draft version

term humanism
narrator Keti Chukhrov
published May 2014

It’s a long time since humanism became an outdated notion ascribed either to its anthropocentric history or the civil rights policy. The vigor of Marx defining the human condition as the capacity to achieve the generic dimension of humanness due to becoming emancipated political subjects has been many times discarded as an error of his early “lyrical” period. In a number of feminist works (e.g. Donna Haraway) the claim for the generic on the part of a human being, – as well as naming all other creatures the species, – is regarded as the authoritarian, power position of ‘a man’. Such critique envisages the post-humanist elemental planet as the embodiment of radical democracy in which the specialization of a formerly human being would presuppose rejection of anthropocentric superiority in order to enter the immanent terrain of utter equality. Speculative realism in its own turn also dispenses itself from the human presence as from the complementary relation not responsible for the trans-historical ancestrality of nature. Only without the screen of human subjectivity and by means of an autonomous knowledge unrelated to human mind can the “Absolute” of a reality be at all addressed. In yet other empirically oriented theories humanism is sublated without termination of humanness. However, in such works (Jilbert Simondon, Bruno Latour) the decline of humanism entails blurring of the distinction between the natural and the political, the natural and the technical, which inevitably leads to the naturalization of the political, technical and cultural contexts – and at the same time re-establishes nature (including humanity and all its activity) as the nominal data for technique and science. Even in post-operaism (e.g. in works by Virno) humanism becomes a fallacious concept for emancipation that could easily be superseded by the biological and neurophysiological resources of a ‘human’ organism. In all these cases the human condition is rejected either in favor of the under-human ‘animist’ natural state (living species), or the acquisition of the over and post-human skills (technology, machines, noosphere) conditioned by the present stage of evolution. In the end, humanness cannot be but superfluous and essentialist: if it is a natural state (already fiercely criticized in Marx’s “On the Jewish Question”) then it is not supposed to be optically or epistemologically separate from any other natural phenomena (animals, plants). If it is considered to be an evolutionary level of cognitive progress it is the more so needless, since it can easily be superseded by social infrastructures, cognitive machines, abstract intellect. But it is exactly this vagueness and impossibility to assert the human condition today that makes it indispensable to rethink it beyond civil, democratic or naturalizing interpretations.


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