Latour and "Delegation"

I'm researching Latour's views on Christianity for a revise and resubmit and came along this passage near the end of We Have Never Been Modern. I don't know how many times I have read this book, but I never recognized the simple and elegant significance of this passage:

I call this transcendence that lacks a contrary 'delegation.' The utterance, or the delegation, or the sending of a message or a messenger, makes it possible to remain in presence - that is, to exist. When we abandon the modern world, we do not fall upon someone or something, we do not land on an essence, but on a process, on a movement, a passage- literally a pass, in the sense of the term as used in ball games. We start from a continuous and hazardous existence - continuous because it is hazardous- and not from an essence; we start from a presenting, and not from permanence. ( WHNBM 129)

In Pandora's Hope, Latour will amplify this conclusion, stressing that something is only as real as its connections to other entities in a network (and Harman emphasizes this metaphysical postulate in Prince of Networks). It reminds me of Levinas, and Levinas's insistence that existence does not begin from essence but rather from a relation to the Other. The difference here is that Latour's metaphysics is interested in material relations, while Levinas's metaphysics involve the enigmatic relation to transcendental alterity. But both forbid a sense of security or positivity, and I like that.

1 comment:

pure_sophist_monster said...

I like these connections. Paul and I have been talking a lot about kinship and delight (from a Jesuit perspective) and Latour and composition and critique. These connections also remind me of Pat's work on institutional critique, which for her is relational, one extension of the network at a time: continuous and hazardous. Anyway, looking forward to the article and maybe a sneak peek.