Commentary vs. fieldwork

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Commentary vs. fieldwork

Postby dtcochrane » Fri Dec 11, 2009 8:26 pm

"If only a fraction of the energy devoted in social sciences to the commentary of our eminent predecessors was converted into fieldwork!"

Who made this statement? None other than the much maligned, and, as I'm learning, misunderstood Bruno Latour. The supposed enemy of science is an advocate of the empirical. He's coming from the 'local' side of things, but nonetheless shares with N&B a scorn for simply accepting the given categories, particularly when they obfuscate, rather than illuminate the actual interactions that make up life. This statement is made in a book titled Reassembling the Social, in which he's advocating for what he and others call Actor-Network Theory. I'm far from agreeing with everything he says, but I appreciate his insistence upon empirical study, which for him is focusing on how relations are established, and continually reinforced and shifted through the mediation of the numerous actors involved.

Before reading him, all I knew of Latour was that he claimed facts are 'social constructions.' This led me to snicker at him and anyone who referenced him. Such are the caricatures that we allow ourselves to buy into. I'm thankful to have come back to him through other roads, as I think some of his conceptual tools are handy counterparts to 'capital as power's ejection of the dual quantity perspective. We are left in need of tools for quantitative analysis if we're to understand the quantitative that was formerly dismissed as 'fictional.'
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