Live Blogging: Seminar in Sociological Theory #13 – FIN

Last class of the semester!

Positive and critical program in Sociology.


Sociology is often uncomfortably seated between two poles of self awareness. One pole is consious self awareness that gives rise to a sense of control (“I am seeing the world”). Consiousness is the determining factor. “Master of the Ship” – “Seize your own fate!” The other pole is being determined by outside factors. You really don’t have a lot of control, and are acting out a shadowplay. Free Will / Self Determination vs. Outside determination.

Darwin, Marx and Freud are our masters of deception. Darwin: uniqueness of human species. Freud: Uncionsiousness – you think you know what you want, but you really don’t. Marx and false consiousness, what we know is infiltrated and we don’t see things correctly.

One of the constant themes in human culture are the gods that are always messing with gods, and then the humans who are able to transgress this boundaries (Demi-gods etc). In the 19th Century.

The conflict between the structure of minds (Levi-Strauss) that is re-enacted in the world vs. Sartre who believed in extistential freedom. We are finally free, at the cost of extistential lonliness. We are cast into the world. Found in the writings of Homans, and his conflict with Marx and coming up with the first in a series of attempts of seeing the human being as a rational character, social action being the product of economic calculations that people make as they weight costs and benefits. Consiousness being able to note. Surface theory because consciousness is not, in fact, false. Homans sees Marx as being smoke in mirrors. Some people want more than others, so lets divide it up like honest men. Homans – self determination. The version of Marx he is reacting against is the determined individual .

Parsons: we are acting out roles, as we are to fill the functions of society. The whole problem (to Durkheim): how do you get people to do the things that society needs to get done, and convince them that they want to do it (“motivated compliance”). Foucault – governmentality – how do you get people to want to be conducted this way.

Finally, we get to Bourdieu’s “Unchosen choices” – yes we are choosing (Bloomer is right!), but many of their choices are unchosen because they can’t choose them. Few of us are able to put into place principles of vision and dividsion. We inherit those principles.

For Foucault, these things are historically contingent. On the other hand, they go both ways; good and evil. At the end of his life, you get truth of the truth teller (“Fearless speach”). There is no problematic of the truth tellers perspective. It is holy untroubled.


Other way of summarizing:

(p.197) Latour: “if there is one social theory mistake, it would be to ask if baboons would be able to find roles within a structure.”

Its not our fault we were born into a dysfunctional family!


Lets spend the rest of the time talking about Tolstoy.

Foucauldian moment: the mob rule before Napoleon gets there : “All the horrors of the reign of terror in France were based on a need to keep the peace”

Predicts Bourdieu: Prince Vasselay “but influence in society is capital ” _those who get ahead, will be because their fathers advanced someone else. Not a sure thing.

Habitus: Prince Andre, riding his horse onto Hillside, playing toy soldiers with his army: thinking of it like a chess game: “This was his way of thinking” – while we, the readers were caught up in thinking along, we were also thinking that way. Important in not what we were not seeing. Habitus: each of us has or ways of thinking. As sociologists, we have a responsible to see how this excludes other ways of seeing. If there is a vocation for Sociology with an awareness of what you are not doing, and what the cost is, and are willing to pay the full cost, and therefore, the only way of seein

Anatole: What am I doing wrong? Its the way I have always been doing things. The embodyment of habitus – “every fiber of his being” – and how can what I need be wrong? Napoleon – extrodinary achievement/horrible destruction.

Pierre: absorbed in what lay ahead. The thing is impossible, not in an intrinsic difficulty, but because they have to work out of character, working out of habitus. It is agonizing,

Vasselay: Not planning ahead. Man of the world, turned success into habit (“Feel for the game”).

Rostov: “Couldn’t have said how or why he did it” – he “knew” that this would be their moment. This is feel for the game.

Illusio: the “good commander” needs to be narrow minded. Otherwise he would never have enought staying power, only then would he become a great commander. Knowing the stakes of the game: no one is as dangerous or productive.
Latour: Habitus is fine once we liberate it from Social Theory.


How is Tolstoy an ANT?

Descriptions of causes….explanations require that things have causes.

“Incalcuable multiplicity of causes…”

This is like Elias – the civilizing process. All of these causes come together with no single cause – they are bound to happen because… they are bound to happen. The human mind cannot grasp the full number of causes.

What do we do? One approach is reductionism.

There are some laws that we can comprehend, and others that are beyond our grasp. TO stop believing in the earth as a fixed entity. It means we understand anything as multiple, depending on how they are enacted.

Events that are always over-determined for Tolstoy, what kind of science can there be, that no-one can know in advance. Whatever happens depends on a range of conditions that no one can know… Hinterland? So many possibilities. You don’t know what is going to carry forward.

Each man gets what he wants; feels with every fibre of his being that he is free to do what he feels.

There are two sides of life for every individual: A personal life… and an “elemental life within the swarm of humanity” –

For Tolstoy, there is a balance: Neither is more important. Out of all this, we get emergence. No one ever predicted Napoleon, and no one worked it out ahead of time. It came about step by step (emergence), moment by moment. Emerging from unimaginably difference circumstances.

What sociology likes to do is postulate ideal types of actors, and attribute them to finite sets of possibilities. Instead of seeing them emerge moment by moment. Only then does it come to be what it was. Tolstoy renders much Sociology impossible, because you can’t know in advance. Follow entities, see how they come together. Go in, see what emerges.

The strongest case for emergence is the truth: the world wasn’t invented so sociologists can get their papers out on time. Pretend like the world was designed for us.

It is only when the army got there that people had convinced themselves as this is what they wanted all along. If we have to re-jig our notions, we understand it Its only looking back at Naziism, and say “it had to happen that way” – which is neither true nor false.

There is also a strong notion of leadership in W&P.

Neither experiences anything like the begining of event. General is always in the midst of events as they unfold… contemplate the significance as they take place. At any point in the carving out of events, the CEO FIND themselves in the midst of a complex interplay if intrigue and worry…. threats and trickery…. endless flow of contradictory commands…. the problem is that the stakes are high (life depends on it), you know the events are carving their own significance….

P.46 in Latour – moving target… swarming towards it. Gives us the courage to actually be able to see the entities swarming towards us at any moment…. the illusion of stabalization is the feeling that we have risen above, suggest there is some platform that can take us up there… What we should be doing is not reinforcing this notion of rising above, but to give people the courage to LIVE IN IT!!

Time and events will not wait.

Infestesimle elements. ..

Not yet covered….

Sociological Imagination: denial of the astronomical size of life. Wants to put up walls…

Even though Tolstoy insists there are knowable things… thousands of minor causes….colluding and coinciding with each other. What can you do?

Tolstoy treats War and Peace as a historical edifice….   If you read it as an ANT Study of the invasion of Napoleon in Russia… he is keeping it “flat” – refusing to posit any shortcuts which would be  explanations. Exploring all of the rest of London in all of this.

We decided what the interest is in advance, and that is all we see. We don’t see the personal concerns; No one who takes part in his

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