I’m currently reading Jane Bennett’s wonderful new book, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Duke UP). It’s a concise (122 pages without endnotes) statement of what shes calls her ‘vital materialism’. It draws on Spinoza, Latour, Deleuze, Thoreau, Adorno and others to build a theory of political agency that takes nonhuman forces just as seriously as human acts.
Two criticisms at this point (I’m in chapter 2): First, the book cover. Nowhere on the back cover does it mention that Bennett engages and features Latour, specifically his notion of actant. This omission is misleading, and inexplicable given that six other prominent thinkers are listed on the cover.
Second, Bennett offers a notion of ‘thing-power’ to describe the efficacity of things. This idea is coming out of Latour and, from what I can tell, Adorno. With this notion she hopes to describe the shadowy power of objects as well as their tendency to withdraw from us humans. The language and conceptuality is strikingly similar to the object-oriented philosophy movement, yet Bennett references neither Graham Harman, Levi Bryant, or any other object-oriented philosopher.
These are minor criticisms. They in no way diminish Bennett’s statement, which is admirably concentrated and courageous in its metaphysics. It’s a book I would have liked to have presented at the first annual graduate student conference that we put on at Duquesne several years ago, enititled ‘Political Ontology and a New Metaphysics’.