Live Blogging: PhD Theory Class #8

Reassembling the Social:

P. 141: When your informants mix up organization, hardware, psychology and politics… don’t break it down into neat little pots (“themes”) – try and follow the link they make between those elements, which would have looked impossibly distinct with old Sociology. Trace those associations.

Treat writing as a trial.

IE/ANT “line of fault” – is it doing what it is supposed to do (Y/N)? Even if it is, is it too expensive in the cost of participating? These are more IE than ANT; to go in an ANT, it doesn’t work. ANT – uncovering the controversies. IE assumes presupposition – a “lived experience” which is something ANT isn’t interested in.

ANT is not so much a sociology of technology. Looking at innovations, something “new” happening. If you don’t, it will be hard, as the associations are harder to trace. You need the ethnomethodological “disruption” – you have to mess people around.

Latour and Social Theory:

102: Social forces play the role of being what has to be postulated, and what, for many reasons, has to remain invisible. For Durkheim: Social Solidarity, has the complicated role of explaining EVERYTHING. The only interesting part is how you get to the answer. There is only one way to get there. Social solidarity, at the same time, remains invisible.  Based on imaginary substances. Instead of tracing the networks, he jumps to imaginary forces (egoism, anomie). Both explain suicide, and that which suicide explains.

P. 71: Describing Weber’s interpretive project; starts off with distinction between behavior and action. Sociology then is the proper study of action. Durkheim macro / Weber micro, creating meaning. Weber then puts sociology on the side of the meaningful. Sociology relies on intentional humans. For Latour, this is wrong: don’t make that distinction, the question becomes “WHAT ACTS?” not what is the consciousness, what are the things that are acting. Weber: only humans can act. Latour leaves this open, and thus has little interest in typologies of meaning.

Work net: keeps ANT from network theory. We don’t want this to be confused.

ANT: How these multiple mediators are brought into association with one another. How their worknet aquires the name of capitalism. Weber does talk about this stuff, but in the wrong order, ending up without being able to go anywhere.

We’ve never really had an action theory in sociology, but a consious actor theory.

The issue of explanation (what theory is supposed to “do”).  Latour suggests a fundamental reversal. For the sociology of the social, generate a mass of effects.  (p. 130-131 – key pages). Sociology of the social, fewest number of causes that will generate the greatest number of effects. This is the history of sociology. Durkheim – solidarity. Weber – legitimate authority, Parsons agil; fewest numbers of causes, largest number of effects. Marx: only one cause, CLASS CONFLICT and that it is.

Moving into the PoMo; we see the same thing. To create typologies is to do this. Generate most possibilities. Sometimes, this leads to interesting ways to think. Yet, they postulate ways to live. Themes in Grounded Theory – combine to metatheory, coming up with a meta-language, which are proxy explanations. Make claims to represent explanations. They are being transmogrified; they end up having the same point. “Now that I understand the five themes of living with this illness, I now can explain the greatest number of effects in their lives” – what is grounded is that these themes remains unspecified. The description is truncated.

Latours notion of explanation:

If a description remains in need of an explanation, that means that it is a bad description. You just haven’t done it well enough (p. 137). As soon as a sight is placed into a framework, everything becomes rational much too quickly.

There is nothing left to be explained. Tolstoy describes so adequately, that everything else remains unponderable.

With theory, Latour might object to all purpose, all terrain methodology (note 126 on pg. 96). This is what C. Wright Mills objected to in “Sociological Imagination” – theory used without going under any change.

Do what you are doing, don’t always have to put a name on it.

Researchers should fall between the  egoism of the investigator becomes Newton, or the totalitarianism of Stalin.

“Critical Theory” – theory that pre-supposes actors Misrecognition. ANT/IE are on different tracks. As much as Smith wants to give actors credit, that actors just don’t understand “ruling relations” – cosmology land; even though they look similar, ANT would never allow for something like misrecognition.

The problem is that there IS sometimes misrecognition (Smith, Latour, Bourdieu); yet we can understand, subjects incapable of not knowing.

118: There is no rear world… that is what the 19th century were all about. Postulating the rear world, in which is making difference, but not observable.

The word “network” is dangerous because it is a concept, not a thing that is “out there” – networks as being “there” – instead of holding on to that word, call it work nets – trace the work that net people together.

A network is a tool to help describe (p. 131). The reclaiming of habitus, globalization – instead of imagining some “thing” that works on its own, if we concentrate on teh relay of actors as mediators – how they “hook up” with each other – then we are on solid ground.

So, what is a concept, and what is a good concept?

Latour’s revision of the social is that there is no society or social relm. All there is is translators that may generate tracable associations.

ANT is best when you have stuff that is tracable.

The translation does not transmit causality. Used to translate causality. Instead, translation induces two mediators into co-existing.

All this suggests three principles.

1) Principle of relativism: pp 95 – not the relativity of truth, it is the truth of a relation. Truth is always a relation (restating Heisenberg). Gives rise (116) to multiplicity. Deluze. It isn’t that we look at the world from different backgrounds; there are multiple objects. The waterbottle has multiple ontologies (not that there is multiple waterbottles).

2) Principle of multiple agencies  (166) “pluralverse” – what multiple agencies are involved here.

3) This brings us to symmatery of humans and non-human actors. We relate to each other through objects. It just doesn’t get that far; impoverished world, because tracing the ties that are handling the relay. It isn’t minds existing with other minds. 78 – can’t be a social science and pursue only SOME LINKS… like Mol’s pointing out that medical sociologists stop as soon as blood hits the scenes.

4)  Stick to the new definition of social as a fluid, visible only when new associations are being made (p. 79). That we will be able to see the fluid (from Garfinkel).

The unhappy realization is that there is no seperate sphere of theory as a distinct realm for some sociology (a “Theorist”) we have the occasion in a curricular slot (this class) then we end up wanting an all purpose, all terrain theory.

P. 130: in a bad text, nothing is translated is one to another because action is translated through them. Few causes, whatever effects you go study, using few effects you learned in “theory.” You can’t lose. Can you imagine where that is not applicable. And that what you feel you have a right to ask for.

Instead of theory, we need more details, NO MORE FRAMEWORKS! We jump to (INSERT X HERE). Latour wants to preserve the irrationality. the complexity. Momentary associations. War and Peace: moments of momentary associations.

The momentary is all there is!!!!!!!! (<— epiphinal moment).

Don’t want to create a mastery of a meta-narrative, with minimal causal factors… You can’t just get rid of stuff… it is all interconnected.


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