In his lecture at Goldsmiths on 7th March 2012, Bruno Latour took up Tarde’s critique of Durkheim in their seminal 1903 debate (of which he also recently performed a re-enactment). In his attempt to move beyond the false individual/collective self dichotomy, Latour propounds the idea that the digital makes obsolete this endlessly debated partition, which he characterises as one of the main futile worries still occupying the majority of social scientists to this day: that one should either start with the one or with the whole, as if mutually exclusive. Similarly accused, as Tarde was, for being an individualist (playing into the hands of post-Fordist ideology even), Latour defines his re-search as one of ‘individualising overlapping networks': that is to say, addressing the very features that are present and in common between differing Leibnizian monads.
In his proposition to re-examine Tarde’s only-recently translated Monadology and Sociology (2012), Latour is attempting to follow and extend Deleuze’s admittance of a debt to the early 20th century ‘pure sociologist’ for one of his main theses in Difference and Repetition:
difference that would not extend, or ‘would not have to extend’ as far as opposition and contradiction; [and] a concept of repetition in which physical, mechanical, or bare repetitions . . . would find their raison d’être in the more profound structures of a hidden repetition in which a ‘differential’ is disguised and displaced. (Deleuze, 1994, p. xx).
The question raised by Latour, then, might be seen as how to continue to do sociology after our existence as individuals or as peoples is put into disrepute. One might wonder, however, what value sociology holds once its disciplinary borders are opened, and whether its questions and methods still have any relevance within this altered framework.
You can listen to the full audio of the lecture by clicking here, including the Q&A session.
Text & recordings by K.W. Molin