Posthuman agency: Between theoretical traditions

Sociological Theory 14 (3):290-309 (1996)
Abstract
With his recent introduction of `posthumanism, " a decentered variant of constructivist sociology of science, Andrew Pickering advertises novel conceptual resources for social theorists. In fact, he tenders nothing less than a fundamental reordering of social thought. By invoking the concept of "material agency, " Pickering seeks to redefine the relationship between "Nature" and "Society," while dismissing the "humanist bias" inherent in sociological inquiry. However, for all its ambition and good intentions, posthumanism delivers only analytical inconsistencies, the consequences of an uneasy synthesis of pragmatist and poststructuralist influences. When translated into the language of conventional sociological theory, these problems surface as an inadequate treatment of human agency. The works of the original pragmatists, particularly C.S. Peirce and G.H. Mead, illustrate how the objectives of posthumanism can be achieved without decentering, suggesting a renewed appreciation of "humanist" sociologies
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