The paradox of the “two sociologies’: Hobbes, Latour and the Constitution of modern social theory

  • Van Krieken R
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Abstract

So far there have usually been only two answers to the question of what to do with dichotomies in sociology, either embrace them or attempt to synthesize them. However, this has produced merely an endless vacillation between the two positions, and a paradoxical constant reproduction of dichotomous thinking, rather than its transformation. This paper works towards a ‘third answer’ to the question, first, by outlining how the concept of the ‘Hobbesian problem of order’, as proposed by Talcott Parsons, underpins all sociological dichotomies, and why it is important to re-read Hobbes and revisit the socalled ‘problem of order’. Second, it explains how Bruno Latour's model of the ‘Constitution’ of modern thought helps us to understand the dynamics of oppositions like nature/society or agency/structure, and how the problems with dichotomies derive from only perceiving part of the Constitution, rather than all of it. The paper concludes with a discussion of one example of a type of sociology that does operate across all of Latour's Constitution because it is based on a different conception of what is problematic about social order, Norbert Elias’‘figurational sociology’, as well as some observations about what we might do with sociology's Constitution from this point onwards.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Elias
  • Hobbes
  • Latour
  • constitution
  • dichotomy
  • problem of order,
  • sociology

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Authors

  • Robert Van Krieken

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