Unscientific about society

Social science may be able to account for society in part because it has remade society to suit its particular kind of knowledge (the “science” that I would call theory).

For most theorists who study society, there are great social forces at work, will we, nill we, and most of them do us no good; the self is a social construct; the individual is more patient than agent, subjected to a false or inauthentic subjectivity, often a victim.

But there are, interestingly enough, some resources for rethinking society in the history of the word society itself. Society, societas, denotes an elective or voluntary association, not an array of (dark, often hidden) forces that constrain and define and overwhelm the individual.

I want to think about the social not just as a precondition but as a human accomplishment, the fruit of liberty and free association, a state that human beings can achieve simply by choosing to come together, not just a gulag of the alienated, overdetermined self.

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