Skip to main content


Showing posts from February 12, 2012

Simultaneity 2: Bergson and the industrialized experience

In the first chapter of Creative Evolution (1907), Henri Bergson takes up one of his most celebrated themes, durée, and refines it in response to his further thought on the matter since he had first exposed his idea in données immédiates de la conscience , in 1888.  In reading Bergson now, one can’t help but be struck by the metaphors of unwinding, unreeling, and tracking that go through his discourse on time. That metaphoric is usually associated with film, and it is with good reason that Deleuze turned to Bergson in writing his two books about cinema. However,  I’d like to make the case  that it goes back to what Schivelbusch has named the industrialized experience – the experience of speed on the railroad – and that underneath the surface of Bergson’s philosophy of time we have an image of the dualism between the vehicle and the driver or passenger, which is part of a larger dualism between industrial automatism and the worker. That sense of the vehicularity of matter in whic

a form of social time - simultaneity

In the twentieth century, sociologists and marketers gave Tarde’s publics a variety of names: sub-cultures, worlds, demographics, constituents, etc. However, the important thing is that the public and these publics form out of the same principle – the subordination of haptic space to another kind and degree of proximity, which is mediated by a social mode of temporality – simultaneity – that Tarde mentions in connection with the news. News, in French, is actualité. Between the English and the French word, an important movement is captured. Tarde speaks of the newspapers giving their readers a ‘sense of simultaneity.”   He does not, unfortunately, disinter the phenomenon of simultaneity, instead   vaguely pressing on the idea of “at the same time”. But ordinary simultaneousness is transformed in the social mode of simultaneity. We speaking of catching up with, keeping up with, or following the news, or fashions, or tv, or books, or sports. It is in this sense that we are not sim

the crowd and the public

In Antonine Albalet’s Souvenirs de la vie Littéraire there’s a portrait of Gabriel Tarde from his Paris years. Tarde arrived in Paris late – he was 51 when he found a post at the Ministry of Justice and moved there. By this time he had become famous in the world of criminology, even though he did not have institutional backing; rather, he’d become famous for his ideas while still living in the provinces – in Sarlat, in Dordogne. Albalet’s portrait captures Tarde in around 1895, when he was becoming celebrated in the broader circle of Paris intellectuals who were associated with certain magazines and coteries. Tarde was now on the course that would take him to the Chair of Philosophy at the College de France, when he was chosen over Bergson in 1900. However,  he died shortly thereafter - in 1904 - and thus never did leave his footprint on any particular institution. He didn't have successors, or Tardians, the way Bergson had Bergsonians. Tarde spent his fifties in the Paris th