latour’s five modes of politics

I just came across a wonderful, short 2007 comment by Bruno Latour titled “Turning around Politics: A Note on Gerard de Vries’ Paper.” Science studies scholars, and Latour in particular, are often accused of having a wonky or non-existent notion of politics. In this essay, Latour goes a long way to clarify what sorts of politics STS scholars have done a good job of exploring, and which sorts they tend to leave by the wayside. Through his reading of de Vries, and his engagements with diverse political traditions from feminism to pragmatism, Habermas to Foucault, Latour identifies five modes of politics, five ways we might mean something is political in a useful sense. All five, he argues, must be part of our study of “cosmopolitics” in Stengers’ useful terminology. Below I reproduce the main chart that summarizes these five modes of politics – of which the first and fifth are often seen as apolitical and which STS and feminist research have made their mission to recast as political (but perhaps, in so doing, lost sight of their distinctiveness from modes 2-4).

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I’ll say that I wish I’d read this paper a long time ago, as it provides a much fresher and more synthetic take on “how STS does politics” than Latour’s older (but still wonderful, and totally worth reading), “Give me a laboratory and I will raise the world”, my previous go-to piece for the subject. What do you all think?

more excellent grad school advice

Life doesn’t end if you drop out of graduate school. It doesn’t. No matter what anyone says, we don’t shoot, shun, or shade you for dropping out. If anyone does shoot, shun or shade you when you consider withdrawing from graduate school, they were always going to shoot, shun or shade you. Nothing lost.

The brilliant Tressie McMillan Cottom has written up some excellent advice for people considering grad school in sociology and related programs. It’s too late for most of us, but as we advise others whether and how to choose grad school, it is tremendous food for thought.

description without causation, causation without explanation

Over at SocArXiv, two University of Michigan political scientists just posted a wonderful, short comment on my stylized facts paper. In the original paper, I argue that stylized facts are empirical regularities in search of explanation, that the production of stylized facts should be understood as an important component of social scientific practice, and that stylized facts are capable of doing political work even in the absence of well-established causal explanations. In their comment, Crabtree and Fariss (C&F) offer a nice clarification in the context of experimental social scientific research programs.

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did bros cause the financial crisis? hegemonic masculinity in the big short

The following is a guest post by Joseph Gamble.

There’s a moment in The Big Short (2015, dir. McKay) where the film cuts to footage of a grandfather and his grandson eating eggs at a diner. Over the footage, we see the text: “The truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry. —Overheard in a Washington, D.C. bar.”

As a literary critic specializing in gender, race, and sexuality in English Renaissance poetry, I was a bit offended that I was watching a movie about a subject I thought everyone hated—the economy—only to learn that it was my work that people would rather avoid. I couldn’t believe that people don’t like poetry![1]

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reminder: blogger party this sunday, now with swag and snacks!

A quick reminder: the annual blogger party is this Sunday! Join us from 4pm-7pm at the Pine Box Bar in Seattle, a scant 10 minute walk from ASA.  Longer description here. This year’s blogger party will feature some free food and exclusive (not really) swag for SocArXiv. So, come for the scintillating intellectual conversation and open access advocacy, stay for the snacks, booze, and buttons!

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