22 ESA Social Theory Conference, Innsbruck, September 11-13, 2008
contemporary society. The basic framework concept is based on dialectics of structures and actors, essence
Critical Social Theory in the Age of the Internet
and discontinuity. conceptualized as
This presentation introduces a framework for the theoretical and critical analysis of the relationship of Internet and society. It points out the main theoretical framework concepts employed in the book "Internet and Society: Social Theory in the Information Age" (Fuchs 2008, Routledge). Starting point is dialectical philosophy, which is a applied in order to ground a critical theory of society, which in turn is applied to
transnational informational capitalism. Based on the dialectical logic of essence, an antagonism between co- operation and competition is seen as being constitutive for capitalism, and as getting deepened in the age of the Internet. It is argued that co-operation is the essence of society and that capitalism in general and transnational informational capitalism in particular is an alienation of human existence from its essence.
New York, USA
U.S. universities during the 1980s and 1990s. Ironically, as global capitalism became more powerful, it also
The Strange Disappearance of Capitalism from the Sociology of Social Movements
Capitalism and political economy were important explanatory factors in many of the seminal studies of social movements by U.S. sociologists during the 1970s. The theoretical ideas in this important body of work (including books by Michael Schwartz, Piven and Cloward, Charles Tilly, Theda Skocpol, and Doug McAdam) broke sharply with earlier (mainly social- psychological) theories of collective action. However, more recent studies of movements and contentious politics have largely ignored the enabling and constraining effects of capitalism and political economy. This strange disappearance of capitalism from social movement studies is presumably linked to the declining influence of Marxism and other radical perspectives in
movements. In this paper, however, we are less concerned with the causes of this invisibility than with its deleterious analytical consequences for the study of popular politics. The neglect of political economy might be justified by the fact that most of the contemporary social movements that U.S. and other sociologists study are not centrally concerned with economic, labor, or work-place issues and thus have nothing or little to do with capitalism. We argue, however, that even those movements that do not represent classes or make primarily economic demands are still powerfully shaped by capitalism. Our paper enumerates the main ways in which capitalism shapes and constrains a range of movements and political conflicts.
Emergence, reduction and the causal impact of institutions
There is a broad consensus in many social theories that social phenomena are “emergent” phenomena that resist reduction to individuals and their beliefs and actions. The concept of emergence thus seems to offer a concept that unites currents in sociological thought that are otherwise diverse, like system-theory and structural-individualism in rational choice theory. In the first part of the paper the three claims made by emergentism, (1) that there is no social reality without individuals (2) that they are nevertheless irreducible social properties and (3) that these properties are able to exert their own causal influences on individuals (Archer 1995: 148; Sawyer 2005: 65ff.), are criticized. By using an argument from the philosophy of mind that Jaegwon Kim brought forward against a parallel idea about physical and mental states (Kim 2005), it can be demonstrated that the idea of irreducible causal powers of social properties has to be refuted. This criticism rests on a simple consideration: If social properties
have to be realized in individuals (according to 1), the causal powers of social properties have to be the causal powers of individuals. The second part of the paper scrutinizes a consequence of this criticism. If social causality rests in individuals how can we take account of the fact that given institutions often shape individual actions? I’m going to argue that we can accommodate this idea by understanding institutions individualistically as mutual expectations about the behaviour of others. The rules that follow from this exert their causal influence by situational individual interpretations. The empirical adequacy of this perspective will be demonstrated by a looking at a recent study on corruption and violence in Germany and Latin America (Schmid 2007).
Archer, Margaret (1995): Realist social theory: the
morphogenetic University Press.
Kim, Jaegwon (2005): Physicalism, or Something Near Enough. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Sawyer, R. Keith (2005): Social Emergence. Societies as Complex Systems. New York: Cambridge University Press.