Stiegler and Technics ed. by Christina Howells, Gerald Moore (review)
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Reviewed by
Stiegler and Technics. Edited by Christina Howells and Gerald Moore. (Critical Connections.) Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013. xii + 296 pp.

The ambition of this well-compiled collection is to provide an insight into the key themes and main sources of Bernard Stiegler’s philosophy. The diversity of themes and perspectives, together with the engagement with existing commentaries, makes the volume both the crystallization of the first wave of reception of Stiegler’s work — mostly a reading of the first two volumes of the series La Technique et le temps (1994, 1996)—and the opening up of avenues for a much wider assessment of his project of general organology, which he began in 2004 with the De la misère symbolique and Mécréance et discrédit series. Although Stiegler has developed a fundamental and provocative argument through his Technique et le temps series — and often refers to the last three virtual volumes of the same series as the aboutissement of his argument — this thesis is frequently mistaken for being an essentialist position, whereas it should be understood at the level of a working hypothesis. The originality of the present collection lies in the fact that many of the essays (in particular those by Christopher Johnson, Michael Lewis, Serge Trottein, Oliver Davis, Miguel de Beistegui, and Richard Beardsworth) engage critically with Stiegler’s corpus instead of blindly repeating his theses. For instance, Johnson’s chapter on Stiegler’s selective reading of the palaeontologist André Leroi-Gourhan is remarkable in presenting the [End Page 420] disagreements between the philosopher and the scientist. Johnson questions the divergence between Stiegler’s understanding of the process of hominization as differentiation and Leroi-Gourhan’s attempt to delineate different evolutionary stages in prehistory, from the ‘Zinjanthropus’ to the Neanderthal. The ‘always-already’ is ‘quite foreign to Leroi-Gourhan’s mode of thinking’, which instead is framed in terms of the ‘not-quite yet’ (p. 42). The aporia of the origin of the human cannot be left undecided and needs to be narrated as a second origin—the invention of the human as a mythical anthropology, as Lewis argues in his chapter. Trottein is suspicious both of Stiegler’s devaluing of aesthetics and of the technological determinism of his argument (‘reducing the sensible to the intelligible’, p. 93); he calls Stiegler an illusionist and manipulator and rejects the project of the third volume of La Technique et le temps (2001) as a ‘new critique’ when Kant’s third Critique is repressed (p. 100). However polemical and productive this reading of La Technique et le temps series proves to be, the forthcoming Mystagogiques volumes devoted to art should answer indirectly some of these interrogations by studying organologically the forms of sensibility. Martin Crowley anticipates this response by discussing Stiegler’s diagnoses of the proletarianization of sensibility, the conditioning of aesthetic experiences by marketing, and the culture industry, but also, and more importantly, the consequences for artists and audiences. Stiegler’s reduction of the arts (not aesthetics) to technics allows us to account for the dissociation between the autonomous and speculative art environments and the proletarianized and philistine audiences, but also to envisage new relations between these environments through the hybrid yet revolutionary figure of the amateur. Stiegler’s work might yet find its biggest impact in art and media studies.

Benoît Dillet
University of Kent