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A Cosmopolitical Proposal: Towards a Democratic Composition of Environments
Unformatted Document Text:  19 beginning with what Latour terms a “Parliament of Things.” Latour first mentions a “Parliament of Things” (Parliament, capitalized, hereafter) in the final pages of We Have Never Been Modern, leaving most readers befuddled about what precisely he intended to describe, how it would work, or what it would mean. A Parliament needs to be conceptualized, Latour claims, because modern western practices never reflected the strict ontological division between nature and society, nonhumans and humans, a politics of opinion and a science of facts, espoused by its proponents and ingrained in most accounts of western modernity. Rather, these seemingly dichotomous entities and practices have always been entangled (hence, we have never been modern), even as the mixed status of entities must be denied to retain their qualification as modern. 42 The Parliament of Things is Latour’s attempt to formulate a body that brings these opposed categories together to make sense of the relations and practices that produce the categories as opposed, rather than assume nature-society, fact-opinion distinctions from the outset. The Latourian Parliament can serve as the political forum for more-than-humans, acknowledging how natures and cultures are mutually imbricated ‘all the way down.’ In Latour’s most concise version, in this parliament of things: Natures are present, but with their representatives, scientists who speak in their name. Societies are present, but with the objects that have been serving as their ballast from time immemorial. Let one of the representatives talk, for instance, about the ozone hole, another represent the Monsanto chemical industry, a third the workers of the same chemical industry, another the voters of New Hampshire, a fifth the meteorology of the polar regions; let still another speak in the name of the State; what does it matter, so long as they are all talking about the same thing, about a quasi-object they have all created, the object-discourse-nature-society whose new properties astound us all and whose network extends from my refrigerator to the Antarctic by way of chemistry, law, the State, the economy, and satellites. 43 This depiction of the Parliament brings in participants of all sorts in the collective creation of a polity. Here, the Parliament, consisting of people, knowledge, industries, and representatives of 42 Latour presents this process as “purification” and “translation” in We Have Never Been Modern, 1-12. 43 Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, 144.

Authors: Nordquist, Michael.
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19
beginning with what Latour terms a “Parliament of Things.” Latour first mentions a “Parliament
of Things” (Parliament, capitalized, hereafter) in the final pages of We Have Never Been
Modern, leaving most readers befuddled about what precisely he intended to describe, how it
would work, or what it would mean. A Parliament needs to be conceptualized, Latour claims,
because modern western practices never reflected the strict ontological division between nature
and society, nonhumans and humans, a politics of opinion and a science of facts, espoused by its
proponents and ingrained in most accounts of western modernity. Rather, these seemingly
dichotomous entities and practices have always been entangled (hence, we have never been
modern), even as the mixed status of entities must be denied to retain their qualification as
modern.
The Parliament of Things is Latour’s attempt to formulate a body that brings these
opposed categories together to make sense of the relations and practices that produce the
categories as opposed, rather than assume nature-society, fact-opinion distinctions from the
outset. The Latourian Parliament can serve as the political forum for more-than-humans,
acknowledging how natures and cultures are mutually imbricated ‘all the way down.’ In
Latour’s most concise version, in this parliament of things:
Natures are present, but with their representatives, scientists who speak in their name.
Societies are present, but with the objects that have been serving as their ballast from
time immemorial. Let one of the representatives talk, for instance, about the ozone hole,
another represent the Monsanto chemical industry, a third the workers of the same
chemical industry, another the voters of New Hampshire, a fifth the meteorology of the
polar regions; let still another speak in the name of the State; what does it matter, so long
as they are all talking about the same thing, about a quasi-object they have all created, the
object-discourse-nature-society whose new properties astound us all and whose network
extends from my refrigerator to the Antarctic by way of chemistry, law, the State, the
economy, and satellites.
This depiction of the Parliament brings in participants of all sorts in the collective creation of a
polity. Here, the Parliament, consisting of people, knowledge, industries, and representatives of
42
Latour presents this process as “purification” and “translation” in We Have Never Been Modern, 1-12.
43
Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, 144.


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