A Genealogy of “The Social”. Or, The Social Must Be Defended

“The social” is not society understood as the set of material and moral conditions that characterize a form of consolidation. It would appear to be rather the set of means which allow social life to escape material pressures and politico-moral uncertainties; the entire range of methods which make the members of a society relatively safe from the effects of economic fluctuations by providing a certain security – which give their existence possibilities of relations that are flexible enough, and internal stakes that are convincing enough, to avert the dislocation that divergences of interests and beliefs would entail. Continue reading “A Genealogy of “The Social”. Or, The Social Must Be Defended”

The Rise of the Social

Clearly it is not a question of the adjective that qualifies the set of phenomena which sociology deals with: the social refers to a particular sector in which quite diverse problems and special cases can be grouped together, a sector comprising specific institutions and an entire body of qualified personnel (“social” assistants, “social” workers). We speak of social scourges, from alcoholism to drugs; of social programs, from repopulation to birth control; of social maladjustments or adjustments, from predelinquency, character disorders, or the problems of the handicapped to the various types of social advancement. Jacques Donzelot’s book [The Policing of Families] is a forceful one, because it proposes a genesis of this strange sector, of recent formation an growing importance, the social: a new landscape has risen up around us. As the contours of this domain are nebulous, one has to recognize it first by the way it took form, beginning in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, by the way it sketches out its own originality in relation to older sector, so that it is able to react on them and effect a new distribution of functions. … Continue reading “The Rise of the Social”