The turn to things : Arguments for a sociological theory of things

Alex PREDA *

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

142 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Things and artifacts are usually treated in sociological theory as marginal, irrelevant, or passive with respect to the production of social order. In contrast to that, in the past decade the sociology of knowledge and science has developed several aproaches that stress the processual character of the cognitive relationships between human actors and artifacts. In this perspective, both human actors and things appear as active entities involved in the production of social order. As knots of socially sanctioned knowledge, things shape the temporal structures, allowing for social order to be stabilized and reproduced. From the viewpoint of the cognitive relationships between human actors and things, the distribution and transfer of cognitive properties and dispositions in a network of such relationships is central with respect to these processes. Starting from a detailed examination of these arguments, this article argues that social order cannot be conceived exclusively as a web of intersubjective relationships. It discusses the methodological and conceptual implications of treating artifacts as active social entities, arguing for their general theoretical relevance with respect to the ways we conceive the constitution of society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-366
Number of pages20
JournalSociological Quarterly
Volume40
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

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