Friday, October 31, 2003

Belief and desire all the way down

I found Steven Shaviro's weblog in my referrer logs a few weeks ago - and it's a fun read. But his most recent post really delivers the goods:

Iíve been reading some of the books of Gabriel Tarde, a French sociologist of the 1890s, once famous, the intellectual antagonist of Durkheim (but Durkheim won) ... [W]hat he is interested in is not individual psychology, but inter-individual psychology; not interiority, in other words, but relations between - and not even between individuals, so much as among or between smaller units than individuals, sub-individuals ... The reason this is all so brilliant, and so beautifully crazy, is because Tarde simply short-circuits all the bad questions about mediations, representations, and intermediate levels in which social theory has so often been bogged down ... Instead, we are led to ask questions about beliefs and desires, that work on a microscopic or microsocial level, but that are capable of multiplication and amplification of singular and multiple combinations, with a capacity both for radical innovation, and for co-optation and virulent viral replication.

To see how sociologists use Tarde, see Gabriel Tarde and the End of the Social by Bruno Latour - or if you dig the type of evolutionary sociology that Shaviro seems to - Forefathers of Memetics: Gabriel Tarde and the Laws of Imitation by Paul Marsden. And if you read French, here are several good papers on Tarde.

Update: Seems Abe blogged this as well, and adds in some actor-network links.

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