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The heigth, length and width of social theory

AuthorsCorsín Jiménez, Alberto
Teoría Social
Issue Date2010
CitationSocial theory after Gabriel Tarde: debates and assessments / ed. Matei
AbstractThis chapter reflects on the ontology of the social, and in particular on the ontological terms of social theory itself. Tarde’s revival in sociology involves just such ‘coming-into-terms’ of sociology with its own modes of description and analysis: an inquiry into the process of how and where to look for the sociological in descriptions of social life. For Tarde, ontology itself is a sociological project, hence his famous dictum, “Every thing is a society”. The chapter examines what is at stake in trying to make sociology and its objects (the social, society, sociality) assume an ontological form. This holding of social theory accountable to ontology involves its own very peculiar anthropological imagination: the making of social analysis and social knowledge into proportionate or commensurable objects for one another. In this sense, notwithstanding Tarde’s original inversion of the ontology/:sociology equation, the chapter suggests that Tarde’s, like Durkheim’s, and indeed like most social theory thereafter, remained a proportional sociology; a theory that called upon itself to have a particular kind of commensurability. A particular kind of height, width and social length. To make the effects of proportionality visible, I introduce my subject matter by way of an ethnography of the disproportionate. The ethnography I talk about concerns management and architectural consultancy work I have carried out in Buenos Aires designing the ‘knowledge environment’ for the new regional headquarters of one of the world’s largest oil companies. Briefly put, my claim here is that the ‘production of knowledge’ functions as an anthropological category of our times because of its very capacity at dislocating the knowledge/social equation. There is, I suggest, a form of disproportionality between ‘knowledge’ and ‘social life’ in contemporary managerial environments that takes the ‘production of knowledge’ as its central organizing trope. As I intimated above, it is the disproportionate claims set on ‘producing knowledge’ that makes ‘knowledge’ and ‘the social’ take a commensurable form. The chapter thus reflects on what anthropology can say about our contemporary sociology and economy of knowledge.
Publisher version (URL)http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=alberto_corsin_jimenez
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