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Theorizing Modernity: Inescapability and Attainability in by Peter Wagner

By Peter Wagner

This publication argues that sociology has misplaced its skill to supply serious diagnoses of the current human simply because sociology has stopped contemplating the philosophical specifications of social enquiry. The ebook makes an attempt to revive that skill by way of retrieving a few of the key questions that sociologists are inclined to gloss over, inescapability and attainability. The ebook identifies 5 key questions during which problems with inescapability and attainability emerge. those are the questions of the understanding of our wisdom, the viability of our politics, the continuity of our selves, the accessibility of the previous, and the transparency of the longer term. The e-book demonstrates how those questions are addressed in numerous varieties and via diverse intellectua

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However, there is another possible interpretation. This social science can be seen as knowledge guiding human action towards the creation of future opportunities. This then would be a science as Dewey envisaged it. This interpretation is arrived at if we see this social science not as requesting certainty from a philosophical epistemology but as constructing certainty itself by its conjoint observation-intervention. The cognitive process at work in data production, statistical procedures and processes of classiWcation, as they are characteristic of contemporary social science, is not merely descriptive; it involves a labour of making equal, an ‘investment in form’ (Thévenot, 1985: 26).

However, the situation of social theory and philosophy after this critique is only alluded to and never explicated. The observations above suggest the need for a historicization of epistemology rather than its overcoming. Epistemic claims need to be taken in their historical context to understand the problem they aim to address. The second conclusion after this critique may appear surprising, but to some extent it follows from the Wrst one. Despite its most recent appearance and its critical force, this theorizing cannot be taken to invalidate or supersede the other two modes.

On the one hand, this debate reXects increasing incoherence of social practices, in the sense in which coherence was deWned by the modernists: many practices tend to hold much less together (Wagner, 1996). On the other hand, this debate is exactly a response both to the kind of epistemological claims made in modernist social science, now deemed unjustiWable, and to the mode of concept-formation, now seen as involving reiWcation. The discourse on postmodernity criticizes modernist social science as being founded on notions, a priori, of the intelligibility of the social world, of the coherence of social practices and of the rationality of action.

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