Dominic Boyer (and others) on neoliberalism and “neosocialism” at Savage Minds


Just thought I’d give a shout out to what’s turning into an interesting conversation over at Savage Minds.org.  Guest blogger Dominic Boyer argues for greater anthropological attention be paid to “neosocialism” because:

If you look back on the entanglement of liberalism and socialism in modern European social theory and political philosophy, it makes no sense whatsoever to talk about the one without the other. If we think there’s something neoliberal out there then by goodness (!) there’s bound to be something neosocialist loose in the world as well. I admit that this is counterintuitive. We’ve all been schooled (not least by liberal and socialist theorists) to assume that liberalism and socialism are antithetical to one another. And, at some level, of course, there’s oppositionality there. But I’d argue there is also a strong relationship of complementarity between the two.

via Why not neosocialism? | Savage Minds.

Now this is an interesting enough kind of argument, and one I definitely agree with, but the discussion has also been particularly interesting, with Chris Kelty suggesting that perhaps the greatest example of the strength of this neosocialism might in fact be Walmart and (with a little provocation from your truly) Boyer making the claim that Bruno Latour, author of Reassembling the Social, is not in fact a social theorist (I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one to figure out if I agree or disagree).

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3 thoughts on “Dominic Boyer (and others) on neoliberalism and “neosocialism” at Savage Minds”

  1. hey Kevin,

    I also have some thoughts about Dominic’s post… but just as one point of clarification, I really don’t think he was saying that Latour is “not a social theorist” (as if in the register of policing theoretical belonging). I think he was just saying he’s skeptical of Latour’s social theory as a theory and commenting that it has more “liberal” underpinnings than Latour seems to want to admit. IE, it’s more of a comment that he’s skeptical about Latour’s ideas than about Latour’s identity as an intellectual figure.

    take care, eli

  2. Hey Eli,

    Great to hear from you! I agree, I mean, I didn’t intend to suggest that Boyer was saying Latour is not a theorist, just that he’s not a social theorist… that is, he’s a theorist of liberalism, from a position (subject and otherwise) of a liberal.

    I think that’s both intriguing and worth resisting a little bit. For example, Latour definitely talks a heck of a lot about The Social, so to say he isn’t a “social” theorist suggests that the “social” in “social theorist” comes from one’s position not one’s object of study. Which, again, is interesting, but we should reflect on that assertion in that it carries with it an argument about the relationship between subject position and epistemology… that is, it’s an argument about the nature of the relationship between who we are and what we study

  3. Hi Kevin,

    Well, I don’t think that Dominic (full disclosure, he was my advisor back in college) distinguishes between “theorists” and “social theorists,” or rather, my sense is that his definition of a “social theorist” is pretty equivalent to “a theorist in anthropology or sociology or history [etc]…” I’m thinking that perhaps since you’re deep into the world of postsocial theory you’re apt to draw this distinction in a way that others outside this emergent tradition might not have intended…

    That said, there’s no doubt that questions about the positionality of knowledge are well worth asking, which certainly goes for Latour too. A lot of Dominic’s prior work has been in this sociology of knowledge lineage, actually. Of course, when it comes to Latour’s case in particular, his political situation vis-a-vis the French left and the French academy is sometimes complicated (see this for instance)…

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