Objects too have agency

Posted: February 6, 2012 by lynndts403 in Feb 8

From what I could gather from “Objects too have agency”, Latour seems to seriously question the work of sociologists and aims to redefine the notion of agency to include objects as actors. He states “anything that does modify a state of affairs by making a difference is an actor (71)”; he argues that ‘social skills’ alone fall short in maintaining power rather it is objects that allows power to last and expand.

Throughout the chapter, he emphasizes the intertwined relationship between society and objects and the need to grasp the concept of objects having agency in order to better comprehend domination in our social structures.

In addition, Latour uses Actor-Network- Theory to illustrate the connectedness of objects with people; he is quick to point out that objects do not replace human actors but rather supplement the action; whether things influence, forbid or render.  Furthermore, he claims that the goal of ANT is to expand the list and alter shapes of the construct as contributors and include them as a long-lasting whole.

I found this reading particularly difficult to comprehend; often finding myself lost in his arguments and sometimes even struggling to find the key points in major sections of what seems to come across like an academic ‘rant’. However, I do feel that Latour was successful in using examples to supplement some of his arguments.

Questions:

1. Does Latour’s arguments render a re-evaluation of sociology and their approaches to studying societies?

2. Since Latour states that “anything that does modify a state of affairs by making a difference is an actor”.  Could an actor include non-material objects such as animals?

 

 

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Comments
  1. Lynn,

    I agree that Latour’s argument did come off as an ‘academic rant’ to a large extent. In fact, I think it was a defining feature of this reading that made it stand out (and also a little entertaining). He parenthisizes his ‘rant’ by stating that he does not want to sound ‘polemic’, but ends up dong so anyway. I particularly enjoyed the subsection titled “Who has forgotten power relations?”, where he attributes the failure of traditional sociologists to issues concerning ‘department independence’, ‘grant money’, etc. In this sense, I think your use of the word ‘academic rant’ is apt.

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