Reassembling The Social Read-Along: Introduction

(Caveat lector. This is raw, a document of initial encounters. Like a ride-along in a police cruiser, I’m observing, taking things in, asking questions, and chatting with the driver.)

“What I want to do is to redefine the notion of social by going back to its original meaning and making it able to trace connections again” (1).

Social as Material, Social as Thing, Social as Place

or

Social as Motion, Social as Construction, Social as Assemblage

“Two widely different approaches have been taken” to explain foundational/definitional questions like “What is a society?”; “What does the word ‘social’ mean?”; What does it mean when we use phrases like “social dimension” and social factors”? Etc. (3)

One approach is the default position of sociology — realms, domains, spheres, dimensions, structures can all be social. Social fills in spaces of other domains, too: socio-economic, socio-political, social insights into law, social constraints within science. Etc. The social informs economics, politics, law, language, etc.

Social aggregates as explanatory, given. (rigid? static? inanimate?)

The Social as Container. I am in society. I cannot escape society. I’m glad there’s a sociologist here to observe me in society. I can’t get the whole picture since I’m inside of it, but I can be an informant from within society.

A second, less traveled approach: The Social as Network, The Social as Current, The Social as Flow

Social aggregates as emergent from “associations … sociology … as the tracing of associations … [the] social [as] a type of connection” (5). (plastic? dynamic? animate?)

The second approach widens the field of study: Human connections remain, yet the field of study, the practice of tracing connections, will also include  objects, materials, and things, within, between and outside of the human. Such investigators may consider themselves “strictly limited to the tracing of new associations and to the designing of their assemblages” (7).

Sociology of the Social

(Useful as “shorthand” for that which is “already accepted in the collective realm” [11])

or

Sociology of Associations

(“painful and costly longhand” [11])

The sociology of associations is mired in uncertainties, fluctuations, unknowns. Actors are observed in relation to dynamic associations and the (as)sociologist learns from those relations, rather than actors as situated in a preexisting static social order to which they may become more aware and reflexive with the intervention of a omnipotologist.

The distinction between two sociologies is not new. Emile Durkheim won out over Gabriel Tarde (13).

“This book resembles a travel guide … we will have to learn how to slow down at each step …. It is directed at practitioners as a how-to book helping them to find their bearings once they are bogged down in the territory ” (17).

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