Latour Reading Response (February 8, 2012)

Posted: February 8, 2012 by janinemarie91 in Uncategorized

Latour argues forth the Actor-Network Theory as a way to explain how objects as actors produce durability of ties and the inequalities of social landscape instead of an invisible force in the self-sufficing social ties that historically has disregarded material importance in social activity. What is social should not be regarded in isolation, like an object per se, but of the associations that it undertakes such as processes that it undergoes.

Divergence in the schools of thought within sociology, due to differences in definitions and premise give rise to what Latour segregates as the sociology for the social and sociology for association. An important argument that the author makes is that there is exists no remarkable power relation of such magnitude that it cannot be overcome by another higher power. This means that “social ties” are not a huge enough force to maintain the diversity in society’s hierarchy and that differentiation in the social landscape can not be produced by means of what Latour defines as transient, weak interactions such as social laws (pp.70-73). By saying that social ties are hardy enough to exert a force that maintains the inequality of life does not provide an explanation for the seemingly innate force that social ties have.

ANT is a fairly new concept for me and Latour does the job of convincing me in a fairly good manner although I find myself sometimes lost in his rant. Looking back at sociology classes that I have taken in the course of my university career, the neglect in the study of the physical and the material in relation to social activities seems to be the trend. Sure, objects are highlighted every now and then but just as the author argues, sociologists for the social almost make it seem preposterous to put it in the middle of our social world, furthermore as an agent that is responsible for the resilience of social ties that exist in our world.

Objects, however, are indeed heavily dependent on the context that they are being used. As Latour says, tactics are made to make objects talk and that they are reliant on the forces that make them act (p.80). Whether objects act as mediators or intermediaries, the role they play is key to understanding the part of social world left out as the study of social laws transcend into to the more material aspect of lives.

Questions: Is the irreconcilable incommensurability-commensurability of an object problematic enough for the ANT to be fully consistent?

How do measure power relations among human, society and object when objects acts as agents within a social network?

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