Life/Force: Novelty and New Materialism in Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter


New Materialism and Speculative Realism have obtained their avant-garde status by creating a simple division between their work and a past they characterize as constructivism or correlationism. While this satisfies libidinal and market forces that demand novelty, it depends on a chain of dogmatic reversals that remain deconstructible. Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter operates according to such a set of reversals, opposing itself to the (old) representation of matter as inert and passive by describing matter as free, living, and creative. However, because these affirmations occur as reversals, without a phenomenology or deconstruction of the underlying concepts, a suppression of matter identical to that from the tradition remains in her work. Her dogmatic predications are necessary to uphold the claim of a simple break with the past, but this repression of undecidability renders untenable both matter’s novelty and the novelty of any progressivist historical schema, such as that of the “New” Materialism.

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