In his critical engagement with Latour’s work, Graham Harman draws attention to the moment of revelation that Latour records in The Pasteurisation of France when, as a young man driving through Burgundy, he ﬁrst articulated what would come to be the founding principle of his philosophy. ‘Nothing’, Latour writes, recalling this moment, ‘can be reduced to anything else, nothing can deduced from anything else, everything may be allied to anything else’ (Latour 1988: 163). The passage provides a useful summary of the perspectives – pithily articulated by Latour, but which have a wider currency – in contemporary social theory that I have drawn on in this book. The ﬁrst two parts of the sentence condense the reasoning that has inclined recent thought in favour of ‘ﬂat ontologies of the social’ and against those dualisms (culture/ society) that – whether in a reductive or a deductive movement – seek to account for one side of such divides in the terms provided by the other. It is, however, the third part of Latour’s ‘Pauline’ roadside revelation that provides the perspective I have drawn on in the account of culture that I have oﬀered. Its implication, as Harman interprets it, is not merely that of calling into question the division between human and non-human actors. It also de-substantialises the world, denying the existence of any pre-given essences, or essential divisions between this and that, in favour of an account of how realities are produced and (always provisionally) stabilised, through the alliances that actors enter (and are entered) into with one another. Particular forms of power; the arrangement of actors into particular assemblages; the ordering of the relationships between such assemblages: these are all the results of the processes – some of them long historical ones, others quite short; some with an extended territorial reach, others quite local – through which things, persons, techniques and technologies are brought into alliance with one another in particular conﬁgurations whose status is secured as that of a public ordering of things or, as Harman puts it, a ‘public performance in the world’ (Harman 2009: 66). It is in this light that I have proposed that we should approach the current
partitioning of the relations between culture and society as the publicly instituted and enacted outcomes of such processes. I have, with regard to culture, paid particular attention to the role of a historically particular set of knowledge
practices – conceived, not abstractly, as the activity of Mind, but as always materially entangled in assemblages of various kinds – in producing new kinds of cultural actors in the world, and in organising their social deployment through the ‘working surfaces on the social’ they generate. My particular concerns in these regards have focused on how such cultural knowledges and assemblages have been at work in organising and distributing particular kinds of freedom. This has involved a consideration of the modes of production and deployment of both anthropology and aesthetics across a range of metropolitan and colonial settings; of variations within these according to whether their relations to conduct are routed via the public or the milieu; and an examination of how such knowledges and the forms of authority they produce have constituted particular forms of intervention into the regulation of conduct through the architectures of the person they organise. My examples of the operations of the culture complex in these regards have
been largely limited to state institutions. They have also been mainly drawn from a period stretching roughly from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. While I have provided examples indicating how the terms of the analysis I have proposed are more generally applicable – to the reality shows of commercial television networks and to the contemporary diagram of tolerance, for example – it is clear that these would need to be adapted and, no doubt, revised in any adequate application to the signiﬁcantly changed intellectual, material and infrastructural conditions of the present. My attention has also focused predominantly on the ordering practices of cultural knowledges and institutions, and on the governmental rationalities informing the modes of their social deployment. The perspective of ontological politics makes it clear, however, that such ordering practices are always partial and incomplete; that there are always clashing knowledges – oﬃcial and unoﬃcial – in play, with discordant and messy eﬀects; and that the real is made up of such criss-crossing ﬂows. A fuller pursuit of these matters will, however, have to await another occasion.