Professor Keith Peterson argued to us that “We Have Never Been Revolutionary.” According to Bruno Latour, we have never even been modern. Admittedly, I found it challenging to follow this lecture. My friend Erin, who is taking KP’s Feminist Philosophy course, began to explain the lecture to me in greater detail after the lecture, but I still had difficultly understanding connections to some of his points. I found it difficult to understand the models of the products of deeper processes under the Principle of Symmetry. From what I came to gather, Latour argued that we have an asymmetrical explanation in which we oftentimes suppose a dualistic rendering of constructivism versus reality; however, Latour proposes a both/and combination approach, instead. In believing in merely a temporary stability, Latour translates essence into existence back into essence.
I followed Latour’s arguments for understanding us as a part of a constructed universality. What I was left puzzled about, however, was how all of this ties back to modernity. Where are the correlations? What is the logic here? How does the Principle of Symmetry prove to be evidence for amodernity? How does the actor-network theory connect to modernity and revolutions?
Latour’s conception of progressive was intriguing, as well. His argument for a radical break with the past and entailing a specific understanding of time seems to mold a circle, which we both create and mobilize. We, as KP quoted from Latour, “also mobilize Nature.” The Antimodern discussion KP ended with asked, “What do new revolutionaries have to reject?” I felt all the while puzzled if Latour was arguing against the conception of the Oppressor in his actor-network theory. Is his mode of thought so constructivist that the systems of injustice are not perceived as systems at all? I slowly began to conceptualize the actor-network theory more and more, however, as the lecture went one. His understanding of objects as actors allows for the complexity of oppressive networks. For example, in his ethnographic book The Land of Open Graves, anthropologist Jason De Leon argues for understanding the Sonoran Desert as an agent (under the power and force of the U.S. Border Industrial Complex). With tools provided by Latour, this becomes easier and more readily complicated into this philosophical framework.
In this proposed reworking of our mental landscape, I wonder what Latour’s argument against modernity might do for the Western Imperialist mindset. What are the implications of loosening the fierce grip of Progressive? Of Best? Of Better? Of Modern? Because, after all, if we have always been tribal, then what distinguishes the West from the East? Or from the states, tribes, cultures, peoples the West continually ignores? Overall, I was left unsure about the logic of Latour’s argument and unable to connect many of the dots. However, the satellites I absorbed seemed to make sense. I hope, in the future, to connect the dots and understand Latour’s highly influential argument in We Have Never Been Modern.