Aleksei Ziniuk profile

Aleksei Ziniuk

Aleksei Ziniuk

Kingston University London (2023)


Peter Osborne


The Socialist Being of a Thing: The Concepts of Object and Structure in Soviet Constructivism and Bruno Latour's Legacy


The main aim of my PhD project is to give an ontological interpretation of Soviet Constructivism and to critically connect this interpretation to the problem of structure and agency as it is elaborated within contemporary post-human philosophical approaches and their radical cross-disciplinary aspirations.

Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory (ANT) has laid the basic methodological ground for a shift from the problem of the ontological specificity of non-human objects that cannot be subjectively grasped to the more pragmatic and local problem of agency. This agency becomes critically post-human because it is no longer substantively tied to a human subject but can encompass any object (both semiotic and non-semiotic alike: from a gossip to a microbe) within a system of actively produced local relationships (networks.) But because the ANT is conceptualized very generically – hence its transdisciplinary influence – it gets endlessly re-elaborated depending on the needs of any particular prevalent discourse. Thus, at one point Latour himself conceptualizes agents as quasi-objects (Latour 2003), at another as things (Latour 2005.) This creates conceptual and methodological confusion within the contemporary transdisciplinary field of philosophy and social sciences preventing the kind of theoretical unity required for its concrete political and social credibility.

This raises the question of the possibility of finding a different historical elaboration of the problem of structure and agency which will help to resolve the current state of conceptual and methodological confusion in ANT. I locate this in the Soviet Constructivist concept of the thing (vesch’) and its relationship to everyday life (byt.) However, to project Soviet Constructivism into the post-Latourean philosophical framework requires a re-evaluation of its historical legacy and own internal theoretical self-understanding. Thus, my project hopes to make two connected interventions into the fields of contemporary philosophy and art history.