TABLE TALK, AT A SIMULACRIATIC TABLE
John R. Hall - University of California, Davis
The sociological attraction of the dinner with engaging companions is that it facilitates table talk across a range of topics, everyone freely expressing opinions, maybe floating excessive claims over the third bottle of wine, perhaps in response to someone else’s rather bold assertion, testing the possibilities of shared understandings efficiently and in ways that bring forth topics and points of view otherwise elusive. Habitus, as Bourdieu rightly understood, finds its strongest stamp at the dinner table. In Perspectives, engaged table talk about theory has its quasi-simulacrum, and the editors, past and present, are to be commended for throwing the dinner party. Here, in memory of my late fellow Louisvillian Hunter S. Thompson, I want to exploit this table talk-ish culture by advancing gonzo-esque claims about the prospects of sociological theory today, claims that would be impossible to justify either amidst the clink of stemware and clatter of dishes or in this short text.
Last fall, my essay for Perspectives both noted the vital energies in theory today and waxed somewhat melancholy about the seemingly dim prospects of general theory. We have seen significant developments of theory on diverse fronts – theories of cognition and agency, field theory, governmentality, postcolonial theory, theories of intersectionality in stratification and identity, feminist theory, critical race theory, actor-network theory, theories of social justice, cultural theory: this list could be longer, and still incomplete.