Guns and People Kill People

Although I’ve posted on Bruno Latour countless times (here, here and here for starters), I’ve never talked about his guns and people argument I’ve only posted once on his guns and people argument, here, but nevertheless I’ll continue because I really didn’t think I’d talked about it before! In short, and contrary to the opposing slogans ‘guns kill people’ and ‘people kill people’, Latour says ‘guns and people kill people’. It may seem like a get-out from the debate, but assure me, it works better in the context of Latour’s general philosophy. You’ll find it in his 1994 Common Knowledge paper, ‘On Technical Mediation – Philosophy, Sociology, Genealogy’ (available here). It’s basically an example geared to back up his ‘program of action’ concept. If you start reading from page 30 through to page 34 you’ll get the main bulk of the argument, although if you continue on through the paper you’ll get a more conclusive understanding of the whole thing, obviously. He ends this section with:

These examples of actor-actant symmetry force us to abandon the subject-object dichotomy, a distinction that prevents understanding of techniques and even of societies. It is neither people nor guns that kill. Responsibility for action must be shared among the various actants. (34)

I did a quick search for the two slogans above and came across a clip of Eddie Izzard which I thought was pretty funny. I guess it kind of emphasises Latour’s point; you need both of them for a new outcome!


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