This book is a radical plea for the centrality of experience in the social and human sciences. Scott Lash argues that a large part of the output of the social sciences today is still shaped by assumptions stemming from positivism, in contrast to the tradition of interpretative social enquiry pioneered by Max Weber. These assumptions are particularly central to economics, with its emphasis on homo economicus, the utility-maximizing, instrumental actor, but they have infiltrated the other social sciences too.
Lash argues for a social sciences based not in positivism’s utilitarian a priori but instead in the a posteriori of grounded and embedded subjective experience. This features a politics of Hannah Arendt’s public sphere, which begins with the particular experience of Aristotle’s polis and moves - via Rome, Augustine and Kant - to a modernity that acknowledges the fragility of political worlds. Yet modernity is also a matter of technological experience and technological forms of life. Lash - starting from Aristotle’s technics and working through Turing’s and Shannon’s computer mediation – develops a novel account of technological experience, of how objects themselves experience. And here he finds a surprising convergence with Chinese cosmology’s ethos of dao, qi and li: the experience of the embedded multiplicity of the ‘ten thousand things’.
This original book by a leading social and cultural theorist will be of interest to scholars and students across the social sciences, from sociology and cultural studies to anthropology and politics.