The last week has seen me depressed, despondant, and generally exhausted. Perhaps I’ve just been drowning under too much grading lately, or perhaps this emerged from reading Dreyfus and Rabinow’s Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Somehow I find Foucault’s thesis that only certain things are sayable at any given point in history to be crushing, even if I find myself agreeing with many of the claims that he makes. What hope can there possibly be if we are dominated by social forces in this way? In this context, I was pleased to come across Bruno Latour’s newest, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, which also references John Law’s website on Actor-Network-Theory. What I find appealing in Latour’s latest work is his emphasis on the continous formation and collapse of various groups, coupled with the contentious nature of group formations in general. Here I find a far more fluid and open notion of the “social”– Latour contests the idea that the social is a substance or matter independent of those who enter into connections –that promises to resituate how certain questions are asked in social and political theory. In short, Latour presents a performative conception of the social, immanent to the activity of agents, that resonates nicely with Zizek’s observation that the symbolic sustains itself only in and through our belief in the symbolic. Hopefully I’ll have more to say about this later.
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