Social Precognition and Sociology: The Case of Resistentialism and ANT

By | 28th August 2019

A small group of us have recently been working informally on a hypothesis that we have called ‘social precognition’. In summary, this proposes that the world of STEM cannot make any major advances that have not already been imagined by creative artists. Science fiction precedes science… However, my researches have raised the troubling thought that the same might be true of sociology.

In the last twenty years or so there has been much excitement, particularly in science and technology studies, about Actor-Network Theory. One of its most distinctive features is the way in which it ascribes agency to material objects. Things can act on people to organize and direct their actions…There is, however, a problem. Perhaps we should not be crediting Bruno Latour or Michel Callon with the original insight – but an English humourist, Paul Jennings (1918-1989).

Jennings’s satire derived its force from its reaction to the idea that reality was no more than a human construction. His characters argued instead for the materiality of the world, summed up in the slogan: ‘Les choses sont contre nous’ – ‘Things are against us.’… The great illusion of the modern world is to suppose that the acquisition of more things means more human dominance. Resistentialism proposes that, in actuality, the increasing number of things around us simply increases their opportunities to make life difficult…He has made Things the characters, and reduced the human beings to what are known in Resistentialist language as Poussés. The nearest English translation that suggests itself for this philosophical term is ‘pushed- arounds’…

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