By Samuel A. Chambers

Political and financial types of society usually function at a degree of abstraction so excessive that the connections among them, and their hyperlinks to tradition, are past succeed in. Bearing Society in Mind demanding situations those disciplinary obstacles and proposes another framework—the social formation.

The concept of social formation demonstrates how the material of society is made of threads which are concurrently monetary, political, and cultural. Drawing at the paintings of theorists together with Marx, Althusser, Butler, Žižek and Rancière, Bearing Society in Mind makes the most powerful case attainable for the theoretical value and political necessity of this idea. It concurrently demonstrates that the social formation proves to be a truly specific and weird kind of “concept”—it isn't really a mirrored image or version of the realm, yet is definitively and concretely certain up with and constitutive of the area.

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In his recent book, William Connolly writes insightfully that “the strength of structural theory, at its best, was in identifying institutional intersections that hold a system together; its conceit, at its worst, was the claim to know in advance how resistant such intersections are to potential change” (Connolly 2013: 37). On both fronts, I concur. Connolly hedges his bets against this conceit of structural theory by moving away from it, whereas I run the risk of turning toward a certain sort of structural theory.

Inversion” works in two mirrored ways within this logic: on the one hand, the social order is approached as if it were already inverted, turned upside down so that falsehood, ignorance or ideology masquerades as common sense; on the other hand, the task of the critical theorist of inversion is to invert the structure of the social order by revealing the underlying truth that will dispel (demystify) all that is false and wrong. 17 I, too, staunchly reject any conception of critique undergirded by unmasking or demystification, but I am perhaps more sanguine on the possibility of a renewed critical theory that might operate according to a logic other than inversion.

As Harvey puts it, commenting on this passage: “Marx’s method of inquiry starts with everything that exists—with reality as it’s experienced, as well as with all available descriptions of that experience by political economists, philosophers, novelists and the like” (Harvey 2010a: 8). Nonetheless, in many ways, the distinction itself serves mainly as an apology for the difficulty of the opening chapters of Capital, Volume 1. Marx is telling his readers, in effect: a capitalist social formation cannot be understood by way of a priori formulations or a-historical concepts, so please do not read these opening chapters, which sound precisely like the presentation of a priori concepts, in this manner.

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Bearing Society in Mind: Theories and Politics of the Social by Samuel A. Chambers
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