Society of Singularities
Society of Singularities
Translated by Valentine A. Pakis
Our contemporary societies place more and more emphasis on the singular and the unique.  The industrial societies of the early 20th century produced standardized products, cities, subjects and organizations which tended to look the same, but in our late-modern societies, we value the exceptional - unique objects, experiences, places, individuals, events and communities which are beyond the ordinary and which claim a certain authenticity.  Industrial society’s logic of the general has been replaced by late modernity’s logic of the particular.

In this major new book, Andreas Reckwitz examines the causes, structures and consequences of the society of singularities in which we now live. The transformation from industrial to cultural capitalism, the rise of digital technologies and their ‘culture machine’ and the emergence of an educated, urban new middle class form a powerful engine for the singularization of the social. In late modernity, what is singular is valorized and stirs the emotions, while what is general has to remain in the background, and this has profound social consequences. The society of singularities systematically produces devaluation and inequality: winner-takes-all markets, job polarization, the neglect of rural regions and the alienation of the traditional middle class. The emergence of populism and the rise of aggressive forms of nationalism which emphasize the cultural authenticity of one’s own people thus turn out to be the other side of singularization.

This prize-winning book offers a new perspective on how modern societies have changed in recent decades and it will be of great value to anyone interested in the forces that are shaping our world today.
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  • June 2020
  • 400 pages
  • 160 x 232 mm / 6 x 9 in
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  • Hardback $45.00
  • 9781509534227
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  • 9781509534241
Table of Contents


Introduction: The Proliferation of the Particular

I. Modernity Between the Social Logic of the General
     and the Social Logic of the Particular

1: The Social Logic of the General
           Modernity and Generality
           Typifications and Rationalizations
           Standardization, Formalization, Generalization
           Objects, Subjects, Spaces, Times, and Collectives in the Social Logic of the General
Industrial Modernity as a Prototype

2: The Social Logic of the Particular
The General-Particular, Idiosyncrasies, Singularities
Objects, Subjects, Spaces, Times, and Collectives in the Social Logic of Singularities
Practices of Singularization I: Observation and Evaluation
     Practices of Singularization II: Production and Appropriation
     Performativity as a Mode of Praxis and Automated Singularization

3: Culture and Culturalization
Culture as a Sphere of Valorization and De-Valorization
     Culturalization Versus Rationalization
     Qualities of Cultural Praxis: Between Sense and Sensibility

4: The Transformation of the Cultural Sphere
     Premodern Societies: The Fixation and Repetition of the Singular
     Bourgeois Modernity: The Romantic Revolution of the Unique
     Organized Modernity: Mass Culture
     Late Modernity: Competitive Singularities, Hyperculture, and Polarization

II. The Post-Industrial Economy of Singularities

     Beyond Industrial Society
     Unleashing the Creative Economy

     1: Unique Goods in Cultural Capitalism
           The Culturalization of Goods
           Singular Goods: Originality and Rarity
           Things as Singular Goods
           Services, Media Formats, and Events as Singular Goods
           Features of Singular Goods I: The Performance of Authenticity
           Features of Singular Goods II: Moment and Duration
           Features of Singular Goods III: Circulation and Hyperculture

     2: Cultural Singularity Markets
           Attractiveness Markets as Markets of Attention and Valorization
           The Cultural Economization of the Economy and Society
           Overproduction and Winner-Take-All Competitions
           Buzz Effects and the Struggle for Visibility
           Valorization Techniques and Reputation
           Singularity Capital
           Quantifying the Unique

III: The Singularization of the Working World

           The Cultural Economization of Labor and Its Polarization

     1: Practices of Labor and Organization in the Creative Economy
           Cultural Production as Creative Labor
           Projects as Heterogeneous Collaborations
           Organizational Cultures and Networks

     2: The Singularization and Self-Singularization of Working Subjects
           Beyond the Formalization of Labor
           The Profile Subject: Competencies and Talents
           The Singularization Techniques of Labor
           Fields of Tension in Highly Qualified Labor:
           Between the Artist’s Dilemma and the Superstar Economy

IV: Digitalization as Singularization: The Rise of the Culture Machine

           From Industrial Technics to Digital Technology

     1: The Technology of Culturalization
           Algorithms, Digitality, and the Internet as Infrastructures
           The Digital Culture Machine and the Ubiquity of Culture
           Culture Between Overproduction and Recombination

     2: Cultural and Automated Processes of Singularization
           The Digital Subject: Performative Authenticity and Visibility
           Compositional Singularity and the Form of the Profile
           Big Data and the Observation of Profiles
           The Personalized Internet and Softwarization
           Digital Neo-Communities and the Sociality of the Internet
           Fields of Tension in Online Culture:
           From the Pressure to Create Profiles to Extreme Affect Culture

V: The Singularistic Life: Lifestyles, Classes, Subject Forms

           The Late-Modern Self Beyond the Levelled Middle-Class Society
           The Cultural Class Divide and the “Paternoster-Elevator Effect”

1: The Lifestyle of the New Middle Class: Successful Self-Actualization
           Romanticism and Bourgeois Culture: The New Symbiosis
           Self-Actualization and the Valorization of Everyday Life
           Culture as a Resource and Cultural Cosmopolitanism
           Status Investment and the Prestige of the Unique
     2: Elements of the Singular Lifestyle
           Parenting and Early Education
           Work-Life Balance, Urbanity, Juvenilization, Degendering,and New Liberalism
           Fields of Tension in the Lifestyle of the New Middle Class: The Inadequacy of Self-        Actualization

     3: The Culturalization of Inequality
           The Underclass’s Way of Life: Muddling Through
           Cultural Devaluations
           Singularistic Counter-Strategies of the Underclass
           The Tableau of Late-Modern Classes and Their Relations

VI: Differential Liberalism and Cultural Essentialism: The Transformation of the Political

           The Politics of the Particular

     1: Apertistic-Differential Liberalism and the Politics of the Local
           From the Social-Democratic Consensus to New Liberalism
           The Competition State and Diversity: The Two Sides of New Liberalism
           The Politics of Cities I: New Urbanism and the Global Attractiveness Competition
           The Politics of Cities II: Culturally Oriented Governmentality and Singularity                Management

     2: The Rise of Cultural Essentialism
           Collective Identities and Particular Neo-Communities
           Ethnic Communities Between Self-Culturalization and External Culturalization
           Cultural Nationalism
           Right-Wing Populism
           Cultural Conflicts Between Essentialism, Hyperculture, and Liberalism
           The Politics of Violence: Terrorism and Mass Shootings as Celebrations of the             Singular Act

Conclusion: The Crisis of the General?


About the Author
Andreas Reckwitz is Professor of Cultural Sociology at the European University Viadrina, Frankfurt an der Oder.
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“Everywhere we see how culture is giving rise to new conflicts and classes. A sociologist offers a clever general theory of our time.”
Die Zeit

“Reckwitz has written a special book, an original take on our contemporary world.”
Literatur Spiegel

“Anyone who wishes to understand our times should definitely read Andreas Reckwitz.”
Deutschlandfunk Kultur

“Only a few books fundamentally alter the way you look at the world. Reckwitz’s The Society of Singularities ranks among them by offering an unfamiliar lens that makes visible the hidden dynamics of singularization that shape today’s economy, technology, and culture. Reading this profound book will help you to create meaning out of seemingly unrelated phenomena, whether you're puzzled by the latest lifestyle trends, crises on social media, or the identity struggles of youth, to name just a few.”
Urs Gasser, Harvard University

“The search for particularity and distinctiveness is a basic feature of contemporary culture. It exists both on the basis of and in tension with continued rationalization and large-scale economic integration and material infrastructure. To understand what has changed and where the continuities lie, Andreas Reckwitz draws on a broad range of social and cultural theory and develops a comprehensive view that repays thoughtful attention.”
Craig Calhoun, Arizona State University

“Magisterial… the most interesting book of its kind that I have read since Fred Jameson’s Postmodernism: Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991), for here culture and economy come together.”
Thesis Eleven

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