After two years of existence we are no nearer in our drive toward a fierce sociology. Perhaps this is just as well, expressing as it does this perishable, fragmentary, yet joyous non-project. Nonetheless, Inventory has spread its tentacles across cities and institutions, attaching itself to networks, forming pacts and loose associations. Defiantly a Paladin rather than a palace of culture, at any given instant it may be a resting place for the off-sloughings of academia, a bolt hole for the fugitive, or a snare for the unsuspecting passing comment, but never is it a dumb vessel. Its indifference to the relative values of finding and losing and its anti-hierarchical grasp of the world means it recognises neither the heart nor the peripheries of the networks it traverses, disdaining decorum and protocol. Whether temporarily anchored in the marbled arteries of Canary Wharf or clawing out space in the tumult of the street, Inventory can be thought of as a kind of machine, perhaps a viral program, looking for any type of data or Interesting phenomena which displays a renegade adaptability, a fusing of disparate elements which have some importance for sociality. A fierce sociology is passionate about everyday life, its arrangements, and mutations.
A fierce sociology is a paradoxically emotional, yet objective response which neutralises an abstract conception of culture. A 'vision sauvage' or untutored way of seeing that ruptures any attempt at homogenisation. This is essential to what we call an 'emblematics'. Emblematics is not an attempt to fix an image of social phenomena or a particular flow of material culture. In fact the will to fix such instances (in Art, for example), to render them knowable and emptied of rage, is sheer folly. Although such a sociology could be construed as a form of diagnostics, it should have nothing whatsoever to do with naming. The complex forces and phenomena of the everyday make themselves felt, touch us, and, sometimes, stare us all in the face; but does it really take a name to make this visible, quantifiable, so as to surrender itself to knowledge? The gleeful paradox of our sociological activism is that we would affirm a permenent interaction; rather than the closed, distanced, observer (critic), our agent is positively bound up in, possessed by, the sociality that surrounds them.
"philosophy has been, up to this point, as much as science, an expression of human subordination, and when man seeks to represent himself, no longer as a moment of a homogeneous process - of a necessary and pitiful process - but as a new laceration within a lacerated nature, it is no longer the levelling phraseology coming to him from the understanding that can help him: he can no longer recognise himself in the degrading chains of logic, but he recognises himself, instead - not only with rage but in an ecstatic torment - in the virulence of his own phantasms."(2)
In calling for a virulent, mythological representation of the multiple subjectivities that science (rational thought) has excluded, one still has a residue of respect for the need to deal rigorously with objective facts. As Bataille perceived it, science had, in proceeding from a mythological conception of the universe, split this universe into two distinct parts; it had assimilated and developed humankinds thirst and capacity for mental enquiry into an "activity useful for mans material life". At the same moment, in destroying the "delirious religious constructions" of societies it in fact liberated them from necessity and thus it "casts off its heavy mantle of mystical servitude", and it is only then that, "nude and lubricious, it plays with the universe and its laws as if they were toys". Leaving religion then, to slowly assimilate itself with science (to a certain degree) and, more importantly, the beginnings of capitalism. But this is not to suggest that we are nostalgic for any archaic construction of society nor do we have any desire for a utopian futurism. In an affirmative manner, it is merely to state that we see sociality as a continual movement, a continuous "fabrication of new assemblages of enunciation, individual and collective."(3) Archaic societal patterns can be seen as possessing a mechanical character, multiple machines if you will, manifesting a myriad of complex relationships (rituals, symbols, strata, and so on) which survive into the present by constantly reformating themselves. Human history and present social relationships have always consisted of an infinite web of varying combinations of data (allegiances, beliefs etc). In other words, varying assemblages of the mechanical and the organic. So that, within the quotidian we find sacred phenomena being summoned, re-enchanted, in differing macro or micro societal patterns. Moreover, the everyday contains a mix of homogeneity, of productive forces, from which all useless elements are excluded, and heterogeneity, which breaks these limits introducing elements which cannot be wholly re-appropriated. In this sense "the sacred is only a privileged moment of communal unity, a moment of the convulsive communication of what is ordinarily stifled".
Proposing an emblematics, is to suggest that in the material cultural arena of sociality, humankind communicates through the expenditure of its productive forces, through its objects, concepts, symbols which are constantly being created and recreated, springing into life and falling away. An emblematics is a new laceration within a lacerated nature, a convulsive communication, a way of staring things in the face, being shaped by phenomena and responding actively to it. Something of the elemental effervescence of life, of things held sacred, or ignoble and base can be touched, glimpsed, only partially. It is as if the various lines and flows of human communication (societal groupings, sacred bonds, festivals) summon a power which would necessarily demand the destruction of the objects they produce. Yet, in our moment at least, this results in an expenditure of energies which leaves in its wake twisted, contested, fusings of homogeneous and heterogeneous matter. Fossilised traces of a continuous movement. This material (our rituals, cultural products, inventions, etc.) continues to be discharged by social bodies infinitely; and moreover, will continue to spiral, reconfigurating itself into ever dazzling or horrific manifestations.
(1) Michel Maffesoli "The Sociology of Everyday Life (Epistemological Elements)"