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The European Legacy: Toward New Paradigms


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The crisis of the social and post-social history


Miguel A. Cabrera
a

Departamento de Historia, Universidad de La Laguna, 38071, Spain E-mail: Available online: 06 Aug 2006

To cite this article: Miguel A. Cabrera (2005): The crisis of the social and post-social history , The European Legacy: Toward New Paradigms, 10:6, 611-620 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10848770500254126

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The European Legacy, Vol. 10, No. 6, pp. 611620, 2005

The Crisis of the Social and Post-social History1


Miguel A. Cabrera

I. The Concept of The Social and its Crisis


The so-called crisis of the social (or, more precisely, of the concept of the social) has recently become not only a matter of concern, reflection, and debate among historians and social scientists, but also a distinguishing feature and a theoretical driving force in the reorientation experienced by the field of historical and social studies over the last decade. This paper seeks to draw attention to a significant sample of works that deal with or are relevant to the subject, as well as to sketch some of the implications for social and historical scholarship that follow from such a crisis. Before turning directly to those tasks, however, it is necessary to clarify what the present-day crisis of the social consists of and what are the terms of discussions that have unfolded around this crisis. For a long time, a large part of social and historical research has been grounded on the assumption that society constitutes an objective structure. What this basically means is that the realm of socio-economic relations is understood as an autonomous, selfcontained, and self-regulated instance. That is, an instance governed by an internal mechanism of working, reproduction, and change and one that is independent of and irreducible to individuals intentional decisions and actions. From this point of view, the social appears as an entity with a real, defined, and identifiable existence that transcends the subjects who embody it and is qualitatively different from them. Specific social phenomena appear as possessing inherent meanings, in the basic sense that they implicitly convey or determine the way in which people perceive and make sense of them. As a consequence, the peoples social conditions of existence and the place they occupy on the social stage enjoy the power to determine their consciousness and identity and are the causal source of their practice and, therefore, it is in the social position of agents where the explanation of their behaviour can be found. This is what is known as objectivism or objectivist social theory. As is well-known, this way of conceiving of social life was erected in opposition to the notion of natural subject, a concept that implies that individuals are rational and autonomous agents whose intentions and desires are the causal foundation of their actions (the so-called subjectivism). This subjectivist view of human interaction became pervasive during the nineteenth century, but, from the end of that century, it began to lose ground and influence in favour of an objectivist view. One of the main evidences for the rise of the social is just the strengthening and spreading of the objectivist or materialist approach in the field
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Departamento de Historia, Universidad de La Laguna, 38071, Spain. Email: mcabre@ull.es


ISSN 10848770 print/ISSN 14701316 online/05/06061110 2005 International Society for the Study of European Ideas DOI: 10.1080/10848770500254126

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of the social sciences (including history). Other evidences, as well as effects, of such a rise were, for example, the emergence of a class based labour movement, the expansion of Marxist socialism, and the institutionalization of the welfare state and social citizenship. Henceforth, human relations were thought, more and more, in terms of social structure, and the concept of the social became, increasingly, a means of articulation and justification of political action and government interventions. This is why the present-day crisis or death of the social2 is not only destabilizing, theoretically and epistemologically, social and historical scholarship, but it is also causing a decline in just such a way of conceiving of and of treating social problems and of intervening in the public arena. The notion of social causality is now losing its previous vitality and prevalence not only as a guiding and organizing framework of public life, but also as an analytical category. And although I will focus here only on the theoretical side of the crisis of the social, and not on its practical aspects, we must bear in mind that both, theory and practice, form part of the same historical phenomenon. The assumption that social reality is an objective entity with the power to causally determine individuals subjectivity and behaviour has been subjected to a growing questioning over the last two decades. Many voices have been asking if the social has a real existence and whether or not there is a causal link between peoples social position and the way they think, feel, and act. Against the notions of social causality and social structure, these voices advocate looking for new and more satisfactory theoretical modes to explain human action. Logically, some of the critical voices that have helped to erode the concept of the social came from the supporters and upholders of the individualist or subjectivist theoretical paradigm, and they basically reproduce the outlook and arguments characteristic of traditional idealism (even if they do, eventually, make use of a renewed and more sophisticated vocabulary). They are the supporters and upholders, one could say, of the so-called methodological individualism that, grounded on the notion of rational choice, conceives of historical actors as self-conscious and calculating agents who are stirred to act solely by their own motivations. Thus, and despite its apparently brandnew look, what this critical trend (negating the social and elevating the individual) involves is a restatement of the explanatory power of the notion of human agency. In other words, a restatement of the assumption that peoples meaningful actions enjoy complete independence with regard to any external conditioning, its supporters and upholders refer exclusively to states of consciousness, states and intentions that enable such actions. Of course, authors who never accepted to begin with the tenets of objectivist social theory are the ones who nourish such a critical strand. After all, as Patrick Joyce reminds us, the notion of the social never enjoyed a general acceptance and already, from the beginning, those who denied the existence of an ontological separation between human actions and social relationships rejected the notion of the social, as in the case of Max Weber.3 What has happened in the last few years is, simply, an intensification of the critique of the objectivist paradigm, an intensification encouraged by the decline of the category of the social itself. In the field of history this critical reaction has taken the form of a strengthening of the so-called revisionism and, also, of the proposals that openly advocate a complete abandonment of the social interpretation. Within this theoretical tendency to restore human agency falls, for instance, recent historiographical contributions such as that of Jay M. Smith. What he proposes as an alternative to the social interpretation of historical phenomena (and, in particular, that of the

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French Revolution) is, essentially, to re-enact the sets of beliefs and value systems that motivate subjects actions, which Smith regards as being causally independent of any constraint or social experience.4 This critical strand has also been fuelled by social historians who have been prey to disenchantment with social explanation and, also, by new cultural historians who, in trying to refine the notion of social causality, have actually ended up by dissociating the cultural realm from any social referent whatsoever. Gareth Stedman Jones clearly belongs to this group, as his theoretical stance, as well as his interpretation of Chartism, lead us to take ideas as belonging to a fully autonomous realm, even if they form a part of wider and coherent cultural traditions or conceptual universes.5 This also seems to be what Sarah Maza, in her recent contribution to the debate on the social in the French Revolution, suggests. Maza begins by claimingin accordance with the assumptions of new cultural historythat the cultural sphere is not a mere epiphenomenon or reflection of the social context, and that, therefore, it can play an active role in the making of social relations and agents practice, as it provides agents with the symbolic devices through which they interpret reality. In the next stage of her argument, however, she goes on to confer upon the cultural sphere a complete autonomy and, in consequence, she converts such a sphere into the causal foundation of actors action. This finally leads Maza to advocate the necessity of restoring agency to actors in the past and granting them the freedom to imagine and define the social world in which they lived.6 Of course, amid this impetuous move towards theoretical reversal, the majority of social historians and new cultural historians involved in the debate continue to defend the theoretical validity and explanatory power of the concept of society or social structure. This is the case, for example, of William H. Sewell, to whom I will refer later on.

II. The Emergence of A Post-Social Theoretical Outlook


Thus, the debate on the social has remained within a theoretical dualist framework difficult to transcend, as any weakening of one of the terms leads to a strengthening of the other one. That is, any attenuation or withdrawal of social determinism involves an increase in the autonomy of subjects and ideas, and vice versa. This theoretical dilemma or tension has, for a long time, tyrannized historians and social scientists, as is evident in the work of authors like Norbert Elias, Pierre Bourdieu or Anthony Giddens. All of them are marked by an obsession to escape such a dilemma or to resolve the tension between objectivism and subjectivism in order to achieve a sort of perfect balance between the two. In recent years, however, the debate on the social seems to have begun to surpass these conventional perimeters and to enter a new theoretical phase. This significant shift is a consequence of the appearance of a new critical trend different from the subjectivist or idealist one. Or, at least, the appearance of a set of uneasiness, questionings, and inquiries that, given their novelty, are visibly renewing the terms of the discussion and leading it in a different direction. This new theoretical strand is favouring, at least potentially, the shaping of an alternative to social explanation that does not imply any recovery of notions like natural subject or unconditioned human agency. In introducing a set of new elements into the discussion, this emerging critical outlook has radically redefined the terms of the debate on the social. The most important

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of these elements is that the authors who support such an outlook have stopped to address and pose the question of the prevalence and explanatory validity of the concept of society exclusively in naturalist and representational terms. Previously, the crucial issue around which any discussion revolved was the question of whether the concept of society or social structure represented and analytically captured the actual nature and working of human life (or if, on the contrary, the concept of individual was the one that did it). What both advocates and adversaries of the concept of the social were discussing was the degree of fit or correspondence between concept and reality. In fact, theoretical debate in the social sciences had been traditionally grounded on the taken-for-granted assumption that the link between concept and reality was always mediated by representation and that, therefore, the only thing that needed discussion (and assessment) was the quality or degree of perfection or appropriateness of such a representation. Society and individual are analytical categories operating within a representational epistemological universe, even as they appear or intend to be accurate reproductions or faithful copies of reality in itself. As some scholars have remarked, concepts like society and individual bear, implicitly, the assumption that there is an a priori or pre-given reality (human nature and social structure, respectively) and that the concepts themselves are mere descriptive labels. The new criticism of the social, on the contrary, tends to adopt a rather different epistemological outlook, probably encouraged by the impression that the endless quarrel inside the dualistic framework was showing signs of exhaustion and sterility. Although all possibilities (social determination, rational action, and their combination) had already been explored, both theoretically and empirically, doubts had not been dispelled. Therefore, the new critics of the social have directed their efforts not so much to try to measure the degree of correspondence between concepts and reality, but rather to investigate how and why (social) reality has ended up being thought about by means of just such concepts. Or, if one prefers, how and why these concepts emerged and were thoroughly accepted and converted into a normative guidance of practice and into tools of knowledge as well. This disenchantment with the terms of the old representational debate is what underlies the recent flowering of studies on the historical genealogy of the organizing categories of modern human life or, in Patrick Joyces words, on the archaeology of the epistemology of modernity.7 To this genre of studies belong, among others, the contributions of Catherine Pickstock and Mary Poovey to the aforementioned volume edited by Joyce and the influential work by Charles Taylor, to which I will refer very soon.8 All these genealogical studies try, more or less explicitly, to unravel the origin and nature of those categories, and what they show is that the concept of society (as well as that of individual) is not a natural (that is, representational) concept. The category of society is not a natural one in a double sense: first, because it is a historical category gestated in a specific time and place, namely the early stages of Western modernity, and secondly because, above all, such a category did not stem simply from an attentive and methodical observation of human life. That is, it was not the result of an act of unveiling that, subsequent to the melting of the theological veil, succeeded in bringing the secret essence of the social life to full light and ready to reveal itself to the eyes of human observers in all its transparency. On the contrary, what the works by authors like Pickstock or Poovey suggest is that the modern conceptions of society are the outcome of the transformation of the previous providential categories, in a process whose beginning goes back to the Late Middle Ages. Even if the emergence of such conceptions involved

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a break from the previous theological view, they were also forged within this and, therefore, by transforming and extending them. Pooveys essay is explicitly devoted to tracing the genealogy of the modern conceptions of society. According to her, these conceptions have their origin in the claim of the existence of a human nature that is first conceived as a property granted by God and, from the eighteenth century onward, as an attribute of the mind. From that moment, according to Poovey, social life began to be conceived as an expression or projection of human natural properties and, therefore, as governed by laws that could be discerned. This shift made it possible to advance a theory about the dynamics of human interaction, that is to say, to lay the foundations of a social science and, consequently, to regard social life as amenable to scientific knowledge and management.9 Thus, from the beginning, the category of natural subject intends to work simultaneously both as a descriptive label of a real phenomenon and as an analytical concept. Later, as Poovey explains, a migration of the social took place and this was liberated and disentangled from human nature, so it became an autonomous entity endowed with an objective order governed by its own laws. Hence, interpersonal relationships began to be thought of, from the eighteenth century on, as a domain that was independent of individuals will, at the same time as it becomes the unintended outcome of their actions. Thus, human activity is not already an origin but rather a result and, therefore, it becomes even more amenable to scientific analysis and planning, in sum, to social engineering.10 And thus, for instance, as Robert Wokler explains, in being in the service of the new techno-administrative state, social science turned out to be a guide for political life. Or, as Patrick Joyce has insightfully suggested, the concept of the social was capable of projecting into and pervading the spatial organization and political government of the Victorian English city.11 Thus, the new critique of the social not only radically historicizes the concept of society, but in doing so and focusing on its genealogical connection to the previous providential paradigm, it questions the claim of such a concept as being a faithful representation or description of the intrinsic properties of social reality. From this point of view, as I indicated before, the category of society would not be the outcome of an attentive observation and demystified grasping of human relations and of progress in the knowledge of the objective foundations of human life. It would not be merely the result of a discovery. As Keith M. Baker argues, the notion of society did not emerge because an advance in the discernment of the laws that govern human sociability had taken place, but rather as a consequence of human sociability being conceptualized in a different way. We are not before an unveiling act (or, at least, not only), but rather in the presence of a re-conceptualizing act, a meaningful reconstruction of human interdependence. The notion of society, or the social, is no more than the category by means of which, in a given moment in Western history, human life began to be conceived of and practically treated. As Baker himself states, we are not looking at a discovery of society, as if this were an objective brute fact that had always been there and only came to the surface when religion eclipsed. What we currently call society is not more than the specific form in which human relations came to be conceptualized during the Enlightenment.12 That is why the emergence of the concept of society (as well as that of individual) should not be taken as an episode or sign of any epistemological progress. For such an emergence is not merely the result of a better fit between objective social reality and the concepts with which we name it, but rather a shift in the way we conceptualize such a reality,

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a conceptual discontinuity in the form we make sense of the events of human life. As a consequence, a new idea has powerfully made its way in the last few years, namely the idea that the organizing and analytical categories of human interaction, including that of society, are not mere representations or labels of a pre-existent objective social reality, but rather the historically contingent outcome of a meaningful construction of reality itself as social. This double quality of being both historical entities and meaningful constructions is what concepts like that of social imaginary seek to capture. As defined by philosopher and social theorist Charles Taylor and used and applied by authors like Mary Poovey, the term social imaginary refers to the set of assumptions, generally implicit, about the nature and working of human societies prevailing in a given historical situation. In the case of the two variants of the modern social imaginary, they rest on the assumption that human nature exists and that social interaction is a self-enclosed instance governed by impersonal laws, respectively. It is important, therefore, to emphasize, as Taylor himself repeatedly does, that the term social imaginary does not designate the set of ideas and beliefs possessed and professed by people, but, on the contrary, the underlying assumptions about the world, a kind of background, that makes those ideas and beliefs thinkable and possible. The social imaginary is, so to speak, a sort of third element that, located between reality and subjective consciousness, operates as a very causal link between the two. Which implies, as Taylor also insists, that given its condition as an implicit framework of understanding of social context and a mediation between context and consciousness, the social imaginary indeed contributes, in an active way, to the making of peoples behaviour and practices. In prefiguring and naturalizing individuals expectations, the social imaginary sets the conditions of possibility for action or, as Taylor says, it puts at the disposal of individuals a repertory of collective actions and confers on these their meanings.13 According to this view, the ways in which the social world is understood are not mere mental, cultural, or ideological representations; they are, on the contrary, actual constituent ingredients of such a world, in the sense that they take an active part in its shaping as a meaningful object. Thus, the genealogical investigation undertaken by the new critics of the social has not only resulted in a denaturalization of the category of society or the social, but also in a disenchantment of it as an analytical concept that has far-reaching epistemological and theoretical implications for social and historical studies. As far as epistemological consequences are concerned, I will limit myself to remarking that if the concept of society has turned out to be an effect of the modern meaningful construction of human interaction as a social body, then we could hardly continue to use it as a tool of historical analysis and explanation. The concept of society has been useful and effective as an epistemological tool for so long only because (social) historians and other social scientists have been thinking and working within the modern social imaginary itself. But once this becomes denaturalized, such a concept loses any representational status, as well as any explanatory power. As for the theoretical implications, if the notion of society is not indeed a reflection of an objective social context (on the contrary, it is such a notion that builds contexts as objective social entities), then one should conclude that the practice and behaviour of people is not socially determined. The way in which individuals respond or react to the pressure of their societal environment does not causally depend on such an environment, but on the historically specific meanings with which this

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has been endowed through the categories of a certain social imaginary. In other words, if a given social context lacks inherent or natural meanings and it acquires them in the very process of mediation of a given social imaginary, then meaningful practices are not causally determined by social context itself, but rather by the specific way this has been meaningfully constructed. This does not mean that social reality is not an actual constituent ingredient of historical phenomena or that it does not play a crucial role in the shaping of agents practices. It simply means that the contribution of social reality to the shaping of historical phenomena and practices is not made in its capacity of objective domain, but only in its capacity of material or factual referent. In the theoretical territory opened up by the new critique of the social, historical and social scholarship does not dispense with social reality, but it has substantially redefined its nature and function and, thus, limited it to a mere material background lacking any power of autonomous causation. Indeed, this is the territory where the so-called post-social history has been growing in the course of the last few years.14 There is also a second sense in which the social is preserved as an explanatory variable by post-social history and social science, as there are situations in which social context indeed works as an objective conditioning structure. This has been the case during a large part of the modern period in those places and situations under the influence of the rise of the social. Post-social authors hasten to clarify, however, that this has been the case not because the social actually is an objective instance, but because it has become meaningfully articulated as such by the objectivist variant of the modern social imaginary. As I have already indicated, particularly from the last decades of the nineteenth century and as the social imaginary grounded on the concept of society gained prevalence and spread, social conditions of existence were capable of really operating as causal factors of action. As a consequence, individuals increasingly came to define their identity, to shape their conscience, and to design and implement their practice in accordance with the social position they occupied on the social and production relations stage. This is what explains that class identity experienced a rapid and extensive reach, mainly among wage-earning workers, and explains, as well, that new political organizations based, at least partially, on class identity and appealing to class as a means of political and electoral mobilization appeared and succeeded. And this is also why welfare state regimes could begin to develop. As Nikolas Rose shows, the emergence of the welfare state must be located in the process of re-conceptualizing social problems as problems that have their origins not in the natural dispositions of individuals but in the forms adopted by the social organization. Such re-conceptualization will understand the solution of these problems as one that requires, necessarily, intervention and change in the very arrangement of social relations. The criteria that will support and guide such intervention and change are provided by the experts and, in general, by social science, whose role as a guiding force for political action and institutional practice became very rapidly acknowledged. The function of social scientists and experts is to unravel the internal laws or objective mechanisms that govern human societies so that society itself can implement, through its institutional apparatuses, the measures of social engineering necessary to correct the malfunctions of the social organism. In this project of social engineering an essential role was played by the state, taken to be the institutional embodiment of social selfawareness.15 These were the underlying ontological premises of the new welfare state in its several realizations, which ranged from weaker forms of state interventionism in

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countries like the United States to the project of full socialization of human relations in the Soviet Union after the Revolution of 1917. In all these cases, the socialist16 social imaginary operated as an essential generative or performative power in the making of practices and in the arrangement of human interaction and politics. Without taking into account its active mediation, it would be impossible to make intelligible and explain the course of world history over the last century. Of course, just as the post-social critical stance was developing, many voices have been raised that advocate the theoretical prevalence and analytic usefulness of the concept of the social or social objectivity. Among these voices I find particularly relevant the contribution William H. Sewell offers, not only because of its sound argument but also because it constitutes one of the first attempts to get into a serious and frank exchange with the post-social critique of the social,17 and also because it reveals the limit of the argument for the social that post-social history has pointed out. What Sewell basically argues is that historical and social analysis should not dispense with the notion of social determination or conditioning, since the social context always imposes objective limits on human action. Sewell continues to address the debate from a dualist theoretical outlook, however, and thus seems to take away some of the scope and significance of his contribution. It impedes him from fully appreciating the theoretical argument offered by his post-social colleagues. For Sewell, any theoretical withdrawal from social causality and the social results in an advance in the autonomy of individual subjectivity. But this need not be the case. As I have stressed, post-social authors do not deny that social conditions impose limits on and determine the practice of individuals, they simply insist that such limits and determinations are not objective. The way people react to their material conditions of existence is not pre-determined or pre-defined by these conditions. On the contrary, any reaction to material or external reality always depends, in causal terms, on the meaning that such a reality has acquired by virtue of the performative mediation of the categories of a given social imaginary, of the set of assumptions about how society works and ought to work.

III. Conclusion: Beyond The Social


The advent of the post-social critique of the historical scholarship seems, for the first time, to be about to go beyond and thus finally escape the everlasting opposition and tension between society and the individual, between social causality and human agency, between explanation and interpretation. Once the concept of the social, as well as that of individual, have been radically historicized and, above all, denaturalized, their previous quality of pre-given constituents of human interaction is lost and they can hardly continue to be taken as foundations of social theory or touchstones for historiographical debate. At the present time, we are no longer obliged, as Sewell seems to suppose, to choose, specifically, between pre-social history and social history, as there is also the possibility of taking the theoretical insights of post-social history into account. What awaits us beyond the crisis of the social is not necessarily the theoretical restoration of the natural subject, but instead a new, still emergent, explanatory framework or theoretical paradigm that has grown from the assumption that both society and individual are no more than historically specific forms of meaningfully constructing human action

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and interaction. The fact that the modern disciplines of history, and the social sciences more generally, have their origin within the modern social imaginary makes it somewhat difficult for historians and social scientists to accept the implications that stem from the current process of conceptual denaturalization of this imaginary. At the same time, however, once concepts lose theoretical innocence, it can no longer be regained.18 The (modern) concepts of society and the individual (or the self), of social causation and human agency, seem to have irremediably lost their theoretical innocence and naturalness. In this sense post-social history has not provoked a crisis of the social, it has offered a helpful reconceptualization of it.

Notes
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1. Translated by Marie McMahon. This research forms part of the Ministry of Education and Science project HUM004-04562/HIST, and is supported by FEDER funding. 2. The expression death of the social (or the end of the social), increasingly used nowadays, refers to the weakening and giving up of a conception of society and social problems founded on the notion of social structure, the same conception that had laid the foundations for the emergence and development of welfare states. See, for instance, N. Rose, The Death of the Social? Re-figuring the Territory of Government, Economy and Society 25 (1996): 32756; and M. Dean, Governmentality. Power and Rule in Modern Society (London: Sage, 1999), 1513. 3. P. Joyce, Introduction, in The Social in Question. New Bearings in History and the Social Sciences, ed. P. Joyce (London: Routledge, 2002), 1. 4. J. M. Smith, No More Language Games: Words, Beliefs, and the Political Culture of Early Modern France, American Historical Review 102 (1997): 141340. See also J. M. Smith, Between Discourse and Experience: Agency and Ideas in the French Pre-Revolution, History and Theory 40 (2001): 11642. 5. G. S. Jones, The Determinist Fix: Some Obstacles to the Further Development of the Linguistic Approach to History in the 1990s, History Workshop Journal 42 (1996): 1935. Of course, this brief characterization does not do justice to all the complexity and sophistication of Jones theoretical position. A more detailed appraisal of such a position can be found in M. A. Cabrera, Linguistic Approach or Return to Subjectivism? In Search of an Alternative to Social History, Social History 24 (1999): 748. 6. S. Maza, The Social Imaginary of the French Revolution: the Third Estate, the National Guard, and the Absent Bourgeoisie, in The Age of Cultural Revolutions. Britain and France, 17501820, ed. C. Jones and D. Wahrman (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002), 10623, quote at 123. 7. Joyce, Introduction, 7. 8. C. Pickstock, The Mediaeval Origins of Civil Society and M. Poovey, The Liberal Civil Subject and the Social in Eighteenth-century British Moral Philosophy, both in The Social in Question, ed. Joyce, 2143 and 4461. Pooveys essay also appeared, in a slightly different version, in Public Culture 14 (2002): 12545. 9. Poovey, The Liberal Civil Subject and the Social in Eighteenth-century British Moral Philosophy, 445. 10. Ibid., 467. 11. R. Wokler, Repatriating Modernitys Alleged Debts to the Enlightenment: French Revolutionary Social Science and the Genesis of the Nation State and P. Joyce, Maps, Blood and the City: the Governance of the Social in Nineteenth-century Britain, both in The Social in Question, ed. Joyce, Chs 4 and 6; and P. Joyce, The Rule of Freedom. Liberalism and the Modern City (London: Verso, 2003). 12. K. M. Baker, Enlightenment and the Institution of Society: Notes for a Conceptual History, in Main Trends in Cultural History, ed. W. Melching and W. Velema (Amsterdam:

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Miguel A. Cabrera Rodopi, 1994), 114. [Also in Civil Society. History and Possibilities, ed. S. Kaviraj and S. Khilnani (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 84104.] C. Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries, Public Culture 14 (2002): 91 and 1067. Taylor has expanded and gone deeply into his argument in Modern Social Imaginaries (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2004). The term social imaginary has not been, of course, coined by Taylor, as it had been previously used by many authors, chiefly French ones. Moreover, Taylor draws upon the work of (equally French-speaking) authors like Bronislaw Baczko and, above all, Cornelius Castoriadis, whose work is frequently mentioned and commented on by Taylor. See M. Maffesoli, The Social Imaginary, Current Sociology 41 (1993): 5967; B. Baczko, Les Imaginaires Sociaux (Paris: Payot, 1984); and C. Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987). In Taylors hands, however, the concept of social imaginary has gained new meanings with greater theoretical density and analytical depth. A more detailed account of the post-social history as an emerging theoretical paradigm can be found in M. A. Cabrera, Postsocial History. An Introduction (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2004). N. Rose, Powers of Freedom. Reframing Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), Ch. 3, The Social. The term socialist is not used here in its standard sense (although this is encompassed), but in opposition to individualist and, therefore, I employ it simply with the purpose of making a distinction between the two variants of the modern social imaginary. W. H. Sewell, Whatever Happened to the Social in Social History?, in Schools of Thought. Twenty-five Years of Interpretive Social Science, ed. J. W. Scott and D. Keates (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 20926. I am paraphrasing here from P. Joyce, The End of Social History?, Social History 20 (1995): 74.

13.

14.

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15. 16. 17. 18.