Dissertation Abstracts

Images of the Social: The Network in Sociological Theory

Author: Schlechtriemen, Tobias , Tobias.Schlechtriemen@soziologie.uni-freiburg.de
Department: Sociology
University: University of Hamburg, Germany
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Urs Stäheli
Year of completion: 2011
Language of dissertation: German

Keywords: metaphors of society , visualization of soc , network , theory
Areas of Research: Theory , Visual Sociology , Communication, Knowledge and Culture


In sociological texts, various images are used to describe society: In the earliest sociological theories from the second half of the 19th century, society is often described as an organism, whereas more recent sociological trends in the second half of the 20th century depict the social more and more as a network. It is the central intent of this book to examine the epistemic value of these images that illustrate the social and analyze their usage and function in sociological theories.
For this, a method is developed in the first chapter in order that the images of the social can be adequately described as to their functionality which is, in general, unique to imagery. This method is then applied in the subsequent three chapters to analyze the appearance of the network image in the sociological theories of Jakob Levy Moreno, Manuel Castells, and Bruno Latour. In addition to the verbal, the diagrammatic articulations of the network image are also studied. The very detailed analyses show how wide the semantic spectrum is for what can be understood by ‘network’, the various functions which the network image carries in each individual theory, as well as the different status it holds in those same approaches.
This book will therefore contribute to a more accurate treatment of sociological theories with regard to their mostly implicit image use. Furthermore, with the network image a central, collective interpretation pattern in modern, Western societies is also studied. Overall, this book should encourage a sensible and critical discussion of the images in the formation of sociological theories.