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Tuesday, December 3 • 3:30pm - 5:30pm
BREAKOUT SESSION ONE: Sociological Theory

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Chair: Simon Barber

David Toews: Where do Beliefs Come From? Tarde’s Relational Theory of Monadic Order Schemes

Much of sociology is built upon a misapprehension of Durkheim’s idea that our individual beliefs are a product of social constraint as a positive theory based upon induction from empirical realities. Durkheim’s theory of belief is, in fact, wholly negative and deductive, appealing to a notion that it is inconceivable to not believe in anything given that social behaviour seems to only appear as incoherent when one has failed to identify the people, places, and things in certain definite situations that it is reacting to and in some sense constrained by. As a result of this misapprehension, I claim, sociological theorists have neglected to ask the question: where do beliefs come from? Relational sociological theory puts forward that what are primary are fluctuating networks of relations. Tarde posits that wild or unprocessed – what he terms ‘cosmic’ – networks of relations are seized and ordered by humans through a process of imitating other people, animals, and things. He puts forward the concept that within vast interferences between various networks of imitations there emerge “mathematical reasons” that account for why this or that belief becomes formulated in the minds of actors and then used as an affectively-loaded account of their action. This quantified landscape of relations amounts to what I term monadic order schemes. In this paper, by drawing contrasts between Durkheim and Tarde, I critically explore the extent to which a Tardian neomonadology can help explain where beliefs come from and their role in social interaction, as well as the relationship between humans and other objects.


Benjamin Atkins: Capital’s modes of being: on phenomenological ontology and historical materialism

Edmund Husserl’s development of phenomenology in the early 1900s was instrumental to the much of the philosophy that followed, from existentialism to ‘poststructuralism’. His and Martin Heidegger’s work provided rich methodological apparatuses not only for ‘continental philosophy’ but for progressive thought around the world, including feminist, anti-racist, and anti-colonial theory in the U.S., Latin America, South-East Asia, and Australasia. This occurred despite the fascist politics of one of phenomenology’s leading figures, Martin Heidegger. My recently submitted dissertation proceeded from puzzlement at this contradiction between Heidegger’s politics and the influence of his work on radically progressive thought. I enquire into how this might be, and whether the compatibility of phenomenology with liberatory thought might indicate the untapped potential of phenomenology’s relationship with historical materialism. This takes form through the immanent critique of Heidegger’s work and Herbert Marcuse’s early attempt to synthesise these fields. I provisionally suggest that phenomenology can provide an ontological supplement to Marx’s concept of capital as self-valorising value by revealing it as an ontological structure of human being. Workers exist in an immanent ontological understanding of capital’s constituent entities such private property, alienation, and exploitation, as the very basis of theoretical understandings of capital.


Marko Galic: The Making of Precarious Habitus

This paper investigates the structural constraints and everyday struggles of vulnerable precarious workers who work within insecure modes of employment. Working in unprotected precarious jobs results in precarity, a broader concern that prevents workers from both anticipating the future and living well in the present. It signifies a socio-economic condition and a mode of domination that systematically subjects increasing numbers of people to uncertainty and social vulnerability. Because women, Indigenous peoples and non-Western migrants are disproportionately represented in precarious work, this paper critically analyses precarity in the longue durée, considering the historical connections between precarity and capitalism (the mode of accumulation) and between precarity and colonialism (the structure of dispossession). Drawing on ethnographic work based on 26 semi-structured interviews with precarious workers and union representatives, I analyse precarity beyond the relationship of paid work. I introduce the concept of precarious habitus, signifying normalisation and internalisation of precarity. As an intentional consequence of anti-worker employment policies, the study reveals workers’ struggles to get by in an environment of precarious work and life, forcing them into submission and the acceptance of exploitation.


Anna Fielder: Stretch Marx


The maternity services are in a state of crisis in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Over the past 18 months, midwives and nurses have taken to both streets and picket lines in objection to pay and working conditions. Doctors have also been on strike. There are maternity staff shortages across the country, and a particularly acute shortage of Māori and Pasifika midwives. Maternity unit closure has created longer travel distances for people in labour and resulted in babies born on the side of the road. In this paper I discuss some of the largely unspoken ways in which capitalism has contributed to the contemporary crises which beset the maternity services, and I do so by drawing upon the work of Karl Marx. However, Frantz Fanon once noted that ‘Marxist analysis should always be slightly stretched’ when considering contexts of colonisation. In this paper I stretch the corpus of Marxism even further, in order to take the topic of childbirth seriously.


Each presentation will be allocated 20 minutes. Additional time for questions and discussion will be available in each stream.