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The social life of methods: a critical introduction

Savage, Mike (2013) The social life of methods: a critical introduction. Theory, Culture and Society, 30 (4). pp. 3-21. ISSN 0263-2764

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Abstract

This paper explores the distinctive features of the critical agenda associated with the ‘Social Life of Methods’. I argue that although this perspective can be associated with the increasing interest, often associated with scholars in Science and Technology Studies, to reflect on how methods can become objects of inquiry, it also needs to be rooted in the current crisis of positivist methods. I identify the challenge for positivism in terms of the decreasing ability of its procedures to effectively organize increasingly ‘lively’ sources of standardized data, which can now be assembled using aesthetic registers. In developing this argument, I dispute the idea that this development is due to historical shifts linked to the way that methodological devices are playing an increasingly significant role in contemporary social life, which might be argued by writers such as Thrift or Castells. I also argue that by opening up issues of method to the aesthetic, we also recast the relationship between theory and method, pointing to the exhaustion of a certain kind of cultural theory within the social sciences. I contextualize these issues by considering how methods are implicated in the intellectual differentiation between scientific and humanities expertise. Rather than conceiving the ‘Social Life of Methods’ in terms of the rise of instrumentalist modes of governance, it is preferable to place it within the dialectic of transparency and the relationship between the implicit and explicit. These issues are addressed through introducing the papers in the special issue.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: http://tcs.sagepub.com/
Additional Information: © 2013 The Author
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Rights: http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/usingTheLibrary/academicSupport/OA/depositYourResearch.aspx
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2013 08:49
URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/49658/

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