In Immaterialism: Objects and Social Theory (Polity Press, 2016), Graham Harman applies his object-oriented philosophy to social objects. The book functions as “a compact list of the first principles of object-oriented social theory, which I have also called ‘immaterialism’” (126). This presentation of an object-oriented social theory includes a detailed analysis of one particular social object, the Dutch East India Company. Someone might think that this is just another book of object-oriented philosophy, tracing out the same principles that Harman articulates elsewhere. In some sense that’s true, but there’s much more going on than that. In what follows, I briefly sketch some key contributions that this book makes to the ongoing development of object-oriented philosophy.
This book provides a definitive response to any critics who claimed that object-oriented philosophy is inapplicable to social theory or that it presupposes some kind of methodological or metaphysical individualism. Objects can be individuals or collectives, small or large, singular or plural, natural or artificial. Social assemblages are made of objects, and they themselves are objects.