Alf Hornborg: Animism, Fetishism, and Objectivism
by Adam Robbert
I should just paste all of Alf Hornborg’s essay “Animism, Fetishism, and Objectivism as Strategies for Knowing (or not Knowing) the World” into this post below since its just that good. I’ll leave it to the interested to follow the link and read the whole paper, but here is perhaps one of the best closers I have read in months to give you a sense of why Hornborg is a must read (I’m inclined to think there is a bit of a nod to Capitalist Sorcery in here as well):
Like economic rationality and scientiﬁc truth, says Latour, technological efﬁciency ‘forever escapes the tyranny of social interest’ (ibid 131). But if these modernist convictions were indeed to collapse, as Latour predicts, and we should realize the extent to which our technologies are in fact politically constituted, our machines would cease to be ‘pure’ objects and conceivably be accredited with a malicious agency far surpassing that of any pre-modern fetishes. For to expose the agency of these cornucopian ‘productive forces’ as a transmutation and deflection of the agency of other humans would be to render morally suspect that which modernity had couched in the deceptive neutrality of the merely technical. And in seeing, for the first time, the machines as they really are — as machinations — perhaps the animist within us would stir again, and we would ask ourselves: What manner of creatures are these things, part mineral, part mind, that serve the few to enslave the many, while fouling the land, the water, and the air?
Such a scenario serves to remind us that animism and ‘relatedness’ bring possibilities not only of harmony and community, but also of horror and rage. It might help us understand how the Cartesian suppression of ‘related- ness’ has served a fundamental ideological purpose in the emergence and expansion of industrial capitalism. Against this background, nothing could be more revolutionary than to try to rekindle some of our pre-modern attitudes as we confront the demons of our own making (pp. 30 – 31).