Tensional Individuality: A Reassessment of Gabriel Tarde’s Sociology

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The recent revival of Gabriel Tarde’s sociology has generated conflicting interpretations of his work. According to one camp, Tarde’s sociology is reducible to a psychologism that merits no present-day sociological interest. By contrast, other scholars argue that Tarde’s work remains of great analytical value because it presents an anti-essentialist conception of the individual as being plastic and moldable. In this paper, I critically discuss each of these interpretations. Further, I argue that a careful reading of Tarde reveals a rather more complex notion of individuality than has been recognized in the recent reception of his work. Specifically, I suggest that Tarde’s sociology proposes a notion of individuality according to which the individual is understood as given in a tensional relationship between mimesis and anti-mimesis, that is, between retaining some internal core and being subject to external influence.

The recent revival of Gabriel Tarde’s sociology has generated conflicting interpretations of his work. According to one camp, Tarde’s sociology is reducible to a psychologism that merits no present-day sociological interest. By contrast, other scholars argue that Tarde’s work remains of great analytical value because it presents an anti-essentialist conception of the individual as being plastic and moldable. In this paper, I critically discuss each of these interpretations. Further, I argue that a careful reading of Tarde reveals a rather more complex notion of individuality than has been recognized in the recent reception of his work. Specifically, I suggest that Tarde’s sociology proposes a notion of individuality according to which the individual is understood as given in a tensional relationship between mimesis and anti-mimesis, that is, between retaining some internal core and being subject to external influence.

LanguageEnglish
JournalDistinktion
Volume18
Issue number2
Pages153-172
ISSN1600-910X
DOIs
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Published online: 6. October 207

Keywords

  • Durkheim
  • Hypnosis
  • Individuality
  • Imitation
  • Mimesis
  • Monadology
  • Psychologism
  • Suggestion
  • Tarde

Cite this

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abstract = "The recent revival of Gabriel Tarde’s sociology has generated conflicting interpretations of his work. According to one camp, Tarde’s sociology is reducible to a psychologism that merits no present-day sociological interest. By contrast, other scholars argue that Tarde’s work remains of great analytical value because it presents an anti-essentialist conception of the individual as being plastic and moldable. In this paper, I critically discuss each of these interpretations. Further, I argue that a careful reading of Tarde reveals a rather more complex notion of individuality than has been recognized in the recent reception of his work. Specifically, I suggest that Tarde’s sociology proposes a notion of individuality according to which the individual is understood as given in a tensional relationship between mimesis and anti-mimesis, that is, between retaining some internal core and being subject to external influence.",
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Tensional Individuality : A Reassessment of Gabriel Tarde’s Sociology. / Borch, Christian.

In: Distinktion, Vol. 18, No. 2, 2017, p. 153-172.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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