Bruno Latour's Definition Of Sociology

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The direction in which Bruno Latour’s definition of the social is aimed can be directly seen on the first page of Reassembling the Social where he states that he wants “to show why the social cannot be construed as a kind of material or domain”. Instead, Latour understands the social as the associations between things and “sociology not as the ‘science of the social’, but as the tracing of associations.” Those associations of “non-social things” must be understood momentary and changing with time. Therefore, ANT is capable to analyze new and evolving association—a trait which the sociology of the social doesn’t share. Latour specifies his aim by stating that there is no society, no social realm, and no social ties, but there exist translations…show more content…
He deems their search for what a society is as “productive in the time of Comte, Spencer, Durkheim, or Parsons, [but] now [. . . ] disastrous.” One reason for this change in terminology and direction of research might be found in the different technological environments: Just as the division of labor created by the industries and bureaucracies helped Durkheim and Weber to trace their own definitions of social links, information technologies help us realize the work going on in actor-making. Another aspect of the sociology of the social which Latour wants to overcome in his approach is the division between the natural and the social which he conceives as “a complete artifact”. For him, the origin of this division lies in the desire of the sociologists of the social to “carve out a little niche for themselves” and by doing so they limited their own scope of work to the social, leaving the material or natural domain to scientists. By leaving this division behind, Latour could broaden his understanding of the term “actor” to include also non-humans: ANT is not the empty claim that objects do things ‘instead’ of…show more content…
He claims that this broadening was not possible before because of the narrow definition of the social following from the distinction of natural and social and because of the human-centered definition of the term “actor”. The symmetry in that thought is opposed to an “a priori [...] asymmetry among human intentional action and a material world of causal relations.” Since ANT is a negative approach to the social, Latour sets many of his explanations in a “it’s not this, it’s that” style. For him, the social doesn’t simply exist for itself, but it must be traced through the associations “connecting non-social resources”. Similarly, the social doesn’t explain anything, it must be explained. This new view on the social opens the sociology for better observations: abandoning social explanation is like abandoning the ether; nothing is lost except an artifact that made impossible the development of a science by forcing observers to invent entities with contradictory features, blinding them to the real ones. Even his final definition of the social follows this structure: “social is not a place, a thing, a domain, or a kind of stuff but a provisional movement of new associations.” This new viewpoint on the social
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