DeLanda on historical ontology

A primary reason for thinking that assemblage theory is important is the fact that it offers new ways of thinking about social ontology. Instead of thinking of the social world as consisting of fixed entities and properties, we are invited to think of it as consisting of fluid agglomerations of diverse and heterogeneous processes. Manuel …

A new exposition of assemblage theory

Manuel DeLanda has been a prominent exponent of the theory of assemblage for English-speaking readers for at least ten years. His 2006 book A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity has been discussed numerous times in this blog (link, link, link). DeLanda has now published a new treatment of the subject, Assemblage …

ANT and the philosophy of social science

What does Actor-Network Theory have to add to the kinds of issues in the foundations of the social sciences that are of interest here? ANT is primarily associated with Bruno Latour (Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts), John Law, and Manuel DeLanda (A New Philosophy of Society: …

Latour’s invisible Paris

Almost the first words of Bruno Latour's Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory include this intriguing statement: This somewhat austere book can be read in parallel with the much lighter Bruno Latour and Emilie Hermant (1998),  Paris ville invisible , which tries to cover much of the same ground through a succession of photographic essays. It's …

Gabriel Tarde’s rediscovery

Gabriel Tarde was an important rival to Emile Durkheim on the scene of French sociology in the 1880s and 1890s.  Durkheim essentially won the field, however, and Tarde's reputation diminished for a century. Durkheim's social holism and a search for social laws prevailed, and the sociology of individuals and the methodology of contingency that Tarde …

What exists in the social realm?

What sorts of social things exist?  Does the "proletariat" exist as a social entity? There are certainly workers; but is there a "working class"? What is needed in order to attribute existence to a social agglomeration? We might want to say that things exist when they have enough persistence over time to admit of re-identification …

Localism and assemblage theory

Several earlier posts have described the idea of "methodological localism" (post).  This is part of an argument I want to defend in support of the idea that we need new and better ways of thinking about the "stuff" of society. We need to thoroughly question and rethink the assumptions we make about social objects -- …

Technology and culture

Photo: Charles Sheeler, "Power, wheels", 1939; MFA, Boston Technology is sometimes thought of as a domain with a logic of its own -- an inevitable trend towards the development of the most efficient artifacts, given the potential represented by a novel scientific or technical insight. The most important shift that has occurred in the ways …

Composition of the social

Our social ontology needs to reflect the insight that complex social happenings are almost invariably composed of multiple causal processes rather than existing as unitary systems. The phenomena of a great social whole -- a city over a fifty-year span, a period of sustained social upheaval or revolution (Iran in the 1970s-1980s), an international trading …

Heterogeneity of the social

I think heterogeneity is a very basic characteristic of the domain of the social. And I think this makes a big difference for how we should attempt to study the social world "scientifically". What sorts of things am I thinking about here?Let's start with some semantics. A heterogeneous group of things is the contrary of …

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