Elias, Actor-Network Theory and Neo-liberalism

A couple of brief questions in the hope of some answers …

1. Does anyone know of work on Elias and Actor-Network theory? The ISI ‘web of knowledge’ only produces articles by Robert and myself. Is there nothing more ….

2. Other than work by Cas Wouters, does anyone have any pointers regarding the application of Eliasian argument to neoliberalism (as broadly conceived)?

Tim Newton 

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6 Responses to Elias, Actor-Network Theory and Neo-liberalism

  1. Tim Newton says:

    Re last post: last line should have read:
    See Caliskan and Callon in the first issue of Economy and Society, 2010, for a bibliography.

  2. Tim Newton says:

    One other thought; the arguments of actor-network theory have been extended through a large body of work on the ‘social studies of finance’, much of it written over the past decade (I should have a paper finished soon in this area that has an ‘Eliasian’ sensibility though principally influenced by the work of Andrew Abbott). See Caliskan and Callon in the first issue of Economy and Society for a bibliography.


  3. Jesper Stage Petersen says:

    I can direct the attention to Latours latest book (Reassembling the social) in order to give a lead on the above discussion. I only have the danish version, so I need to ‘explain’ where the reference is located instead of just dropping a page number.

    In the second part of the book, on the last to or three pages of the second ‘move’ (the chapters are called ‘first move’, ‘second move’ and so on) Latour gives us an acount of the ‘actor-network’-concept, that may advance the above discussion.

    Jesper Stage Petersen, just turned phd.

  4. Just for amusement, a discussion of what the term ‘actor-network theory’ is referring to can be found here.

    There’s also a point where Latour says that the expression’s adequate to capturing what he’s trying to say, except for the words ‘actor’, ‘network’ and ‘theory’, all of which have particular problems, but I can’t recall at this stage where, I’ll track it down….

  5. Tim Newton says:


    Thanks for your thoughts – however I don’t think actor-network theory, (or its subsequent translation as ‘performativity’) is trivial but I’d agree regarding its micro/meso bias along with a correlated tendency to truncate history.

    Will look forward to your book …

  6. I’ve always been suspicious of this term “actor-network theory”, because its very name seems to imply a fault in conceptualisation from an Eliasian point of view. It also sounds like one of those bits of rather trivial middle-range theory, the significance of which is always being blown out of proportion within American sociological circles. This, however, I recognise may be simple prejudice on my part.

    The only thing that I’ve written dealing directly with network theory is my contribution to the Festschrift for Hermann Korte (“Network Theory and the Social Constraint towards Self-Constraint”, in Gabriele Klein and Annette Treibel, eds, Skepsis und Engagement: Festschrift für Hermann Korte. Hamburg: Lit Verlag, 2000, pp. 95–112). I meant to develop the argument much more rigorously, but never got round to it.

    On neo-liberalism, I think there is a lot that is relevant in my new book The American Civilising Process (Polity, September). See in particular chapter 4, “The Market Society”, and especially the sections of the concluding chapter 12 (“America and Humanity as a Whole”) entitled “Market fundamenmtalism and diminishing foresight”, “Functional de-democratisatisation”, and “The American Empire”.

    At the moment I am the proud owner of one advance copy of my book. The rest are on the high seas from India, where it was printed, but publication is indeed imminent.


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