Seminar in Graduate Social Anthropology Paper IV In The Rules of Sociological Method, Durkheim grapples with the challenge of making

the “social” or “society” appear as both real and intelligible. In many ways, this works against our socialization to view the world as composed primarily of individuals. First, trace the key steps Durkheim follows in carving out a particular realm for analysis- the social- and explain the crucial claims or assertions he makes in developing this perspective. Then consider whether or how you could use this perspective to characterize cyborgs as a social fact? What aspects of his theoretical stance would impede or facilitate this characterization? In responding briefly consider the articles by Talbot and Haraway.

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For instance. [Durkheim 1938: 1] Not only are these phenomena external to the individual. He argues that while biology and psychology may offer adequate explanations for individual actions and consciousness. such reality is still objective. when I execute my contracts.enshrined in Liberal political thought. husband. Firstly. Even if they conform to my own sentiments and I feel their reality subjectively. I perform duties which are defined. externally to myself and my acts. acts and voluntary associations of autonomous and willing individuals in The Rules of Sociological Method. he isolates and circumscribes the hitherto ill-defined domain of the “social” as the subject matter of sociology (Durkheim 1938). They are external because the individual experiences them as if they were acting on him from without. in law and in custom. these do not explain collective . He asserts that “society” stands outside of the individual and acts as a constraining or a motivating force on individual action rather than the other way round. they are also coercive in that they impose themselves on the individual independent of his or her will. He argues that social phenomena have an independent existence external to the individual and they exercise a coercive power on his or her course of action. feeling and acting on a child which he or she could not do on his or her own (Durkheim 1938). or citizen. he identifies the main characteristics that define or mark social phenomena. he argues that all education is an effort to impose ways of seeing. for I did not create them. This allows Durkheim to separate the domain of the “social” from other domains such as the biological and the psychological by asserting the collective character of social phenomena. In this way. He explains: When I fulfill my obligations as brother.that social action is primarily driven by the ideas.Durkheim challenges the commonsensical Western notion.

a phenomenon does not become social because it is universally present in individual cases rather it is the collective aspect of social action that privileges it over biological and psychological phenomena. . the use of tools and the ability to form meta-representations that were 1 A cyborg is “human who has certain physiological processes aided or controlled by mechanical or electronic devices”. biology and psychology cannot take the place of sociology which alone concerns itself with the explanation of the social. Thus biological and social phenomena may be universal but they do not substitute or become social phenomena and.actions or collective consciousness (Durkheim 1938). Etymologically it is a hybrid of cyb(ernetic)-org(anism). social behavior. transmitted by education. Haraway describes three aspects of the contemporary individual or human subject that characterize him as a cyborg: the transgression of human-animal or natureculture boundary. Contemporary research in biological anthropology has challenged the usual markers such as language. Donna Haraway’s articulation of cyborg1 can be seen as a ‘social fact’ to the extent that it describes a particular aspect of the contemporary situation facing individual human beings. It is a social fact in the sense that the individual either confronts it as an objective condition that moulds him or her from outside or s/he internalizes it as a pre-condition of his or her existence in the post-industrial society. (American Heritage Dictionary 2000) 2 The title of the article appears to be a pun on Marx’s Communist Manifesto. as a result. This privilege consists in the social act finding expression in a formula that is “repeated from mouth to mouth. and fixed even in writing” (Durkheim 1938: 7). In other words. The notions of externality and coerciveness in Durheim allow us to characterize cyborgs as such. the dissolution of human-machine boundary and the blurring of physical and non-physical entities (Haraway 1991)2.

Therefore. cyborgs are good to think with in talking about contemporary social relations. etc. using a Durkheimian typology. insulin pumps. it also exerts a coercive power on them to conform to its imperatives. electronic media. self-organizing and dispersed networks of information and control which is the essence of the process of cyborgization. the micro-chip revolution in electronics has blurred the distinction between the physical and the nonphysical and enabled human beings to don an increasing number of tools and gadgets such as cell phones. human beings have become integrated into larger. laborcontrol systems. Lastly. as bestial as any other animal or a cyborg can be. that propel the process of cyborgization stand outside of the individual and have a reality of their own independent of the wishes or the citizen or the subject although individuals may feel.especially in democratic 3 Not to mention all kinds of artificial organs like pace-makers.supposed to distinguish and privilege human beings over apes. . In sum. the emergent bio-technologies of late twentieth-century capitalism have re-defined a human being as an ensemble of biotic components rather than an organic whole and made reproduction increasingly look less ‘natural’. hand-held cameras and wrist-band TV sets as if these were parts of their bodies (Haraway 1991)3. cyborgs can be characterized as a ‘social fact’ because the phenomenon of cyborgization i. Together with the advances in robotics that have made machines more human-like and the emergent technologies of cybernetics that plug human labor into information circuits. in Haraway’s opinion.e. (Post)-modern states. etc. the transition of human beings into biotic-mechanical ensembles with an assembled being and fractured identity not only exists outside of the individuals. multinational corporations. this implies that human beings have increasingly become more cyborg-like. This implies that ‘normal’ human beings are. Similarly. Accordingly. technically. mechanical limbs.

4 The electronic media appears to have overtaken the formal education system as the chief means of discipline in the modern world. the “world system of production/reproduction and communication” and patriarchal pressures of assisting the family (due to abdication of the responsibility for welfare-provision by the state) act like an informatics of domination that coerces women to integrate their bodies and selves with the global circuits of production (Haraway 1991: 163. It takes place through: …the translation of the world into a problem of coding. The factories of the Free Trade Zone and the informatics of domination that they embody exist independent from and outside of the dagongmae. These are then advertised seductively in the media so that acquiring ‘surplus health’ becomes a desirable thing to do. Individuals may feel that they are satisfying a need internal to them when they are merely responding to a reality that exists outside of them4. [Haraway 1991: 164]. that enhance the body-mind. 5 The emphasis here is on the ‘making’ of the healthy body and the connotation of purchasable surplus health. longevity. On the other hand.they are actually directing or willing their actions. For instance. The process of domination and coercion is so complete that the dagongmae do not even engage in any protest in the workplace save in the form of nightmares. in the new feminized workplace. For instance. reassembly. . etc. 6 Female peasant workers leave China’s villages in their thousands to become temporary workers or hired hands (dagongmae) in the factories located in the urban Free Trade Zones. This converts human beings into patients-in-waiting and thereby into cyborgs in the making5. parentheses added)6. a search for a common language in which all resistance to instrumental control disappears and all heterogeneity can be submitted to dissemble. emergent forms of bio-capitalism give rise to the notion of ‘surplus health’ which everyone can buy for a price (Fischer 2005). These have the same effect as the addition of a more power or a new tool to the body-mind of a cyborg. They attach their bodies to the process of production for a few years only to be de-coupled when they are over 30 years of age.societies that. They perform the function of molding individual behavior much like the education system did in Durkheim’s time. the process of cyborgization entails the coercion or subordination of the individual through control of information. investment and exchange. yet they feel its seductive lore in their villages and its excruciating discipline inside the factory. screams and the occasional resistance of the female body to the clock-work of the factory-floor (Pun 2005).

Boston: Houghton Mifflin. (2000). pp. 2. Durkheim’s stress on the externality. Pun. Retrieved September. Haraway. Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Donna (19991). as a social fact since it exhibits the characteristics Durkheim attributed to social facts and thereby gives us an insight into the changing nature of human-technology-capital interface and forms of identity it spawns in the post-industrial society. as defined by Haraway. coerciveness and collective nature of social phenomena help delineate and make intelligible the domain of the “social”. References 1. American Anthropologist 107(1): 55-61. Fischer. Technology. Durham: Duke University New York: Routledge. 2006 from http://www. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science. Durkheim. 3. Illinois: The Free Press. 25.149-181. and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. In Simians. Michael J. 5. (2005) Techno-scientific Infrastructure and the Emergent Forms of Life: A Commentary. Emile (1938) The Rules of Sociological Method. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition) [Electronic Resource].bartleby. We can understand the cyborg. 4.In conclusion. . Ngai (2005) Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace.