McKenzie Wark on Donna Haraway and Cyborgs

‘There can be no retreat into the superstructures when there is no food, shelter or safety. The production and reproduction of our species-being, whatever it may be, has to be a central concern of any critical knowledge. Given the rising inequality, poverty and hunger in twenty-first century California, to which the state has responded by mirroring its great universities with a series of equally great prisons, questions of material need return at the heart of the empire.’


7 thoughts on “McKenzie Wark on Donna Haraway and Cyborgs

  1. I don’t think the material needs of the expulsed (which of course have never been adequately addressed let alone met) will even register in the heart of the Empire.


    • Agreed. The material needs of the dispossessed are consistently and in many ways necessarily repressed within the Empire. The only ways these questions are raised substantively (i think) is by mass social movements mobilizing and applying pressure to the State (currently, we could refer to here the anti-austerity movements in different parts of Europe, and in a different way the Black Lives Matter movement here in the States).

      But I think here Wark’s commentary (on the ‘return of material needs’) is referring to the question of the material reproduction of society becoming a central aspect of Haraway’s critique. For Haraway, scientific knowledge must be thought as production, embedded in a specific historical milieu, dependent upon (and buttressing) the material means of reproducing society in its totality. The Marxist critique of science, then, is not simply a question of the way ideology colors and structures the content of scientific knowledge, but an attempt to analyze the ways in which scientific knowledge is both dependent upon material processes and plays an active role in shaping said processes. The emphasis here is on investigating science as a material, economic and symbolic series of practices.

      Certainly, producing this kind of critical knowledge is not enough for the needs of marginalized communities to be raised in any sort of substantive, politically significant way. In and of itself, it is very little. The question of whether it is possible at all for these needs to be heard, of what methods n practices could perform this amplification best, seems to be p central. which to me seems to be what you were getting at.


      • yes thanks and you are right about the exegesis/genealogy I guess (right or wrong) I was hearing in Ken yet another version (mostly these days in reference to the anthropocene and or wealth disparities) some sense of the heralding/prophesying of the arrival of some Imperative or another, seems at best like a confusion of the academic/canonical history of ideas with the actual histories of people (and things) and something like confusing an is with an ought, but to be fair perhaps “questions of material need return at the heart of the empire” is a lone cry from the fringes and not some plan for the masses.
        Often with his work I don’t get the feeling that he (and his cohort) see themselves as the writers of notes toward a minor literature but as grand narrators in the tradition of Hegel and all, am I missing the mark?


  2. ah, ok.

    i think Wark would position himself more within the ‘minor literature’ camp. whether or not this self-identification is an accurate characterization of his most recent work, though, is still an open question. i can’t say i’ve read enough of his work on the Anthropocene (his new book is on my list, haven’t gotten to it yet) to be able to really give an informed answer. tho i certainly get the feeling sometimes that the desire is to grasp the social in its totality a la Marx/Hegel. i think yr worry about the slippage between history of ideas and the actual histories of people n things is an important concern, especially for work that purports to revitalize concepts of ‘practice/praxis’ for the 21st century.


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