ExperienceNew Foundations for the Human Sciences
New Foundations for the Human Sciences

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.

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  • July 2018
  • 200 pages
  • 152 x 229 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9780745695143
  • Paperback $24.95
  • 9780745695150
  • Open eBook $19.99
  • 9780745695167
Table of Contents

Three Types of Experience

Chapter One
Have We Forgotten Experience?

Chapter Two
Experience in Antiquity: Aristotle’s A Posteriori Technics

Chapter Three
Subjective Experience: William James’s Radical Empiricism

Chapter Four
Objective Experience: Methodenstreit and Homo Economicus

Chapter Five
Hannah Arendt’s A Posteriori Politics: Free Will, Judgment, and Constitutional Fragility

Chapter Six
Forms of Life: Technological Phenomenology

Chapter Seven
Aesthetic Multiplicity: The View and the Ten Thousand Things

Chapter Eight

About the Author
Scott Lash is Professor of Journalism and Communications at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at the University of Oxford
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‘In this book, Scott Lash analyses the diverse meanings of a concept key to the social sciences and provides a hermeneutic lens through which the languages of sociology, anthropology, technology and art illuminate one another. A broadening of perspective, engaging with Chinese cosmology at the end of the book, distinguishes Experience as a truly global account of our age.’
Roberto Esposito, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa

‘In his remarkable book, Scott Lash weaves his way through eras and cultures to construct a possible theory – transcultural and transhistorical – of what most defies theory. The “empirical” option he gradually develops can indeed, after James and Arendt, erect experience as philosophy's decisive issue.’
François Jullien, Fondation maison des science de l’homme, Paris

"This is a book of amazing scholarly scope. It stands out as an extremely serious study that does not pander to fads and fashions nor seek approval from readers. Here is a major statement that will surprise many who think they are familiar with Lash's thought."
Philip Smith, Yale University

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