Lyotard and the Oikos

Gregory Kalyniuk

Abstract


In The Postmodern Condition, Jean-François Lyotard criticises Niklas Luhmannfor making performativity or context-control the goal of systems, claiming that this legitimates the exclusion of partners constituting the context of a system from the decision-making process which administrates it (Lyotard, 1984: 60 ff.). In “Oikos,”Lyotard takes this criticism a step further when he relates the context or environment of the system and the partners constituting it to the etymological root of “ecology,” the oikeion , which stands for the asymmetrical relation of familiarity with or knowledge of something or someone. As the entropic source of the system’s performativity and “reduction of complexity,” the oikeion refers to the alter of undermined humanity as well as other forms of life, whose selective attention is not sufficiently capable or developed to act as ego or be addressed as alter-ego by a receiver within the social system. Lyotard’s approach is not to reaffirm the dualism of Man and Nature, but to instead detect the differend produced by its dissociation from the “inside” of system and the “outside” of environment – for the system is no more like Man than its environment is like Nature in Systemtheorie. Rather, everything is Nature, and those who are able to put its potential into action most efficiently are able to assume the secure position of “Man” in the humanistic war against those who lack this efficiency. Lyotard aims to listen to those who have lost power over their oikos, or the “inside” which has become somebody else’s“outside.”

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