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The Plural Actor

ISBN: 978-0-7456-4684-8
280 pages
February 2011, Polity
The Plural Actor (0745646840) cover image
The individual that the social sciences take as an object is most often studied in a particular context or from a single dimension. The actor is analysed as a student, worker, consumer, spouse, reader, sportsperson, a voter etc. However, in societies where individuals live often through simultaneously and successively heterogeneous and sometimes contradictory social experiences, each person inevitably carries a plurality of roles, ways of seeing, feeling and acting.

The aim of this study is to consider the ways in which this plurality of worlds and experiences are incorporated into the being of each individual and to observe the individual's actions in a variety of settings. In addition to his sociological viewpoint, the author engages with psychology, history, anthropology and philosophy. His reflections lead him to embark on a program of psychological sociology to highlight the complexities of this plural view of the social.

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Prologue.

Act I: Sketch of a Theory of the Plural Actor.

Scene I: The Plural Actor.

On Singleness.

The single self: a commonplace illusion, but socially well-founded.

The sociohistorical conditions of singleness and plurality.

The plurality of social contexts and repertoires of habits.

The Proustian model of the plural actor.

Splitting of the self and mental conflict: crossings of social space.

Scene II. The Wellsprings of Action.

Presence of the past, present of action.

The many occasions for maladjustment and crisis.

The plurality of the actor and the openings of the present.

Conditional dispositions.

The negative power of the context: inhibition and latency.

'Code switching' and 'code mixing' within the same context.

Actors uncertainly swinging.

Scene III. Analogy and Transfer.

Practical analogy and the triggers of action and memory.

Involuntary action and memory.

The role of habits.

From analytic transfer to the interview relationship.

A relative transferability.

From general to partial schemas.

From generalized transfer to limited and conditional transfer.

Scene IV: Literary Experience: Reading, Daydreams and Parapraxes.

Act II. Reflexivities and Logics of Action.

Scene I: School, Action, and Language.

The scholastic break with practical reason.

Saussure, or the pure theory of scholastic practices on language.

The social conditions of departure from practical reason.

Scene II. The Everyday Practices of Writing in Action.

Embodied memory, objectified memory.

Everyday breaks with practical reason.

'Doing it like that'.

Memory for the unusual.

The longer term and preparing the future.

Managing complex practices.

The official, the formal, and tense situations.

The presence of the absent.

Temporary disturbances of practical reason.

The use of plans: lists of all kinds.

The relative pertinence of practical reason.

Scene III. The Plural Logics of Action.

The ambiguity of a singular practice.

The sporting model of practical reason and its limitations.

Intentionality and the levels of context.

Plurality of times and logics of action.

Act III. Forms of Embodiment.

Scene I. The Place of Language.

The world of silence.

The punctuation of action and its theorization.

Language and the forms of social life.

The mysterious inside.

Scene II. What Exactly Is Embodied?

Processes of embodimentÐinternalization.

The polymorphic embodiment of written culture in the world of the family.

Negative identifications and the force of implicit injunctions.

Act IV. Workshops and Debates.

Scene I. Psychological Sociology.

An exit from sociology?

The objectivity of the 'subjective'.

The singular folds of the social.

Multideterminism and the sense of freedom.

New methodological requirements.

Scene II. Pertinent Fields.

On excessive generalization.

The varying scale of context in the social sciences.

Experimental variation and loss of illusions.

The historicizing of universal theories and fields of pertinence.

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* Lahire is a leading French sociologist who has developed an original theoretical approach that is indebted to Pierre Bourdieu but less deterministic in character.
* This book presents the core of his ‘theory of the plural actor'.
* Lahire argues that in societies where individuals live through heterogeneous and sometimes contradictory social experiences, each person inevitably carries a plurality of roles, ways of seeing, feeling and acting. The aim of this book is to analyse the ways in which this plurality of worlds and experiences is incorporated into the being of each individual.
* This book will appeal to advanced students and academics in sociology, social theory, cultural theory, and literary and cultural studies.
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"Lahire is disparaging of that 'umpteenth version of a theory of the free'; any feeling of freedom or ironic consciousness is simply the result of the complexity of that determination of whose actual weight individuals can have no practical intuition. But perhaps more than anything else, this book demonstrates the continuing validity and relevance - and for Bourdieuians 'more than ever' - of just such theories of freedom."
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Congratulations to Bernard Lahire for opening a new window. With the decline of primordial thinking (stressing race, class, gender, and nationhood), heightened by globalization, he suggests how to see, and conceptualize, the social world in an open, pluralistic mode. He builds on tradition, milieu, and context, but shows how thinking, goals, and a plurality of values combine in what we do."
Terry Nichols Clark, University of Chicago

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