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What Happened? The end of modernisation

In the last few days, I’ve been reading Hilary Clinton’s What Happened and reflecting on it as an expression of a political centrism which I suspect is coming to an end. These self-defined ‘modernisers’ sought to adapt their respective political parties to what they saw as a new reality, necessitating […]

Mechanisms of normative change 

Why is it that some social norms are unexpectedly stable up to a tipping point, like homophobia in football, but change rapidly once they start to do so? And what stabilizes revenge norms even after effective legal orders have been established? Apparently, social and legal norms are not made for […]

An obscenity on the district line

Another drabble, based on a scene I witnessed on public transport this weekend: He couldn’t avert his gaze, nor could he stand to watch. The obscenity gripped him, drew him forward and out of himself. Sliding forward on the edge of his seat, he forced his feet flatly onto the […]

The aestheticised mode of social theorising

One of the targets in Kieran Healy’s Fuck Nuance paper is connoisseurship in social theory, the tendency to “call for the contemplation of complexity almost for its own sake” and “remind everyone that things are more subtle than they seem”. As he astutely observes, this tendency sits uneasily with abstraction as a […]

Sociological micro-fiction

I encountered the notion of the drabble through reading Rob Kitchin’s fiction blog. These short stories of exactly 100 words can have a strange power to them, as little shards of reality that can be thrown out into the world. This is how Wikipedia describes the origins of the drabble: […]

The fetishisation of interiority

From pg 27 of Peter Sloterdijk’s The Art of Philosophy.  Witnesses report that Socrates had the habit of “sinking” into thought, as if thinking involved a kind of trance or obsessive daydream. According to Xenophon, Socrates saw this as “concentrating the mind on itself” by breaking off contact with his environment […]

Conduits for variety

In his superb From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Fred Turner vividly describes The Whole Earth Catalog and the horizon it opened up for many of its readers. From loc 1212: For many, the Catalog provided a first, and sometimes overwhelming, glimpse of the New Communalists’ intellectual world. Gareth Branwyn, for instance, a journalist who […]

Five thoughts on abstraction

Abstraction is active. It is something one does, in a fully embodied way, within a context. It is undertaken for reasons and structured by dispositions which are inevitably prior to the situation in which one is abstracting. Abstraction is relational. One always abstracts from an object, stepping back from its particularity in order to foreground […]

Some thoughts on the ontology of games 

What is a game? A standard definition is “a form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules” and this has been the working conception when I’ve encountered theoretical engagements with the notion of a game. But a recent symposium on eSports left me reflecting on how much more […]

The ascent of the spiralists

I wrote recently about a short article by Michael Burawoy in which he bemoaned the ascendancy of the spiralists within universities. These relentlessly ambitious new entrants to the university system see it as a theatre within which they can make themselves known, spiralling into the university before once more spiralling out of […]

Archer and Harman on modes of reduction

Reading Immaterialism by Graham Harman, I’m struck by the overlap between his account of ‘duomining’ and Margaret Archer’s critique of conflation. As he writes on pg 27-28, “If we reduce an object downward to its pieces, we cannot explain emergence; if we reduce it upwards to its effects, we cannot […]

The Surplus of Objects

In Immaterialism, Graham Harman offers a provocative critique of Latour’s social theory, praising Actor-Network Theory as “the most important philosophical method to emerge since phenomenology in 1900” (pg. 1) while also regarding its account of objects as philosophically deficient. While he accepts the ANT thesis that objects mediate human relations, […]