Lazarus in the Multiple: Awakening to the Era of Complexity
Surviving the Anthropocene
Published January 29 2016
Zero Books, UK
Zero Books, UK
“Lazarus in the Multiple” presents a new philosophy on how to navigate the complex challenges that society faces in the 21st Century. It deploys the biblical “Lazarus” as the everyman of modernity, who is caught between past and present, life and death, and sleep and awakening amidst the humdrum and complexity of the “multiple”. The multiple is the great sea of noise[i] that lies both within and without Lazarus, from which social reality is born. In this casting, Lazarus is unable to distinguish the signal from the noise and hence remains trapped within enduring ritual and an unfulfilled existence. He is unable to find expression and take actions to bring about meaningful change within himself or in the world around him.
This book builds on the work of Michel Serres, as well as many other philosophers and theorists to articulate a new way of understanding real-world complexity[ii] and acting upon it. It invokes the metaphors of jazz musicians and fighters, and their particular ability to improvise and adapt to environments of great complexity and adversity. They achieve this through their ability to sense, intuit and seek out moments where rules can be broken in order to produce creative and innovative responses to change. As such, the philosophy put forward in this book has significant implications for leaders, strategists and everyday people who are tasked with navigating the challenges of modernity in an era that is characterised by fast changing and complex socio-cultural, economic, environmental, political and technological phenomena.
Whereas the departure point for traditional approaches to formulating theories of complexity draw on the mechanisms of complex systems, the theoretical approach adopted in this book takes the properties of complex systems as its starting point. This enables a wholly new way of deploying complexity theory in relation to societal challenges, and shifts the focus away from mechanistic, cybernetics oriented frameworks towards a post-humanist conception where sense, awareness and intuition become critical factors for negotiating the complexity of the multiple.
The book’s conceptual framework is deployed in a diverse set of complex societal challenges. These range from identity and the politics of forgiveness, to thoughtlessness and the manifestation of evil in society, to the bipolarity of left-right politics, and to the burning need for a behavioural transition that is required for society to adequately navigate the emerging developmental challenges of the 21st Century (such as global economic change, climate change and the loss of life supporting ecosystems). Thus, the usefulness of the conceptual framework is demonstrated. South Africa’s particular challenges are discussed in parts of the book, but these analyses are always strongly linked to their global relevance. Through these discussions, the book identifies the debilitating and empowering potential of the multiple in an increasingly complex world.
However, while this book delivers new knowledge, it is not written the way an academic book on philosophy typically is. Rather, it is written as prose, and makes use of the power of narrative to accommodate contradictions, paradox and duality in understanding and navigating complexity. It is intended for a popular intellectual audience – i.e. a combination of philosophy-oriented creative, esoteric and academic readers – who are concerned with how to navigate the societal challenges of the 21st Century, and are interested in new ways of thinking about and conceptualising the challenges we face.
Details of Release:
“Lazarus in the Multiple” is a forthcoming publication of Zero Books (John Hunt Publications, UK) and will be released on January 29 2016. It is available in both electronic and print versions and can be (pre)ordered online at: http://www.zero-books.net/books/lazurus-multiple.
Author Profile: http://www.zero-books.net/authors/camaren-peter
Surviving the Anthropocene
[i] As articulated in the work of the philosopher Michel Serres: see Serres, M. (1995/1982). Genesis. USA: University of Michigan Press. James, G. & Nielson J. (translators). Originally published in French by Editions Grasset et Fasquelle (1982).
[ii] Complex systems exhibit emergence i.e. surprising, often abrupt changes that cannot be predicted, but arises from extensive, ‘open-ness’, rich interconnectedness and multiplicity. Complex systems are hence highly variable, and are heavily characterised by uncertainty and non-linearity. Moreover, complex systems cannot be understood from one perspective alone because they are multivariate.