The Bald and the Beautiful: Uchronian Thought in Two Tardian Writings

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Rafael MARQUES, ISEG - School of Economics and Management - University of Lisbon, Portugal
Uchronian thought can be built on the basis of counterfactuals supported by a temporal bifurcation leading to alternate paths or by imagined futures sustained by factual anticipation or projected desires. Since Renouvier introduced the conceptual underpinnings of uchronie, the uses of counterfactuality as a way of discussing causality in social sciences have been common. Meyer or Weber can be presented as good examples of this tendency. Less usual, but no less important have been the contributions of sociologists who use uchronian devices as a prototypical instrument for dissecting and criticizing contemporary societies and anticipating possible futures. Among these, it is worth mentioning Gabriel Tarde. Apparently condemned to oblivion, the author is currently enjoying what some have already described as “Tardomania”, becoming the putative founder or anticipator of theoretical approaches ranging from the sociology of innovation to actor network theory. Among his vast number of publications, two deserve a special place in the conceptualization of future studies: “Fragments d’Histoire Future” and “Les Géants Chauves”. If the first has been analyzed and discussed, the second remains almost completely unknown, even among Tarde scholars. Both documents reveal an aesthetical approach to social and a deep concern with the possibilities of improving the human race by technological means. A tragic but ironic tone is pervasive among these texts that offer a paradoxical reflection on societies and natural environments. Far from the design of utopias, Tarde comes close to the build-up of a sociological science-fiction filled with cautionary remarks, imaginative tales and a systematic use of the language of “possibility”, one of the key but seldom referred concepts of the man from Sarlat. In this paper we’ll discuss the theoretical and methodological repercussions of Tardian analysis and their possible impact for Future studies.