The Radicalism of OOO

In his book, “Object-Oriented Ontology: A New Theory of Everything”, Graham Harman explicitly states that:

“…OOO cannot be sympathetic to most forms of radical politics, since these are invariably based on the claim to a radical knowledge that warrants rapidly tearing down our historical inheritance. Radical politics as we know it is an outgrowth of modern philosophy with its modern idealism, and hence is unlikely to survive much longer than modern philosophy…” (2018: 146).

Aside from the obvious point that what is “radical” is entirely based on a subjective determination, OOO’s politics can very easily align with radical politics without certain claims to knowledge.

The central point of OOO is to do away with the center-periphery distinction at the heart of modern philosophy – that of the subject-object correlate. Radical politics of various stripes orient themselves towards the same goal: removing centers.

One obvious example would be the Bechdel Test, which is commonly applied to feminist film criticism. The Bechdel Test holds films (and other media) to a very simple test: are there two women in the film who talk to each other about something other than a man. The parallels with OOO are clear – dominant culture (i.e., patriarchal culture) places men at the center and women at the periphery. In this way, the Bechdel test asks us to examine whether periphery-periphery relations are placed on equal footing with center-periphery relations. If anything, OOO has stolen this move from radical politics (if we decide to include fundamental feminist media criticism in that camp, which is arguable).

Another example of center-periphery would be Samir Amin’s critique of Eurocentrism and his call for reevaluating the position of the Third World in social sciences. Amin’s economic project highlights the importance of periphery-periphery relations over center-periphery relations as well. For Amin, the relationship between, say, Mozambique and South Africa is on equal footing as the relationship between, say, Mozambique and the United Kingdom.

If Amin’s Marxist approach qualifies as a radical political project (again, arguable), then doesn’t OOO’s approach also qualify?

If dismantling the center-periphery distinction is radical, than OOO does lend itself to radical politics in some very important ways and has plenty to learn from feminism, world-systems theory, and other radical politics. Perhaps we should see Alison Bechdel as the godmother of OOO, rather than focusing on Husserl or Heidegger (or Latour for that matter!)

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