Prodhoun: ‘ideo-realism’

10Mar11

A partisan of immanence is a true anarchist

-Prodhoun, De La Justice

I’ve been talking to a friend about anarchism quite a lot recently. It’s lead me to draw up a kind of reading list for him. That has led me to this fascinating article by Jesse Cohn, an anarchist known for his critique of postanarchism, that I need to re-read with more attention paid to it. From a brief skim, though, it seems likely that the paper positions Prodhoun not too far from something like OOO, what Prodhoun himself is noted as calling an ‘ideo-realist ontology’. Not least in this passage, quoted from a work on Prodhoun:

[For Prodhoun] the meaning, value and determination of things are always internal to the beings, the situations, the events themselves.

This is also linked, by reference to David Graeber (the anarchist and former Yale anthropologist) to the idea that for Prodhoun philosophy resembles ethnography, insofar as it ‘tries to tease out the hidden symbolic, moral, or pragmatic logics that underlie their [people’s] actions’.

While this makes direct reference to people rather than objects, it’s clear from above that Prodhoun sees this approach being applicable to all beings and that all beings are ambiguously classed as either belonging to the same ontological footings as or identical with situations and events. This surely places Prodhoun quite close to Levi Bryant’s form of OOO in which objects are also situations, as partaking in a relational field with other objects, and events, as being non-static substances that also perturb and so alter other objects (and themselves). It also strikes a note of resonance with Ian Bogost’s notion of procedurality, or the logic that governs the actions of objects (in his terms, units)- the pragmatic logic of how and why they act, their own intimate form of performativity coming from within. Of course, this resonance isn’t enough to say that Prodhon is anticipating Bogost, nor does it exhaust what the latter has to say on procedurality. But it does make me stop and think that there is more than simply a passing resemblance between anarchism and OOO. Proudhon finally refers to ontologies that can only see objects from some given perspective outside of the object as statist. This might lead us to consider whether correlationism, which Proudhon probably doesn’t escape, isn’t just wrong but a kind of authoritarianism. It is not the mistake of saying that thought and being can never be separate but the imposition of a demand that thought and being can never be separate.

Indeed, one of the striking things in Cohen’s paper is that he cites Proudhon as talking about things, although his emphasis is still (understandably for an anarchist) people, forming ‘collective beings’- perhaps even hyperobjects? Indeed Cohen writes of these collective beings as ‘wider spheres of immanence’. Last night I attended a friend giving a lecture on the subject of the sun. In talking about the sun’s magnetic field encompassing the sun I couldn’t help but think of the Earth being, in some sense (although I may have this wrong), being ‘nested’ within the sun’s own local manifestation.

Topologically, the Earth isn’t however many millions of miles away from the sun that measures the distance between the burning ball of gases and the celestial lump that orbits it. Rather, the Earth is within the sun. What is more, the sun’s coronal mass ejection or solar flares, giant expulsions of coronal matter, which bombard the Earth and produce the beauty of the aurora perturb that part of the Earth’s local manifestation called it’s magnetosphere. This is that protective magnetic field that surrounds the Earth, protecting it from energetic particles that might otherwise leave the surface entirely without life.

The last word of this quick post goes to Proudhon, again I quote from Cohen’s paper:

the beings to which we accord individuality do not enjoy it by any title other than that of collective beings: they are always groups…

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