Issue 175, April 2023 – Factor(ie)s of Theory

Fabrikarbeiterin (1926), Heinrich Hoerle

Issue 175, April 2023

Factor(ie)s of Theory


The Other Social Science: Three centuries of common heterodoxy

Peter Lenco

This paper starts with the observation that at least for the last century there has been an orthodoxy in the social sciences characterized by sui generis structures of various kinds but also (paradoxically) by the unique role of individuals in their ability to intervene in the flow of events. This paper argues that there is a commonality to a number of challenges to orthodoxy that dates back to the beginnings of the social sciences themselves with Vico. Although many connections have been made between elements of these critiques (Latour’s connection to Whitehead, Deleuze’s connection to Tarde), this paper proposes to make such connections more explicit by focusing on a central commitment to or tendency towards a monism characterized by a univocal ontology. The implication is that these various alternatives perhaps have more in common than normally thought and can continue to learn from each other. Most importantly, they present a coherent and viable alternative to social science orthodoxy.

Rethinking the ordinary and the extraordinary: Reading Rancière’s dissensual politics through Kuhn

Raffaela Puggioni

Jacques Rancière’s theorisation of the political has been particularly influential in investigating political struggles and social movements. By distinguishing between the police order – tasked with maintaining the dominant (hierarchical) system – and politics – aiming at breaking that system – Rancière suggests reading the political as a disruptive event. However, he does not specifically engage with the question of how politics affects and changes the police order. This is what this article aims at exploring. Building upon Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, I suggest approaching the police order in the same way Kuhn approaches ‘normal science’ and reading the political in the same way Kuhn reads revolutionary science. I ultimately suggest that Rancière’s theorisation of the political is limited because he does not (sufficiently) account for the interplay between police/politics nor for the emergence of an after-politics, that is, a new (ordinary) police order that emerges out of (extraordinary) political events.

Modernity and collective subjectivity in Marcel Gauchet

Mark T. Hewson

This article examines Marcel Gauchet’s claim that the political history of religion is the key to a new understanding of contemporary liberal democratic societies in the shape that they have come to assume since the 1970s. The Disenchantment of the World presents a history of religion starting out from the thesis that, from the perspective of universal history, the primary function of religion can be identified with the production of the unity and identity of societies. Present-day liberal democracies, it is argued, perform the same function through an alternative disposition of the constitutive elements of collective life. Where religions institute the identity of the society by accepting dependence upon a supernatural origin, contemporary society is organized as a ‘subjective form of social functioning’, in the sense that it is able to create and transform itself. Gauchet argues that the central structural features of contemporary society – the administrative state, the separation of civil society and the freedom of individuals, and the global orientation to the future – allow the practical accomplishment of the ideal of autonomy announced by the tradition of modern and revolutionary political thought. The explication of this logic establishes the preconditions for the criticism of these societies, by showing the historical decision and the internal articulations that give them their cohesion.

Marxism versus Bourdieu on domination, consciousness and resistance: An engagement with Burawoy on Bourdieu

Will Atkinson

Michael Burawoy’s recent book-length engagement with the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu constitutes, at root, a Marxist critique of its inability to conceive of the dominated as anything other than duped and submissive, despite this sitting uneasily with Bourdieu’s own research and political practice later in life. Burawoy wonders whether Bourdieusians will be able to recognise the limits of their master’s thought, and set about revising and extending it, in the same way as Marxists did of their own master. This article responds by doing precisely that. After clarifying a different reading of misrecognition, symbolic violence and habitus, it draws out a Bourdieusian theory of social change and a ‘thicker’ conception of contemporary social orders that can accommodate or dissolve Burawoy’s arguments while maintaining fundamental separation from the Marxist project.

The idea of the university as a heterotopia: The ethics and politics of thinking in the age of informational capitalism

Bregham Dalgliesh

Drawing on struggles within academe between faculty that promote critical education and advocates of New Public Management (NPM) who endorse instrumental learning, I reimagine the university as a counter-space that positions it as a counter-power to informational capitalism. Initially, I outline its twin threats: ethical, as self-entrepreneurial academics are valorised by NPM; and political, with informationalisation conflating spaces of thinking. I then detail Scott Lash’s specific account of how the info-comm society negates critique. However, his monistic understanding of informationalisation means Lash’s alternative of Informationskritik risks subsumption by it. I therefore defer to Jacques Derrida’s idea of the university. To ensure the autonomy of the principle of reason in a world of info-comm flows, the university is a supplementary body to society, yet intimately linked to it by its critical reflexivity, which is on behalf of society. Because Derrida does not elaborate the requisite institutional architecture, I conclude with Michel Foucault’s notion of heterotopia as a quasi-illicit site that is different and other. Such an institutional design enables the university as a counter-space that is a bank of reason and an archive of its manifestation in social practices. It also upholds a space for thinking, which in the form of nominalist critical history proffers a counter-power to society as an informational homotopia.

‘I have to like it’: Working-class awareness among workers at a Bata shoe factory

Kateřina Nedbálková

The working class has been interpreted within various disciplines and conceptual frameworks, some pointing to the gap between the depiction of the working class as a potentially active social force in the neoliberal deregulated global market and its portrayal as a suffering class of the marginal and excluded. In this text, I move behind this dichotomy to explore the everyday experiences of working-class men and women. Based on ethnographic research at the Bata shoe factory in the Czech Republic, I examine the meanings factory workers attach to their working classness. I investigate their sense of place in society in general. I argue that class matters in the workers’ perceptions of the self. On the one hand, the workers adopt the awareness of subalternity in relation to the educational and further the labor field that ranks them among the lowest positions. On the other hand, they take individual pride in their endurance of the hard work that shoemaking is believed to be. The committed work and emphasis on collectivity turn the microorganism of the factory into a place of mutual discipline, where the praised collectivity functions also as a tool for enhancing work effectivity, also in the interest of the management. By pointing to the concrete dimensions in which they balance the feelings of pride and shame, belonging, and symbolic displacement, I contribute to the sociological understanding of contemporary working classness.

Review Essay

Populism: What, where and why?

Wojciech Zomerski

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