1st Edition

The New Politics of Materialism History, Philosophy, Science

Edited By Sarah Ellenzweig, John Zammito Copyright 2017
    340 Pages
    by Routledge

    340 Pages
    by Routledge

    New materialism challenges the mechanistic models characteristic of early modern philosophy that regarded matter as largely passive and inert. Instead it gives weight to topics often overlooked in such accounts: agency, vitalism, complexity, contingency, and self-organization.

    This collection, which includes an international roster of contributors from philosophy, history, literature, and science, is the first to ask what is "new" about the new materialism and place it in interdisciplinary perspective. Against current theories of new materialism it argues for a deeper engagement with materialism's history, questions whether matter can be "lively," and asks whether new materialism's wish to revitalize politics and the political lives up to its promise.

    Contributors: Keith Ansell-Pearson, Sarah Ellenzweig, Christian J. Emden, N. Katherine Hayles, Jess Keiser, Mogens Laerke, Ian Lowrie, Lenny Moss, Angela Willey, Catherine Wilson, Charles T. Wolfe, Derek Woods, and John H. Zammito.

    Introduction: New Materialism: Looking Forward, Looking Back Sarah Ellenzweig and John H. Zammito


    Part 1: Materialist Prehistories

    1.Who’s Afraid of Inertia? The Cartesian-Newtonian Legacy Reconsidered Sarah Ellenzweig

    2., Varieties of Vital Materialism Charles Wolfe

    3. Plasticity Matters Jess Keiser

    4. Deleuze and New Materialism: Naturalism, Norms, and Ethics Keith Ansell-Pearson


    Part 2: Humanities and the Sciences of Matter

    5. Materialism, Old and New, and the Party of Humanity Catherine Wilson

    6. Engendering New Materializations: Feminism, Nature, and the Challenge to Disciplinary Proper Objects Angela Willey

    7. What Sort of Thing is the Social? Or, Durkheim and Deleuze on Organization and Infrastructure Ian Lowrie


    Part 3: Monism, Liveliness, and the Problem of Scale

    8. The Cognitive Nonconscious and the New Materialism. N. Katherine Hayles

    9. Thinking Scale in the New Materialism Derek Woods 


    Part 4: The Politics of Ontology

    10. Detachment Theory: Agency, Normativity and the Claims of New Materialism Lenny Moss

    11. Materialism, Constructivism, and Political Skepticism: Leibniz, Hobbes and the Erudite Libertines Mogens Laerke

    12. Normativity Matters: Philosophical Naturalism and Political Theory Christian J. Emden


    Conclusion: Concluding (Irenic) Postscript: Naturalism as a Response to the New Materialism John H. Zammito.



    Sarah Ellenzweig is Associate Professor in the Department of English at Rice University, USA. She is author of The Fringes of Belief: English Literature, Ancient Heresy, and the Politics of Freethinking, 1660-1760 (2008). She has published essays in ELH, Journal of the History of Ideas, Journal of British Studies, and MLQ. She is currently working on a book on the philosophy of motion and the rise of the novel in the eighteenth century.

    John H. Zammito is John Antony Weir Professor of History at Rice University, USA. His key publications are: The Genesis of Kant’s Critique of Judgment (1992); Kant, Herder, and the Birth of Anthropology (2002); and A Nice Derangement of Epistemes: Post-Positivism in the Study of Science from Quine to Latour (2004). His current research involves the life sciences in Germany in the 18th century and a monograph entitled The Gestation of German Biology is forthcoming from Chicago. 

    'The various strands of new materialism and posthumanism have been among the more exciting but also contested recent developments in the humanities. This volume is a multi-faceted conversation with these developments, constructively exploring their relations to older materialisms, feminism, science and technology studies, and various forms of naturalism, among other contributing and competing stances. There is no united front here "for" or "against" new materialism or posthumanism, but instead some thoughtful reflections upon what the new materialisms distinctively contribute to current scholarship, and how best to build upon or respond to those contributions.' - Joseph Rouse, Wesleyan University, USA