The ambitious project of an ethnology of the Moderns that has previously been known as Actor-Network Theory has entered a new phase. The industrious ANT has ceased following the actors through the tedious empirical underbrush and is now AIME-ing high. If not for the stars then at least for a vantage point from which the comparative anthropologist is able to describe the Moderns in such a way that they can find themselves in the description as well as permitting the pre-moderns, non-moderns, and anti-moderns to discover mutual concerns. The purpose is to bring the battling parties in the War of the Worlds, the Clash of Civilizations back to the negotiating table with some hope of success. This is what Gaia wants, global cooperative action on the basis of mutual understanding. There is otherwise no chance of healing the Earth’s wounds and overcoming the ecological threat.
Under the title of An Inquiry into Modes of Existence (AIME www.modesofexistence.org) Latour offers an interpretation of Modernity in which the apologetic universalism of Enlightenment, Critique, Science, Technology, Progress, and Democracy that has left the post-colonial world alienated, angry, and without a vision for the future is replaced by a revised and more diplomatic interpretation of Modernity. Instead of demanding the non-moderns to choose between science or superstition, civilization or barbarism, the Moderns – so Latour’s proposal – have reached a self-understanding in which “beings” of all sorts and not merely subjects and objects can inhabit the world. Ontological pluralism now lends cultural pluralism a helping hand. There are many different kinds of beings, not just matter and minds, but beings with strange names like REF, REP, REL, MET, HAB, FIC, TEC, NET, PRE, ORG, LAW, POL, DC, …, 15 in all at present with the prospect of more, since the AIME project is “open source,” that is, all are invited to BYOB (bring your own beings).
If you have become fed up and impatient with post-modern critique, systems theory, and even the fashionable talk about networks, and if you had been wondering Where does it go from here?, What is the next big thing in philosophy?, then this is it. There is no more daring, more novel, more rewarding enterprise at this juncture in the realm of thought than the inquiry into modes of existence. Indeed, there is room for everyone!