Levi has started the DeLanda A New Philosophy of Society (ANPS) reading group with an excellent post on chapter 1 (here) and posted links to other posts (here). Levi also starts to indicate the differences between DeLanda’s Assemblage Theory and the OOO of Harman and himself. For Levi, the main difference is that there are only relations of exteriority in Assemblage Theory and in OOO there are both relations of exteriority and relations of interiority. I look forward to hearing more about the differences, as I confess that I am still working out the differences between an ‘assemblage’ and an ‘object.’
I also have to admit that the first chapter was when I began to pay attention to DeLanda and get excited about assemblage theory, rather than the introduction. I think this was for two reasons. First, assemblage theory is critical of totalities. For a while I have been critical of approaches in philosophy and social sciences that give too much casual explanation to a vague and all-encompassing totality. We can see this type of reductionist approach in Wallerstein’s World-Systems perspective, which DeLanda critiques latter in the book. The problem is that one social-unit/object is regarded as the main component and other concrete entities are neglected from the explanations. However, I think DeLanda is wrong in his desire to exclude capitalism as an abstract totality, and I tend to see capitalism as a virtual object with particular actual manifestations.
Second, DeLanda (correctly) argues that assemblages both have material and expression components. Too often the linguistic/cultural turn has emphasised the expressive component and neglected the material components. For example, Edward Said’s Orientalism, a book I have a lot of respect for, primarily concentrates on the expressive components of Orientalist practices. Influenced from Foucault, especially the Foucault of Archaeology of Knowledge, Said regards Orientalism as a discourse with a vast discursive network that makes possible Western conceptions of the Orients, and determines the superiority of the West. However, Said neglects to consider the material components necessary for Orientalism. For example, Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt is only examined in how the West produced knowledge and not the flows of materials required to retrieve/produce this knowledge. In addition, Said does not consider if the emergence of difference media transform and alter Orientalism. Is Orientalism the same with the development of the WWW as it was with books? I think assemblage theory, which acknowledges both the material and expressive components, is in a position to answer such questions. I also think that assemblage theory would require a form of hybrid analysis I have been suggesting here and here.