Volume 21, Issue 2/3, 2017
Special Issue on the Anthropocene
The Parliament of Things and the Anthropocene
How to Listen to ‘Quasi-Objects’
Among the contemporary philosophers using the concept of the Anthropocene, Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers are prominent examples. The way they use this concept, however, diverts from the most common understanding of the Anthropocene. In fact, their use of this notion is a continuation of their earlier work around the concept of a ‘parliament of things.’ Although mainly seen as a sociology or philosophy of science, their work can be read as philosophy of technology as well. Similar to Latour’s claim that science is Janus-headed, technology has two faces. Faced with the Anthropocene, we need to shift from technologies of control to technologies of negotiations, i.e., a parliament of things. What, however, does a ‘parliament of things’ mean? This paper wants to clarify what is conceptually at stake by framing Latour’s work within the philosophy of Michel Serres and Isabelle Stengers. Their philosophy implies a ‘postlinguistic turn,’ where one can ‘let things speak in their own name,’ without claiming knowledge of the thing in itself. The distinction between object and subject is abolished to go back to the world of ‘quasi-objects’ (Serres). Based on the philosophy of science of Latour and Stengers the possibility for a politics of quasi-objects or a ‘cosmopolitics’ (Stengers) is opened. It is in this framework that their use of the notion of the Anthropocene must be understood and a different view of technology can be conceptualized.