European Journal of Social Theory

Published by SAGE

Print ISSN: 1368-4310


Figure 1: An analytical scheme for studying the sciences  
Scientific Communication and Cognitive Codification: Social Systems Theory and the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge
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November 2009


137 Reads

The intellectual organization of the sciences cannot be appreciated sufficiently unless the cognitive dimension is considered as an independent source of variance. Cognitive structures interact and co-construct the organization of scholars and discourses into research programs, specialties, and disciplines. In the sociology of scientific knowledge and the sociology of translation, these heterogeneous sources of variance have been homogenized a priori in the concepts of practices and actor-networks. Practices and actor-networks, however, can be explained in terms of the self-organization of the cognitive code in scientific communication. The code selects knowledge claims by organizing them operationally in the various discourses; the claims can thus be stabilized and potentially globalized. Both the selecting codes and the variation in the knowledge claims remain constructed, but the different sub-dynamics can be expected to operate asymmetrically and to update with other frequencies.

Tariq Ramadan vs. Daniel Cohn-Bendit or Why a European Model of Society Based on Weak Citizenship Is Not Such a Good Idea

November 2009


68 Reads

The boundaries, openness and character of the future European society will crucially depend on the degree and scope of identity politics. Religion, culture and nationality remain strong reference frameworks for individuals in their inter-personal but also political relations, and tend, in practice, to favour weak rather than strong forms of citizenship. Whether this is a viable model for large and diverse democratic societies is an old debate known primarily from the discussions and theory on multiculturalism. How this debate is played out at European level and especially with respect to the role of religion is illustrated with reference to the ideas of Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Tariq Ramadan, two well-known public figures with a strong commitment to Europe and European identity, albeit from rather different perspectives and outlooks. At the substantive or philosophical level, it appears impossible to resolve the fundamental questions underlying the opposition between liberalism and communitarianism as represented by the two men. A middle-range pragmatic approach insofar as political solutions or societal compromises are concerned is scrutinized for its usefulness.

SImmel to Rokkan and Beyond: Elements for a Network Theory of (New) Social Movements

November 2000


760 Reads

In this paper I suggest we address the question of the 'newness' of a social movement in the light of the patterns of social relations that social movements generate through the overlapping memberships and personal linkages of their activists, and through the alliances between the different groups which identify with a given cause. To this purpose I draw upon two classical concepts, Stein Rokkan’s “political cleavage” and Georg Simmel’s “intersection of social circles”, which are rarely related explicitly to each. Rokkan's work provides the link between the structural bases of conflict and social networks; Simmel's idea of the intersection of social circles enables us to grasp the individualization process, but also to look at how memberships may re-combine in different structural patterns. I do not claim to provide a global account, nor an original interpretation, of their work. I rather show how an unusual integration of two classics may improve our understanding of a specific contemporary process.

Political Roof and Sacred Canopy? Religion and the EU Constitution

February 2006


379 Reads

Debate over the place of Christianity in European politics and society has made an important come-back. The Convention on the Future of Europe’s deliberations over the EU Constitution has thrown into relief the role of religion in defining ‘Europeanness’. In the context of a secularized Europe, Christianity is fighting for its institutional recognition and space in the public sphere. Religion may offer a cultural identity and work both to resist and to accommodate change. However, the Christian mobilization has been challenged by those who defend the secular order. The debate over whether Christianity should be seen as constitutive of European identity has been framed by wider concerns about collective identities and memories in Europe.

Deliberative Democracy and Two Models of Pragmatism

August 2004


314 Reads

This article examines the relationship of pragmatism to the theory of deliberative democracy. It elaborates a dilemma in the latter theory, between its deliberative or epistemic and democratic or inclusive components, and distinguishes responses to this dilemma that are internal to the conception of deliberation employed from those that are external. The article goes on to identify two models of pragmatism and critically examines how well each one deals with the tension identified in deliberative democracy.

William James: Pragmatism, Social Psychology and Emotions

August 2004


7,302 Reads

At the core of pragmatism is the idea of an active projection of experience into the future. William James’s contribution to pragmatism included an emphasis on emotions in the apprehension of possible futures and related processes. After presenting a summary of Jamesian pragmatism, and especially the significance of emotions in it, the article notes the reception of James’s writings in Europe and their influence on European intellectual developments. Max Weber, for instance, studied James closely. He treated James’s approach to religion as a negative example. While Emile Durkheim rejected the individualist approach of James, he nevertheless found much of value in James’s conceptualization of religious experience, including its emotional underpinnings. Discussion below explores the neglected Jamesian quality of Durkheim’s account of religion. It is noted in conclusion that the more recent sociological neglect of James and the failure to appreciate his particular approach in pragmatism, coincided with the rise of Freudian psychology in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Shame, Guilt and Reconciliation After War

August 2008


113 Reads

How do experiences of shame and guilt shape or reflect the ways in which the vanquished are reconciled (or not) to the new world order established by the victors? Shame and guilt are universal experiences in the emotional landscape of post-war politics, albeit for different reasons and with radically different political effects. An examination of Germany after 1918 and of Japan after 1945 reveals that experiences of shame and guilt may be pivotal for creating conditions of possibility for reconciliation marked by political and moral transformation. This transformative potential of shame and guilt, however, is a double-edged sword. In threatening old identities, values and beliefs, experiences of shame and guilt may provoke defensive, reactionary and violent political responses, and thus may precipitate hideous rather than salutary transformations. Political leadership and political culture are crucial factors in shaping the kind of reconciliation — reactionary or transformative — as well as the specific nature of transformations that experiences of shame and guilt may motivate the vanquished to pursue.

The Sacralization of Memory

February 2004


139 Reads

This article argues that today’s search for identity, in the context of the rise of a new spirituality and the decline of authoritative memories, facilitates the forging of a new connection between soul and memory and enhances the importance of traumatic memories. Consequently, we witness the sacralization of memory which in unsettled times, when memories tend to become fixed and frozen, can undermine intergroup cooperation. The article asserts that an ethical burden, prompted by viewing memory as the surrogate of the soul and the overrating of the importance of the politics of identity, can result in the displacement of public concerns with private ones. It stresses a need to rethink what kind of memory is compatible with a just, pluralist and cohesive democratic system.

Outline of a Social Theory of Rights: A Neo-Pragmatist Approach

November 2013


13 Reads

In this article I articulate a neo-pragmatist theory of human rights by drawing and expanding upon the American classical pragmatism of G.H. Mead. I characterize this neo-pragmatist theory of rights by its anti-foundationalist, relational, fictive, and constitutive nature. I begin by providing a reconstruction of Mead’s social pragmatist approach to rights, a contribution systematically ignored by contemporary sociologists of rights. Next I detail the cost of this disciplinary oblivion by examining how much neo-pragmatism, critical theory, and legal consciousness studies have meanwhile gained by engaging with Mead’s work on rights. Finally, I discuss the contributions of this historical-theoretical exercise to the rapidly growing sociology of rights. I show that by supplementing my neo-Meadian approach with a recent interpretation of Hobbes’s fictional theory of politics, there appear substantive gains in the empirical study of the origins, consequences, meaning, and denial of rights.

Power and Truth

February 2012


2,745 Reads

In the literature, the power debate is divided between modern and postmodern positions. The former hold that power and truth are opposites, while the latter view them as mutually constitutive. These debates mix epistemological, normative and sociological claims. Using classical sociological methods, strict criteria for valid functional explanations are set out and the relationship between power and truth is explained in these terms. It is argued that agents use truth to create local social capital for themselves, which has the unintended functional effect of reinforcing the effectiveness and stability of social systems. This entails an account of authority as a performative act that meets with a felicitous reaction by others.

Power and knowledge

January 2013


2,096 Reads

The future of democratic societies is at stake in the manner we articulate the legitimacy of their decisions and the cognitive competence with which those decisions are taken. Nowadays this requirement clashes with the drawback that there is an indomitable dimension of ignorance that cannot be eliminated but rather needs to be managed. The experts’ advice increasingly takes on board these ‘unknown unknowns’, whereby the relationship between science and politics has become just as necessary as it is complex.

The wartime narrative in US sociology, 1940–1947: Stigmatizing qualitative sociology in the name of ‘science’

March 2018


77 Reads

This is an article about the history of US sociology with systematic intent. It goes back to World War II to recover a wartime narrative context through which sociologists formulated a ‘trauma’ to the discipline and ‘blamed’ qualitative and values-oriented research for damaging the scientific status of sociology. This narrative documents a discussion of the changes that sociologists said needed to be made in sociology as a science to repair its status and reputation. While debates among sociologists about theory and method had always been contentious, the wartime narrative insisted for the first time that sociology be immediately unified around quantitative approaches. The narrative of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ science that developed during the war not only undermined the efforts of social interactionists to theorize social action and social justice, but also derailed Parsons’ pre-war effort to bridge differences. The moral coding that is the legacy of the narrative stigmatized important approaches to sociology, leading to a ‘crisis’ in the 1960s that still haunts the discipline. Disciplinary history has overlooked the wartime narrative with the result that the role played by World War II in effecting this crisis has gone unrecognized.

Accomplishments and limitations of the ‘new’ mainstream in contemporary populism studiesBooks: MüllerJan-Werner, What Is Populism?Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016; MuddeCasKaltwasserCristóbal Rovira, Populism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

August 2017


119 Reads

Two recent books on populism represent more than any other the new mainstream in populism studies. Through a reconstruction of the main arguments advanced by Jan-Werner Müller, on the one hand, and Cas Mudde and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, on the other, this article aims to highlight both the significant accomplishments as well as the main limitations of this orientation. Special attention is given to the way in which the two projects deal with the relationship between populism and democracy. In this respect, substantial differences emerge between them, largely due to the different scope of each intervention: Müller articulates a polemical argument, while Mudde and Kaltwasser seem to encompass a more nuanced research agenda. And yet, despite all their differences, the two books share a common definitional basis when they identify moralization and moralism as the kernel of populist ideology. It is here, however, that the shaky basis of the new mainstream is revealed. Apart from betraying substantive continuities with a discredited Cold War pluralism, this moralistic stress seems ultimately inadequate to function as the central criterion for the differential identification of populism.

Are you a neoliberal subject? On the uses and abuses of a concept

August 2021


77 Reads

A spate of social scientific literature gives the impression that societies in the twenty-first century are overrun with ‘neoliberal subjects’. But what does it actually mean to be a neoliberal subject? And in what ways does this concept relate to ‘neoliberalism’, more generally? In this article, I distinguish between four common ways of thinking about ‘neoliberalism’: (1) as a set of economic policies, (2) as a hegemonic ideological project, (3) as a political rationality and form of governmentality and (4) as a specific type of embodied subjectivity. I argue that while neoliberalisms (1), (2) and (3) potentially hold clear conceptual connections to one another – notwithstanding the quite real tensions between them – their relationship to neoliberalism (4) is often (although not always) tenuous at best. That is, the evidence routinely offered to demonstrate the existence of neoliberalism (4) bears almost no necessary relationship to neoliberalisms (1), (2) or (3). I conclude that, for both academic and political reasons, scholars should be more careful when invoking the monolithic notion of a ‘neoliberal subject’.

Dispossessing Academics: The Shift to ‘Appropriation’ in the Governing of Academic Life

July 2020


1,361 Reads

This article offers a critical theoretical exploration of the transformation of academic life that is currently taking place under the sign of ‘neoliberalization’. The main aim is to differentiate appropriation from exploitation as strategies of surplus labour dispossession, to identify the growth of appropriative techniques in academic life, and to situate the proliferation of such techniques in the broader transformations of global political economy. Alloyed with poststructuralist social theory, the historical materialist thrust of the article demonstrates how, in the technologically articulate ‘social factory’ of advanced capitalism, the spatial operations of these techniques of dispossession have a particularly ‘aesthetic’ character that is immanent to their appropriative operation, and which renders their workings both more discreet and effective. The article aims: (1) to problematize the neoliberal concepts of efficiency, transparency, and autonomy, in terms of practical outcomes; (2) to stimulate reflexive consideration of the ‘positioning’ of academics themselves in the reproduction of these techniques; and (3) to ask how these techniques might generate new ‘historical subjects’ of struggle and organization in academic life.

The triple problem displacement: Climate change and the politics of the Great Acceleration

November 2022


19 Reads

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges that human societies have ever faced. After a late start, it is by now rather intensely debated and analysed also in the social sciences and humanities, though mostly through overly generic explanations in terms of an instrumental relation to nature, of capitalist expansion drives or of the human longing for comfort. In contrast, this article concentrates on the socio-political transformations since the middle of the 20th century, which have been referred to as the ‘Great Acceleration’ in the use of biophysical resources and in environmental degradation. It provides an analysis of the socio-political mechanisms that brought the resource-intensive path of social development about, showing how Western democratic societies tended to ‘solve’ difficult social problems by means of a triple displacement: onto other societies; onto nature and the planet; and into the future. As an unintended consequence, this displacement politics led to the globalization of resource-intensive development and to a planetary situation in which, at least as it appears in much of current debate, no further displacement is possible. The article concludes with insights for a more adequate approach to social phenomena of large scale and long duration in social theory.

Political acclamation, social media and the public mood

April 2016


283 Reads

This is an uncorrected page proof of the article. This article approaches social media from the theory of the religio-political practice of acclamation revived by Agamben and following twentieth-century social and political thought and theology (of Weber, Peterson, Schmitt, Kantorowicz). It supplements that theory by more recent political-theoretical, historical and sociological investigations and regards acclamation as a ‘social institution’ following Mauss. Acclamation is a practice that forms publics, whether as the direct presence of the ‘people’, mass-mediated ‘public opinion’, or a ‘public mood’ decipherable through countless social media postings. The article surveys issues of differential geographies of access, weighting of posts, value-creation, orality and gesture, algorithmic governmentality, and Big Data and knowledge production. It argues that social media constitute a public from a mass of individualized, private postings. It concludes that they make possible forms of political calculability and action, yet are continuous with ritual and liturgical elements of political life. This study contributes to an analytics of publicity.

From primitive accumulation to entangled accumulation: Decentring Marxist Theory of capitalist expansion

May 2019


206 Reads

During the last few decades, the concept of primitive accumulation (ursprüngliche Akkumulation) introduced by Karl Marx and expanded by Rosa Luxemburg has been revived and improved. Accordingly, scholars have used this framework not to characterize a past moment in the history of capitalism, but to grasp the continuous process of coupling and uncoupling geographical and social spheres in the capital accumulation in different fields: financialization, the care economy, green grabbing, the sharing economy, real estate bubbles, data mining, etc. Despite the quality and productivity of these debates, they are still focused on authors and phenomena observed in the Global North, ignoring a long tradition of similar discussions developed especially in Latin America. The article seeks to decentre these debates by taking seriously into account approaches which address primitive accumulation from the perspective of (post)colonial and (post)slave societies. It coins the concept entangled accumulation to emphasize the interdependencies between practices of exploitation and expropriation, wage and slave labour, state power and illegal violence, and capitalist and non-capitalist economies, which have shaped capital accumulation throughout history.

Bourdieu and the study of capitalism: Looking for the political structures of accumulation

December 2020


83 Reads

It is possible to draw upon Marx’s thinking without emphasizing an automatic relationship between an economic ‘base’ and a political ‘superstructure’. The development of capitalism must then be understood as resulting from the ‘conceptual separation’ of the economic and political issues. However, the research that favours this approach fails to provide the tools for a precise and systematic study of the political work which makes this separation possible. For his part, through the development of field theory and the emphasis on the notion of symbolic power, Pierre Bourdieu offers the means to analyse the political work of multiple agents, but he does not formulate a theory of capitalism tailored to his findings. It seems worthwhile to take up and extend some of his proposals to open up avenues of thought in this direction. It is then about considering that different fields coexist, each of which lends itself to a political struggle based on the assertion of symbolic power; each field contributes to a ‘conceptual separation’ of the economic and political issues, which is itself constitutive of capitalism. As a result, production and trade operations seem to be part of a natural and autonomous process. Capital can thus be accumulated without necessitating the direct use of force. The combination of fields can lend itself to certain variations. It always shapes the political structures of accumulation.

Action and edgework

October 2014


208 Reads

Although the meaning and usefulness of Erving Goffman’s work are still being debated today, few would doubt the importance of his contributions to the sociological study of the self, emotions, deviance, and social interaction. Less well known to most contemporary sociologists is his effort to provide a sociological account of voluntary risk taking—participation in gambling, high-risk sports, dangerous occupations, certain forms of criminal behavior, and the like—activities he classified as ‘action’. While Goffman’s study of action anticipated the expansion of volitional risk taking in Western societies in recent decades, most contemporary research on this trend has been guided by a different concept—the notion of ‘edgework’. Contrasting the action and edgework approaches along three key parameters—fateful action versus corporeal edges, embodied semiotics versus embodied experience, and dramaturgical reflexivity versus hermeneutic reflexivity—reveals how the action and edgework concepts capture conflicting motivations for voluntary risk taking. Finally, this article considers how Goffman’s action framework can be reoriented to contemporary social conditions and integrated with the edgework perspective to yield a multidimensional theory of risk agency in late modern society.

Populism as a logic of political action

April 2018


994 Reads

This article offers a new understanding of populism. The argument unfolds as follows: first, the populist literature is reviewed and two main approaches are identified: ontic and logic-oriented, the more important of which is the Schmitt-Laclau logic of enmity. While the authors broadly agree with Laclau’s criticism of ontic approaches, they endorse neither his ontological understanding of enmity, nor his claim that populism is politics, and enmity is the logic of populism. Next, the origins of populism are located in a paradox at the heart of democracy. Democracy defines itself as a community of inclusion, yet exclusion is constitutive of inclusion, including therefore democratic inclusion. Then is discussed what the authors believe to be the true logic of populism: resentment. Unlike enmity, which functions in Laclau’s populist theory as an ontology of non-identity, resentment operates within a rivalrous framework, which presupposes identification between the parts and refers to a set of normative commitments. Finally, the article concludes by presenting an understanding of populism as a specific logic of political action.

No (sociological) excuses for not going green: How do environmental activists make sense of social inequalities and relate to the working class?

March 2021


156 Reads

Some environmental activists occasionally use the argument that poverty is ‘no excuse’ for not going green and denounce discourses putting forward social conditions as unduly exculpatory. Employing participant observation among middle-class activists mobilising to diffuse environmental lifestyles in socially diverse suburbs near Paris (France), the article explores their relation to the working class and examines the consequences of their endeavours on local class relations. It describes the tension between their goal of mainstreaming environmental reflexivity and the stubborn existence of material inequalities and constraints. While their efforts are configured by a moral economy of environmental responsibility which assigns an undifferentiated moral obligation to consume sustainably to all individuals, they make sense of social differences by drawing on culturalist representations of poverty and folk social theories. These sense-making practices enhance rather than alleviate attributions of blame against working-class people and contribute to reinforcing the activists’ dominant symbolic position.

Virtual attractors, actual assemblages: How Luhmann's theory of communication complements actor-network theory

January 2013


179 Reads

This article proposes complementing actor-network theory (ANT) with Niklas Luhmann's communication theory, in order to overcome one of ANT's major shortcomings, namely, the lack of a conceptual repertoire to describe virtual processes such as sense-making. A highly problematic consequence of ANT's actualism is that it cannot explain the differentiation of economic, legal, scientific, touristic, religious, medical, artistic, political and other qualities of actual entities, assemblages and relationships. By recasting Luhmann's theory of functionally differentiated communication forms and sense-making as dealing with different types of virtual attractors calling for actualizations in concrete assemblages, I propose a symmetrical understanding of societal differentiation processes as based on the co-production of virtual attractors and actual assemblages.

Symmetrical twins: On the relationship between Actor-Network theory and the sociology of critical capacities

April 2012


249 Reads

This article explores the elective affinities between Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and the sociology of critical capacities. It argues that these two research programmes can be understood as symmetrical twins. We show the extent to which the exchange between Bruno Latour and Luc Boltanski has influenced their respective theoretical developments. Three strong encounters between the twin research programmes may be distinguished. The first encounter concerns explanations for social change. The second encounter focuses on the status of objects and their relationship to places. The third encounter is about the concept of critique. Drawing on their long-term mutual readings, we gain insight into how pleas for symmetrical analysis raised in response to Bourdieu's theory of fields have evolved within both ANT and the sociology of critical capacity. We conclude by relating the development of the respective research programmes to the issue of disciplinary boundaries.

Sociologies of the South and the actor-network-theory: Possible convergences for an ontoformative sociology

November 2015


75 Reads

This article analyses the contributions of the sociologies or theories of the South to the contemporary debates on the production of theory in the social sciences. Starting with the assumption that these projects adopt a critical view of how sociology has privileged certain objects over others in a colonial way, it proposes an analysis that makes use of certain aspects of the actor-network theory. This approach, it is suggested, will help the sociologies of the South to focus on the production of ontoforms as their specific object, ontoforms which expand and at times challenge the established hegemonic notions of the social and of agency in this area of knowledge.

When did biopolitics begin? Actuality and potentiality in historical events

February 2022


15 Reads

The article addresses the ongoing debate about the origins of biopolitics. While Foucault’s analysis of biopolitics approached it as a modern rationality of government, Agamben’s Homo Sacer series presented biopolitics as having a longer provenance, dating back to the antiquity. These polar positions are not mutually exclusive but coexist in these and other theories of biopolitics, which approach its object as both modern and ancient, having its chronological origin in the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries yet also possessing a prehistory of precursors. The article interprets this dual origin in terms of Paolo Virno’s theory of historical temporality, which distinguishes between the chronological past of historical events and their potential past, which accompanies and is negated in them. Coexisting with its own unrealized potential, every historical event remains incomplete and extends itself both backwards and forwards, positing its precursors and prefiguring its future outcomes. While modern in the chronological sense, biopolitics is retrospectively inscribed in a longer historical lineage, its antecedents easily identifiable in the history of political thought. Finally, we apply this approach to Virno’s own account of the history of biopolitics, questioning his identification of past potential with labour-power.

Refusing the ‘Foolish Wisdom of Resignation’: Kaupapa Māori in conversation with Adorno

August 2019


31 Reads

Drawing on select works of Adorno, we will first rehearse his reasons for a rejuvenation of philosophy and apply them to philosophers working on world philosophical traditions. We will then analyse Adorno’s arguments pertaining to the theory–praxis relation to ascertain whether his thought could accommodate a study of world philosophical traditions for the simple reason that they are present in a particular society. Shifting our focus slightly, we reflect upon how current ways of professional philosophizing affect the study of world philosophical traditions. As the example of Māori philosophy demonstrates, current philosophical practices seem to delimit the search for the unconventional in academic philosophy. Through its philosophical appropriation, the so-called unconventional tends to mimic conventional patterns in academic philosophy. We will then attempt to find reasons to critique this process within the Adornoian framework itself. The conclusion draws together different strands of the discussion and delineates some paths to take forward the world philosophies project in an Adornoian spirit.

The dialectic of critique and progress: Comparing Peter Wagner and Theodor Adorno

June 2017


125 Reads

As long as critique trails in the wake of progress, a more radical game-changing interest in its reconstruction remains blocked. This article will contrast the reforming approach adopted by Peter Wagner with Theodor Adorno’s attempt to reconstruct the normative foundations of historical progress. The intention here is to use the radicalism of Adorno’s critical recovery of this ideal in order to clarify and strengthen the social democratic utopianism that underlies Wagner’s reconstruction of progress. The final section of the article extends the significance of this modelling of the dialectics between critique and progress, using it to guide a brief evaluation of some attempts to reclaim critique from its histories of complicity in repressive, Eurocentric versions of historical progress.

Adorno reading and writing sociology

December 2015


16 Reads

In the context of recent attempts to more adequately engage with Adorno’s approach to sociology and social theory, this article argues that such a project requires a more complete understanding of the philosophical basis of Adorno’s critical material perspective on knowledge and language. In particular, the interpretation of Adorno within sociology has been hampered by a fundamental misunderstanding regarding his methodology of critique and composition, which prioritizes the content of Adorno’s claims regarding sociology and social theory, over their rhetorical and performative character. This character is identifiable in Adorno’s prose, and grasped through a close attention to his account of the negative dialectic. Using Bernstein’s articulation of the ‘complex concept’ as an analytical framework, and Adorno’s introduction to Durkheim as its material, the article argues that the inability to grasp the rhetorical character of Adorno’s critical interpretive approach prevents an understanding of his potential relevance for sociology and social theory.

Theodor W. Adorno's homecoming

September 2015


1,359 Reads

Theodor Adorno has often been portrayed as the prototypical example of the permanent exile, even though, after living fifteen years in Britain and the US, he returned to Germany in 1949 and spent the last twenty years of his life there. This article traces Adorno’s reflections on his homecoming and analyses how his experiences of exile and return shaped his mature thought. Conceiving homecoming not simply as a return to one’s origins but as a continuation of a radical experience of the foreign, it builds on the remarkable continuity of Adorno’s theory of intellectual experience over time. The article also explores homecoming in relation to Adorno’s thought on language and translation, an aspect that has been little studied in the existing literature, both in terms of the articulation of a philosophy of language where the foreign plays an important role, and in terms of how language and translation were directly connected with Adorno’s return.

Advances in social movement theory since the global financial crisis

June 2017


741 Reads

The social movement literature in Western Europe and North America has oriented much of its theoretical work towards micro-, meso-, and macro-level examinations of its subject of study but has rarely integrated these levels of analysis. This review article broadly documents the leading theoretical perspectives on social movements, while highlighting the contributions made in recent years with regard to the wave of protests across the globe – typified by the Occupy Movement and the ‘Arab Spring’ – and grievances that are relatively novel in qualitative or quantitative form such as austerity, precarity, and a sense of democratic deficiency. While these novel social processes have invigorated the specialized arena of ‘social movement studies’ and generated a resurgence of work on social movements beyond the field, this article argues for the need to interconnect levels of analysis in order to develop a more insightful account of contemporary contentious politics.

Adventures in the anti-humanist dialectic: Towards the reappropriation of humanism

February 2021


73 Reads

The hegemonic discourse on humanism in the contemporary academy – a critical discourse in the form of a theoretical anti-humanism – is marked by a certain degree of impoverishment. This impoverishment is the result of many contextual factors, including the ideological purposes to which the discourse has been put, but also the effects of internal workings of the paradigm associated with anti-humanism itself. In this article, I trace the development of this discourse in its foundational early- and mid-twentieth century manifestations, outlining its central characteristics as well as its tensions and aporias, both theoretical and political. I argue that the critical discourse, which has informed our contemporary understanding of humanism, needs to be meaningfully sublated and that a new discourse – one that has reflected deeply upon the anti-humanist discourse: its strengths and its weaknesses – should take its place.

Figure 1. Four expressions of solidarity within capitalism.
Affective and calculative solidarity: The impact of individualism and neoliberal capitalism

July 2018


627 Reads

This article examines the ways in which the self-responsibilized individualism underpinning contemporary concepts of the ideal European citizen, on the one hand (Frericks, 2014), and the inequalities and anti-democratic politics that characterize contemporary neoliberal capitalism, on the other, are co-constituent elements in creating an antipathy to forms of solidarity that are affective as opposed to calculative. The active citizenship framework lacks a full appreciation of the interdependency of the human condition and is antithetical to universalistic, affectively-led forms of solidarity. The deep relationality that is endemic to both social production and reproduction, and that impels an affective, morally-led form of solidarity needs to be recognized academically and intellectually, and politically sustained, if we are to move beyond a narrow, calculative, self-interested vision of solidarity in Europe.

Esposito’s affirmative biopolitics in multispecies homes

May 2019


76 Reads

Drawing on Roberto Esposito’s conceptualization of ‘affirmative biopolitics’, this article examines the relationship between bedbugs and humans in the Glasgow neighbourhood of Govanhill. Through an analysis of ethnographic field notes and interviews with people who live in the area, this article traces their experiences from first encounters. The trajectory of this experience shows a shift from a desire to immunize their homes through total annihilation of the creatures to the more pragmatic position of learning how to live with them through an orientation toward ‘shared vulnerability’. This case study raises interesting questions for biopolitical theory: how can we conceive of affirmative biopolitics when the limitations of species being are evident, and is it possible to conceive of a multi or even interspecies munus or obligation?

State-building, market regulation and citizenship in South Africa

September 2015


32 Reads

Public policy in post-apartheid South Africa has been characterized by a mix of state regulation and ‘neo-liberalism’. This article argues that this mix is rooted in the model of economic modernity adopted in South Africa in the 1920s and 1930s, and underpinned by the institutions of a modern state. In an economy transformed by mining and subsequent secondary industrialization, the state played a central role in facilitating capitalist growth, including through the regulation of labour. I argue that, contrary to the conventional understanding, the enduring characteristic of the political economy of modernization in South Africa was not so much the mobilization of cheap African labour, mostly migrants from across Southern Africa, but was rather the institutionalization of high wages and protected incomes for economic, social and political insiders. Anglo-centric institutions and conceptions of industrial and social citizenship were adapted to the colonial context in South Africa. The imperatives of both gold-led capitalist industrialization and the governance of a society in which the settler or immigrant population remained a minority required that the African population was excluded from most dimensions of this citizenship. But the institutions, discourses and ideologies associated with high wages (for citizens) continued to structure economic life in South Africa through and after the apartheid period. South Africa’s mode of economic modernization thus reflects the possibly unique interaction of a British model of economic modernization with the social, economic and political realities of a colonial society.

Europe in Africa and Africa in Europe: Rethinking postcolonial space, cultural encounters and hybridity

January 2012


335 Reads

European encounters fostered in the early modern period with West Africa have provided us with interesting frameworks from which to engage in the construction of difference, race within Western European space and with terms for rethinking European identity that transcend the cosmopolitan and colonial pretensions. Drawing on early historical records, especically the Portuguese experience in West Africa, this article seeks to contest standard historical sociological tropes of European identity. First, creolization and hybridity are to challenge the essentialism which has been deployed by Hegel to defend colonial interests. Second, it engages with the critiques levelled at Hegel's eurocentrism, universalism and teleology. Particular use is made of Susan Buck-Morss's work on Hegel, Sybelle Fischer's critique of Buck-Morss' work. Third, it interrogates the principle of the dialectic with Hegel's Europe engagement with its Others; using Levinas' work as a critique of Hegel's dialectic, which represents alternative, that is less violent and non-dominant.

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