Concepts such as “the social,” “sociality,” and even “society,” must be viewed “in time and space,” simultaneously as malleable, as representing national and regional differences, and as reflective of concrete sociohistorical conditions. Importantly, particular societal and historical circumstances exert specific kinds of gravity on efforts to clarify the meaning of the above concepts in general and for specific contexts, and to deploy them for purposes of both illuminating and examining the social phenomena they refer to, and their concrete content and form. It is also necessary to establish how and to what extent such efforts themselves are bound to be symptomatic and expressive of the distinctive features (social, political, cultural, economic, geographic, climatic, etc.) they are intended to illuminate and examine. In the United States, related challenges are especially pronounced, for a range of reasons, including the fact that as a comparably “young” nation that was created under very unique conditions, the character of “the social” and the historical foundations of sociality are discernibly different from other societies on Earth. For this reason, as far as social theory is concerned, before it is possible to assess the status and character of “the social,” of “sociality,” and of “society,” in general and abstract terms, it is important to circumscribe what is unique or “exceptional” about a particular society in whose context the status and nature of “social” is being assessed and characterized. Against the neoliberal trend of pitting the social sciences and humanities against each other, and the natural and engineering sciences against both, the former must learn to collaborate and complement each other in ways that secure the independence and autonomy of the social dimension of increasingly complex and contradictory, yet seemingly cohesive societal reference frames.
I would like to thank Anthony J. Knowles and Steven P. Dandaneau for helpful comments and suggestions.
Dahms, H.F. (2022), "In Defense of “the Social”: Convergences and Divergences Between the Humanities and Social Sciences in the United States", Halley, J.A. and Dahms, H.F. (Ed.) The Centrality of Sociality (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 39), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 125-148. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0278-120420220000039007
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