Filed under: chronotopes | Tags: control, institution, instrumental culture, mastery, nature, time
It is a fundamentally hopeful act to challenge the reductive instruments of our established institutions, and their intended roles of measure, management and mastery. Our instrumental culture routinely exits nature, which is relentlessly innovative, indifferent and changing, to define, master and ultimately neuter its volatile and contingent character.
“But Western Being,” the voices of our institutions will protest, “is time, and has been so since the very dawn of modernity” – since the advent of rationalized accounting practices, the discovery of universal mechanical laws and constants, the application of systematic techniques for governing populations, the rise of humanistic disciplines and experimental method, the birth of the Cartesian or modern ‘self.’ But the forms of time expressed in these seemingly disparate historical developments are not, strictly speaking, ‘real’ at all, but only chimeras of an emerging and very specific instrumental culture; they are, in a word, abstractions – ingenious tools contrived to distribute the senseless procession of events in nature within an external, thinkable space of measure, management, and mastery.
But nature itself is wild, indifferent and accidental; it is a ceaseless pollulation and unfolding, a dense evolutionary plasma of perpetual differentiation and innovation. Each thing, it may be said, changes and arrives in time, yet the posture of externality that permits precise measure and perfect mastery can be struck and assumed only in space; one must first withdraw oneself from the profuse, organic flux in which things are given, isolate discrete instants as projected frozen sections, and then interpolate abstract laws like so much mortar to rejoin these sections from the new perspective. But the very gesture that carries thought away from the ‘event’ and toward the ‘thing’ abstracts and spatializes time in the act of instrumentalizing it; it subjugates the contingency and volatility of time by reconstituting it external to phenomena as a finitude and a regularity: it becomes a technique of measurement embodied in economic axioms and algebraic laws.
~Sanford Kwinter, ‘The Complex and the Singular,’ Architectures of Time , The MIT Press
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