by Claire Blencowe
Yesterday I attended a conference run by Warwick colleague Will Davies, at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies. The idea of the conference was to explore the relation between two senses of the term ‘social’. On the one hand there is ‘the social’, which framed political aspiration and policy interventions through much of the twentieth century, and which constitutes the object and ideal of socialism and social democracy (alongside, as Nik Rose pointed out later, nationalism, welfare-capitalism and all the attendant arts of normalisation). ‘The social’ is related to caring about ‘social issues’ such as inequality, public health, alienation and demography; and with locating the causes of the most important things in human life (both good and bad) in the realm of collective, transindivdual, forces and contexts. Many believe that ‘the social’ – at least as an ideal – is dead (Rose, 1996); and that both socialism and sociology are in crisis as a result. On the other hand there is ‘social’ as adjective, in social media, social finance, social marketing and the like (summarised by Will as ‘the social economy’). These forms are burgeoning. At the same time, the ‘hard sciences’ and the ‘life sciences’ are adopting much more social, or sociological, modes of explanation. For example, neuro-scientists describe the brain as social. Contemporary physicists and biologists emphasise the complexity, sociality and contextually of matter. Relationships – not essences – are the centre piece of scientific investigation and causal explanation. The conference was asked to consider if there is a link between the two senses of the term ‘social’ – is there a new socialism, or social ideal, that is emerging within the new social economy?
Claire Blencowe involved in new research network at Warwick University Authority & Political Technologies.
This group of Warwick academics and PhDs aims to push forward post-structuralist and cultural theory perspectives through engaging in empirical and political challenges. The group will promote research in this area at Warwick and beyond through arranging events and fostering connections across Warwick and beyond.
Inaugural conference: June 2-3 2014. William Connolly confirmed as key note speaker, more tba.