On Latour's Social Theory and Theory of Society, and His Contribution to Saving the World

Human Studies 34 (1):93-110 (2011)
Latour is widely considered a critic and renewer of research in the social sciences. The ecologically minded Left has also acclaimed him as a theorist interested in bringing nature back both into sociological theory and into society and politics. To enable a more detailed discussion of Latour’s claims, I will here outline his theory and the ways in which it is related to classical theory, such as Durkheim, and the methodology of the interpretive paradigm, such as Schütz. My thesis is that Latour’s empirical studies may be read as unfolding the methodological consequences of the interpretive paradigm, and that his early work is a brilliant proof of Durkheim’s theory of the morphology of social facts. Latour has now elaborated the insights he gained from concrete laboratory studies toward a general theory of the social, of society, and of politics. These generalizations have made his theory at least partly problematic. The political implication of Latour’s theory of society is a generalization of the call for equality to encompass everything; in other words, Latour criticizes the exclusion of nonhuman entities from political representation. The paper closes by discussing the political consequences of this proposal
Keywords Social theory  Theory of society  Actor-network-theory  Agency of things
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DOI 10.1007/s10746-011-9178-9
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