What has become of critique? Reassembling sociology after Latour

Tom Mills*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper offers a defence of sociology through an engagement with Actor Network Theory (ANT) and particularly the critique of 'critical' and politically engaged social science developed by Bruno Latour. It argues that ANT identifies some weaknesses in more conventional sociology and social theory, and suggests that 'critical' and 'public' orientated sociologists can learn from the analytical precision and ethnographic sensibilities that characterize ANT as a framework of analysis and a research programme. It argues, however, that Latour et al. have too hastily dispensed with 'critique' in favour of a value neutral descriptive sociology, and that the symmetrical and horizontalist approach adopted in ANT is particularly ill-suited to the development of scientific knowledge about social structures. It argues that a more straightforwardly realist sociology would share many of the strengths of ANT whilst being better able to interrogate, empirically and normatively, the centres of contemporary social power.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-305
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Volume69
Issue number2
Early online date6 Sep 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright: London School of Economics and Political Science 2017. This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: What has become of critique? Reassembling sociology after Latour, which has been published in final form at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/10.1111/1468-4446.12306. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

Keywords

  • Actor network theory
  • Bruno Latour
  • Critical sociology
  • Critique
  • Realism
  • Social structure

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