Volume 10, Issue 2, 2013
Aesthetic Values and the Process of Civilization
New Materialism and Neutralized Subjectivity. A Cultural Renewal?
In the increasingly notorious philosophy of new materialism, a serious attempt to redefine subjectivity in terms of its non-dualistic nature can be ascertained.
The criticism on dualisms draws directly on a wider critique focusing the anthropocentric and correlationist models that shaped modernity and modern thought. In this paper, I consider new materialism’s non-dualism as a starting point from which a subsequent decline of subjectivity can be purported. This decline does not involve immediately, or at all, devaluation but, instead, it is interpreted as an instance of neutralization. The neutralized subject is an underlying phenomenon of
the ontology and the epistemology that relates closer to new materialist philosophy. New materialism’s conceptual framework draws widely on Deleuze and Latour’s thought. On what subjectivity is concerned, the concepts of “becoming” and of the “virtual” are crucial in more recent theorizations aligned with new materialism, where a commitment to overcome the barriers imposed by a central and substantial subjectivity is present (for example in Rosi Braidotti’s or Karen Barad’s writings). At the same time, the theory of assemblages and the claim for the existence and observation of the agencies of (inanimate) matter provide a further element, along with a further set of concepts that, as I claim, reinforce the becoming-neutral of the subject. In this case, the works of Manuel de Landa or Jane Bennett are seminal. Finally, when this neutralization is taken as part of a realistic post-humanist conception, the possibility of a new cultural model and a new set of values arises. The edification of a new cultural model, although not entirely intentional or socially widespread, is made possible when the neutralization of subjectivity accompanies a withdrawal of a misleading representation of its centrality and substantiality without denying the properties of its particular embodiment.