It took a great deal of effort to read this exceedingly complex academic text (if ‘academic text’ is in fact the right word for it). Part encyclopaedia, part occasional text, part social-theoretical user’s manual - with colour-coded sections for ease of use - this text is a book on only in the Deleuzian sense; a ‘machine’, or perhaps better a ‘thing’, that calls the very idea of a book, and a ‘thing’, into question. As such, it is a book that is dizzyingly self-reflexive: a book about things that presents itself as simply one more thing and yet also more than a thing – a kind of reflexive ‘meta-thing’, the thing of all things that is not itself a thing. And who better to edit the book than the perhaps the world’s leading philosopher of things – Bruno Latour.
According to the editors of this collection of short essays, today’s key philosophical problem necessitates putting ‘the thing’ back to the centre of our philosophical and sociological investigations. More specifically, in order to make sense of what post-structuralist philosophers have termed ‘the political’, Latour and Weibel argue that is necessary to make the link between 'assemblage' and 'assembly', in such a way that we begin to understand democracy not in terms of a sacred political ideal, but simply as a mechanism or a way of ‘making things public’.
Husserl’s famous demand the philosophy should return to the ‘thing in itself’ is here transposed onto a higher socio-political plane where the ‘representationalist’ political ideals of the Enlightenment are no longer fully operative when we recognise that the ‘object’ has become part of the body politic. In this case, according to Latour we are forced to concede that ‘parliaments are only a few of the machineries of representation among many others and not necessarily the most relevant or the best equipped’ (p31). Thus the overall aim of the book is to collect an ‘assembly of assemblies’ that is not reducible to the European tradition of parliaments and to explore the way in which we can make new kind of political assembly out of all the various object-assemblages in which we are always and already enmeshed.