In the cover story of the August 6 edition of Time magazine, Joe Klein offers a rather grim account of the U.S. national conversation about guns in the wake of recent mass shootings. He writes about the ways in which the political climate, increasingly and rather bizarrely governed by the gun lobby, has made it impossible to have any serious political dialogue about the regulation of guns and ammunition. The article is provocatively entitled, “How Guns Won.” It is clear to me from reading the piece, however, that Mr. Klein wants to stay far from actually attributing victory to guns themselves. Rather, he wants to maintain the more commonsense view that it is those political actors that value gun-owning, certainly backed by the gun industry but also fiercely devoted to libertarian ideals, that have won decisive victories. However, I think we could take Mr. Klein’s title quite literally and say that guns themselves have essentially won what Bruno Latour might call a “trial of strength” in which they had been engaged with their critics….
We face a seductive fantasy of independence from a wider, dynamic order of things, with the result that our response to challenges in international relations or ecological crisis have been rather consistently out of touch. But of course this is far from simply an American problem. I suggest that it stems from a disease of the modern subject, a way of looking at the world that treats “its” objects as inert and easily manipulated. In other words, this is a deeply-rooted metaphysical problem, a constitutional failure to account for the capacity of objects in the world to push back…..