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Intensive Culture

Intensive Culture
Social Theory, Religion & Contemporary Capitalism

  • Scott Lash - University of Oxford, UK, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

July 2010 | 256 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Contemporary culture, today's capitalism - our global information society - is ever expanding, is ever more extensive. And yet we seem to be experiencing a parallel phenomenon which can only be characterized as intensive.

This book is dedicated to the study of such intensive culture. While extensive culture is a culture of the same: a culture of fixed equivalence; intensive culture is a culture of difference, of in-equivalence – the singular. Intensities generate what we encounter. They are virtuals or possibilities, always in process and always in movement.

We thus live in a culture that is both extensive and intensive. Indeed the more globally stretched and extensive social relations become the more they simultaneously seem to take on this intensity. Ours is a relational world where each intensity — whether human, technological or biological — provides a distinct, specific window onto the whole.

Lash carefully defines and distinguishes the intensive from the extensive tracking this change through key areas of social life including:

  • Sociology
  • Religion
  • Philosophy
  • Language
  • Politics
  • Communication

In so doing he redefines the work of Leibniz, Benjamin, Simmel, Durkheim and Marx and introduces the reader to the ontological structures of our contemporary social relations.

Diverse, engaging and rich in detail the resulting book will be of interest to all those studying social and cultural theory, sociology, media and communication and cultural studies.

Culture: Extensive and Intensive

What is Intensive Culture?

Ontology and Religion


Social Theory

Intensive Sociology: Georg Simmel's Vitalism
Forms: From Cognitive a priori to Social a priori

Value: Nietzsche and Simmel

Social substance: from Labour to Life

Monadology: Simmel, Bergson, Metaphysics

Conclusions: Towards a Global Politics of Flux

Intensive Philosophy: Leibniz and the Ontology of Difference
Leibniz, Aristotle, Ontology

Sensation, Perception, Knowledge

Intensive Causation

Language: Intrinsic Predication

Substance and System: From Exchange of Equivalents to Exchange of Difference

Intensive Language: Benjamin, God and the Name
Leibniz and Benjamin: From the Monad to the Word

Intensive Method: From Epistemology to Truth

Language: Things, Man and God

Intensive Capitalism: Marxist Ontology
Introduction: From Commodity to Difference

Causation and value: Aristotle and Marx

Externalities: Intensive Capitalism and Neo-Liberalism


The Intensive-material: Machines of Predication

Intensive Politics: Power after Hegemony
Language: Power becomes Ontological

Two Types of Power

From Norm to Fact

From Representation to Communication

Cultural Studies: First and Second Wave

Intensive Religion: Emile Durkheim's Elementary Forms
The Soul: From Rite and Totem to Myth and Ancestor

The Totem: Clan and Emblem

Alimentary Communion

Totemic Vitalism: Durkheim and Freud

Extensive Religion: Sociological Categories

The Social Fact: Metaphysical Things

Information Theology: Philip K. Dick's Will to Knowledge

(a) Faith versus knowledge

(b) Dick's St. Paul: Against Law and the Messianic

(c) Christ's mushroom: Salvation by Eating

(d) Vast Active Living Intelligence System

The Gnosticism of Philip K. Dick

Horselover Fat: Healing the Subject

Valis: The Movie

Intensity: Ontology and Religion

Intensity's Outside: Chinese Social Theory?


This book makes a vital contribution to our understanding of contemporary culture. It re-reads key thinkers such as Nietzsche, Leibniz, Simmel, Benjamin, Bergson in order to assert the primacy of the vital and the social against the closed mind of instrumental reason. It develops an innovative theoretical platform to account for the place of the informational, the intensive, and the religious for re-thinking the fundamental questions of life, and how to live today. It is a fitting summation of Scott Lash's challenging reorganization of critical and sociological theory
Couze Venn
Nottingham Trent University

This book is an engagement with the continuing dissolution of the symbolic in contemporary communication, in a critical reflection on thinkers ranging from Aristotle to Leibniz to Luhmann. It is a provocative archaeology of today's 'cultural capitalism' and of its metaphysical baggage. For Scott Lash the opposition between 'intensive' and the 'extensive', i.e. Leibniz's distinction between 'substance' and 'system', is eroded in the age of informational capitalism, as words become things and things become data. For Lash the future of capitalism is one in which this intensity takes over the logic - as 'intensive materialism' - of the economy itself. Yet this very process entails the dissolution of both intensity and with it of the singular. Lash pursues this compelling line of thought through encounters with Simmel, Benjamin, Durkheim and Philip K. Dick (!)
Bernard Stiegler
Director of the Department of Cultural Development at the Centre Georges-Pompidou

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1: Introduction

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