Theses on a Speculative Sociology

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Scott SCHAFFER, The University of Western Ontario, Canada
This paper represents an intervention into a recently burgeoning field of study — namely that of speculative sociology (cf. Wilkie, Savransky, and Rosengarten 2017; Wilkie, Michael, and Plummer-Fernandez 2014; Cordero 2013, 2016, 2017a, 2017b, inter alia). While one of the originary intents of sociology was, according to Auguste Comte, the prevision of dramatic forms of social change in order to attempt to stave them off (Comte 2000), the professionalisation — perhaps even the industrialisation — of academic sociology in the ensuring two centuries has in the main led sociologist and social theorists away from the prescriptive and prognosticatory aspects of the endeavour that are in many ways baked into our intellectual DNA.

While the versions of speculative sociology proferred by Cordero and Wilkie are grounded in the Marxist conception of the moment of crisis, I wish to contribute a version that is rooted in the moment of the normal — that is, founded upon the assumption that the situation from which we engage in speculation will, barring some kind of crisis, continue unabated into the future, and thus needs to be the rooting moment for speculation.

The form of speculative sociology I propose here is rooted in the critical works of Marxism and the Frankfurt School, as well as anticolonial, postcolonial, and decolonial critical theory. It takes seriously the work done on public sociology, ranging from Bourdieu’s public interventions to Burawoy’s theoretical contributions to our understanding of the work of sociology. This paper seeks to develop an anticipatory analysis of the future of extant social problems, and to develop a normatively-grounded framework for their evaluation and for developing solutions to these problems in the here and now so as to stave off their manifestation as crisis.