Morphogenesis: Diagrams à la Deleuze and Delanda

READ THIS ESSAY: Manuel DeLanda, “Delanda – Deleuze, Diagrams and the Genesis of Form,” ANY: Architecture New York 23: Diagram Work: Data Mechanics for a Topological Age (June 1998): 30-34.

Here Manuel Delanda rejects the idea of matter as receptacle of form (morphodectic) for that of matter as generator of form (morphogenetic):

Deleuze’s philosophy of matter and form attempts to replace essentialist views of the genesis of form (which imply a conception of matter as an inert receptacle for forms that come from the outside) with one in which matter is already pregnant with morphogenetic capabilities, therefore capable of generating form on its own. (30)

It’s not form as “an ideal geometric form” imposed on matter from the outside, but as “an endogenous topological form,” as in the example of a soap bubble:

[T]here is no question of an essence of “soap-bubbleness” somehow imposing itself from the outside, an ideal geometric form (a sphere) shaping an inert collection of molecules. Rather, an endogenous topological form (a point in the space of energetic possibilities for this molecular assemblage) governs the collective behavior of the individual soap molecules, and results in the emergence of a spherical shape. (ibid.)

Darren Aronofsky, The Fountain (2006)

And “the same topological form . . . can . . . generate many other geometrical forms,” depending on the material (Deleuze calls this “divergent actualization” [Difference and Repetition, 2004, 264]).

A form thus serves as what Deleuze & Guattari call an “abstract machine”:

An abstract machine in itself is not physical or corporeal, any more than it is semiotic; it is diagrammatic (it knows nothing of the distinctions between the artificial and the natural either). It operates by matter, not by substance; by function, not by form. . . . The abstract machine is pure Matter-Function — a diagram independent of the forms and substances, expressions and contents it will distribute. (A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 2004, 156)

I love this idea of forms as diagrams (diagram = “delineation,” from the Greek diagraphein “mark out, delineate”): diagrams are not “visual representations” after the fact (i.e., maps), but rather, emergent “structures” that shape matter (i.e. autopoetic machines — like nanobots). Structurings. Constructions (see Fichte on [self-]construction, if you’re game).

See Deleuze & Guattari again:

[T]he diagrammatic or abstract machine does not function to represent, even something real, but rather constructs a real that is yet to come, a new type of reality. (A Thousand Plateaus, 157)

(This idea of diagrams first comes up in Deleuze’s Foucault [30ff.] — think the panopticon, which, put very simply, is an architectural design, but also not unlike, writ large, Wallerstein’s core-periphery model or, writ small, a wheel or a parachute seed.)

What’s really interesting is the connection Delanda makes between diagrams and the “problems” they exist to solve (or solve to exist):

[F]or Deleuze the problem-solving activity in which diagrams are involved is . . . instantiated in even simple material and energetic systems. To take an example from physics, a population of interacting physical entities, such as molecules, can be constrained energetically to force it to display organized collective behaviour. In other words, it may be constrained to adopt a form which minimizes free energy. Here the “problem” (for the population of entities) is to find this minimal point of energy, a problem solved differently by the molecules in soap bubbles (which collectively minimize surface tension) and by the molecules in crystalline structures (which collective minimize bonding energy). (ibid.)

The Mitchell-Hedges Crystal Skull

Hence, “the objective existence of problems (and their defining diagrams)”: problems really exist (ibid.).

He concludes:

[T]hinking consists not in problem-solving (as most treatments of diagrams and diagrammatic reasoning suggest) but, on the contrary, that given the real (though virtual) existence of problems in the world itself, true thinking consists in problem-posing, that is, in framing the right problems rather than solving them. It is only through skilful problem-posing that we can begin to think diagrammatically. (34; see Difference and Repetition [76-77] on the heteron, the “being of the problematic”)

Ahhh. “[T]rue thinking consists in problem-posing.” Like.

What’s the Story with Academic Writing? A Narratology of the Academic Essay (Part One)

A summary of my talk at the (Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association [AULLA]) Storytelling in Literature, Language and Culture conference in Auckland (8 Feb 2011) . . .

It has become a commonplace in writing programmes and other scriptophilic zones of the academy that the mainstay of academic writing, the academic essay, as taught, written and read, is formulaic and deforms what can be thought and written in the academosphere — and that story has only a marginal role in the academic essay. The story, we are told, is not good for the academic essay.

By way of a provisional answer to the question posed in the title . . .

1          story: the essay is neither written nor read in the academosphere

The standard answer to the question might be that there is no narrative in the academic essay — except perhaps as a grabber/hook in introductions or to convey or contextualise data that requires it. This might be seen as a bad thing. This might be a reason why academic writing is not usually read for pleasure, is less readable than it need be, and is not read so much as mined or fished.

Two moves recommend themselves: we can [#2] uncover the back story of the academic essay or [#3] include more story in it (to “storify” it or uncover the “big stories” in it). To the first . . .

2          history: the essay as written and read to measure . . .

The “mo” (pre-linguistic turn) answer to the question as a matter of fact might be to historicise academic writing: to ask how it got to be the way it is (i.e., it originates in the disputatio and epigram), to provide a historical back story for academic writing. Narrative was excluded from the essay because of the logical (scholastic) and scientific (Baconian) bias of early academic writers, these biases being exacerbated by humanities scholars trying to scientise their writing, to mobilise the authority effect of science (and science writing), and the increasing scientism of the university as an institution, and by academics using the essay to assess students.

Through these processes, the scientific paper that reports on research, viz. epistemic (expository/epideictic [for display]) rather than heuristic (performative/personal) writing, comes to dominate the academy.

  • epistemic: “relating to knowledge or its verification,” from Gk epistēmē “knowledge.”
  • heuristic: “serving to discover or find out,” from Gk heuriskein “find.”

Joseph Wright, An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump (1768).

What we know as “academic writing” emerged with the research university in von Humboldt and Kant’s reforms of the German university at the end of the eighteenth century, which reforms demanded continuous examination by others and of oneself (accountability) by means of [a.] numerical governance and grading (calculability) and [b.] an insistent process of writing by, about and “around” students (grammatocentrism) (see Keith Hoskin on the genealogy of the knowledge “ecosystem” of the modern university).

Or secondly: we can include some more story in it — to “storify” it or uncover the “big stories” in it . . .

3          story+/Story: the essay is written and read (to a degree) . . .

The “pomo” (post-linguistic turn) answer to the question as a problematic might be to put some narrative in — after the example of New Historicism — somehow to reflect the nature of writing as narrative and/or to acknowledge the metanarratives and justify our appropriation of the metanarratives in which such writing must be embedded (becoming aware of the frame story), thus to uncover the big stories embedded in academic writing — for example, the story that academic writing mimics scientific enquiry.

Arataki Visitor Centre, Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, Auckland.

Or the best: in a twofold move that intersects both options, we can map the forms of story in the academic essay to see why stories have become formulaic and deformative.

4          stories

The non-standard — and most salient — answer to the question is to map the narrative forms, the story arcs, that are implicit in academic writing, in order to disclose its possibilities and the reasons it has been closed down. This requires a mapping (topology/symbolic geography) of the essay as narrative, i.e. imaging (via a visual outline or metaphor) as an alternative to scripting (a verbal outline).

There are two main forms of essay, the point-first or round-trip essay (the epistemic report on research) and the point-last or one-way journey (the heuristic essai).

type point-first (PF) essay point-last (PL) essay
image round-trip one-way
end returns to its starting-point arrives at an end-point
function epistemic heuristic
mode of writing expository, epideictic performative, personal
logic tautological dialogical
mood indicative, thus factual subjunctive, thus fictive
mode of address informative interactive

The first dominates writing in the academosphere, in the form of the thesis and proof essay, a.k.a. the five-paragraph theme, and at the level of the paragraph the Schaffer model. Why?

The PF essay embodies the econometric design-drive of the academosphere, which projects aims (teloi, i.e., ideal ends), objectives (skopoi, i.e. means) and clearly defined outcomes (ekbaseis, i.e. adequate ends), in the service of outputs, or rather, an efficient relationship between inputs and outputs. Everything in this end-stopped world must be seen as if in hindsight, in retrospective anticipation (i.e., from the outcome [o] backwards): they “will [always] have been” necessary. It is a future anterior world, a closed loop the process of which achieves a predetermined outcome (see the top left figure below).

  • The point-first essay embodies this design-drive: it can more readily be templated due to its tautological nature — we know where the story is going because its path is singular and returns to its starting point (see the right top figure below).
  • The point-last essay works against it: it can resist the template due to its dialogical nature — (it seems that) we don’t know where the story is going because its path is multiple and doesn’t return to its starting point, rather, in its most common versions it quests for or circles an endpoint (see right bottom figure below). (I say “seems” because many such essays — Derrida’s or Barthes’, for example — only appear dialogical, as do Plato’s dialogues, where Socrates’ eironeia turns out only to be a simulated ignorance in the end.)

So where to from here? The two point-last figures above give us two versions:

  • the essay that explores various paths until it decides on one (the upper figure), and
  • the essay that explores an issue from various perspectives (the lower figure).

(For more, see part two, which will follow anon . . .)

Noo Politics 2

From Noo Politics . . .

Gilles Deleuze thematises Foucault’s schema of (modern) societies as follows:

  1. societies of sovereignty (command) that use mechanical technologies, e.g., levers/pulleys, apparatuses, and practise the spectacular manipulation of the body (the body politic, peoples, castes; the fief; summary justice);
  2. societies of discipline (punishment) that use thermodynamic technologies, e.g., electrical motors, appliances, and practise the panoptic molding of life (biopolitics, populations, classes; the factory; apparent acquittal); and
  3. societies of control (governmentality) that use telematic technologies, e.g., interfaces/networks, applications, and practise the virtual modulation of memory (nöopolitics, publics, positions; the corporation; limitless postponement).

See “Society of Control,” from L’Autre 1 (May 1990),, a.k.a., “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” trans. M. Joughin, October 59 (1992): 3-7 at or Also publ. Negotiations, 1972-1990 (New York: Columbia UP, 1994) 177-82.

Fractals and Music

Dmitry Kormann, a composer from São Paulo, Brazil, explains how he uses fractal-like patterns to structure his music in “Fractal Music” at + Plus Magazine (12 July 2010):

I found that in order to get that really nice feeling of balance between randomness and predictability that one gets from contemplating fractals on a computer screen — what I like to call the fractal effect — a minimum of three iterations is necessary. Coincidentally, Harlan Brothers also specifies . . . that in order for a structure to earn the title of fractal, a minimum of 3 levels of scalar affinity must be present, as with less than that, mathematical power-law relationships will not exist (meaning we cannot see if the transformation is constant at larger scales).


  1. “3 levels of scalar affinity” = 3 repeats (“iterations”) of the transformation, e.g., the same motif has to be repeated using three different rhythms;
  2. power-law relationships” = scale-invariant transformations (a.k.a. dilatations)—or, strictly speaking, self-similar transformations—i.e., some element of the motif, e.g., the pitch, has to stay the same.

Here’s a visual fractal: the Sierpinski Gasket . . .

The Sierpinski Triangle (or Gasket) is created by creating a smaller triangle in the center of each existing one, and then repeating the process for each new triangle.

Kormann gives the example of how in The Rite of Spring Stravinsky “created forward momentum by making motifs come out from inside one another”:

Stravinsky alternates progressively larger instances of a new motif with progressively smaller instances of an ongoing one.

Stravinsky, "Mystic Circle of the Adolescents," The Rite of Spring

This is a kind of two steps forward, one step back—or telescoping—pattern that allows new motifs to be gradually introduced.


Musical fractal effects aren’t new: what Harlan Brothers calls motivic scaling was present in the Baroque mensuration or prolation canon, characterized by a melody or rhythmic motif that is repeated in different voices simultaneously at different tempos; see the Agnus Dei (midi) of Josquin Desprez’s first Missa l’Homme Armé Super Voces Musicales. (Prolation is Latin for “lengthening.”)

Example of a prolation canon

Here each voice sings the same music, but at different speeds. In the original score only one part is given: a notation over the single line of music indicates the three prolations to be used, and a second notation over the line indicates where each voice should end if sung correctly. A modern example is Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten:

How We Do “Art” Now: Facebooking etc. as Art

Via Boris Groys, “The Weak Universalism,” e-flux 15 (Apr. 2010) [and as a pdf].

What role is left for artists when strong universal gestures are perceived as bankrupt? We’re left with weak gestures—available only to small or semi-closed participant communities. The premises: if

  1. everybody is an artist (Beuys) and . . .
  2. the avant-garde artist is a secularized apostle repeating weak gestures (à la Agamben/Benjamin); and, further, . . .
  3. the avant-garde artist is part of a group in which participants and spectators coincide, making weak signs with low visibility (e.g., a social network “circle,” a small public, perhaps)—against the strong signs with high visibility of 20C mass culture (the big Public); then

. . . art is recycling with your friends (a Zero Waste approach).

This art need not look like art as we knew it:

Today . . . everyday life begins to exhibit itself—to communicate itself as such—through design or through contemporary participatory networks of communication, and it becomes impossible to distinguish the presentation of the everyday from the everyday itself. The everyday becomes a work of art—there is no more bare life, or, rather, bare life exhibits itself as artifact. Artistic activity is now something that the artist shares with his or her public on the most common level of everyday experience.

So this art, nonetheless, tells us about our world, as we normally take art to do:

art still has something to say about the modern world: it can demonstrate its transitory character, its lack of time; and to transcend this lack of time through a weak, minimal gesture requires very little time—or even no time at all.

Where Have You Been, My Darling?

Thumbnail Profile Picture Snapshot 16 May 2010

FB can be art (I always thought so).

The Four Rules of Writing Big Ideas (Tom Slee on Clay Shirkey)

From Tom Slee, “Wikibollocks: The Shirky Rules,” Whimsley, 25 Apr. 2010, the four rules of writing big ideas, all style over substance but audience-grabbing nonetheless:

  1. “tell stories and think by analogy,” i.e., use anecdata and make connections between disparate fields [ö + ↔];
  2. “make the point catchy, but make it ambiguous,” because if you can name it, you own it (with terms and titles, memorable beats accurate and oracular trumps all)—and sprinkle in jargon from fashionable fields (while avoiding the jargon of the field in which you’re writing) [];
  3. “simplify and exaggerate,” i.e., downplay complexity (while pretending that you’re reducing it) [> + Ö]; and
  4. “play on our natural identification with the underdog by casting [the material] in a rebellious and revolutionary light,” i.e., pit the creative individual against the inertial institution or corrupt corporation [nlm].

Personalize and generalize it; brand it; dumb it down and talk it up; rebel sell it.

Slee’s model is market populist Clay Shirky’s essay, “The Collapse of Complex Business Models,” which reiterates the Shirky Principle: “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution,” i.e., problems and solutions tend become a single system—like management and unions. For Shirky, progress (if it is possible) demands that we let go of problems or look to the margins of the system for what seem like insignificant or simplistic solutions. He’s drawing on Clay Christensen’s concept of “disruptive technologies,” which, unlike sustaining technologies that improve performance in an evolutionary or revolutionary way, improve performance in ways that the market does not expect, typically by lowering price or designing for a different set of consumers, but that often “result in worse product performance, at least, in the near-term” (The Innovator’s Dilemma xv).

Perhaps Shirky intends his writing to be a disruptive technology: “worse” writing, by a certain literary or critical measure, but writing designed for a different set of consumers.

The iPad as iText

Matt Greenop argues that it is “only Apple’s reality distortion field that could turn [the iPad] into a real success story.”

The iPad, first fielded today (Gadget Republic).

From wikipedia (edited):

Reality distortion field (RDF) is a term coined by Bud Tribble of Apple in 1981 [see Andy Hertzfeld, Revolution in The Valley (Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly, 2005)], to describe company co-founder Steve Jobs’ charisma and its effects on the developers working on the Mac project. Later the term has also been used to refer to perceptions of his keynote (or Stevenote) by observers and devoted users of Apple stuff. Bud Tribble claimed that the term came from Star Trek. In essence, RDF is the idea that Steve Jobs is able to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bluster, exaggeration, marketing and persistence. RDF is said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion or scale. Small advances are applauded as breakthroughs. Interesting developments become turning points, or huge leaps forward. Impossible-seeming schedules, requirements or specifications are acceded to. Snap judgments about technical merits of approaches are sometimes reversed without acknowledgment. Those who use the term RDF contend that it is not an example of outright deception but more a case of warping the powers of judgment.

See Nitrozac and Snaggy, “The Reality Distortion Field is Breached,” The Joy of Tech (2007).

This kind of boosterism that “adds value,” in the ideological—not to mention,  financial—sense, to a product is not far from Roland Barthes’ “effect of reality” or “reality effect.” A reality effect is a textual device that establishes a literary text as realistic through ecphrasis (“description,” from ekphrazein “to recount, describe”): the description of or commentary on a visual work of art, or, more generally, of a real or imaginary thing, place, time, person or experience, subject to aesthetic and referential constraints (“The Reality Effect,” in The Rustle of Language, trans. R. Howard [Berkeley, CA: UCB Press, 1989]). From Homer on Achilles’ shield to Heidegger on Van Gogh’s peasant shoes, this trope has proliferated.

The “referential illusion” thus created is plainly a problem for discourses that trade in “reality,” e.g., science or historiography, i.e., in what proportion are their objects and outcomes of enquiry real and illusory? To rephrase the very real problem of relativism (which is *in essence* the absence of a fact-value distinction): if value-added texts (VATs) of all types are the stuff of poeisis, it’s questionable whether there could be a value-free text. Every text is an iText (ideology-text), the iPad just its latest avatar.

Tom Phillips, Self Portrait (ekphrasis)
Oil on canvas, 80 x 50 cm, 1989.

Sloterdijk on explication (explicitation)

From “Airquakes,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 27.1 (2009): 41-57, trans. Eduardo Mendieta, an excerpt from Sphären III: Schäume (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2004) 89-126, 5 Feb. 2009 <>:

If one wanted to say . . . what the 20th century . . . contributed . . . to the history of civilization, answering with three criteria could suffice . . . : the praxis of terrorism, the conception of product design, and concepts of the environment. Through the first, interactions between enemies were established on postmilitary foundations; through the second, functionalism was able to reintegrate itself in the world of perception; through the third, the phenomena of life and knowledge were entwined to depths hitherto unknown. Taken together, these three criteria indicate the acceleration of explication of the revealing inclusion of latencies and background data in manifest operations. (41)

This definition also opens Terror from the Air (Luftbeben: Aus den Quellen des Terror [“Airquakes: Out of the Sources of Terror”), trans. Amy Patton [Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2002; Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2009] 9), but with the last phrase slightly differently translated: ” the revealing-inclusion of the background givens underlying manifest operations.”

Explication, elsewhere termed “thematization” (after Heidegger, Being and Time 412-15), is making implicit or “latent” things “explicit” or manifest. In his dichotomy of explication and latency, Sloterdijk plays on Heidegger’s correlative characterisation of truth as aletheia (αλήθεια: from alethes, true, lit. not concealing, thus unconcealment, i.e., openness or remembering), and lethe (λήθη: “forgetfulness, oblivion,” thus concealment, i.e., closure or forgetting [N.B. the word “latency” derives from lethe also]). Hence, explication is “a rephenomenalization of the aphenomenal” (32), and it answers “the [modern] need to perceive the imperceptible” (59).

François Lemoyne, “Time Saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy” (1737), Wallace Collection, London.

(The nexus of time and truth is implicit in the role ascribed to memory in truth as aletheia.)

Sloterdijk and Heidegger’s etymological readings of their respective terms suggest that they see unfolding truth as primarily textual, something which is implicit in the root word of explication: “explicit.” Explicit comes from L. explicitus, past participle of explicare “unfold, unravel, explain,” from ex- “out” + plicare “to fold.” Unfolding is indeed a textual metaphor: “explicitus” was written at the end of medieval manuscripts, short for explicitus est liber, “the book is unrolled”—or unfolded. Hence, Heidegger primarily thinks of truth as etymological, hermeneutic or poetic, as deep explanation akin to reading; so, to a degree, does Sloterdijk.

But unfolding can also be a textile (“woven”), or even textural (“of the visual and, especially, tactile surface of” or “of the characteristic physical structure of”), metaphor. Sloterdijk’s idea of explication is in the main textural. It aims to get at the characteristic physical structure of “reality,” as it is taken to be (we could say “metaphysical structure of reality,” if it weren’t illegitimate to speak in such a way). Sloterdijk adds to the temporal aspect of truth a spatial one (not unlike Heidegger with his notion of truth as “clearing“).

Bruno Latour explains explication, which he calls “explicitation,” in this way in “A Plea for the Earthly Sciences,” the keynote lecture at the annual meeting of the British Sociological Association (Apr. 2007), to be published in Judith Burnett, Syd Jeffers and Graham Thomas (eds), New Social Connections: Sociology’s Subjects and Objects (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010):

[H]istory was never about “modernization” or about “revolution,” but was rather about another phenomenon, . . . “explicitation.” As we moved on, through our technologies, through our scientific inquiries, through the extension of our global empires, we rendered more and more explicit the fragility of the life support systems that make our “spheres of existence” possible. Everything that earlier was merely “given” becomes “explicit.” Air, water, land, all of those were present before in the background: now they are explicitated because we slowly come to realize that they might disappear—and we [sic] with them. (2-3)

So this shift is about how we understand how we exist both in the world and with others (these dimensions of existence being inseparable):

[T]he whole idea of “social connections” was linked to a moment in history, that of modernization and of emancipation. What happens if we have shifted to another period, one of explicitation and of attachments?

[Or rather, s]ince “we have never been modern”, we have always been living through a completely different history than the one we kept telling ourselves about: until the ecological crisis began to strike hard and tough, we could go on as though “we” humans were living through one modernization after another, jumping from one emancipation to the next. After all, the future was one of greater and greater detachment from all sorts of contingencies and cumbersome ties. Free at last!

What happens to our identities, if it finally dawns on us that that very same history always had another meaning: the slow explicitation of all of the attachments necessary for the sustenance of our fragile spheres of existence? What happens if the very definition of the future has changed? If we now move from the taken into account of a few beings, to the weaving of careful attachments with an ever greater and greater list of explicitated beings? Attached at last! Dependent! Responsible! (3)

From Eric Morse, “Something in the Air,” an interview with Peter Sloterdijk, Frieze 127 (Nov.-Dec. 2009)

The “Objectively Offered Object” of Ghérasim Luca

Ghérasim Luca (1913-94) was a member of the Romanian Surrealist Group (1940-47), which stood for “a reinvention of the surrealist imagination” through “a critical approach to dreams, the eroticisation of the proletariat, the poetic appropriation of quantum physics, and the perpetual re-evaluation of surrealism through the negation of negation” (The Passive Vampire, with an Introduction on the Objectively Offered Object, a Found Portrait and Seventeen Illustrations, ed. and intro. Krzysztof Fijalkowski [Bucharest: Les Éditions de l’Oubli, 1945; Librarie José Corti, 2001; Prague: Twisted Spoon, 2008]; see Twisted Spoon and Salonica).


We know that the Surrealists loved objets d’art of various species:

  1. “old-fashioned manufactured objects,” i.e., “found object[s],”
  2. “natural object[s],”
  3. “striking arrangement[s],”
  4. “machine[s],” and
  5. “being-objects.”

(Richard Coyne, Technoromanticism: Digital Narrative, Holism, and the Romance of the Real [Boston, MA: MIT Press, 2001] 192, citing Sarane Alexandrian, Surrealist Art, trans. Gordon Clough [London: Thames & Hudson, 1970] 141)

For Luca and his co-conspirator Dolfi Trost, creating such objects allows us to move beyond traditional, i.e. plastic (3D) and subjective, art practice by the use of “rigorously applied scientific procedures”:

We have returned to the problem of knowledge through images . . . by establishing a clear distinction between images produced by artistic means and images resulting from rigorously applied scientific procedures, such as the operation of chance or of automatism. We stand opposed to the tendency to reproduce, through symbols, certain valid theoretical contents by the use of pictorial techniques, and believe that the unknown that surrounds us can find a staggering materialization of the highest order in indecipherable images. In generally accepting until now pictorial reproductive means, surrealist painting will find that the way to its blossoming lies in the absurd use of aplastic, objective and entirely non-artistic procedures. (“Dialectique de la Dialectique“)

(How absurd, i.e., aleatory, non-intentional and meaningless, the objects were is debatable—especially because, as we’ll see below, they were “offered” to a particular person.)

And they represent a response to the outworn nature of modernity, embodied in his motto: “Everything must be reinvented, nothing exists anymore in the whole world” (quoted in Inventor of Love & Other Writings, trans. Julian and Laura Semilian [Black Widow; Commonwealth Books, 2009]; see Ghérasim Luca: Reinvent Everything).

Hence Luca invented—or rather, reinvented, or better, redesigned—the “objectively offered object” or OOO (sometimes shortened to “offered object” or OO) as an objet d’art offered in a particular spirit. The OOO was made while thinking of the person for whom it was intended—like a kind of fetish (an object to which is attributed inherent value or power); thus it served as a vehicle for sentimental or intellectual exchange and became a qualitative description that could be interpreted like a rebus. They were usually assemblages or composites of found and chosen elements that aimed to reveal the hidden relationships between subjects and reveal the workings of an “active collective consciousness” by describing, revealing, invoking a desire, eros being what we might call the “circulatory” principle of society.

An object focusses the movement of desire:

When offering an object to someone, external causality responds more rapidly to internal necessities. Erotic relations between myself and other individuals are more quickly established though the mediation of the object.

A found or made object becomes offered (an OOO) on the slightest pretext, i.e. one of little interpretative value:

For a found or made object to be transformed into an offered object, and for it to be able to change its nature in line with the new relationships established in the interior life of the individual seeking a new balance between the internal and external, the pretext to this transformation must have an interpretive value that is, if not always negligible, at least very limited. The offering of an object might have as its setting the pretext of decoration, or a celebration, or some other external and circumstantial accident, just as the manifest life of a dream uses diurnal remnants and random internal and external stimuli to provide the sleeper a framework of no interpretational value within which the action of the dream can unfold.

Note that the OOO is not a gift—because gifts aren’t erotic:

In today’s society, the offered object bears no qualitative relation to the gift. The gift is an object that is bestowed only after having been stripped of its objective erotic character. Its emotive force is neutralised by its standardisations, which has allowed the bourgeoisie to thwart the differentiation of individual tendencies and thus offer one more argument in support of contemporary morality, which is presented as the only all-encompassing morality possible.


“The Letter L,” The Passive Vampire 39.

The Letter L embodies Luca’s desire to form a rapport with André Breton. As he puts it,

The doll found in the shop window and the envelope full of riddles in the drawer only imposed their presence, violently, into my life at the moment when the desire to know B. [Breton] located in them the overt substitute means for doing this. The incubus found its full realisation through the use of these two magic objects in which I was also shortly to discern sorcery’s demonic power. (44-45)

It is constructed from an antique wooden doll, with hundreds of pictorial riddles from an almanac randomly pasted over its torso and right leg, and with another doll’s head attached upside down to its pelvis. Razor blades are inserted into the head of the second doll’s head, one sliced into its eye (see Mute).


This is the first sentence of The Passive Vampire, which embodies Luca’s fetish for objectivity (though it couldn’t be described as non-subjective):

Objects, these mysterious suits of armour beneath which desire awaits us, nocturnal and laid bare, these snares made of velvet, of bronze, of gossamer that we throw at ourselves with each step we take; hunter and prey in the shadows of forests, at once forest, poacher, and woodcutter, that woodcutter killed at the foot of a tree and covered with his own beard smelling of incense, well-being, and of the that’s-not-possible; free at last, alone at last with ourselves and with everyone else, advancing in the darkness with feline eyes, with jackals’ teeth, with hair in lyrical, tousled ringlets, beneath a shirt of veins and arteries through which the blood flows for the first time, we’re lit up inside ourselves by the giant spotlights of the very first gesture, saying what must be said, doing what must be done, led among the lianas, butterflies, and bats, like the black and white on a chessboard; no one would dream of forbidding the black squares and the bishop—the ants vanish, the king and queen vanish, the alarm clocks vanish in turn, we reintroduce the walking stick, the bicycle with odd wheels, the timepiece, the airship, keeping the siphon, the telephone receiver, the shower head, the lift, the syringe, the automatic mechanisms that deliver chocolate when numbered buttons are pressed; objects, this catalepsy, this steady spasm, this “stream one never steps in twice” and into which we plunge as into a photograph; objects, those philosopher’s stones that dis- cover, transform, hallucinate, communicate our screaming, those stone-screams that break the waves, through which the rainbow, living images, images of the image will pass, I dream of you because I dream of myself, hypnotically I aim at the diamond contained within you, before falling asleep, before you fall asleep, we pass through each other like two ghosts in a marble room whose walls are hung with life-sized portraits of our ancestors, with the portrait of a mediaeval knight next to the portrait of a chair gazing at the two fossils of ghosts on the walls of this spectral museum, and if it is true that we are shadows, then the people and the objects all around us here are nothing but the bones of shadows, the shadows of shadows. . . . (71-72)

Elsewhere, he puts it more directly:

In the world in which I like to breathe, a box can take on the same psychic content of a beloved woman; the delirious and fetishistic love between a man and a box thus casts a prophetic, thaumaturgic light onto the outer world. (81)


N.B. (1): Luca also invented cubomania, a “surautomatic” method of making collages in which a picture or image is cut into squares and the squares are then reassembled without regard for the image.

Cubomanie IV.


N.B. (2): Gilles Deleuze frequently cited Luca’s poetry as a prime example of stuttering in language, which for him represents the highest poetic function:

I believe that Ghérasim Luca is one of the greatest French poets, and of all time. He certainly does not owe this to his Romanian origin, but he makes use of this origin to make French stammer in itself, with itself, to carry the stammering into the language itself, not simply the speaking of it. Read or listen to the poem “Passionément,” which has been recorded as well as published in the collection Le Chant de la Carpe. One has never achieved such an intensity in the language, such an intensive use of language. A public recitation of poems by Ghérasim Luca is a marvellous and complete theatrical event. (“One Manifesto Less,” The Deleuze Reader, ed. Constantin V. Boundas [New York, NY: Columbia UP, 1993] 213)

In “Passionément” (1973), Luca literally stutters for several minutes (“Pas pas paspaspas paspasppas ppas pas paspas”) before he is able to utter the poem’s climactic final lines, which turn on the affirmation, “I love you passionately.” According to Deleuze, in this performance “[t]he entire language spins and varies in order to disengage a final sonic block, a single breath at the limit of the cry I LOVE YOU PASSIONATELY [Je t’aime passionnément]” (“He Stuttered,” Essays Critical and Clinical, trans. Michael A. Greco and Daniel W. Smith [Minneapolis, MN: UMP, 1997] 110 [partially viewable], quoted in Ronald Bogue, Deleuze on Literature [London; New York, NY: Routledge, 2003] 101).

Jared Wells at Begayer la Langue has a blog on recordings of Luca’s poetry; Ubuweb has several recordings.

Peter Sloterdijk in English [updated July 2013]

Sloterdijk Portrait

Peter Sloterdijk (b.1947) is the coming man in philosophical anthropology (or rather, on the comeback after his first brush with fame in the 80s) — though his work is translated more often in French and Spanish than in English. His Sisyphean Spheres trilogy (1998, 1999, 2004), a decade in the making and as yet untranslated in English, seems to have prevented his work becoming more broadly known in the Anglo world. This has begun to change over the past year, as his hyperbolic philosophy has returned parabolically, as it were, his motifs of anthropo-technology, spherology and atmoterrorism having found their moment in this time of genetics, globalization and global warming. (Note that some of these texts are subscription only — I include these for my own reference and for those who have institutional access to journals.)

Texts already translated into English (in chronological order)

Critique of Cynical Reason, trans. Michael Eldred; intro. Andreas Huyssen (Minneapolis, MN: UMP, 1988). [Currently on Scribd (non-copyright).] There is a summary with excerpts at (orig. Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, “In Search of Lost Cheekiness, An Introduction to Peter Sloterdijk’s “Critique of Cynical Reason,” Tabula Rasa 20.12 [2003] <>). [Currently on Scribd (non-copyright).]

Thinker on Stage: Nietzsche’s Materialism, trans. Jamie Owen Daniel; intro. Jochen Schulte-Sasse (Minneapolis, MN: UMP, 1989). [Currently on Scribd (non-copyright).]

Theory of the Post-War Periods: Observations on Franco-German Relations since 1945, trans. Robert Payne; intro. Klaus-Dieter Müller (New York, NY: Springer Vienna, 2008). [Available on SpringerLink and on Scribd (non-copyright).]

Terror from the Air, trans. Amy Patton (Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2009).

God’s Zeal: The Battle of the Three Monotheisms (Cambridge: Polity P, 2009).

Derrida, an Egyptian: On the Problem of the Jewish Pyramid (Cambridge: Polity P, 2009). [Currently on Scribd (non-copyright).]

Rage and Time: A Psychopolitical Investigation, trans. Mario Wenning (Irvington, NY: Columbia UP, 2010). [Currently on Scribd (non-copyright).]

[The blurb:] While ancient civilizations worshipped strong, active emotions, modern societies trend more toward peaceful, democratic processes. We have largely forgotten the struggle to make use of the thymos, the section of Plato’s tripartite soul that contains spirit, pride, and indignation. Instead Christianity and psychoanalysis promote the idea that mutual understanding and therapy can settle all conflicts.With a unique collage of examples, from Alexandre Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo to recent Islamic political riots in Paris, Peter Sloterdijk reinterprets the history of Western civilization according to the suppression and return of rage. He proves the fallacy that rage can be controlled. Global terrorism and economic frustrations have rendered strong emotions visibly resurgent, and the consequences of violent expression will determine international relations for decades to come. To better respond to rage and its complex challenges, Sloterdijk, the preeminent posthumanist, dares to break with deeply entrenched dogmas as he forms a new theory for confronting conflict. His approach respects the existence and proper place of rage within humanity and channels the fact of rage into productive political struggle.

An excerpt.

Neither Sun Nor Death (with Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs), trans. Steve Corcoran (Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 2010).

[The blurb:] In Neither Sun nor Death, Sloterdijk answers questions posed by German writer Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs, commenting on such issues as technological mutation, development media, communication technologies, and his own intellectual itinerary.

Bubbles, Spheres, vol. 1: Microspherology. Trans. Wieland Hoban. New York, NY: Semiotext(e), 2011. [See the so-called Foreword. No preview on Google Books or Amazon: boo!]

[From the blurb:] Rejecting the century’s predominant philosophical focus on temporality, Sloterdijk, a self-described “student of the air,” reinterprets the history of Western metaphysics as an inherently spatial and immunological project, from the discovery of self (bubble) to the exploration of world (globe) to the poetics of plurality (foam). Exploring macro- and micro-space from the Greek agora to the contemporary urban apartment, Sloterdijk is able to synthesize, with immense erudition, the spatial theories of Aristotle, René Descartes, Gaston Bachelard, Walter Benjamin, and Georges Bataille into a morphology of shared, or multipolar, dwelling — identifying the question of being as one bound up with the aerial technology of architectonics and anthropogenesis.

The Art of Philosophy: Wisdom as a Practice. Trans. Karen Margolis. New York, NY: Columbia UP, 2012. [On Google Books.]

[From the blurb:] In . . . You Must Change Your Life, Peter Sloterdijk argued exercise and practice were crucial to the human condition. In The Art of Philosophy, he extends this critique to academic science and scholarship, casting the training processes of academic study as key to the production of sophisticated thought.

You Must Change your Life: On Anthropotechnics. Trans. Wieland Hoban. Cambridge; Malden, MA: Polity P, 2013. [Preview on Amazon.]

[From the blurb:] Peter Sloterdijk presents a critique of myth: the myth of the return of religion. For it is not religion that is returning; rather, there is something else quite profound that is taking on increasing significance in the present: the human as a practising, training being, one that creates itself through exercises and thereby transcends itself. Rainer Maria Rilke formulated the drive towards such self-training in the early twentieth century in the imperative “You must change your life.”

Other texts (essays, excerpts and interviews) (in alphabetical order)

“Airquakes,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 27.1 (2009): 41-57, trans. Eduardo Mendieta, from Sphären III: Schäume (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2004) 89-126, 5 Feb. 2009 <> [requires subscription; this special issue, “The Worlds of Peter Sloterdijk” (ed. Stuart Elden, Eduardo Mendieta and Nigel Thrift) has two essays by Sloterdijk and several about his work]. [Currently on Scribd (non-copyright).] Prelude to Terror from the Air.

In this excerpt from the introduction to volume three of Sphären (Spheres), subtitled Schäume (Foams), Sloterdijk argues that what makes the 20th century uniquely singular and creative is its invention of what he calls here atmoterrorism, the assault not on the body of the enemy, but on his or her environment. This terrorism of the atmosphere is to be understood as a human-made form of quake that turns the enemy’s environment into a weapon against them. Living organisms, among them humans, simply cannot not breathe, and it is this double negative that is at the heart of atmoterrorism. Weaving a fascinating narrative that links the development of insecticides and pesticides to the first use of poisonous gas during World War I, to the development of the gas chamber as the tool of supreme punishment in the United States, to the eventual convergence of putative humane killing and disinfection and delousing into the mobile and stationary gas chambers of extermination used in the Nazi concentration camps. Terrorism, argues Sloterdijk, reveals the essence of war, the will to exterminate the enemy, with the difference that the former expands the extermination of the enemy to the very world that enables the enemy to exist. In the 20th century, atmoterrorism leads to the exterminism of total war.

“Analytic Terror. Keyword for Avant-Gardism as Explicative Force,” Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art, ed. Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 2002) 352-59.

“Anthropo-Technology,” New Perspectives Quarterly 21.4 (Fall 2004): 40-44, 20 Oct. 2009 <>.

Information in our era of networks and genome maps, according to Sloterdijk, binds man and his tools that transform nature into one operative system. This “post-metaphysical” condition not only tends to abolish the separation between the subjective person and “objective spirit,” but the distinction between culture and nature as well.

For Sloterdijk, one co-intelligent system now encompasses subject and object, culture and nature. This information ecology gives man a new fused identity with the other, with his world and his tools. He is no longer an identity apart.

Such a civilization of co-intelligent “anthropo-technology” requires an entirely new perspective on ethics. For Sloterdijk, today’s passionate debates over man’s domination of nature or technology’s domination of man miss the point because they are fearfully rooted in the obsolete master-slave dichotomy that holds such a hallowed place in Western philosophy. As Sloterdijk sees it, this dichotomy, based as it was on the opposition between subject and object and between culture and nature, needs to be updated: In our time, master and slave are dissolved in the advance of intelligent technologies whose operability is non-dominating. One can only talk about self-manipulation, not slavery; not about a master, but about self-mastery.

Unleashing the basic force of nature against the people of Hiroshima may have been possible prior to the information revolution when “allo-technology” (the division between man and machine) still predominated. But, the anthropo-technology of the post-metaphysical 21st century, Sloterdijk contends, holds out a generous promise. In this system bound together by information feedback and artificial intelligence, the preservationist instinct of the co-beneficiaries of co-intelligence will limit the destructive acts of anthropo-technology against itself.

Between the lines, Sloterdijk even seems to suggest that the “astraying” fate of alienated Being may at last find its dwelling place rejoined with nature and the world.

“Architecture as an Art of Immersion” (2006), trans. translated by Tina Engels-Schwarzpaul, Interstices 12 (2011): 106-09, 12 Nov. 2011, <>. (See this essay by Stephen Turner and myself in the same issue.)

“Atmospheric Politics” (2004), trans. Jeremy Gains, Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, ed. Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005) 944-51, 2 Apr. 2009 <>; also in Michael Hensel, Achim Menges and Christopher Hight (eds.), Space Reader: Heterogeneous Space in Architecture, AD Reader 3 (London: Wiley, 2009).

“Citizens in a Vat of Dye: The Birth of Democracy from the Spirit of Disarmament,” OPEN 10, (In)tolerance: Freedom of Expression in Art and Culture (2006): 6-11 (?).

The editors of Open had a lecture translated that was delivered by philosopher Peter Sloterdijk during the conference ‘Atmospheres for Freedom. Towards an Ecology of Good Government’ in Venice in 2004. In this lecture, Sloterdijk addresses the premises of a democratic society and the importance therein of written and representational media.

“Cynicism: The Twilight of False Consciousness” (with Michael Eldred and Leslie A. Adelson), New German Critique 33, Modernity and Postmodernity (Autumn 1984): 190-206, <> [ch. 1 of Critique of Cynical Reason].

“The Crystal Palace,” Public 37 (2009), York Digital Journals, <> [ch. 33 of Weltinnenraum des Kapitals: Für eine Philosophische Theorie der Globalisierung [In the Global Inner Space of Capital: For a Philosophical Theory of Globalization] (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2005) 265-76].

“The Devil’s Advocate, Between the Ethical and the Systemic,” The Future of Values: 21st-Century Talks, ed. Jérôme Bindé (New York, NY; Oxford: UNESCO/Berghahn, 2004) 34-40.

[Excerpt:] I . . . propose, as an essential intermediary on the path leading to access to the Other, the figure of the advocatus diaboli in the guise of the modern intellectual, who, often unknowingly, offers his services as an advocate of the Other’s as yet unemancipated and unlimited egoism.

“Eurotaoism,” Nietzsche and the Rhetoric of Nihilism: Essays on Interpretation, Language and Politics, ed. Tom Darby, Bela Egyed and Ben Jones (Toronto: Carleton UP, 1989) 99-116.

“Ferocious Images,” Dynamics and Performativity of Imagination: Images Between the Visible and the Invisible, ed. by Bernd Hüppauf and Christoph Wulf, Routledge Research in Media Studies 21  (New York, NY: Routledge, 2009) 202-13.

“Foam City,” Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory 9.1 (2008): 47-59, <>.

“Foam City,” trans. Julie Di Filippo, Log 9 (Winter-Spring 2007): 63-76, from “Indoors: Arkhitekturen des Schaums [Indoors: Architectures of the Foam],” Sphären III: Schäume [“Foams”], Plurale Sphärologie (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2004) 604-11, 11 Oct. 2007. Distinktion 16, The Technologies of Politics (2008): 47-59.

Politics and political collectives are not merely symbolic phenomena. They are anchored physically in space and often supported by particular architectural representations. This article analyzes a specific example of this, namely the French Revolution and its immediate aftermath, and demonstrates how architectural designs were integral to establishing an assembly for the post-revolutionary collective. [It] focuses on the Fête de la Fédération of July 14, 1790, celebrated on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. The author argues that the architectural staging of this spectacle served to generate an embodiment of the nation, enhanced by affective and acoustic measures. While the article is mainly concerned with the architectural technologies of politics related to the French Revolution, it also points beyond this specific historical case and briefly indicates how 20th-century fascisms used techniques that were prefigured by 18th-century French inventions.

“Foam City: About Urban Spatial Multitudes,” trans. Antonio Petrov, New Geographies 0 [sic] (2008) 136-143, 1 Jan. 2010 <>.

“From Agrarian Patriotism to the Global Self,” trans. Margarita Nieto and Nathan Gardels, New Perspectives Quarterly 17.1, The Global Mind (Winter 2000): 15–18,  28 June 2008 <> [requires subscription] (orig. “Patria y Globalización: Notas Sobre un Recipiente Hecho Pedazos,” Nexos [Mexico] 262 [Oct. 1999], see “Revista Observaciones Filosóficas – Patria y globalización; Notas sobre un recipiente hecho pedazos,” 10 Dec. 2008 <>).

A globalized world announces the end of a sedentarism and, with it, the concept of a homeland. What has produced this change in contemporary man and in his idea of what it means to belong to a specific place?

“Geometry in the Colossal: the Project of Metaphysical Globalization,” trans. Samuel A. Butler, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 27.1 (2009): 29-40, from Sphären II: Globen [“Globes”], Makrosphärologie (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1999) 47-72, 5 Feb. 2009 <>.

. . . The excerpt is a beginning of the history of the idea of the sphere or the globe. As claimed by Heidegger in the epigraph, the conquest of the world as picture is the fundamental event of modernity. The historical question that arises, then, is that of the rise of the globe as the fundamental picture of the world. Sloterdijk begins with remarks on what he calls a “treatise on the metaphysics of roundness,” Nicholas of Cusa’s De Ludo Globi, set in a discussion concerning the movement of the notion of the globe from the Greek to the Roman world. The second half of the excerpt is devoted to a more focused analysis of the composition, history, and significance of the Farnese Atlas. In this work we see the world portrayed as a “poetic-scientific bastard heaven, a product of geometry as much as of mythology,” borne upon the shoulders of a titan-philosopher-athlete, images at once ancient and modern. The conquest of the world as picture thus transforms Atlas’s punishment into a symbol of the greatest earthly power.

“The Grasping Hand,” trans. Alexis Cornell, City Journal 20.1 (Winter 2010) <>. Also at (27 Jan. 2010) <>.

[Excerpt:] To assess the unprecedented scale that the modern democratic state has attained in Europe, it is useful to recall the historical kinship between two movements that emerged at its birth: classical liberalism and anarchism. Both were motivated by the mistaken hypothesis that the world was heading toward an era of the weakening of the state[. . . .] But the political history of the twentieth century, and not just in its totalitarian extremes, proved unkind to both classical liberalism and anarchism. The modern democratic state gradually transformed into the debtor state, within the space of a century metastasizing into a colossal monster — one that breathes and spits out money.

“Inspiration,” ephemera 9.3 (2009): 242-51 <>.
“Instant Democracy: The Pneumatic Parliament” (with Gesa Mueller von der Hagen), Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, ed. Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005) 952-55, 2 Apr. 2009. [Currently on Scribd (non-copyright) — appended to “Atmospheric Politics.”]

“Mobilization of the Planet from the Spirit of Self-Intensification,” TDR [The Drama Review] 50.4 (Winter 2006): 36-43, 27 Nov. 2006 <>.

[Excerpt:] In this essay, the interpretation of the present is based on a philosophical kinetics originating from three axioms. First, that we are moving in a world that is moving itself; second, that the self-movements of the world include our own self-movements and affect them; and third, that in modernity, the self-movements of the world originate from our self-movements, which are cumulatively added to world-movement. From these axioms, it is possible to more or less entirely develop a relationship between an old world, a modern world, and a postmodern world.

“Modernity as Mobilisation,” Speed: Visions of an Accelerated Age, ed. Jeremy Millar and Michiel Schwarz (London: The Photographers’ Gallery and the Trustees of the Whitechapel Art Gallery, [1998]) 43-52.

“Nature-To-Be-Made: The Crucial Subject of Modern Times,” Politics: Agamben, Marramao, Rancière, Sloterdijk, Criticism of Contemporary Issues, Serralves International Conferences 2007 (Serralves Foundation, 2008) 195-218, <>.

“Nearness and Da-sein: The Spatiality of Being and Time,” Theory, Culture & Society 29.4-5 (July-Sep. 2012): 36-42, <>

“The New Grapes of Wrath: Post-Communism — Neo-Liberalism — Islamism,” The State of the World, ed. António Pinto Ribeiro (Carcanet, 2007) 146-58.

“The Nomotop: On the Emergence of Law in the Island of Humanity,” Law and Literature 18.1 (Spring 2006): 1–14, 23 June 2006 <> [requires subscription].

All insulated human groups, asserting themselves through processes of generation and thereby existing each in their proper time (Eigenzeit), partake in a mystery of stability that has been little investigated but without which their continuation could hardly be understood. They generate within themselves a normative architecture that exhibits a sufficiently supra-personal, imposing, and torsion-resistant character to be regarded by its users as valid law, as an apparatus of obligatory principles, and as a coercive normative reality.

“The Open Clearing and Illumination: Remarks on Metaphysics, Mysticism and the Politics of Light,” Light Art from Artificial Art [Lichtkunst aus Kunstlicht]: Light as a Medium in 20th and 21st Century Art, ed. Peter Weibel and Gregor Jansen (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2006) 45-56, repr. as “Light and Illumination: Notes on the Metaphysics, Mysticism and Politics of Light,” in Mischa Kuball: In Progress; Projects, ed. Florian Matzner (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2007) 15-35.

“The Operable Man: On the Ethical State of Gene Technology,” trans. Joel Westerdale and Günter Sautter, lecture at UCLA conference Enhancing the Human: Genomics, Science Fiction, and Ethics Collide, Goethe Institute, Los Angeles (21 May 2000), peter, 6 Oct. 2004 <> %5Bno longer available; contact me if you need it].

[Excerpt:] Biotechnologies and nootechnologies nurture by their very nature a subject that is refined, cooperative, and prone to playing with itself. This subject shapes itself through intercourse with complex texts and hypercomplex contexts. Domination must advance towards its very end, because in its rawness it makes itself impossible. In the inter-intelligently condensed net-world, masters and despoilers have hardly any long-term chances of success left, while cooperators, promoters, and enrichers fit into more numerous and more adequate slots. (From Pat Kane, “Transhumanism at Play,” h+ [16 Sep. 2009]; another excerpt at “Homelessness Is Coming To Be the Destiny of the World,” The Transducer [28 Sep. 2009])

“Polemic Against the Id, or: Think of the Devil,” Otto Mühl: Retrospektive: Jenseits von Zucht und Ordnung, ed. Otto Mühl and Harald Falckenberg (Frankfurt am Main: Revolver, 2005) 289-95, an excerpt from ch. 11, Critique of Cynical Reason 362-67.

“Rules for the Human Zoo: A Response to the Letter on Humanism,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 27.1 (2009): 12-28, 1 Jan. 2010 <>.

“Rules for the Human Zoo,” also known as the “Elmauer Rede,” originally appeared in 1999 in the newspaper Die Zeit and was subsequently published by Suhrkamp in 2001. In this response to Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism,” Sloterdijk poses the basic question about the purpose of politics, governance, and civic solidarity. On the one hand, since Plato, politics has been conceived in part as concerned with the necessity of “taming” humans into being good citizens. Sloterdijk thus follows Nietzsche and Heidegger in portraying humanism as one side in a “constant battle . . . between bestializing and taming tendencies.” It is in the Hobbesian state of nature that humans are “wolves” to each other; but who turns the wolves into friendly, loyal dogs? Humanism has claimed, according to Sloterdijk, that it is “reading the right books” which “calms the inner beast.” It is the great books, the “thick letters” from one great thinker to another, that provide the “model presented by the wise,” which enables “the care of man by man.” At the present, Sloterdijk argues, we appear to have been abandoned by the wise. It is no longer the humanist but the archivist who bothers to look up the old, thick letters. Humanism thus gives way to archivism.

“Society of Centaurs: Philosophical Remarks on Automobility,” trans. Katie Ritson, Transfers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies 1.1 (Spring 2011): 14-24. [Preview here — the journal is hard to come by.]

“Spheres Theory: Talking to Myself about the Poetics of Space,” 
Harvard University Graduate School of Design
 (17 Feb. 2009), Harvard Design Magazine 30 “(Sustainability) + Pleasure, vol. 1: Culture + Architecture” (Spring/Summer 2009), 1 Jan. 2010> (currently on Scribd (non-copyright)); see [the talk in which the interview originated, “Networks and Spheres: Two Ways to Reinterpret Globalization” (with Bruno Latour, 17 Feb. 2009), is also online].

“The Thing about Power,” Entry Paradise: New Worlds of Design, ed. Gerhard Seltmann and Werner Lippert (Basel: Birkhauser, 2006) 98-111.

The Time of the Crime of the Monstrous: On the Philosophical Justification of the Artificial,” trans. Wieland Hoban, Sloterdijk Now, ed. Stuart Elden (Oxford: Polity P, 2012) 165-81.

Tractatus Philosophico-Touristicus,” Trends and Issues in Global Tourism 2009, ed. Roland Conrady and Martin Buck (Berlin; Heidelberg: Springer, 2009) 271-78, 23 May 2006 <>.

[Excerpt:] I start with an observation, which I’m sure we all share, that world tourism must be considered one of the key factors of the current as well as future global economy, more still in actual fact, of global culture, of global civilization.

“War on Latency: On Some Relations between Surrealism and Terror,” Radical Philosophy 137 (May-June 2006): 14-19 [later included in Terror from the Air].

[Excerpt:] The recollection of one of the best-known scenes from the surrealistic offensive [i.e., Dali’s performance at Londonʼs New Burlington Galleries for the International Surrealist Exhibition in 1936] may well explain the parallelism between the atmo-terrorist explications of the atmosphere and the culturally revolutionary blows to the mentality of a bourgeois art audience [delivered by Surrealism].

“What Happened in the Twentieth Century? En Route to a Critique of Extremist Reason, Inaugural Lecture, Emmanuel Levinas Chair, Strasbourg, March 4, 2005,” Cultural Politics: An International Journal 3.3 (Nov. 2007): 327-55, 1 Jan. 2010 <> [requires subscription].

To a certain extent, it bears homage to that great thinker of the complex Other. However, other than taking a political stance, Sloterdijk prefers the perspective of a curator who is concerned about conserving the past century’s critical impulse, which today’s consumerism and the collapse of Left-wing traditions tend to render ghostly. In the first two parts of his essay, Sloterdijk argues that if in contemporary diagnoses the twentieth century appears as a time of confusions, this is because it is an Age of Extremes (Eric Hobsbawm): an age of revolts against complexities by the critical reference of all actual or objective states of affairs to a basic cause or fundamental factor. The subject of this extremist reason is defined by its vassalage, apostolate, and mediality in relation to a commanding and disinhibiting reality. Its forerunners are champions of “good crime” such as Marquis de Sade and the young Hegelians; its exemplary twentieth-century cases are Lenin and Mao. Alain Badiou is right to note that the memory of their critical projects is rapidly giving way to the uncontested status of today’s global neoliberalist ideology. Yet, Sloterdijk argues, this is not necessarily a bad thing, not even for critical thought. In the third and fourth parts of his essay, his explicit aim is to “translate” Badiou’s thesis that the twentieth century was marked by a “passion for the real” into the context of his own project of spherology. The twentieth century consists primarily of the activation of the real in a passion for technological and economic antigravitation. The result is the slow but unavoidable emancipation of Western civilization from “the dogmatic opportunism of the real as power-of-the-base-from-below” toward “a free-moving position intermediate between the heavy and antigravitational tendencies.” Economically, the ending of scarcity (Entknappung) and, technologically, the exoneration (Entlastung) of the burdens of human life by the intrusion of new motive forces into human propulsive arrangements have led to the death throes (“Agonie”) of the belief in the base/superstructure division and the radicalism or fundamentalism derived from it. If the twentieth century can still inspire us today, this is because its reprogramming of the pitch of existence (Daseinsstimmung) paves the way for a “critique of extremist reason,” a “post-Marxist theory of enrichment,” a “new interpretation of dreams,” and a “general economy” of energy resources based on excess and dissipation.

“World Markets and Secluded Spots: On the Position of the European Regions in the World-Experiment of Capital,” Random Access [1]: On Crisis and its Metaphors, ed. Pavel Büchler and Nikos Papastergiadis (London: Rivers Oram Press; Concord, MA: Paul, 1995) 35-56.


Alliez, Éric, “Living Hot, Thinking Coldly: An Interview with Peter Sloterdijk,” Cultural Politics: An International Journal 3.3 (Nov. 2007): 307-26, 3 Nov. 2009 <> [requires subscription].

. . . the focal points of the interview are Sloterdijk’s core cultural conception of Nietzschean-inflected thought and his own Sphere Theory, his ideas on immunization, notions of ecology, “anthropotechnics,” and the question of Being.

Afheldt, Heik, and Bernd Ulrich, “Animal Rights, Gene Technology, and Human Breeding:  A Conversation with Peter Sloterdijk,” Logos 6.3 (Summer 2007), 7 Oct. 2007 <>.

Funcke, Bettina, “Against Gravity: Bettina Funcke Talks with Peter Sloterdijk,” Bookforum (Feb.-Mar. 2005), 9 Sep. 2009 <>.

Gorris, Lothar, and Dirk Kurbjuweit, “Philosopher Peter Sloterdijk on the Tour de France: ‘The Riders are Just Regular Employees,'” trans. Christopher Sultan, Spiegel Online (7 Oct. 2008), 1 Jan. 2009 <,1518,565111,00.html>.

. . . Sloterdijk talks about the the end of true heroism in professional cycling, the profanity of doping, and the destructive power of Danish nihilism.

Jandl, Paul, “[Found Papers:] Economic Crisis and Cultural Change,” Iconoclastia: News from a Post Iconic World: Architectural Papers IV, ed. Joseph Lluis Mateo (Zurich: ETH, 2009) 70-73, excerpts from a conversation orig. publ. in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung 29 Nov. 2008.

Kahl, Reinhard, “Learning is Looking Forward to Oneself,” trans. Wim Glas, GlazBlog, 28 Dec. 2010, <> (orig. “Lernen ist Vorfreude auf Sich Selbsts,” McK Wissen 14 [McKinsey & Company, 2005]: 110-11).

Meller, Marius, “Damned to Expertocracy,” Sight & Sound (trans. 1 July 2005), 1 Jan. 2010 <> (orig. “Die Hühner sind die Verlierer der Geschichte,” Der Tagesspiegel [24 June 2005], 1 Jan. 2010 <,2198236>).

The end of democracy? Philosopher Peter Sloterdijk talks with Marius Meller about Europe’s crisis and authoritarian capitalism.

Morse, Eric, “Something in the Air,” Frieze 127 (Nov.-Dec.2009) <>.

German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk talks to Erik Morse about the 20th- and 21st-century phenomena of chemical warfare, designer ventilation and high-density urban living.

Ohanian, Melik, and Jean-Christophe Royoux, “Foreword to the Theory of Spheres” (2004), Cosmograms (New York, NY: Lukas & Sternberg, 2005) 223-40, 8 Oct. 2006 <…/COSMOGRAM-INTER-GB_Spheres.pdf>.

Peters, Luc, “Inspiration,” Ephemera (2009) 9.3: 242-51, 24 Jan. 2010 <>.