Old and New Matters
Mercier, Thomas Clément
This article constitutes a substantial introduction to the thematic issue “Matters.” After introducing briefly the scattered constellation described by some as “new materialism” or “the material turn,” as well as its main concepts and methods, I offer a deconstructive reflection on “the turn” by challenging a series of theoretical gestures meant to coalesce the turn to materiality in contemporary continental philosophy—starting with the exclusion of the much maligned “linguistic turn” and the opposition to an “old” concept of matter presented as passive, inert, and mechanistic. I analyze how these two exclusions—precarious as they may be—allow for a relative coalescence of the new “scene” while betraying its essential heterogeneity and self-inadequacy. I thus interrogate the conditions that make the position of a “new” materialism possible, giving it force and necessity, while questioning what the production of this so-called novelty potentially obfuscates. After raising a series of questions related to new materialism’s conceptuality, I introduce the contributions that make up the thematic issue. I also provide a substantial bibliography to help the reader navigate the material turn as well as its various critiques from the perspectives of philosophical history, object-oriented ontology, social and ethico-political theory, deconstruction, critical race studies, or other perspectives on materialist theory.