The Site of the Social

The Site of the Social: A Philosophical Account of the Constitution of Social Life and Change

theodore r. schatzki
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The Site of the Social
    Book Description:

    Inspired by Heidegger’s concept of the clearing of being, and by Wittgenstein’s ideas on human practice, Theodore Schatzki offers a novel approach to understanding the constitution and transformation of social life. Key to the account he develops here is the context in which social life unfolds—the "site of the social"—as a contingent and constantly metamorphosing mesh of practices and material orders. Schatzki’s analysis reveals the advantages of this site ontology over the traditional individualist, holistic, and structuralist accounts that have dominated social theory since the mid-nineteenth century. A special feature of the book is its development of the theoretical argument by sustained reference to two historical examples: the medicinal herb business of a Shaker village in the 1850s and contemporary day trading on the Nasdaq market. First focusing on the relative simplicity of Shaker life to illuminate basic ontological characteristics of the social site, Schatzki then uses the sharp contrast with the complex and dynamic practice of day trading to reveal what makes this approach useful as a general account of social existence. Along the way he provides new insights into many major issues in social theory, including the nature of social order, the significance of agency, the distinction between society and nature, the forms of social change, and how the social present affects its future.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05429-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xxii)
  5. Social Orders
    (pp. 1-58)

    Order is a basic dimension of any domain of entities. Things tend not to form random aggregates of continuously metamorphosing matters, but instead to hang together as clusters of inter-related determinate stuff. Order is the basic disposition of a domain of entities, the way that things are laid out or hang together in that domain. Conceived this abstractly, moreover, order is neutral vis-à-vis atomistic and holistic construals of any given field. Whether a domain, say, is composed of elements externally joined in larger molecular conglomerates or is a space of varying intensities and unarticulated continua from which determinate phenomena precipitate,...

  6. Practices
    (pp. 59-122)

    Now and again, I have suggested that social orders are not self-standing or self-propagating configurations, but that they instead exist and evolve only in some context encompassing them. The current chapter argues that this context is a nexus of social practices. To say that the social orders through and amid which human coexistence transpires are established in this nexus is to say that the relations, meanings, identities, and positions of their components (as well as changes in these) are beholden to certain organized bundles of human activity. This state of affairs entails, in turn, that human lives hang together, not...

  7. The Site of the Social
    (pp. 123-188)

    Social life transpires through human activity and is caught up in orders of people, artifacts, organisms, and things. As such, it is not just immersed in a mesh of practices and orders, but also exists only as so entangled. The mesh of practices and orders is thesitewhere social life takes place. The current chapter elucidates and substantiates this analysis of social being and also places it in a wider horizon of social ontologies. Conceiving the social site as an overall phenomenon also raises issues about its relation to a different panoramic phenomenon called “nature.” These issues parallel those...

  8. Becoming and Change
    (pp. 189-264)

    Movement and change have filled the previous chapters, more or less explicitly whenever causality was at issue and relatively unmarked in all the substantive discussions of orders, practices, and the social site. Their omnipresence reflects the fact that agency is the central motor of a constant becoming that sweeps the social site. Agency, that is to say, is that through which the mesh of practices and orders is continuously taking place and frequently mutating. Accordingly, an account of the social site is inherently one of ceaseless movement and incessant rearrangement and reorganization, even if it is not explicitly developed as...

  9. Coda
    (pp. 265-268)

    This book has analyzed the constitution of sociality through an account of the social site, the context as part of which human coexistence inherently transpires. This site is an overall mesh of practices and orders, itself organized as a nexus of practice-order bundles, nets, and other complexes. This mesh is also carried along and altered by streams of human and nonhuman doings, though human activities enjoy primary responsibility for maintaining and transforming its forms.

    My attention has focused on ontological matters. Although many of these issues—for example, the character of social order and of practices, the role of agency...

  10. List of References
    (pp. 269-282)
  11. Index
    (pp. 283-295)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 296-296)