The Failure of OOO

Zizek has an Hegelian strategy of intentional failure, where the goal is not complete final failure, but rather a superior failure that prepares the ground for phoenixes and resurrections. Today I think it is important to consider OOO as such a superior failure, and as a desperate movement of self-sacrifice that opens the path for something else. Deleuze wrote “c’est trop grande, c’est trop fort pour moi”. This thought that continues while expecting failure is linked with esoteric masochism.

Perhaps the fatal flaw of OOO is its conceptual minimalism, or the way it (compulsively?) repeats a few limited arguments. And perhaps the movement could only exist on the condition that it had this flaw. Minimalism might be a necessary condition for the popularity of any philosophy today. Only a philosophy with limited arguments could distinguish itself. This is comparable to how public relations officers hammer their talking points. Only simple ideas can be mass marketed. This was the lesson of the 5-minute manager. But somehow OOO seems to have linked this logic with theoretical formalism, and with the neoLacanian inscription of symbolic difference.

So there is a strange nexus between mass marketing and neoLacanian formalism. Maybe this began with how Graham Harman’s critique of Heidegger (in Tool Being) was modelled on Badiou’s critique of Deleuze. That was a translation from old philosophy to young philosophy, and maybe also a simplification. What was reproduced from Badiou was the form of critique which calls its opponent tedious or redundant. This critique isolates a tediousness of romantic passion (a narcissism) to prepare it for formalist subtraction. But where Badiou’s cuts are more complex abstractions (asymptotes etc.), Harman’s cuts are made with an everyday language influenced by Saul Kripke and other analytical philosophers.

Yesterday I read a great interview with Bruno Bosteels (available here). At the end it appears that he adopts a Deleuzo-Hegelian strategy of millennial masochism similar to Zizek’s. This is consciousness of terminal symbolic wounds. There’s an acceptance that our symbolic investments won’t pan out. Zizek describes how first there is the sacrifice of everything for a cause, and then there is the sacrifice of the cause itself. When Bosteel and Zizek posture around as communists, that would apparently be a negative mode where communism survives by its own failure. In that interview, Bosteels points out an oscillation that runs through Badiou’s work, which is due to a split between the historical and the ahistorical. Bosteels’ narrative writing on Latin America attempts to suture that alienation which is a byproduct of formalism.

Perhaps Levi Bryant performs a commercialization of Lacan which parallels Harman’s translation of Badiou, or even the translation of Baudrillard into the Matrix movies. Profound commercializations of philosophy have been long under-way, and this is no cause for prudishness. This discussion should be initiated by addressing the work of Nick Land, who sells black dildos and rubber dogshit in China. But sticking with Levi, I am interested in how he jumps between re-articulating his formalist commitments and the theories of a bunch of conceptual personae like Luhmann, Lacan, and Deleuze. I think this involves a disavowal of history, or of existential particulars, so that history is reduced to a universal modernist idealism. And I think that if Levi wants to let his theory really fall apart, then he should treat his conceptual personae historically. Perhaps it’s in this sort of oscillation – between the new formalist cosmology and historical facticity – that Harman’s marketing scheme undergoes its more profound disintegration. The neo-Badiouan symbolic regime disintegrates because of the returning question of whether it speaks historically or naturally. And maybe all that’s required to hold the mess of OOO together would be a link between history and vicarious causation.

We should consider how Badiou posits his terms, and makes his explicit ontological proclamations (“I hold that…..”). Laurelle also does something similar. How should these strange statements be taken? It seems these gestures somehow perhaps await their own history. But anyone who historizes these French formalists must respect the value of their formalism, which may be independent from history. So how to carry out the historical apprehension of formalism? How do formalist proclamations participate in the alteration of matrices of representation? OOO seems to be a singularity where formalism turns against the plane of expression, and perhaps this movement accomplishes a radicalization of exposure to the raw uncountable material content of history. Are those three eggs not the marks of Deleuze’s Catholic conversion?   

(this post was partly inspired by Terrence Blake’s recent criticisms of OOO, like this one )

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2 Responses to The Failure of OOO

  1. Pingback: Other Than The Other Side | Kafka's Ruminations

  2. Ross Wolfe says:

    Thanks for the compliment on that interview with Bosteels. I conducted it, along with Alec Niedenthal. Incidentally, I wrote up a couple fairly harsh pieces criticizing Speculative Realism/Object-Oriented Ontology two or three years ago that you might enjoy:


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