some final remarks on bennett’s vibrant matter

First, it’s nice that Bennett is not afraid to promote a modest degree of anthropomorphism with respect to objects, even if this promotion is simply a rhetorical maneuver. Rhetorically, it lends object a force that they are often denied. It may just be a Wittgensteinian ladder that we will one day kick away, finding it no longer of use or necessity.

Second, and more importantly, Vibrant Matter is an intense book. This is by virtue of its clarity, concision, and compactness. Each chapter gets right to the point, explaining difficult concepts without the philosophical jargon and without succumbing to the desire to digress into local debates. Bennett’s trajectory is concentrated; she resists diffusion and keeps focused on the book’s payoff: the application of a certain tendency in materialism to contemporary politics. Sure, I would have liked her to engage more object-oriented philosophy, or take up Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire, but this kind of engagement would have been out of place in a book which is primarily situated in political theory, not philosophy.

Philosophically, Vibrant Matter is neither remarkable nor contentious. She efficiently assembles some concepts from the likes of Latour, Deleuze, Spinoza, Dreisch, Kant, Bergson, and others (often only a single concept or two: body, elan vital, assemblage, actant), and puts them to work for her  “vital materialism.” She effectively inscribes Bush and his cohort into the history of vitalism, only to quickly display how such a “soul vitalism” has already been criticized and surpassed, worn out. This is where the force of Bennett’s philosophical work is felt, in the political arena.

Perhaps Vibrant Matter could be one of the founding documents of the Materialist Party?

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About plasticbodies

Contemporary philosopher.
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3 Responses to some final remarks on bennett’s vibrant matter

  1. Ted Howell says:

    This book has been my introduction to a lot of concepts and methods that I see having an influence on the rest of scholarship, so your comment about it being a materialist manifesto seems right.

  2. Thank you. I’m grateful for your reading of the book. I just now am reading via Graham Harman about object-oriented ontologies — learning a lot and wishing I had read of it earlier.

  3. plasticbodies says:

    Ted-Thanks for the comment, and the sympathy.

    Professor Bennett-Great to learn that you’re reading Harman. As far as I can tell, your positions have many similarities, and yet at the most fundamental level there are deep conflicts. At least you have a love of Latour in common. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, and thank you even more for your delightful book.

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