Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Re-Writing the Social, Re-Writing Sociology: Donzelot, Genealogy and Working-Class Bodies *

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Re-Writing the Social, Re-Writing Sociology: Donzelot, Genealogy and Working-Class Bodies *

Article excerpt

Abstract: A generation ago, Dorothy Smith's groundbreaking work (1974) inspired numerous sociological neophytes to not only prioritise their own embodied experience, but also to question the hitherto taken for granted methodological conventions of the then current sociology. Yet for some students growing up on Smith's Marxist-influenced "nourishment," worrying problems remained. Fortunately, with "textual maturity" some resolution of these problems can now be proposed. Thus, this paper introduces readers to Donzelot's genealogical analysis of the "social" (Donzelot 1984) in order to show that Smith's original critique of conventional sociology must now be re-evaluated. Specifically, it will suggest that Smith's unquestioning usage of Marxist discourse needs to be subjected to critical analysis, because Marxism itself was heavily implicated in the original "invention" of sociology, and the "social" more generally.

Resume: Il y a une generation, los travaux revolutionnaires de Dorothy Smith ont inspire un grand nombre de socio-neophytos a non seulement privilegier leurs experiences interiorisees du monde. mais aussi a questionner los conventions methodologiques, prises pour acquis jusqu'ici dans l'acceptation de cette version theorique de la sociologie. Cependant, pour certains etudiants de l'ecole de pensee de Smith, dont la theorie se nourrit de l'influence marxiste, des problemes inquierants restent a etre resolus. Heureusement, grace au "textual maturity" certaines solutions a ces problemes peuvent maintenant etre suggerees. Ainsi, cet article propose aux lecteurs les analyses genealogiques de Donzelot sur le 'social' (Donzelot 1984), tout en demontrant que la critique originale de Smith sur la sociologie conventionnelle doit faire maintenant l'objet d'une re-examination. En effet, cet essai emettra l'hypothese que l'usage inconditionnel du Marxisme chez Smith doit se preter aux analyses critiques, car le Marxisme lui-meme etait lourdement implique dans l'invention originelle de la sociologie, et, par extension, du "social" en general.

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I was weaned on ethnomethodology/conversation analysis (Wootton 1975, Atkinson and Drew 1978, Drew 1978, Benson and Drew 1978) and simultaneously exposed to Dorothy Smith's early articles (1974a, 1978), as she began developing what would later become her institutional ethnography (1987), her feminist textual analysis (1974b, 1990a, 1990b) and, more recently, her "intertextual" concern with "writing the social" (1999a). In this intellectual infancy, the ethnomethodological critique of sociology (Garfinkel 1967, Zimmerman and Wieder 1970, Blum 1970a, 1970b Mehan and Wood, 1975, Filmer et al, 1972) and its associated "methods" (Cicourel 1964, Atkinson 1971, McHugh 1970) was absolutely foundational for my later development, (1) while the attraction of Smith's work was that it pushed this critique of conventional sociology further, so as to explore those everyday relations of power which remained rather marginal in the ethnomethodological literature of that time. (2)

Yet, throughout this scholarly socialization, I constantly experienced "a feeling of uneasiness ... some disquiet" (Smith 1999a:8-9) about Smith's own (apparently straightforward) use of Marxism to ground her feminist career. (3) No doubt influenced by my own working class upbringing, and the apparent inability of Marxist discourse to explain that embodied experience, I initially attempted to go beyond Smith's sociology as "ruling apparatus" (Smith 1981a:3) thesis, by using Foucault and his (novel, at the time) conceptualisation of power/knowledge. (4) Not surprisingly, perhaps, in those formative years of my sociological education, my attempted "genealogy" of sociology, focussing on the "social control" (5) element within contemporary sociology, as well as the subjugation of both Comte's and Garfinkel's thought in its theoretical development (Doran 1984), was rather rudimentary. As a result, that particular project remained unfinished for some considerable time. …

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