Historical Materialism and Actor-Network-Theory

  • Joost van LoonEmail author


This chapter argues that despite clear epistemological differences, Historical Materialism and Actor-Network-Theory can be combined to provide a framework for understanding the methodological consequences of “taking matter seriously”. By focusing on practices of abstraction and practices of translation respectively, both theoretical traditions have provided critical interventions in the dominant philosophical traditions of their time. Both interventions show how to break away from the pitfalls of idealism, not simply by reversing the assumed direction of causality as Feuerbach did, but by dismantling the dualistic premises that have framed the western metaphysical tradition since Plato. Using the example of signing a document, the chapter shows that without the materiality of mediation, it is impossible to understand the binding nature of legal agreements. What materiality binds is not simply inscriptions of reality, but the very matters of concern or interests that generate and motivate particular associations. Materiality is the actualization of abstraction and translation and thus pivotal to the durability of the iterative workings sociologists call ‘society’.


Historical materialism Actor-Network-Theory Monism Abstraction Translation Interests Mediation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Catholic University of Eichstätt-IngolstadtEichstättGermany

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