A new direction in political sociology?


These are the proofs for a new paper/article that I’m working on. The piece is based-off of a few new books in political sociology, which I review, tie-together, and then admittedly and self-servingly I use them to suggest that a little STS would help matters out in political sociology. It is a bit academic in places, somewhat nit-picky, but I tried to keep the tone at least a little playful.

9 thoughts on “A new direction in political sociology?

    • Well, you’ll read in the review that the definition of trace makes it difficult to scientifically do the tracing. As I mention, it would be really nice if they also defined what is not a trace so we had some limits/boundary between the two.

      Still, the key is to be careful not to ignore the anomalies and to be careful not to contribute to the erasure of seemingly inconsistent information when doing sociology. In the end, however, what you’ve obviously got here is something of a intellectual privileging of traces, as if capturing traces is more important than sociology as usual, as if tracing traces is endlessly good sociology.

      Wondering about traces, about the micro-almost-nothing, some social residue as sociologically interesting remains true … so long as you can make out the palimpsest of society…



      • that’s a mighty big if…
        I get the gist of the impulse to foreground as much as possible, to be as subtle/intricate/complex/nuanced/etc as the subject/process at hand, but if we can’t really get a grip on what factors involved are mostly responsible for the effect/product/event/etc that we are interested in understanding/grasping than I think we are just making lists (latourian litanies or otherwise) and not to do lists either.


  1. Well, I guess it is more…citing from the wonderful book that builds a story around a 21 items long list (Aramis, of course, not only because it is currently on my desk, but also because if there is a sociology of the trace actually performed, it is this): “Projects drift; that’s why they’re called research projects. To follow them, it’s impossible to trace a target, a starting point, a trajectory.” (Latour 1996: 91).

    To trace is not a technique to mirror what happened, but a technique for knowing, for drawing maps of what happened. And as we all know, the map is not the territory – at least you cannot travel to India with just a map (and no cars, planes, boots and time). To trace is to do research – to re-research, as Latour has put it in the above quote.

    By the way: nice piece!


    • Honestly, the authors simply do not define clearly the concept — they don’t trace the trace (in the abstract) and they don’t document how to trace traces (out in the field). If they did, I could tell you more. I mention that this might be an intentional move, in order to maximize inclusiveness and maximally justify their work. I don’t know, but I hazard that guess. In comparison to Latour’s approach (with re-research), the trace in the edited volume has a social justice orientation bent on inclusiveness and bringing voice to the voiceless. It is also about privileging censured and censored ideas and identities for review and re-research.

      At any rate, thanks for compliment, Jan, I thought you of all people would like the idea of traces left behind by multiple actors …


      • Or, to vainly quote myself:

        “What about a new direction in political sociology that studies the traces left behind by multiple actors such as the state? If we engage the complexity in an attempt to trace actors in our global world, then could these titles help unlock a new direction in state theory for political sociology? I think so.”


      • yes shades of the derrideans who fit Rorty’s lampooning of those who reduce D’s work to the formulaic find the repressed/abjected/marginalized piece and try to make it central, but of course there are implications not just of causalities but of smuggled in author-itative intentions and other such ghosts in the machines.
        Not sure how this really is better than say a thick-ANT-style ethnographic study of who is doing what (with what) to whom…


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