We knew it wouldn’t last for ever. We “literary critics” or even “theorists” had to move quickly while the going was good, make the most of our chances, rush on excitedly, trying not to take too much notice of the slow, heavy, inexorable tread of the law somewhere close behind. The philosophers were back there somewhere, tortoise to our hare. In 1986 their books came out.
Geoffrey Bennington, Deconstruction and the Philosophers (The Very Idea), in Legislations: The Politics of Deconstruction (London: Verso, 1994), p. 11.
It’s worth remembering that “deconstruction” was always also an extra-philosophical phenomenon, a phenomenon which mounted its own retort upon philosophy, spreading out into the art world, the world of “literary criticism” as the latter attempted to alchemise itself into “theory”, and many other regions besides. “Deconstruction is America“, Derrida once said – a little hyperbolically, but you kind of knew what he meant. He wasn’t averse, either, to giving a symptomatic reading of this “spread”, of all the network-effects that constituted deconstruction as a multiple practice across multiple sites, never finally localisable within any of them. The effects were deconstruction, just as much as they were effects of deconstruction (that famous double genitive…).
With some philosophers, perhaps most of them really, you can usefully distinguish between what you might call the “toolbox” of characteristic rhetorical moves, modes of address, angles of attack and so on, and the deeper metaphysical system which provides the rationale for proceeding in that way. While there are now some Derrideans who are basically tool-users, repeatedly and somewhat mechanically “doing Derrida” to this or that theoretical object, there are others who are engaged in attempts at critical reconstruction of the philosophical core of Derrida’s thinking, who don’t necessarily write as or even like Derrideans but who find some intrigue in Derrida that they feel is worth pursuing in their own way. Same with Deleuze, same with Badiou. I’ve always felt (contra DeLanda, say) that with Deleuze the toolbox is actually more valuable than the system, such as it is; and I feel much the same way about OOP.
That’s not a disaster; a good toolbox (or two) is a thing worth having. But my bet (prior to reading the book) is that an attempt such as Pete’s to isolate and criticise the metaphysical core of OOP will end up punching smoke for the most part. I don’t at all mean that (in particular) Graham Harman’s work is substanceless, or valueless – just that its substance and value aren’t where a philosopher of Pete’s disposition would tend to look for them. The tortoise and the hare may sometimes seem to be running along the same track, but they aren’t actually in the same race.