Latour's We have never been modern

This was my "questioning" for Latour's We have never been modern. This post is part of a series from my CMNS 857 Philosophy of Technology seminar with Andrew Feenberg. For more information, see this linked post.


I can be onboard with Latour’s project, especially if I do so in the spirit of his argument. Laying aside concerns with Truth (with a capital T), I am most interested in exploring the world created by “trying on” his ideas, seeing what becomes possible, what is limited, by the assumption “we have never been modern.”

Once you get beyond Latour’s striving for clarity (that sometimes doesn’t provide actual clarity), the ideas are simple enough -- we have fooled ourselves, created categories that reinforce the problems that we are actively seeking solutions for. You can see the influence of Serres, although I know there are areas where they diverge greatly. I think it interesting to consider what might be thought (or rethought) if we were never really modern. Could we step beyond the postmodern cloud? Let go of the romanticized premodern? What would have to be given up for this to be so?

Along these same ruminations, if we are less concerned for epistemological Truth, what if we did invent modernity, and forgot that we invented it? To borrow from Serres’ topology, what if we refolded our landscape, our trajectory, in such a way that Latour’s arguments become understandable, workable, and desirable?

These are all questions that swirl inside my head but might not be the best to guide or lead a discussion. Rather, it is my understanding that many have reacted negatively to Latour’s argument in We have never been modern. Here’s my real question -- Other than “being wrong,” why would others be upset by Latour’s thoughts? What would have to be let go of for his argument to be explored?


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