The Living Life in Real Human Spheres

In the final three chapters of Peter Sloterdijk’s In the World Interior of Capital, he discusses the “spatial revolution of the present,” the idea of the local and its asymmetrical relationship to the global. Finally he concludes with the components necessary to “living in real human spheres.”

Sloterdijk begins with the observation that the technologies of the global interior have seemed to make space an “ignorable factor”—compressing space to the point that it really seems to make no difference. In this sense, “globalization” is thought of as the “local without walls” (255). The world becomes a universal space that is nothing more than the sum of its local parts as they are connected by technologies. These technologies provide a map or grid of connections that appear to connect the world in such a way that the nature of the local is understood as the same as the global. If the local doesn’t recognize this then it is just that they don’t know it yet (255).

Nothing could be further from the truth, Sloterdijk argues: “the local” actually exists in the emphasis on the asymmetrical: “…poaching this weight on the place heralds a language for the non-compressible and non-abbreviated” (255). This gives rise to a de facto emphasis on “participation, situatedness, and indwelling” (255). Dwelling creates an immune system of habits and relationships between individuals and those close to them that is uncompressible. Even as globalization seems to connect places, the great majority of human interactions are intensely local being-in-place (256).

Sloterdijk concludes his book by summarizing that the “successfully lived life” cannot:”…become what it can without being immune, self-preferential, exclusive, selective, asymmetrical, protectionist, uncompressible and irreversible” (263). These are the characteristics of an infrastructure of real human spheres that provides support. Humans can engage in alternative behaviors—but only insomuch as they are supported by these things.

Following from the argument in his book, Sloterdijk lands in the only place he can–one that seems to be a quite conservative argument for (re)establishing spaces that seem remarkably like those that existed before the building of the Crystal Palace.

In this way I could not help but read some nostalgia in Sloterdijk’s concluding chapter. It is a nostalgia for reconstituting “real spheres” that seems endemic in our world at this moment with at least two variants. There is the “local nostalgia” of the past which seems to be a powerful motivating factor in American life in local relations in small communities–especially rural and industrial ones–who dream of the edifices of past spherical lives. At the same time, there is also a “future nostalgia” for new spherical lives narrated in popular fictional accounts of the survivors of global apocalypse.

By the end of In the World Interior of Capital I was hoping there might be a way through Sloterdijk’s Crystal Palace that doesn’t involve either (the impossibility of) going back out through the entrance, or the destruction of the edifice.

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