Open / Social / Knowledge

In collaboration with Alice Bryer (Goldsmiths), I am organising an international conference on the so-called Social Economy at Spain’s School for Industrial Organisation, which is opening tomorrow in Seville. (More on the conference can be found here.)

I wont go into the complexities of the social economy here. I do want to briefly point out, however, some of the very interesting anthropological issues that emerge when one compares aspects of the network-mediated open economy with the social economy and the innovation-cum-knowledge economy.

The Open / Social / Knowledge economies all share (allegedly) a fundamental epistemic characteristic: the interiorisation of the ‘sociology of knowledge’ as part-and-parcel of their own project. In all cases, ‘the social’ is explicitated as the driving-force of the economy (as a sociological object): as sociality/collaboration, in the open economy; as human-centred, in the social economy; and as cognitive and vitalistic capital, in the knowledge economy.

Now if ‘the social’ can indeed be said to embody a a mode of economy (one, moreover, that is sociologically transparent: open, social, self-knowledgeable), what critical role is there left for sociology to do? Does not the economization of the social, in this context, cannibalise and predate on social theory’s critical capacities?

Indeed, when the language of ‘the social’ and commensality become the mode of explication of an (neoliberal) economic regime, the purview of the critical would appear to be seriously diminished. Or said differently, what does critique look like, when the social is exhausted as a mode of description of ‘the social’?

Comments
2 Responses to “Open / Social / Knowledge”
  1. Adolfo says:

    Perhaps, we have to forget about the social? or try to understand which kind of ‘social’ is mobilized in each of these cases, because I guess that the social is very different in all of them.

  2. Alberto says:

    Sure. The practices that mobilize the social are certainly different, and it is a matter of ethnographic/sociological research to elucidate what exactly it is that we are talking about in each case. But that we are in all cases invoking a notion of sociality / commensality to convey an image of economic generativity is surely interesting in itself. If the ‘great transformation’, as Polanyi called it, disembedded ‘economy’ from ‘society’, today we are witnessing an (allegedly) major re-embedding: the social is everywhere invoked as an indispensable economic engine.

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