A Realism that is Still Speculative: A Comment from Terence Blake

Following my recent post on the waning of the speculative realist blogosphere, Terence Blake has posted a thread on Twitter in response which I think adds some necessary further context, laying fault not at the feet of the bloggers themselves (or their audience) but, perhaps, with the market. Terence writes:

A very interesting thought-and-mood piece by @xenogothic about a feeling of stagnation and disappointment in contemporary philosophy and its online passion-bearers. [1]

I share @xenogothic‘s analysis of the progressive decline of Speculative Realist oriented philosophical blogging and also the feeling of disappointment in its undead perpetually self-cloned “successes” and in the surrounding vacuum. [2]

But I cannot fully agree with my own feeling, as I consider The Immanence of Truths (2018) Badiou’s third volume in his Being and Event trilogy his best. [3]

Laruelle’s Tetralogos (2019) is also among his best. [4]

Bernard Stiegler’s research programme is still going strong, and he and his team have just published: Bifuricate: There Is No Alternative. [5]

Here Terence links to two illuminating articles on his own blog that summarise and explore the two works mentioned by Badiou (here) and Laruelle (here).

These books are all still untranslated, so the feeling of stagnation in Anglophonia is perhaps more commercially orchestrated than realistic. The market is depressed and we are responding to that. [6]

He continues with a few more examples of interesting recent works that are SR-adjacent:

Žižek is producing very interesting work in English. This year has seen the publication of Sex and the Failed Absolute and Hegel in a Wired Brain. In addition, the constellation of thinkers around Žižek are quite active.

Bruno Latour is coming into his own with the spinoffs from his An Inquiry into Modes of Existence research programme, attesting to the fecundity (despite its flaws) of the initial project statement

Here again are two more articles from Terence’s blog on Žižek and Latour.

So I wonder if this intermittent conceptual melancholy is due less to philosophical slump than to manufactured scarcity — slowness of publication, phase-lag in translation, foregrounding of superficial dead-end thinkers to the detriment of deeper and more open-ended heuristics.

I think this analysis rings true, and it is an interesting one that places the shoe encouragingly on the other foot. Whilst Brassier’s infamous disavowal — that the speculative realist movement “exists only in the imaginations of a group of bloggers promoting an agenda for which I have no sympathy whatsoever … whose most signal achievement thus far is to have generated an online orgy of stupidity” — may still make many shudder in fear at their own complicity in a wider acceleration of thought that leads to swift but flawed answers to some of our biggest questions, it is similarly the case that the gargantuan publishing machine has the opposite affect in many respects.

Slowness is calm, cool, collected; intimate and patient. Slowness is sexy. The speed of the blogosphere is often derided as a teenage fumble in the dark. But wasn’t part of the original thrill of the blogosphere? Its defiant sidestepping of the slow drag of industry? Plenty is lost in the process but so much is also gained. There’s much still to be said for that hyperactivity in the present; for the blogosphere’s cascading adolescence.

That being said, I’m going to go and buy some of these books.

Update: Terence has added his own blogpost here.

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