There was a moment during my reading of Peter Wolfendale’s OOP: TNNC where I demurred somewhat, and it was at his reading of Harman on time/space.
Harman claims that real change is spatial, not temporal; in this he seems to me to be in agreement with Badiou, amongst others. Time for Harman, as for Badiou, is the temporality of permutation, during which an object’s properties cycle through various actualisations; real change is change to the disposition of the elements over which the temporal “cursor” ranges, and is experienced as temporal discontinuity, a break between epochs. (cf Foucault and the episteme, etc). Pete complains that this doesn’t enable us to account for the “deep” cosmological time of the arche-fossil, since all we have is local temporalities, cursors over objects – cosmological time must encompass the history of all possible objects, and cannot be local in that sense. On the other hand, the notion of a global temporality is tricksy to say the least, for good scientific (relativistic) reasons. In space-time, the everything that happens is intertwined with the temporality of its happening – when we say “such-and-such happened twenty billion years ago”, we typically omit a number of qualifications that it would be troublesome to spell out in detail.
“Time is born along with the Heavens, Plato assures us in the Timaeus, and was created on the model of eternal nature. It is the image of that eternal progression whose rhythm is number. The perfect year, the conjunction of the revolutions of the eight planets, has elapsed precisely once the Same has completed its revolution. Closed up in the gilded cage of Eternity, Time is certainly not responsible for the flux of becoming. So what is it that permits change? It is Space, the condition of dispersion, and thus also the condition of the meaningless scandals and provocations of the Other.”
So, I think it’s safe to say that this isn’t a deviant position, philosophically speaking. It’s arguably a very orthodox position within continental thought – you can see an echo of it in Bergson’s distinction between temps and durée, for example. It therefore seems a bit unfair to pick on Harman for playing his own variation on this theme – it’s reasonable within his system for him to localise temporality to objects, since objects are the foci of what-there-is. If we want to say that the temporality of scientific cosmology is different (non-cyclic, for one thing), we should certainly be able to say so, but the problem here is a problem for all philosophy within this tradition of thinking about temporality, not just Harman’s.
1) It’s in the mantelpieces. Whatever you do, don’t sneeze!
2) The doctor must assemble an impossible sandwich.
4) A strange melancholy settles over Leighton Buzzard. The cause is an actual buzzard, source of the town’s psychic identity, which is lonely. The doctor brings many buzzards in his Tardis and introduces them to the local ecosystem.
5) Autocorrect starts happening to things in reality. The Tardis turns into Tarsus.
6) Tiny black holes start appearing everywhere. They are growing steadily and will soon swallow all of reality. Nothing whatsoever can be done.
7) Buffy crossover. Sarah Michelle Gellar has turned into a middle-aged Republican. The Doctor attempts to reverse time and bring back the 1990s, but fails and instead the Conservatives are re-elected on a time-loop forever.
8) David Lynch-directed episode.
9) Robot Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery.
10) The Doctor’s sex organs are not at all what you expected.
11) Children in Need Special, with killer Pudsey.
12) Christmas Special: boils.
What might a future investigator into the archive of our time – a 22nd-century Foucault – find in the place of the lynchpin of identity? For Foucault himself, studying the development of 19th and early 20th century subjecthood, it was sexuality that stood out as the index of the subject: under this rubric, in order to see what, where and who the subject was, you would look where the signs of sexuality were pointing. What Foucault called “biopower” is to a large degree the management of sexuality – of the life and death of bodies, but always of those bodies as sexed bodies, subjected to norms of reproduction and sanctioned sexual relationship. The bios that resists biopower, whose resistance is incited within some biopolitical regimen, is a perverse bios. The norms pertaining to sexual behaviour become the lens through which “good living” is viewed: the unhealthy subject, the subject not living a good life, is the subject whose sexuality is not properly aligned and engaged.
What if, supplanting sexuality, the index of subjecthood were now stigma? Sexual stigma in the first instance – the stigma of ruined or ruinous sexuality – but, increasingly, stigma as a kind of polymorphous shame without necessarily sexual content or reference. The key operator is that of “abuse”: a different kind of operator from “perversion”, because it relates two terms, abuser and abused. One may be harmlessly, intransitively, perverted, but not harmlessly abusive (which is why it is often considered expedient to recast the pervert as self-abuser, someone who must be prevented from harming themselves). What is frequently at stake is the transfer of stigma from the abused to the abuser, from the person subjected to infractions of their person and dignity to the person who perpetrates such infractions. This is perfectly just, of course, but it’s interesting that it should now be what justice looks like to us (is it possible to punish, or seek reparations, without stigmatising an offender?). Ferocious battles are fought over the proper allocation of stigma: who is to be assigned to what position? Who should be ashamed of themselves? And, assuming this has been decided, the problem then arises of what to do with the person to whom the stigma adheres. How is it possible to make amends? Stigma is less revocable even than sexual orientation: it says something very definitive about who you are.
We have grown used to looking askance at the Victorians for their deep valorisation of shame, the sincerity with which they seem to have treated the condition of being in disgrace. A more permissive society has (in its own eyes) less use for all-consuming mortification, the vertiginous sensation of being morally ruined. But this creates a situation in which it is normal not to be ashamed: about the most reassuring thing you can say to someone is that their fallibilities are “nothing to be ashamed of”. To have something to be ashamed of after all is then exceptional and highly significant. When and why did the demand that we should stop shaming the wrong people, and start shaming the right people, become politically paradigmatic?