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The social occupations of modernity : philosophy and social theory in Durkheim, Tarde, Bergson and Deleuze

By David Toews


This thesis explores the relationship between occupations and the ontology of the\ud social. I begin by drawing a distinction between the messianic and the modern as\ud concentrated in the affective transformation of vocation into occupation. I then, in\ud the Introduction, sketch an ontic-ontological contrast proper to the modern, between\ud modernity, as the collective problematization of social diversity, and the\ud contemporary, as the plural ground of need which provides a source for these\ud problematizations. I argue that this distinction will enable me to shed new light on\ud the occupational as a distinctly modern event.\ud In Part I, I begin by providing a reading of Durkheim in which I argue that the\ud occupational is to be understood ontologically, but no longer by means of the\ud theorization of society and social types. This kind of theorization, exemplified in\ud Durkheim's concept of solidarity, contains a fundamental ambiguity between this\ud concept's ontological senses of original diversity and of unity in diversity.\ud Durkheim's thought is thus first intelligible in terms of an implicit evolutionary sense\ud of coherence or `need of wholeness.' However, the explicit evolutionary framework\ud and its central typological difference between the mechanical and organic is an\ud attempt to resolve the ambiguity that must fail because it addresses primarily a\ud distinction of obligation rather than a distinction of need. Obligation is shown to be\ud a concept of facticity which overcodes and obscures the distinction of need. I then\ud go on to argue that sociality can be better accounted for in terms of a continuity of\ud social becoming which is revealed in a perspective of modernity purged of the\ud modernist tendency to metaphorize this continuity in terms such as `solidity'\ud (Durkheim) and `flow' (Tarde). This perspective is the irreducibly plural perspective\ud of the contemporary, which, I conclude Part I by suggesting, lies in a sense of\ud merging with a social outside.\ud In Part II, I turn to investigate the outside by discussing the social thought of Bergson\ud and Deleuze. Bergson's thought is presented as an alternative to the deductivesociologistic\ud approaches of Durkheim and Tarde, because it attempts to critically\ud affirm the smooth duration of social continuity. However, I argue that the notion of\ud `open society' that Bergson presents is still too tied to a model of rare spirituality and\ud hence to the messianic perspective. I then proceed to a social-theoretical analysis of\ud Deleuze's oeuvre, in order to show how he uses elements of a thought of continuity\ud from Tarde (microsociology) and from Bergson (multiplicity), but that he is able to\ud transcend the family-model-centeredness of Tarde and the rare-spiritual-modelcenteredness\ud of Bergson, by theorizing non-modelled figures of transformative\ud affective multiplicity inscribed within the actual, ie. `full particularities'.\ud In my concluding chapter, I show how the intellectual trajectory which takes us from\ud Durkheim to Deleuze can be analysed as a movement from a doctrine or relatively\ud passive notion of social externality towards a more active social image of the outside.\ud In particular, I am concerned to show how this image of the outside can be recontextualized\ud in terms of a movement of occupation that can be thought of as\ud always combining a sense of the contemporary with a sense of modernity

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