Sunday, February 01, 2009

On power, durability, resistance and survival in a climate of change

Bruno Latour writes

Strenght does not come from concentration, purity and unity, but
from dissemination, heterogeneity and the careful plaiting of weak ties.
This feeling that resistance, obduracy and sturdiness is more easily
achieved through netting, lacing, weaving, twisting, of ties that are weak
by themselves, and that each tie, no matter how strong, is itself woven out
of still weaker threads, permeates for instance Foucault's analysis of
micro-powers as well as recent sociology of technology. But the less
intuitive philosophical basis for accepting an ANT is a
background/foreground reversal: instead of starting from universal laws
-social or natural- and to take local contingencies as so many queer
particularities that should be either eliminated or protected, it starts
from irreducible, incommensurable, unconnected localities, which then, at a
great price, sometimes end into provisionnaly commensurable connections.

This is a reminder to me that 'power' is not something to curl up and die in the face of...its made of little things. Its not nebulous, its not plaited ropes of sand.

I am reminded, again, of my background in critical social theory, and how to reconcile this with the descriptive form of actor- network theory. Here I have it. Power is plaited.

The man who writes to the masters of Pig Island
about the love they dread
plaits ropes of sand
but i was born among them
and someday will lie amngst their dead

James K Baxter (New Zealand poet)


  1. Anonymous7:11 AM

    Have finished some projects and have carved back space to think and read again Ailsa - i have neglected so many of your posts and as i read backwards there are so many that deserve thought and comment - still this is as a good a place as any to re-start thinking.

    I liked the idea of strength coming from dissemination ... it reminded me of what I have been thinking about copyright and museums, archives, libraries IP etc and I loved Baxter's plaited ropes of sand.

    Would you allow that plaited ropes of sand might be necessary before we bind weak threads or does it represent futile and hopeless endeavour ?

    I also enjoyed this because it fits with the design principles of a concept curriculum ... or at least I think it does

  2. The image of plaiting ropes of sand had always stayed with me as a vision of futility but where endurance may or may not pan out.
    The imagery in plaiting of weak ties seems a way forward where futility is lessened or even circumvented and where outcomes are stronger. Dissemination, inclusion, even translation (changes accomadating local needs...)can be drawn in.
    Futile no longer. Just some insights on how difference might be engineered, purposefully.
    Might also be a reverse action concurrently to detach threads from others plaited ropes...