Michael Brown's remarkable book is a bold attempt to reunite the social sciences and humanities on the basis of a unitary concept, that of the social, which allows him to integrate the different dimensions of sociality and to question our research practices, in which we too often take for granted our ways of thinking about the collective. The book also helps to combat the increasing fragmentation of our knowledge, which the hypertrophy of the critical posture and the multiplication of specialized studies have fostered over the last half-century. Brown proposes a real refoundation of our knowledge in a time of great confusion about the legitimacy of discourses on the social and the drifts of “situated epistemologies” that tend to reduce our knowledge to a simple point of view. Certainly, the dream of a unified social science emerged long ago and has never been realized. Brown's essay escapes the criticisms that always threaten systemic thinking and conceptual generalization, for he consistently incorporates the critical perspective inherited from the Marxist foundation into his enterprise.
This chapter is an attempt to rethink the social from the point of view of intellectual history. In the first part, the question of the unity of the social sciences is reexamined in the light of the proliferation of specialized studies. We then move to the sociological analysis of concepts as they emerge in diverse social contexts. A special attention is paid to Bourdieu's grand theory endeavor in the third part. It can be compared to Bruno Latour's strategy to flatten the social, which is the object of a critical analysis in part four. Thus, it becomes possible to offer a renovated analytical frame to account to the sociality of intellectual contents, based on the “density of practices” (parts five and six).
Fabiani, J.-L. (2022), "The Uncertainties of the Social", Halley, J.A. and Dahms, H.F. (Ed.) The Centrality of Sociality (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 39), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 41-57. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0278-120420220000039003
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