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Invention and capture: a critique of Simondon
journal contributionposted on 2019-01-01, 00:00 authored by Daniela Voss
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. The evolution of technical objects is a central theme in Simondon’s book On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects. He describes it as though it were a natural process akin to the evolution of living beings; yet technical objects are invented objects that necessarily relate to human beings. The process of invention is analysed in great detail as the accomplishment of a cycle of images in Simondon’s lecture course ‘Imagination et invention’ (1965–66). However, while Simondon pays much attention to the internal logic of invention, he completely brackets off the socio-political and economic context. This essay will develop a critical perspective on Simondon’s quasi-biological conception of technical evolution and his notion of technical invention. To this end, I will draw arguments from Marx and the Marxist tradition that resonate with certain critical voices in the secondary literature on Simondon today. The goal of this essay is to show that technical invention is not an absolute and pure beginning that stimulates innovation and technical change, and to suggest an alternative and more complex view in which the pressure of economic drives and socio-political interests directly incite invention, especially where there is an institutionalised context that organises techno-scientific research.