What is the right metaphor for a socio-technical society?

June 14, 2007

I see that the “molecules” saga is continuing… So here’s my small contribution to it: following Callon and Latour, I like the idea of a language that shifts from flesh-and-body individuals to people equipped with artifacts. And a new metaphor may facilitate that transition. Is “molecules” the best possible one? Well, one thing about molecules is that it keeps the reminiscence with physics… and its epistemological baggage.

And the baggage is heavy. Economists recast their social science as physics with the quantitative revolution in the 1920s… Econometric Society, Econometrica, Cowles Foundation, etc. Part of the idea was rhetorical: to claim for their discipline the existence of “fundamental laws” of markets that they would go on to discover with the use of models… This, of course, is an idea that the performativity agenda has challenged. Models don’t capture fundamental laws, but also create them. So one would think that molecules and performativity don’t go together.

The question then is… what other metaphor best captures the notion of markets made up by calculative ensembles?

3 Responses to “What is the right metaphor for a socio-technical society?”

  1. fabian Says:

    Why not rename “sociology” something like “social physics”? Oh… Hum… Sorry, already taken. 😉

  2. […] and Yuval’s posts at SocFinance continue to be very important to me, with Daniel’s latest striking a particular chord. I agree quite a bit with the sensibility of his post. Over and again, […]

  3. […] still leaves open the issue of the physical metaphor. As Daniel mentions in a post, and as was commented to me elsewhere, referring to social actions in terms of physical […]

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