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Organising Modernity: Social Ordering and Social Theory



Organising Modernity: Social Ordering and Social Theory

John Law

ISBN: 978-0-631-18513-0 December 1993 Wiley-Blackwell 228 Pages


In this important theoretical and empirical statement John Law argues against the purity of post-enlightenment political and social theory, and offers an alternative post-modern sociology. Arguing in favor of a sociology of verbs, he suggests that power, organizations, mind-body dualisms, and macro-micro distinctions may all be understood as the local performance of recursive modes of social ordering.

Drawing on a range of theoretical traditions including actor-network theory, verstehende sociology, and the writing of Michel Foucault, he explores the production of materials - including agents and architectures - and their importance for these modes of ordering. The book, which draws on organizational ethnography to develop its argument, is essential reading for all those interested in social theory, materialism, or the sociology of organizations at the end of the era of high modernity.


1. Introduction.

2. Networks and Places.

3. Histories, Agents and Structures.

4. Myth, Irony and Contingency.

5. Contingency, Materialism and Discourse.

6. Rankings.

7. Dualisms and Gradients: Notes on the Material Forms of Ordering.

8. Enterprise, Trust and Face-to-Face Interaction.

9. Postscript: After the Bonfire of the Dualisms.


"In this beautifully written book John Law describes a laboratory in political and economic turmoil. His notion of the 'mode of ordering' draws on post-structuralist theory to create a striking and critical vision of modernity. His book is also an impassioned reply to those on left or right who believe that it is possible to design the perfect society. Who said nothing good came of Thatcherism?" Michel Callon, Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation, Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines, Paris

"Professor Law's analysis offers challenges at many levels - to what we understand by laboratory management, to the nature of connections between science studies and wider social theory in throwing light on it, and on the relationship of author to subject. His most sustained challenge is to the role of the reader, who is never allowed to relax into passivity in tackling this open and honest book." Peter Healey, The Science Policy Support Group

"This is a book that reanimates the old idea of the 'sociological imagination' and which continually captivates the reader with its restless questioning, its intellectual honesty and its sheer craft." Robert Cooper, University of Lancaster

  • Law presents a novel and exciting approach to the subject of the social order - central to modern social theory
  • The book draws on difficult arguments and concepts but presents them in an extremely accessible form
  • Law, in effect, offers an alternative postmodern sociology which should attract wide attention.