Jane Bennett, Ontological Politics, Vibrant Matter

Vibrant Matter / The Stuff of Politics

Two recent books seem to be of particular importance to conceptualize the role of objects, things, non-humans and/or materiality anew for/in political theory; Jane Bennet’s Vibrant Matter and Bruce Braun’s and Sarah Whatmore’s Political Matter. Both books consist of profound articulations of the consequences of a new, symmetrical ontology for traditional, modern concepts of politics. That is, they both draw upon the idea that every historical constitution of political community has been grounded upon the exclusion of non-humans, i.e. upon the rigid distinction between a human world of speech, deliberation and contemplation and a non-human world of inert, fully causal and dead matter. When, however, the very character of non-humans is changed in ontological terms, then questions such as what the conditions for political agency are, how a society and political community inaugurates itself are re-opened. Mainly by drawing upon the recent object-oriented turn in ontology (writers such as Graham Harman and Quentin Meillassoux) a new political  agenda could be opened.