Alexander Galloway, Laruelle: Against the Digital. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 2014. ISBN 9780816692132
1. Against the digital as differentiation
I first read this book in one sitting of 7 hours but have divided this review as I wanted to extend my discussion of Galloway’s treatment of Deleuze. This will appear as Part 2 of this review. Alexander Galloway’s book Laruelle: Against the Digital presents 14 theses across 10 chapters that move from the inaccessible monolithic material oneness of the Real to a critical assessment of ‘analysis’ that is the hallmark of philosophy. Philosophical elements, such as analysis, are presented under the label of the ‘Standard Approach’. Galloway argues that François Laruelle (From Decision to Heresy, Experiments in Non-Standard Thought. New York: Sequence. 2012) offers a realist or ‘Non-Standard Approach’ that foregrounds imminence and the a priori commonality of all being and thought as a general category of the undifferentiated, indifferent, or generic. Being and thought go together and imply each other inseparably (cf. Heidegger). Galloway insists he is not offering a book about Laruelle, but he closely follows the lines of his philosophical position. The generic is the ‘analog’ that Galloway pits against the tradition of differentiation and division that underpins the digital 0-1 binary system. Standard Approach philosophy is thus digital. Lucretius, Spinoza, Deleuze, Althusser are important references for Galloway in Part Two of his book where he considers the politics and aesthetics of cybernetic control society, the aesthetics of darkness and light, and an ethics of the generic.
As mentioned, the most interesting aspects of the book for me are found in Galloway’s discussion of Deleuze’s Society of Control (see Part 2 of this review). However before he arrives at his discussion of Digital Capitalism, Galloway’s text moves through several labyrinthine chapters on analytical division, Laruelle’s critique of hermeneutics, dialectics and multiplicity, and the hierarchical temporal logic of the event.
“Laruelle is charting an exodus out of representation more generally. Thus, the true withdrawal from digital quality will lead to imminence, not analogy. The ultimate withdrawal from digital will lead to the generic” (89).
The Standard Model of philosophy is premised on the division of the One into two as an event and a decision. It is both ontological and metaphysical. The NonStandard Model does not permit either a hermeneutics that separates surface and depth, a structuralism that separates appearance and structure, not even a division of the digital and analog, nor critique based on some sort of external subject position that assesses an ignoble problem object.
Galloway takes the zero – one logic of today’s digital world as a logic of distinction, decision, difference, and division. He does not discuss other possible readings or understandings of this zero as a non-negative that cannot simply be contrasted against a one, meaning a particular or an entity. For example, contemporary mathematics often understands zero as exactly Laruelle’s undifferentiated whole that is an inclusive infinity or plenum that includes All. My thought is that oneness is an eerie anticipation of quantum computing’s ‘all-at-once’ computation of a field of possibilities (an analogue space without time produced in only a single computational cycle). It also points toward the possibility of a future social theory encounter with social diversity as an analogue phenomenon, variation rather than difference. This entails an examination of the Janus – faced quality of the zero in the 01 binary logic, This is one of the exciting opportunities that Galloway gestures toward (Chapter 4 and 5 of the book) but does not provide. However, it seems that Laruelle, and Galloway following him, argues for a focus on a meta-stasis of pure immanence that prevents any rational representation and analysis of being, except as the grand illusion of a divided world of subjects and objects.
…Part 2 follows.
Rob Shields (University of Alberta)