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Published on Jun 8, 2017
Abstract: A central challenge faced by any realist sociology is the difficultly of building a social ontology which can cope with the problem of heterogeneity on the one hand, and stability on the other, and a methodology which able to cope with such an ontology. The social world is characterized by both the existence of wildly contingent causal constellations coming together in highly variable ways on different occasions, and recurrent structures which produce degrees of stability with repeatedly consistent causal powers and effects. Assemblage theory, developed in the work of Gilles Deleuze, Bruno Latour, and Manuel DeLanda offers a fruitful way forward in thinking through these issues, but has tended to neglect important aspects of the social world in the name of heterogeneity and process. Focusing on DeLanda’s book Assemblage Theory Professor Dave Elder-Vass and Dr. Timothy Rutzou trace the theoretical lineage of Assemblage Theory, evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, outline possible contributions of critical realism, and propose a synthesis to explain the tendencies of things to persist and recur. In this way we can see assemblage and structure as related and contrasting ideal types rather than alternative or competing social ontologies, and assemblage theory as a theory and a methodology able to cope with the challenges this raises.