The Ontological Turn in Sociology and the Concept of Lifeworld: A Critical Reappraisal

Monday, 11 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Christianus VAN KOPPEN, Wageningen University, Netherlands
Most, perhaps all, theories sprouting from the ontological or material turn can be understood as efforts of human sciences to position themselves vis-à-vis a material world by ways of thinking that neither dismiss the concepts and materializations of natural science, nor take them for granted. In other words: these theories aim to create vantage points from which natural science and technology can both be integrated in the social world, and criticized. In this respect, the concept of lifeworld is of interest  because it represents an earlier attempt to do just that. The aim of this paper is to explore whether and how the concept of lifeworld can be used to criticize and enrich key notions of the ontological turn. It traces the concept of lifeworld from Husserl, via Schutz and Habermas, to Berger & Luckmann and constructivism, while bringing in kindred concepts from phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty, on the body-subject) and Foucault (on the modern episteme). It critically compares the recovered conceptualization of lifeworld with recent strands of STS and ontological politics. A conclusion is that a revised and actualized concept of lifeworld provides a useful road to tackling problems that these recent strands of thinking are concerned with.