re.press has just released The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, edited by Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman. It’s a 430-page compendium of the speculative realism movement and its associates, downloadable as a free PDF and also available in paper format.
There are many reasons to be excited about this volume, besides it being 430 pages and free. With all the buzz in the blogosphere about speculative realism and object-oriented ontology in recent years, newcomers to this emergent field had to rely on the wikipedia entries for an initial introduction. Chapter 1, “Towards a Speculative Philosophy” by Bryant, Srnicek and Harman does now provide a more thorough yet still very accessible introduction to this movement’s origins and main concerns.
The egalitarianism of the book is also admirable, as it contain contributions from academics at various stages in their academic career, from PhD students to academic celebrities. There are pieces here by all the original founders of speculative realism (Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, Graham Harman, and Quentin Meillassoux), as well as some of the philosophers who inspired them (Alain Badiou, Manuel DeLanda, François Laruelle, Isabelle Stengers, Slavoj Žižek).
Naturally much of the book revolves around the debates between the main proponents of the movement – as well as with some of their attentive readers – which should contribute to a further crystallisation of the various competing positions. There are however also some interesting contributions by those aforementioned forerunners, for example Latour on modes of existence, DeLanda on emergence, Žižek on Hegel, and Stengers on materialism. Indeed, the excellent introduction provides a very helpful overview of the included essays.
Finally, let me just add that I love the cover image of the book, the debating bypass secateurs (at least I think they are debating), which seems very appropriate for this compendium. First of all, there is the reference to tools, which are so central to Harman’s Heideggerian argument (‘tool-being’ and all). These secateurs are broken tools in a sense, because they are made to be present-at-hand, by the very fact that they are presented on a book cover, in dramatic, anthropomorphic poses, as if they were engaging in a dispute. Then there is also the association to what these secateurs usually do, what they are used for: essentially cultivating and then harvesting things. And they do this through pruning, by shaping trees and bushes, and here, arguments.
P.S. As the re:press site is down right now, here is an alternative download site.