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After Ant: Complexity, Naming and Topology

After Ant: Complexity, Naming and Topology What is a theory? Or, more broadly, what is a good way of addressing intellectual problems? This paper explores the tension central to the notion of an ‘actor’ - ‘network’ which is an intentionally oxymoronic term that combines—and elides the distinction between—structure and agency. It then notes that this tension has been lost as ‘actor-network’ has been converted into a smooth and consistent ‘theory’ that has been (too) simply and easily displaced, criticised or applied. It recalls another term important to the actor-network approach—that of translation— which is another term in tension, since (the play of words works best in the romance languages) to translate is to also betray (traductore, tradition). It is suggested that in social theory simplicity should not displace the complexities of tension. The chapter concludes by exploring a series of metaphors for grappling with tensions rather than wishing these away, and in particular considers the importance of topological complexity, and the notion of fractionality.Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,We shall have what to do after firing. But today,Today we have naming of parts. JaponicaGlistens like coral in all of the neighbouring gardens,And today we have naming of parts.'(Henry Reed, Lessons of the War: 1) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Sociological Review SAGE

After Ant: Complexity, Naming and Topology

The Sociological Review , Volume 47 (1_suppl): 14 – May 1, 1999

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References (23)

Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
© 1999 The Sociological Review Publication Limited. All rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing from the copyright holder. The Sociological Review is published by the Sociological Review Publication Limited
ISSN
0038-0261
eISSN
1467-954X
DOI
10.1111/j.1467-954X.1999.tb03479.x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

What is a theory? Or, more broadly, what is a good way of addressing intellectual problems? This paper explores the tension central to the notion of an ‘actor’ - ‘network’ which is an intentionally oxymoronic term that combines—and elides the distinction between—structure and agency. It then notes that this tension has been lost as ‘actor-network’ has been converted into a smooth and consistent ‘theory’ that has been (too) simply and easily displaced, criticised or applied. It recalls another term important to the actor-network approach—that of translation— which is another term in tension, since (the play of words works best in the romance languages) to translate is to also betray (traductore, tradition). It is suggested that in social theory simplicity should not displace the complexities of tension. The chapter concludes by exploring a series of metaphors for grappling with tensions rather than wishing these away, and in particular considers the importance of topological complexity, and the notion of fractionality.Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,We shall have what to do after firing. But today,Today we have naming of parts. JaponicaGlistens like coral in all of the neighbouring gardens,And today we have naming of parts.'(Henry Reed, Lessons of the War: 1)

Journal

The Sociological ReviewSAGE

Published: May 1, 1999

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