionals under managerial control. Of course there was some truth to it. The thing is though, empirical outcomes weren’t improving dramatically while costs kept going up up up, at twice the rate of inflation over the past 30 years. What is the justification for these price increases? The doctors, hospitals, and drug companies lay the blame on all those measurement people eating up overhead dollars. Good luck with that.

    In higher education costs have gone up even faster than in healthcare — three times the rate of inflation. Is a university education today three times as good as it was a generation ago?

    In many fields of study, students could get a pretty good education just by reading, thinking, and discussing the ideas among one another. The cost would be almost nil, making higher education affordable for anyone who had the time to devote to it.

  2. I really want to read this book – does she talk about Marx there? Because this is right from Capital, more or less, think chapter 10 on working day – the situation here is of course slightly different, but the idea is the same, if in Capital you have factory inspectors and those who make sure you don’t take a longer lunch break or an extra bathroom break, then here you shift the responsibility to administrators (or profs themselves, that’s much better, I think Foucault here is very Marxist in his analysis of discipline as self-discipline) who make sure you do something that’s measurable (evaluations, assessment, tenure track etc etc), so that your surplus-labour is visible for the customers (published so many books, got so many grants and so on) – I think the sadest part is how many academics actually buy in this mentality and measure their academic success, their very academic selves, by the amount of achievements they have (see Objectologist the Son’s bitter accusation that we here at PE “achieve nothing” and other examples of comparing CVs the way teenager boys compare the sizes of their dicks)…

  3. The similarities with Marx/Foucault are striking here, but Tuchman isn’t engaging either of them directly. Rather, it looks like she is building on a discussion about auditing and coercion from here (which naturally makes good use of Foucault, for one):

    http://www.routledgeanthropology.com/books/Audit-Cultures-isbn9780415233279

    Also, what’s of relevance to this discussion is Boltanski/Chiapello’s New Spirit of Capitalism (which by the way is rather pricey).

    What’s interesting to me is connection between this culture of audit/coercion and de-professionalization. As for biggest monkey on the mountain, the last chapter deals with the myriad “logics of compliance.” Hopefully I’ll have some time to flesh out some of these themes as I read through Tuchman’s text.

    • I have that Boltanski/Chiapello book, it’s thick and awesome, but I don’t remember it being too expensive (or maybe I had more money back when I bought it) – I cited it in my post on Project-Oriented Philosophy (check our bloggin-agenda meetings for July, Appendix G).

      It’s strange that it would not directly mention Marx/Foucault even if it is based on the work that is based on their work. But I guess Marx, for example, is responsible for many things that have become common sense – do you think taking things in a bit of a more “class struggle” way would be helpful in this discussion? Who are the “capitalists” in the university context? Who produces value? I fear that some administrators have forgotten Marx’s insight (if they ever knew this) that it is people who make value, not buildings or laboratories or machines (whether in the factory or in the university).

  4. Up through the third grade our daughter attended a “progressive” school: no tests, no grades, every child a blooming flower. The parents generally loved the idea, but it made them (us) nervous: but how can we KNOW that our child will be ready for middle school? As I recall the principal scolded us for confusing ontology with epistemology.

  5. Why are you surprised, Bryan? Harman takes his own “shame on you” and makes into “shame on Harman” – I mean did he even double-check who said what? All that bullshit about “good” critique and “bad” critique is such an idiotic position, I’m surprised anyone’s still paying attention to it – clearly, “good” critique is the one I like, “bad” is the one I don’t like: Shaviro can criticize Harman’s position on thing-in-itself, he’s allowed, he’s a friend, he doesn’t mean it, it’s all buddy-buddy; you cannot, you’re not a friend, even if you say the same thing…

    Did anyone actually see the whole “allude” vs. “allure” gaff?

  6. Oh boy, Harman already wrote two posts about you, Bryan – this is the very same thing that happened to DV, although Harman was eventually shamed into erasing all that nasty stuff where he was posting other people’s emails and generally making big fuss about nothing (sort of like a 4 year old who didn’t get his daily nap).

    That’s convenient that you cannot really defend yourself since Harman’s blog doesn’t have comments and he’s not in the habit of actually justifying his bullying outbursts. Maybe you sent him an angry email? What did you do to piss the Big Man off? Run for your life!

  7. The guy is totally full of himself. I suspect that his most recent sensitivities to critiques that have real bite (i.e., “bad critiques,” since they don’t include enough praise and acceptance of his daring speculative genius while disagreeing, perhaps, over a few minor aspects of his theories), such as Kvond’s sustained critique of Harman’s nonsensical theory of causality, and even his insane lashing out at Shaviro, myself, and other bloggers in a manner totally disproportionate to the original posts is that, when added together, the critiques are slowly chipping away at his “great idea,” exposing it to be what it is: an elaborate facade.

  8. Subservient Objectologist the Son echoes the master with a hypocritical post on how uncool it is to blog under a pseudonym:

    http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/a-follow-up-on-critique/

    This is, note for those who like myself have been reading Larval Subjects aka Dr. Synthome for many years, coming from a guy who personally asked me to remove a tag “Levi Bryant” from my post about his book (when I posted on it) arguing that he didn’t want the world to know that “Larval Subjects” or “Dr. Synthome” is actually “Levi Bryant” because back then he was still trying to get a job or something.

    It’s great though that he appreciates the bravery of people who blog under their own names and put their “offline” lives at risk, he didn’t have the guts to do so for many years and now he’s pretending like he’s always been blogging under his real name with his picture and information attached. This is making me physically sick, people, where does such lack of self-awareness come from? So Bryant decided to “come out” and reveal his name, he’s now a hero and everyone else who chooses to stay in blogging “closet” are weaklings and assholes?

    • You’re missing the point, old fart, read this part from LS:

      This isn’t true for the rest of us who have either a) left enough clues for anyone enterprising person to discover who we are, or b) who participate with full disclosure of who we are. In these cases our engagement online can significantly impact our careers and future career opportunities.

      You see, Bryant was not really blogging anonymously all these years, he was Option a) as he was leaving “enough clues for anyone [sic] enterprising person to discover” who he was – see the difference? If you didn’t discover who he was, you weren’t trying hard enough, he wasn’t hiding, he was just trying not leave a “paper trail” – he was being an asshole to others under a pseudonym without any information on his blog about his real identity (without any “real life consequences”), but it was totally different from the situation he is condemning in this most recent indignant post and if you don’t see it, that’s because you are not smart enough.

  9. Lou, I wrote this comment over at Shaviro’s blog:

    http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=810#comments

    My complaint was basically that I thought it was absurd that Graham should take credit for a critique of Hegel that has existed for, oh, about 200 years, and that there is nothing particularly brilliant about repeating Hegel’s claim that “to know the limit is to transcend it,” since anyone can just as easily appropriate anyone else’s arguments. But apparently Shaviro’s remark that “Harman usefully critiques the correlationist claim that you cannot think the unthought, or that ‘to think things-in-themselves converts them into things-for-us’ because by the very act of referring to something ostensibly outside thought you are therefore bringing it within thought” actually somehow magically means, according to Harman, that he is, quote unquote, “not critiquing the thing-in-itself, I’m *affirming* it.”

    Frankly, I don’t give a rats ass about what Harman’s position on the thing-in-itself is, but I do consider it an honor to have become the latest effigy in his valiant crusade against all opposition in the blogosphere.

  10. Mikhail, Levi’s post is equally hypocritical given that he deliberately used the fact that I blog under my real name to Google search me, and then write an inflammatory post against me using personal information he harvested off of the Internet (the comment he wrote is now gone ever since he deleted the “For Reid” thread over at Larval Subjects). Hilarious.

    His whole support for openness and transparency also belies the implicit warning he makes against real names and paper trails. In doing so, he seems to suggest that people like Graham (and now perhaps himself?) are “gatekeepers,” rather than bullies (at least Graham, I don’t feel like arguing with Levi anymore about past disagreements), whose online presence makes them seem far more important than they are outside the Internet. Basically, I read Levi’s post less as an invitation to openness, than as something of a threat:

    In this connection, I have to give a number of the graduate students that participate online with full disclosure of who they are props for their courage. The academic rat race is already competitive enough– the only equivalents I can think of are the NFL draft or getting a good gig in Hollywood –without having an online “paper trail” following one about. The grad students that publicly reveal who they are really have balls because their engagement online **will impact their subsequent career in the form of publishing opportunities, presentation opportunities, and project opportunities with the gatekeepers that happen to witness their meritorious or not so meritorious interactions online**, as well as the word of mouth that gets around in the small world of academia when names come up.

    Notice how he gives “props” to those who reveal their identity, then slips in that “…or not so meritorious interactions online”?

  11. This seems to confirm a certain level of megalomania at the heart of the speculative realist, or at least object-oriented, movement, viewing themselves as some sort of all powerful cadre that wields authority over Continental Philosophy as such. Which also demonstrates their inherent myopia, perhaps a symptom of SRs Internet-centric discourse.

  12. Yeah, that “Publius” guy who wrote The Federalist Papers was a coward hiding behind a pseudonym, whatever happened to that jerk?

    Seriously though, the argument that if you blog anonymously, then you are more likely to be an asshole is exposed as false by Larval Subjects himself – he is often an asshole to others (and admits as much) these days when he is blogging under his own name – so coming out and announcing his real name didn’t do the trick for him (feeling secure in his job and academic prospects probably moved him to quietly reveal his real name and occupation), why should it work for others? Again, why invent excuses for not reacting to assholish comments? Just ignore them, for God’s sake, whether they are anonymous or not!

  13. It seems that your nasty critique of Bryant’s “hypocrisy” did the trick and he actually erased the post in question (let’s be megalomaniac here and pretend that you are really making a difference) – does the man know about this wonderful feature called “Drafts” or does he just publish whatever comes to mind and then takes it down?

    I seriously doubt he gets the point of his hypocritical anti-pseudonymous blogging rants, he probably just didn’t want to leave a “paper trail” – awesomeness! he he

  14. Hmm. I don’t have a problem with anonymity and I simply don’t understand why it’s worth “critiquing” critique. If I don’t like a comment I can respond or simply ignore it. It strikes me as somewhat condescending to give a lesson on how to properly critique someone. Of course, there are various forms of critique and some are better than others. Now, I can appreciate the whole aspect of “putting oneself on the line,” but given the nuances of the “market” and the institutionalized attacks on academic freedom that are now pervasive in academic life it’s probably better–in the name of self-preservation–to blog anonymously until one is tenured or at least, in a secure position. Nonetheless, it’s hard for me to not think of Blanchot here. For Blanchot, to write means writing without a proper name, without subjectivity: the one who writes gives him/herself up to the otherness of writing. “I” do not write, the voice heard in language does not belong to me, but to the neutrality of writing. Although writing is for Blanchot an endless conversation with other writers and philosophers, for him respecting the otherness of the other, or the value of friendship, demands not to pull the other into the “limelight,” but instead letting the other withdraw and disappear. To be a writer doesn’t mean to find oneself in the role of an eyewitness or an observer, but rather to witness through the movement of writing that which remains invisible to the flashes of the paparazzi’s cameras. Somewhere in Jabes’ massive Book of Questions there’s a line to the effect of “I’ve given you my name and it’s a dead end.” Maybe.

  15. I think there’s a certain element of the need to control the conversation at play – maybe it’s just Harman’s and Bryant’s personal style or maybe it’s a larger academic issue (see Butler University suing an anonymous blogger to reveal his identity and other similar episodes) – but knowing exactly who you are talking to is clearly driven by desire to control the conversation.

    Take our little amusing Alexei-gate when he put some questions to Objectologist the Son under an assumed name (I forget it, it was long) – the Son didn’t know what to make of it not in terms of the argument, but in terms of how to treat this anonymous stranger: was it a graduate student punk he could lecture? was it a professor he needed to suck up to? was it a non-philosopher he can dismiss? etc etc.

    According to this perverse logic, every time anyone comments on any blog, even if they do so under their real names, they must publish a short autobiographical disclaimer. Again, just because Bryant (and Harman) himself live through their blogs (or diaries) and reveal their most inner thoughts and circumstances doesn’t mean others must as well – in fact to insist that they must is sheer idiocy…

  16. My blogosense was tingling…

    And it appears I missed some good ol’ fashioned bad behaviour, and the posts that have disappeared (anyone remember the short lived sitcom, Men behaving badly? someone should come up with an ‘academics behaving badly’ — a friend of mine and I actually toyed with the idea of a sitcom called, “The Faculty” but realized that, unlike the Office, too few people would really be all that interested). Rambles aside, I think there are two separate issues here:

    (1) forms of coercion and policing related to anonymity, and the ability to control a conversation, etc
    (2) the status and grounds of ‘criticism’

    I think everyone is on the same page viz (1). And Levi is awful, but awful when it comes to trying to control the conversation (including his Orwellian policies of retroactive comment deletion, and of not letting certain responses in an ongoing ‘conversation’ pass through his filter). The best part of the Tuffini-affair was when Levi began revealing what little information he had on this character (his location obtained by IP address) in order to coerce or intimidate him. Talk about a perlocutionary effect! I’m almost tempted to say, by way of a speculative aside, that Levi’s Lacanian background is the underlying cause of all this. He always wants to set himself up in the position of the analyst, of the master of discourse, and always employs some version of a hermeneutics of suspicion. It’s why some of his responses seem to be so unconnected from what others have actually said — he’s replying to the unstated propositions they contain. But I won’t commit myself to these remakrs; they come dangerously close to mind-reading.

    I find myself half-agreeing with Harman, however, on (2) — or at least the Ideal-Type of criticism it half-articulates. I mean, honestly, there’s a fair amount of useless criticism of useless, wrong-headed philosophy out there. And regardless of what model of criticism you hold (Kantian critique as Discipline, Romantic destructive-Absolutization, Hegelian Critique as transformative social practice, Adornian Critique as ethical resistance, Benjaminian Critique as Rescue — whatever). Harman’s position on the matter seems to be that, on the one hand, bad philosophy withers and dies of its own accord and so doesn’t need the criticism (he almost immediately takes this back, though, by emphasizing that philosophies gain adherents for stylistic reasons… but whatever). On the other hand, critique that doesn’t open anything up is fruitless too. The Ideal-Typical form of criticism, then, is something akin to romantic critique: the very-bad–but-popular-philosophy and the -excellent-but-flawed-philosophy are the only objects worthy of criticism. Only the extremes are valuable, and only critiques that release their inner truth and greatness are worthwhile.

    Harman, unfortunately, is caught up in a personalism that complicates his own ideal-type, It doesn’t allow him to see the social function of criticism outside of its direct relevance to the person being criticised, which is a shame. For criticism is inherently a social, community oriented kind of endeavour: it creates a sensus communis in Kant’s sense.

    Most of Harman’s whingings, diatribes, and complaints about criticism — and literally everything he’s published has some section denouncing ‘critique’ — strike me as stemming form his inability to really locate himself within a given philosophical community. IN a sense he’s too exposed, and gets hammered from every corner (not a heideggerian, not a Husserlian, not an analytic philosopher, not a historian, not a….). I can sympathize, because there’s nothing worse than being the perfect victim for everyone else.

    But even as I say this, my gut response is: suck it up. You’ve got books published, you’ve got a job, etc. What the hell do you care if folks unproductively criticize your work. Grow a thicker skin and move on with your project — we bottom feeders need the pointless publications to move to the point where we can get past them.

  17. Since I agree with all of what you’re saying, Alexei, (being the same person really help as well), I’d like to point out that Objectologist the Son must be reading this blog religiously – he took down his post, now he’s explaining it as producing “more conflict” and as far as I can tell, no one really noticed his post but me, so he must be referring to our comments here, but it is back now – the man can’t make up his mind: close comments, open comments, let’s be friends, let’s be enemies, I like you, I hate you – that’s exhausting, isn’t it?

    http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/a-follow-up-on-critique-2/

  18. I’m pretty sure that he erased it because he saw his own hypocrisy – anonymous blogger himself for many years, he realized that tsk-tsking others for it now is disingenuous – then he got an email from Objectologist the Father scolding him for being such a baby and succumbing to these assholes from PE and so forth. So he put it back up to show his hero that he has a spine – everybody wins!

  19. As a mind game, I sometimes try to imagine how absurd such posts might look like from the perspective of an outsider:

    I guess my thoughts on the matter were that “meta” discussions of how people communicate with one another, how they should communicate with one another, norms of civility, and trolls, gray vampires, and minotaurs have the paradoxical effect of generating more conflict, not less.

    and…

    They can be the biggest asshole in the world, spout the most ridiculous absurdities, engage in the most trollish, vampirish, or minotaurish behaviors without having to suffer any real world consequences for how they’ve participated or engaged with others.

    Reminds me of a really incensed reflection on a dungeons and dragons game gone awry.

  20. Check out this triple threat:

    http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/invasion-of-the-body-snatchers/#comments

    In a single comment some hapless guy manages to commit not one, not two, but THREE fallacies!! I’ve painstakingly listed them below:

    * line drawing fallacy
    * epistemic fallacy
    * special pleading fallacy

    I haven’t read Levi’s response, so allow me to make up what each mean:

    The first fallacy occurs when an author claims that he or she can draw a line. It does not matter between what or where, only the implied construction of a line, and the act of drawing it. However, it is quite obvious that only circles are ever capable of being drawn.

    The second fallacy has to do with the fact that, while your argument appears to be epistemologically coherent, it is in fact ontologically wrong, and the epistemic fallacy occurs when you are under the misguided notion that you believe that you *are* right when in fact you only *think* you’re right, but in fact are (always) wrong—at least when the fallacy is invoked by Levi, like a magical “summon” (?) in dungeons and dragons.

    The third fallacy relates to the first: it occurs when we draw a line (see?) between special and not so special pleading, like “I really, really want that candy apple!” and “Please judge, I request a stay of execution in order to have more time to prove my innocence.” Special pleading is not allowed in the House of Levi.

    I would also like to add a few more fallacies/magic tricks to the list:

    * The nipple twist fallacy
    * The bad infinity fallacy fallacy
    * The one fish two fish red fish blue fish fallacy
    * The dark night of the soul fallacy
    * The emperor has no clothes fallacy

    There are many more.

  21. I propose “I think you are an asshole” fallacy:

    Instead of addressing the issue, I accuse you of being uncivil and imply that it is the worst possible online sin ever. After shocked gasps die out, I proceed to dismantle your views in a similar assholish manner.

    Mr. Bryant is really good at that one, one of the best actually.

    (I think this blog is slowly becoming a kind of “return of the repressed” – you get banned from LS, so you carry out your nasty attacks in other ways, it’s strange that the self-proclaimed psychoanalyst would not see how his ban could only result in this – maybe you should just leave him alone for once, let him be a small feudal lord in his small blogging world?)

  22. Larval Subjects’ lecturing of commenters (the ones who are not yet banned and the ones who make it through his moderation filter) is really getting to a point of such ridiculousness that I almost want to shout out loud: “This is clearly a ‘what the fuck are you talking about?’ fallacy!!!” Does this guy have any life outside of his blog? Any “real life” friends? Girlfriend? Wife? I mean he lives in a bubble and likes it there, apparently. I’m know that’s how most philosophically inclined people I know are, so maybe it’s the price they pay for being really smart, but still – god, get a life!

    Bryan, what is this fascinating “one fish two fish blue fish red fish fallacy”? Is it related to the red herring?

  23. Anon: “maybe you should just leave him alone for once, let him be a small feudal lord in his small blogging world?”

    I think you’re absolutely right, but sometimes I’m just so astounded by these kinds of things that I can’t help but share my excitement and laughter for all others to enjoy. But I think it probably has the unhelpful consequence of feeding certain egos.

  24. Glad to see that you’ve finally accepted our ontological indiscernability, Mikhail. We may become one person yet! But in the absence of any true intertheoretical reduction — and the pseudonymic eliminativism it would entail — we will have to continue producing differences. Said differently: stop agreeing with me, it makes things boring!

    But really, I would really like to second Anon’s suggestion that we all give up on larval subjects. Other than groan-inspiring remarks, what else can we, the banned find there? As it stands, we’re just contributing to the decline of civilisation (or at least of good ol’ fashioned scholarship), especially since we know that Levi relishes and thrives upon this kind of conflict. So, moratorium on reading — or at least reacting to — larval subjects? Like the moratorium on Cod fishing, it promises to rejuvenate the blogosphere.

  25. I’d like to join the moratorium as well. In the end, during the last year or so it was nothing but a) bitch-fights with nasty critics, b) ass-kissing and other unpleasant academic stuff (kind of things LS used to make fun of and deride when he was “cool”), and c) continuous lecturing of new kids on the block (accompanied by more and more strict moderation of comments – how do we know good substantial criticism ever makes it through?).

    Let them invent new types of philosophy with fire not being able to smell cotton and so on. If it helps them secure better institutional positions (more money, more respect, more self-esteem), then why not?

    • Agreed, Mikhail. So far as I can tell, absolutely no productive dialogue has occurred in the last year or so. At it’s best, we had the ‘you’re wronger than me’ arguments. and at worst, we had the ‘your a bunch of batshit crazy jerks with absolutely zero philosophical potential or acumen’ arguments. At least that’s how my own engagements have felt like (and I’ve been every bit as jerky as Levi) And in any case, both extremes were tedious. It’s time to cut the cord….

  26. You vampires are totally sucking my energy!

    Now there’s a sanctified place for Objectology and allegedly, critiques thereof: http://anotherheideggerblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/ooo-journal-forthcoming.html

    Will this succeed in removing the aura from OOO and/or move OOO further into the dark recesses of hermeticism and the petty protection from criticism?

    One can almost hear it now: “Shhh…we’re amongst friends now, no longer can the likes of anonymous bloggers piss on our parade.”

  27. Not to immediately pooh-pooh this idea, but it’s part of Open Humanities Alliance which is where anyone can start their own “journal” and they will host it for free (while the grant money lasts). Shahar’s and I’s “Perverse Egalitarianism Register” (published twice a week, xeroxed and mailed to our 7 subscribers) is more of a journal than this.

    It looks more legitimate than a blog, but has no real journal-like regulatory apparatus:

    Are journals hosted by Open Humanities Alliance also part of Open Humanities Press?

    No. Unlike the journals hosted here, OHP journals undergo editorial review by OHP’s Editorial Oversight Group to make sure they meet OHP’s editorial and production standards. However, anyone is welcome to submit their journal to the OHP editorial board for potential inclusion in the OHP collective once it has published a couple of issues.

    So looks like just another online space to police and to control – the more, the better!

  28. I was thinking that the first issue should consist of 12 positive papers dealing exclusively with Levi’s philosophy. What do you think guys? I was hoping you could all submit a paper telling us how much you dig objects. Perverse Objectology. Something like that.

  29. Because the second part consists of a 30,000 word paper called ‘Why Kant was retarded’. You guys are gonna love it.

  30. dealing exclusively with Levi’s philosophy

    What is this “Levi’s philosophy” by the way? That stuff he posts on his blog? I know he published his dissertation (his “first” book), but this way every PhD graduate has his own philosophy – I also saw a short (and confused) outline of his future (non-sensically labeled) book Democracy of Objects or How Objects Are Better Than You, but does he have a “philosophy” to dedicate a journal to? He should first publish some books, get someone other than Harman and Co. to assess that work as interesting and deserving of attention, then maybe I’ll subscribe to your journal.

    On the other hand, I’m clearly just jealous.

  31. This is pretty much off-topic now, but just wanted to drop this favorite quote of mine into the breach of Shahar’s original post:

    Each official goal lets loose a doctrine, with its own inquisitors and its own martyrs, and within institutions there seems to be no natural check on the license of easy interpretation that results. Every institution must not only make some effort to realize its official aims but must also be protected, somehow, from the tyranny of a diffuse pursuit of them, lest the exercise of authority be turned into a witch hunt. — Erving Goffman, Asylums (1961)

    It’s nice when things that are true of asylums are true of the rest of our lives as well.

    Strangely this Levi/Harman lampoonage seems familiar. Perhaps it’s time to assemble the greatest hits album.

  32. On a related note is there any way I can convince one or two of you guys to submit a paper? From what I can gauge some of you are lecturers and other graduate students and I know things can get busy and OOP is not your main area. Nonetheless it’s clear you have a thing or two to say about OOP and I’d love to include some critical papers – especially if I can get one from the Kantian end (since SR is broadly an anti-correlationist or anti-Kantian movement at heart). Perhaps even a collaborative paper on ‘The impossibility of object oriented ontology’.

    • Paul, there’s no “us” – it’s just me (one person) posting under a variety of pseudonyms. I think you’re generally wrong about SR (I don’t know about OOP, it seems like a rather confusing position to me, bordering on baseless speculation and desperate search for novel ways of saying old truths) and it’s not anti-Kantian at all. In fact, I’m not even sure anyone can honestly describe this SR-type of philosophy as anything (every time I ask, I get a coy and elusive response about shared dislikes and such, but no real position). Then there’s people like yourself who conflate SR and OOP/OOO and we get ridiculous SR/OOO/OOR combinations that are even more meaningless.

      Do I have things to say about object-oriented ontology? Sure. I’ve been honestly trying to engage Levi and look where it all ended. Let’s be serious here for a moment, even if I had something to say/write, I would not do so at this point because

      a) there’s no real literature to discuss at this point, just a lot of exciting blogging – give me a coherent argument for “The possibility of object-oriented ontology” and then we can talk, maybe I’ll wait until Levi finally publishes his book;

      b) regardless of your (admirable) enthusiasm, I don’t see a journal yet and I seriously doubt I can work myself up into a mood to write something for a non-existing publication that, for example, Levi has already excitedly announced as existing and “peer-reviewed” and from what you say, it’s just an idea in your head with a possible title and nothing more.

      I do wish you the best of luck in this pursuit though, I’m sure SR/OOO/OOP will greatly benefit from efforts of enthusiasts like yourself (and I mean it sincerely). However, I’m a hegemonic careerist with a hunger to mock and dismiss out of hand real philosophical positions, not some half-baked blogosphere fads.

      • Wow, ME, I think you’ve just earned the “grumpiest comment of the year” award with this response. You deserve a new honorific title: I dub thee, sir grumpsalot.

        To be honest, though, I do agree with you that OOO and SR lack anything approximating a coherent philosophical position, and so it’s far too early to talk of a philosophical movement. The published material out there of which I’m aware doesn’t seem to be all that coherent. I’m convinced, for instance, that Meillassoux’s little book is hopeless. At bottom the whole problem of the Arche-fossil is little more than a conundrum concerning the character of ‘truth:’ if one were to look up some articles on Truth-Maker theories one would find the problem clearly stated more than 20 years ago — with reference to husserl, as well as Russell and Wittgenstein, and Aristotle. Mulligan Simons and Smith’s paper, “Truth-Makers,” which is replete with a discussion of Aristotle’s fourfold and a distinction between moments and fundaments which maps directly onto Harman’s work, would be a good place to start). Said simply, all of this new and exciting work is — to its detriment — developing in a vaccuum. So really, if you want to do realist ontology, then you need to sit down and get up to speed on an analytic tradition that’s been doing realist ontology for about 100 years now. In particular, theories of dispositions, causal powers, internal and external properties (primary and secondary qualities), and truth seem to address pretty much what everyone wants. Without taking a look at this material, what’s being produced threatens to merely reinvent the wheel.

        So, from my perspective at least, what’s needed isn’t so much a new journal, but a bridge-building exercise whereby the new continental realists get to know their analytic counterparts. It’s time to start reading; writing can follow later.

  33. Well I’ll take that as a no! Hopefully I can prove you wrong about the faddishness of object oriented ontology (I can’t believe your making me type it out fully!).

    Anyway I accept your criticisms. However I will hold you to writing a review of Levi’s book when it comes out. Or else I’ll respond to every post here with nothing more than the words ‘OBJECTOLOGY’ for months on end until you give in.

  34. Congratulations, PJE, on at least smoking out for a moment the ‘real’ grumptastic Mikhail. Deeptrek was a pretty transparent persona, but Shahar, Alexei, Jon, Bryan, Asher and Carl were amazingly detailed; although on closer inspection by canny observers like Levi, there was a certain telltale sameness. Nicole and Paco were disappointments, but still one must admire the scope of ambition and execution.

    This Carl persona has just got done writing a series of posts on the virtues of the blogosphere as a networking medium, but it’s generally true that it’s better suited for identity tricks, playfulness and posturing than it is for the development of substantive conceptual positions. Perhaps you will contribute to changing this, assuming of course that you are not a Mikhail persona of which this one is unaware, or maybe even if you are.

    • Deeptrek was a pretty transparent persona

      Agreed, but what he lacked in depth, he made up for in coolness of name. Plus, Lou’s musical tastes were way better than Mikhail’s.

    • Lou, since you have already admitted to being ontologically indiscernible from me (Alexei), and Mikhail has admitted to being ontologically indiscernible from me as well, then you too must be — by some real principle of logic (and not one made up on the fly) — indiscernible from Mikhail. QED. No amount of yellow onticologically distinct liquid will change our ontological status. Protest all you want. It’s too late. Resistance is futile. Here come the Henologists.

    • I think what makes Mikhail and his various identities, me included, more powerful than the OOO blogosophere is that they have wit and sarcasm on their side.

      The closest the OOO blogosphere comes to this is the awkward “dad humor” of larval subjects and Harman, but they’re mostly super serious, which is perhaps what the whole identity kerfluffle is really about: the embarrassing exposure and parody of their naked jouissance.

      • Bryan, I didn’t want to do it this way, but I must: I am in fact also playing the roles of Bryant and Harman. Brace yourself, young friend, it will all be alright (some day).

        Which “dad humor” do you mean?

      • This can be my only possible response:

        (And sadly I haven’t been keeping tabs on recent occurrences of “dad humor” on their blogs lately, more of an ongoing/past observation… now I’m tempted to search for the articles that prompted it)

    • I take issue with the disappointing character of my persona! I am a real person!!!!

      I apologize for not blogging as often and with as much character as Shahar and Mikhail, and will try to remedy that.

    • Ahhh. Even as a tentacle of Mikhail’s schopenhauerian Will ‘myself’ I did not perceive the grandeur of the synthesis he achieved. It must be because my persona’s vulgar pragmatism is not equipped for transcendence.

  35. Yes, Carl, maintaining a separate persona for each of the invented characters is kind of a pain in the ass. Some day the world will hear my heroic story – early obscurity, life on the street, philosophical mediocrity and hopelessness, amazing revelation, genius awoken, “perverse egalitarianism,” universal recognition, books about me, conferences dedicated to my work, an army of graduate students, a journal, a glorious death attended by half the city I will bless with my residence…

    Okay, everybody – back to your assigned positions.

    PS. I resent the musical comparison between me and Lou. I like real music, he likes crappy metal, weird electronic stuff and stripers – shame on you!

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