The contemporary importance of A. N. Whitehead (1861–1947) lies in his direct yet productive challenge to the culture of thought inherent in modernity, a challenge that suffuses science, social theory and philosophy alike. Unlike some of the more destructive aspects of postmodernism and poststructuralism, Whitehead’s diagnosis of the conceptual fault lines of the modern era does not entail a passive relativism. Instead, he calls for a renewal of our concepts, offering a positive, philosophical approach based on becoming, relativity, and a reconception of subjectivity and the social. This book outlines Whitehead’s philosophy, using it to reorient a range of specific questions and topics within contemporary social theory.
According to some social theorists, we are ‘at the end of the social’. This book argues that such pronouncements may be premature, as we need to reengage with what sociologists have previously meant by ‘the social’. ‘Rethinking the Social’ is the first book to systematically analyse the different concepts of the social developed by Durkheim, Marx and Weber. It examines how the concept of the social became unproblematic for twentieth-century writers and suggests that debates surrounding this concept remain very much alive. Building on A. N. Whitehead’s work, Halewood develops a novel ‘philosophy of the social’.