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Actor-network theory: innovative aspects of sociological methodology

Research Article

Galina S. Denisova Doctor of Sociology, Professor,
Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don, Russia
dgsrostov2013@gmail.com
ORCID ID=0000-0002-3671-9602
Irina N. Polonskaya Doctor of Philosophy
Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don, Russia
nisonelle@yandex.ru
ORCID ID=0000-0001-6953-4068
Elena V. Susimenko Doctor of Philosophy, Professor,
Platov South-Russian State Polytechnic University (NPI), Novocherkassk, Russia
e.susimenko@npi-tu.ru
ORCID ID=0000-0001-7627-2051
Actor-network theory: innovative aspects of sociological methodology.
Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2022. Vol. 13. No. 2. P. 137-158

Дата поступления статьи: 03.05.2022
Topic: Theoretical and methodological problems of contemporary sociology

For citation:
Denisova G. S., Polonskaya I. N., Susimenko E. V. Actor-network theory: innovative aspects of sociological methodology. Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2022. Vol. 13. No. 2. P. 137-158
DOI: https://doi.org/10.19181/vis.2022.13.2.797. EDN: RLJOOB




Abstract

In recent years, a discussion about the dissatisfaction of scientists with the current state of sociology has intensified in the world sociological community. In this situation, various ways of raising the scientific level of sociology as a whole are proposed. One of them was proposed by B. Latour in the framework of the actor-network theory (ANT), the theoretical concepts of which were further developed in the works of his like-minded colleages. Representatives of the Russian sociology are actively involved in a versatile study of the contribution made by the ANT to the development of sociology. The article studies the basic provisions of the actor-network theory concerning the subject specifics of sociological knowledge, the fundamental difference between the definition of understanding the subject of ANT sociology and the definitions given by traditional sociological trends and paradigms, as well as the consequences of this innovative understanding for the formation of methodological principles for studying social reality. The authors also dwell on the consideration of the most fundamental and controversial methodological innovation of ANT - the “turn to things” and the introduction of the concept of heterogeneity of agents into the understanding of social processes.

Particular attention in the article is paid to the analysis of the meaning of the term “actant”, innovative for sociology, borrowed by the ANT from the semiotic theory of narrative and incorporated into sociology and ontology of the network of associations of heterogeneous actants. Concerning the disagreements between the actor-network theory and the sociological mainstream of our time, the authors dwell on the criticism by ANT theorists of the sociological "metaphysics of social forces", understood as a way of theoretical legitimation of social inequality. The purpose of the article is to clarify the unity and interconnection of the key innovative positions of ANT in sociological methodology, and through this, to substantiate the significance and heuristic potential of the innovations proposed by the actor-network theory for raising the scientific level of sociology in the study of social reality. As a result, the authors demonstrate the methodological turn of ANT, that makes possible overcoming the gap between sociological theory and social and political practice, thus opening the way for building a new attitude of sociology to reality, returning it to solving not only scientific, but also social and practical problems.

Keywords

actor-network theory (ANT), social, sociology of associations, network interactions, actor, actant, heterogeneity, non-human actors, figuration

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