An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns
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In this new book, Bruno Latour offers answers to questions raised in We Have Never Been Modern, a work that interrogated the connections between nature and culture. If not modern, he asked, what have we been, and what values should we inherit? Over the past twenty-five years, Latour has developed a research protocol different from the actor-network theory with which his name is now associated--a research protocol that follows the different types of connectors that provide specific truth conditions. These are the connectors that prompt a climate scientist challenged by a captain of industry to appeal to the institution of science, with its army of researchers and mountains of data, rather than to "capital-S Science" as a higher authority. Such modes of extension--or modes of existence, Latour argues here--account for the many differences between law, science, politics, and other domains of knowledge.
Though scientific knowledge corresponds to only one of the many possible modes of existence Latour describes, an unrealistic vision of science has become the arbiter of reality and truth, seducing us into judging all values by a single standard. Latour implores us to recover other modes of existence in order to do justice to the plurality of truth conditions that Moderns have discovered throughout their history. This systematic effort of building a new philosophical anthropology presents a completely different view of what Moderns have been, and provides a new basis for opening diplomatic encounters with other societies at a time when all societies are coping with ecological crisis.
form lines, alignments, it is because, despite the hiatus, despite the leap from one instant to the next (a leap impossible for human eyes to discern), each occasion inherits something that allows it to sketch out, as Whitehead says (he was their mentor and, as it were, their protector!), “historic routes.” The notion of a “material world” would be very ill suited to capturing their originality, their activity, and especially their diffusion, for it would transform into a full, homogeneous domain
literally no longer has any room, anywhere, for him to deploy his values. He considers the importance of law, morality, fiction, politics, the economy, organizations, perhaps religion, even psyches, collective actions, seeking to anchor them somewhere, all in vain: there is no longer any place to put them. He is groping in the dark. “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” This frenzy that has struck all observers since the adjective “modern” came into use stems less from a utopian dream
limitation: they do not qualify values (35). Law offers a point of comparison through its own particular mode of displacement (38). There is thus a definition of “boundary” that does not depend on the notions of domain or network (38). The mode of extension of objective knowledge can be compared with other types of passes (39). vii Thus any situation can be defined through a grasp of the [net] type plus a particular relation between continuities and discontinuities (41). Thanks to a third type
it turns against itself—in short, it reproduces exactly the movement of what it is talking about and what it is seeking to capture by following its course. Directly? No, but provided that it is self-correcting, as they say, it “tries and tries again.” To say something is to say differently, in other words, it is to comment, transform, transport, distort, interpret, restate, translate, transpose, that is to say metamorphose, change form, yes, if you insist, “metaphorize.” To speak literally one
available to us, I need to offer a foretaste of what is at stake in such an inquiry. Since the smallest elements can lead step-by-step to the largest, let me begin with an anecdote. A shocking question addressed to a climatologist → They’re sitting around a table, some fifteen French industrialists responsible for sustain- able development in various companies, facing a professor of climatology, a researcher from the Collège de France. It’s the fall of 2010; a battle is raging about