El futuro de la teoría social (o la sociología después de Facebook).

Teorizar la sociedad es para los teóricos sociales un deber, y para el resto de la sociedad, un placer. Todos siempre tenemos algo para decir de ella. Que está podrida, que no sabemos adónde irá a parar, que ya no es lo que era… La sociedad es como los discursos: no podemos separarnos de ellos, estamos siempre enredados en sus tramas. Los sociólogos, en ese contexto, no pueden hacer a menos de seguir hablando sobre la sociedad…

Este verano leí un libro viejo. Era del 2004. ¿Por qué “viejo”, si seis años no es nada en tiempos académicos? Porque fue publicado un año antes del boom de las redes sociales y la web colaborativa. Quizás algunos no se enteraron, pero en sociología hay un antes y un después de Facebook. El régimen informativo ha mutado, sus flujos se multiplicaron exponencialmente y una nueva trama de bits fragmentados, veloces y casi inaprensibles amalgama eso que llamamos “sociedad”.

Volvamos a este libro veraniego publicado en el 2004. Se llama The Future of Social Theory, su autor es Nicholas Gane y tiene el mérito de haber recopilado entrevistas a los más granado del panteón sociológico: Zygmunt Bauman, Ulrich Beck, Scott Lash, Bruno Latour, Saskia Sassen, John Urry, y siguen las firmas… o sea, el dream-team de la sociología contemporánea (sólo falta Anthony Giddens, que sería algo así como el Johann Cruyft del club sociológico europeo). A pesar de ser publicado en el año 1 a.F. (antes de Facebook) el libro marca líneas de debate, conceptos e ideas que prefiguran lo que estaba por pasar…

Tres grandes temas cruzan el libro: la cada vez mayor mediación tecnológica de las relaciones interpersonales, la disolución de los límites entre los sujetos y los objetos, y la proliferación de nuevas formas sociales y culturales globalizadas. A continuación, una selección muy personal de párrafos y frases célebres extraídas de un texto que recomiendo a los lectores que quieran hacer una full-immersion en la sociología contemporánea:

Zygmunt Bauman

– “Learning has lost most of the ‘survival value’ which it claimed and boasted at a time when it was assumed, with good reason, that success depend on the acquistion and entrenchment of habitual responses to repetitive situations (…) Routine, the habits its requires, and the learning that result in both, do not pay any longer.  Skills do not retain usefulness for long, for what yesterday a masterstroke may prove today inane or downright suicidal (…) A promising life-strategy is one tha combines learning with forgetting (…) The interplay of learning and de-learning, memory and forgetting converges on experiment: the major -optimal- modality of acting in a liquid-modern setting.” (p. 22-23)

Ulrich Beck

– “Methodological nationalism is about a situation where the social sciences -not only sociology but also political science, law, history, economics and so on- are to some extent still prisoners of the nation-state. It is about a situation where we do not talk about the society but the societies in the plural (…) As sociologists we have got methodological nationalism in our flesh and bones .” (p. 143)

– “We’re living in an age of flows (…) In everyday life more and more people are living in two ore more national spaces. And this is the crucial point: for them there is more, nor less -more and new spaces of experience, more languages, more traditions, uncertainties and clashes of culture in one’s biography, leading, in turn, to the reworking, retelling and revision of identity and vision, both of the past and the future.” (p. 144).

– “Methodological nationalism is to some extent a Newtonian point of view in the social sciences, while the perspective I am looking for is something more like Einstein’s theory of the social and the political, which realizes that modernization disenchants and dissolves its own taken-for-granted foundations.” (p. 145)

Scott Lash

– “Everything has become communication in some way, including non-linear theory with its communicating monads or whatever you want to call them (…) Society has become networked in a vast way, and these networks are largely of mediated relations where you have technological media connecting people, even if they be of transport. There really isn’t a way out from this. We cannot talk about the media and society any more because the media is in society.” (p. 97)

– “In classical critique, the criticism is from a distance (…) We can no longer get this sort of distance on the empirical ubiquity of information flows. Critique may be a question of mapping, of cartography, of a certain sort of sense-making interior to the information. But it cannot get the distance of classical critique”.” (p. 106)

Bruno Latour

– “What counts in the social is the type of connections that are made. The social is not a homogeneus domain of reality composed of social elements, but a movement between non-social elements – a piece of law, laboratory practice, etc.- connected in certain ways What I have been doing together with Michel Callon and John Law around the word network is to revise or revive this tradicion (…) What it is important in the word network is the word work. You need work in order to make the connection.” ( p. 83)

“I believe a lot in digitalization, which highlights or materializes social connections in a way that may be very productive for giving qualitative sociology its quantiative arm. So,  I’m very positive for sociology, but it cannot remain stuck in the 1950s or in the deconstructed ruins of Marxims. It cannot continue to use a destitute repertoire which, while important at the beginning of 20th century, between the wars and for reconstruction after war, has now used itself up.” (p. 89)

Saskia Sassen

– “The glocal city is a thick environment that endogenizes the global and filters it through ‘national’ institutional order and imaginaries (…)  Cities have become strategic terrain for a whole series of conflicts and contradictions (…) The loose of power at the national level produces the possibility for new forms of power and politics in the sub-national level. The national as a container of social processes and power is cracked. This cracked casing opens up new possibilities for a geography of politics that links sub-national spaces. Cities are foremost in this new geography.” (p. 127-137).

John Urry

– “What is important is to try to shif sociology from the study of society to the study of mobility. I am very keen to emphasize how societies, for a century or two, were tied to, or embedded within, nation-states, and that this society/nation-state configuration provided the context within which sociology emerged historically (…) This sort of connectivity, of society with nation-state, has come to be significantly weakened.Yet much sociological work still takes ‘society’ for granted.” (p. 109).

Esta selección es sólo un aperitivo de las reflexiones de la plana mayor del Olimpo sociológico. En el libro hay más conceptos, ideas y categorías de análisis realmente interesantes. Si ya leyeron las obras de estos autores quizás este volumen no tenga mucho sentido, pero el formato “entrevista” le da una frescura y poder de síntesis difícil de lograr en los grandes textos académicos.


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