chapter  6
Tarde and Durkheim and the non-sociological ground of sociology
Pages 11

In his Laws of Imitation (1903: 76), Tarde asserts that the “social man” is a somnambulists. The somnambulists sees a version of reality purged of extraneous sensory input as if through a window within the framework of which s/he is interactive and only narrowly sociable – this could be likened to participation in one of today’s online virtual worlds, or perhaps to a false consciousness created by a capitalist culture industry. With an emphasis on this point, Toscano has recently argued that Tarde’s thought, contrary to my interpretation that it aims at liberating the theory of social differentiation from the implicit control of models based on moral solidarity, rather supports a kind of controlling, pacifying rationalization. Indeed, we should push further to find ways to translate Tardean “somnambulism” into the idiom of today’s cultural studies in terms of a cultural or ideological framework. With this aim in mind, in this chapter, rather than argue to the contrary that Tarde intended to describe subjects that are more sociable than has been envisioned in such an interpretation of his thought, I argue that Tarde is indeed a thinker of unsociability. However, my assertion will be that the meaning of unsociability in Tarde’s work has an agentic resonance connected with a philosophical and social-ontological significance that is much deeper than a lack of normal sociability, or some kind of docility, to which the theme of somnambulism seems reducible. Just as the new Tardean reception up to this point has largely begged the question of the changing nature of social and cultural facts, at a more basic level Tarde’s charge that we are somnambulists begs the question of the source of the social meanings of interactions and institutions. This is why we are still at an important early stage in the revival of Tarde’s work in which Tarde must be read in relation to Durkheim, in terms of the context of their social-ontological rivalry.