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Bruno Latour - Reassembling the social: an introduction to actor-network-theory

Reassembling the social: an introduction to actor-network-theory

Bruno Latour


Reassembling the Social is a fundamental challenge from one of the worlds leading social theorists to how we understand society and the social. Bruno Latours contention is that the word social, as used by social scientists, has become laden with assumptions to the point where it has become a misnomer. When the adjective is applied to a phenomenon, it is used to indicate a stablilized state of affairs, a bundle of ties that in due course may be used to account for another phenomenon. But Latour also finds the word used as if it described a type of material, in a comparable way to an adjective such as wooden or steely. Rather than simply indicating what is already assembled together, it is now used in a way that makes assumptions about the nature of what is assembled. It has become a word that designates two distinct things: a process of assembling; and a type of material, distinct from others.
Latour shows why the social cannot be thought of as a kind of material or domain, and disputes attempts to provide a social explanations of other states of affairs. While these attempts have been productive (and probably necessary) in the past, the very success of the social sciences mean that they are largely no longer so. At the present stage it is no longer possible to inspect the precise constituents entering the social domain.

Latour returns to the original meaning of the social to redefine the notion, and allow it to trace connections again. It will then be possible to resume the traditional goal of the social sciences, but using more refined tools. Drawing on his extensive work examining the assemblages of nature, Latour finds it necessary to scrutinize thoroughly the exact content of what is assembled under the umbrella of Society.

This approach, a sociology of associations, has become known as Actor-Network-Theory, and this book is an essential introduction both for those seeking to understand Actor-Network Theory, or the ideas of one of its most influential proponents.


social sciences, sociology of associations

catalogue card

Title: Reassembling the Social: an Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory
Author: Bruno Latour
Publication: Oxford: Clarendon, 2005
Subject: Social groups, Social structure, Social participation, Organizational behaviour
ISBN: 0199256047


Part I: How to Deploy Controversies About the Social World
First Source of Uncertainty: No Group, Only Group Formation
Second Source of Uncertainty: Action Is Overtaken
Third Source of Uncertainty: Objects too Have Agency
Fourth Source of Uncertainty: Matters of Fact vs. Matters of Concern
Fifth Source of Uncertainty: Writing Down Risky Account

Part II: How to Render Associations Traceable Again
How to Keep the Social Flat
First Move: Localizing the Global
Second Move: Redistributing the Local
Third Move: Connecting Sites

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