Flat Ontologies

I should admit finally my big hesitation to flat ontologies, since I’m teaching Levi Bryant today. Just after the run-up to the Iraq War, or a bit later, I remember reading chunks of Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat. And I remember well how this schnuck used this really bad metaphor (“I’m really clever, you see, the world isn’t round, it’s flat”—especially for CEO’s flying over it to their gulf games). So for a long time when I read of “flat” ontologies, I thought of Tom Friedman, which made me think of his mustache of doom, which in turn made me think of how our common ideology uses the idea of equality and flatness to hide grave inequalities, which in turn made me forever think I don’t ever want to talk about flatness, which in turn made me want to say how the world isn’t flat, which in turn made me think of Matt Taibbi’s great article on this.

I guess what I’m saying is that Tom Friedman ruined OOO for me for a long time, and maybe I’m starting to get over it.

(That’s half-kidding by the way, but really, Tom Friedman is a horrific writer and thinker.)


  1. I worry about these resonances as well, though hopefully the thesis about unequal beings within being ameliorates this somewhat. I think it’s worth noting that there is are core assumptions of vertical ontology at the heart of neoliberal ideology. Here we get the whole idea of all subjects as free sovereigns that are completely in charge of their own destiny. We get nothing like entanglements or sticky networks that tend to lock people into certain social relations because the premise is that economic subjects stand above the fray of their entanglements making themselves what they are. Friedman’s world is anything but flat.

    1. Yeah, that’s half kidding. I guess there is a real worry, which we discussed in class yesterday, about “flat” being taken too flatly. This was in Levi’s essay, where he talks about differences in notions of equality or flatness. Overall, it’s not that I’m disagreeing…

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