— Michael Guggenheim

Tag "Social Theory"


In : STI-Studies, Special Issue on “The Five Senses of the Sciences”, Vol. 7, 2011, No. 1, pp. 65-86


What could it mean to use cooking as a medium or translation device for sociology? Why is the use of media other than writing so unusual in sociology, but not in other sciences? The sociology of translation has made the claim that sociology should stay true to its object. Rather than jumping into abstractions, sociology should translate its object step by step. I show, that if this holds, then the sociology of translation fails its own claim to what I call “truth to materials”, because in its practice it engages in jumps in media from objects, such as food, image or body, to text. Instead, I propose to take the issue of truth to materials more serious by engaging, as other sciences, more directly with the senses. What prevents the sociology of translation from doing so is a belief in mechanical objectivity that excludes all other forms of translation except texts. For the case of taste, this suggests to engage in cooking. In the second part of the text I provide an attempt to create such more nuanced translations in the form of a buffet that we cooked as comment to a symposium. Some of the issues that were discussed with the help of the buffet were new kitchen technologies, the relationship between the visual and the olfactory, and the relationship between knowledge and taste.

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(Un-) Building Social Systems. The Concrete Foundations of Functional Differentiation’
in: Ignacio Farias and José Ossandon (eds.) Comunicaciones, semánticas y redes. Usos y desviaciones de la sociología de Niklas Luhmann. México: Universidad Iberoamericana, 2011, 245-277


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Beobachtungen zwischen Funktionssystemen. Umweltdienstleistungsfirmen als intersystemische Organisationen

In: Soziale Welt, 2007, Vol. 55, Issue 2, 43-57.

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Joy in Repetition Makes the Future Disappear. A Critical Assessment of the Present State of STS.
In: Bernward Joerges/Nowotny, Helga (Hg.): Social Studies of Science
& Technology. Looking Back, Ahead. Dordrecht, 2003, pp. 229-258
(together with Helga Nowotny)

get the whole book here

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(Replik auf Michael Schmid: Theorievergleich in den Sozialwissenschaften)

In: Ethik und Sozialwissenschaften Jg. 12 (2001), H. 4, S. 511-512

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Imaginierte Laien. Die Macht der Vorstellung in wissenschaftlichen Expertisen.

Weilerswist: Velbrück. (Co-authored together with Gisler, Priska,
Alessandro Maranta, Helga Nowotny and Christian Pohl)

A book that established the concept of “imagined laypeople” and sketches it out with some case studies from environmental expertise and GMO legislation.

buy it here

A short english version can be found in this article



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In: Acta Sociologica Vol. 46 (2003), H. 2, pp. 150-165,

(Together with Priska Gisler, Alessandro Maranta und Christian Pohl)

Short version of this book in German


This article examines the role of lay persons in the thinking and working of experts in different fields at the borders of academic knowledge production. The status of lay persons has been studied in the Public Understanding of Science (PUS) research, which has shed light on the implicit assumptions of the deficit model that experts usually apply to lay persons. This deficit model has been consistently criticized for its inadequacy. The purpose of this article is not to contribute to this critique but to focus on the conceptions of the expertise of lay persons as a necessary prerequisite of science-based recommendations in the context of application. We call such conceptions `imagined lay persons’ (ILP). We argue that such conceptions fulfil a functional purpose in the interaction between different fields in knowledge societies, and that such conceptions should not be checked against some alleged essential features of lay persons. Based on four different case studies of science centres, environmental science and consultations, as well as state regulations of genetically modified organisms, the authors examine the image of these imagined lay persons and what role they play in expertise.



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Symmetrical twins (pdf). On the Relationship Between Actor-Network-Theory and the Sociology of Critical Capacities.

In:  European Journal of Sociological Theory, Vol 11, issue 2, 2012, 157-178. (together with
Joerg Potthast)

This article explores the elective affinities between Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and the sociology of critical capacities. It argues that these two research programmes can be understood as symmetrical twins. We show the extent to which the exchange between Bruno Latour and Luc Boltanski has influenced their respective theoretical develop- ments. Three strong encounters between the twin research programmes may be distin- guished. The first encounter concerns explanations for social change. The second encounter focuses on the status of objects and their relationship to locations. The third encounter is about the concept of critique. Drawing on their long-term mutual readings, we gain insight into how pleas for symmetrical analysis raised in response to Bourdieu’s theory of fields have evolved within both ANT and the sociology of critical capacity. We conclude by relating the development of the respective research programmes to the issue of disciplinary boundaries.













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