Tim Morton pulls on his big-ideas boots with a post that is going to make certain naysayers roll their eyes.
He lines up colonialism, correlationism, and capitalism, with its ecological mayhem as fallout. These "three C's," I'm tempted to call them, he construes as symptoms of a single meta-phenomenon (though he doesn't put it quite like this). Then to each of these, he opposes some very recent occurrence:
1) Revolutions in the name of universal human values from which the orientalist West excluded the other for two centuries, thus making those places such as Egypt suddenly emerge in front of the West
2) The rise of anti-correlationist forms of speculative realism
3) Global warming and the emerging reaction to it as a genuine nonhuman entity
He argues, too, that these three fly in the face of what we might have expected. Arab countries weren't supposed to have any democratic tradition on which to draw. It was deconstruction and post-colonial theory that should have spelled the end of correlationism. And ecological inter-connectedness (relationalism) should have unified the world into a single system of feedback. To Morton, these three phenomena spell the end of modernity, understood as the era in which his three C's were ascendant.
I would rather put it in Latourian, by saying that the last excuses we had for thinking we ever had been modern are falling away. This is actually my single biggest objection to Morton's post, and though I make some more minor quibbles below, it's the one I really care about. In the same way as 9/11 did not "change the world" more than it showed us what world we really lived in, these events Morton lists reveal that modernity is characterized almost solely by the insistence that "we are modern." It's a tautological era. There is a before-and-after in history, but that's not it. (Hint: see remarks on dialectic in the last paragraph below.)
To the minor quibbles, then. Of course, it's as dangerous to hang your philosophy on today's headlines as on today's science. Can this be viewed as opportunist? Yes. Can it be seen as over-confidently assuming that philosophy (and not just any philosophy but this new philosophy) somehow has the privileged lens through which to see current affairs-- or even assuming that current affairs give a kind of empirical proof of said philosophy? Yes.
Well, I say, go for it. Make me believe it. Get ready (of course) for the doubters (to say nothing of the mockers), but do it-- marshal your arguments, deploy your analogies, and ready your rhetoric to persuade. What philosophy worth reading was not audacious? I actually think Morton makes a good prima facie case; I just would love to see it spelled out and made a place one can live, so to speak, instead of just a store-front.
I do want to push back a little. First, on what Morton is calling "congruence". I'm not saying one needs to prove that imperialism and idealism are "the same," but their rough chronological coincidence, or even their having been made to support each other, is not quite enough. One can be an idealist or a correlationist without being a colonialist; one can even be a capitalist without being a nationalist. Or-- can one? (I mean, without paying the price of incoherence?) Do ontology and politics implicate each other (or not), and if so how? (Some preliminary work on this is done in this post by Morton, and in some very good comments especially from Slatted Light, as well as another post on Dark Chemistry.
Second: Morton's three reasons for seeing his counter-phenomena as "paradoxical" are uneven. His political counterfactual is negative ("suposedly Arab states have no position X from which to do this job, but it turns out what they have is fine") whereas his philosophical and economic/ecological counterfactuals are positive ("supposedly positions Y & Z were going to do these job, but it turns out it was insufficient"). This somewhat hobbles his presentation, and I am not sure whether or how it affects his case.
The other push-back is: no, deconstruction didn't propel us out of "modernity," and ecological relationalism did not solve the eco crisis. But they are (one could argue) essential moments in the dialectic. And make no mistake, if you are going to argue that these three C's and their transformations are all of a piece, you are standing on the shoulders of Hegel. And this means (among other things) taking a very long view. Which, I hasten to add, is what Morton's critics will need to do, rather than focusing--as will certainly be tempting--on the immediate (e.g., "we don't know what sort of regime will emerge in Egypt yet,", or even "God! what a topical, fly-by-night desperate play for of object-oriented relevance.") That is, if we are doing philosophy here.