Live Blogging: Seminar in Sociological Theory #8

How do you set things free? From the cosmologies.

A Durkheimian sees collective consciousness. A Weberian looks around, sees the state of the times. A Marxist sees conflict. A Funtionalist… An Exchange Theorist… An Symbolic Interactionist…. on and on.

The thing is there is no… “the sky” – yet we turn it into “the sky” and invent various belief systems to hold it up, we take seriously the imaginary entities that hold it up as “the sky.” The history of Sociological theory is a history of these cosmologies.

It begins to shift with Garfinkel. He sees the problem, and the core issue (Zimmerman and Weeder, responding to Denizen, all micro sociologies). “What you don’t get is the problem of … take for granted that there are all these things out there (in Becker’s case, Jazz), and see how these people make up a resource to gather around … Jazz is left unexplained. Hiding off the stuff that “people” are supposed to do… As long as they leave some sphere out, and gather sociology around it… everything but the playing of the jazz. Garfinkel comes along — “there is not magical out there” “just people constantly recreating the stuff they then do” (i.e. playing jazz). Garfinkel still retains (frum functionalism) the desire for order, which is an ongoing achievement.

Latour: the social is any assemblage. In this sense, one can have a society at an elemental level. But we tack on “social” as an atmosphere in which pure objects floats, exists in. This is the way in which we “mark” territory – calling something “social” – we mark it off as the sociology, something we study.

Latour makes the break from where Ethnomethodolgy drifts to cosmology: 1) the postulate of “order seeking” – the “member” in ethnomethodology wants nothing more than to achieve order. There are no rebels in ethnomethodology. It is about how people get back to the safe zone (accountibility) before they get tagged (deviance). How do you get back to being accountible before getting tagged. i.e. Jurors are only accountable to judges.

The other part of ethnomethodolgy is that in place of collective consciousness is “turn taking” – people are hard wired to obey and exemplify. This is where ethnomethodolgy morphs to conversation analysis. The social is identifiable in the mechanics of turn taking.

Latour, in Reassembling the Social is doing his best not to recreate another cosmology. An ANT way of holding up the sky. He actually refuses to aknowledge a sky; you have to show what comes together to say it is the sky.

Our first mistake as sociologists: there are no groups, only group assemblages. Can’t study the group, have to study how the group came to be. How did they come to be associated (or,as Dorothy Smith says, were coordinated).

There is no social. There is only assembling, associating. As sociologists, we re-assemble. The first part of the problem: what are the actors here? And to be an actor, you have to do things, cause things to happen. As you are doing this, you do not discriminate the human and non-human actors. Why this is good in technological rich settings. ANT doesn’t have to stop as soon as there is blood or machines. How does blood, as an actor, cause another actor to act. Depends on how much, and where, mobilizing other actors (or not).


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