Late-our, or, The Latourn

In Background Readings on October 5, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Harman treats Latour’s work largely as unified whole; in this view, from The Pasteurization of France onward, L’s corpus looks much like a series of elaborations on the “principle of irreduction.” Although such a perspective makes much sense as a way to map L’s major contributions to metaphysics, we might also divide L’s work into two “periods,” or, in other words, posit a “late Latour” (as we often speak of a “late Foucault” or “late Derrida”) marking a shift in priorities, or, perhaps even more appropriately, a “turn” in L’s work, much like the presumed “turn(ing)” in Heidegger’s thinking, wherein the purpose of the analytical labor produced is rethought or made more explicit.

In this sense, “early Latour” would encompass his work (with Steve Woolgar) in Laboratory Life (1986) and end with 1999’s Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies (a retrospective collection primarily composed or reworked and repositioned essays and research published earlier; this book is covered in Harman’s chapter 4 and is the source of the “Socrates’ and Callicles’…” article assigned for this week). Writings of the “late Latour” would such works as The Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy (2004), the edited collection Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (2005), and The Making of Law (2010), all of which show Latour critically questioning the positive and negative impact of Science and Technology Studies and turning more explicitly toward (cosmo)politics and questions of democratic legislation and governance. The blueprint for this shift might be discovered in Latour’s 2002 entry in the Prickly Paradigm pamphlet series, War of the Worlds: What About Peace? and his 2004 essay “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?: From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern.” The former is embedded below for your reading pleasure, and the latter can be dowloaded directly from the publishers as a PDF by following this link.


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