Thinking Differently

In his previous books Alain Touraine analysed the great changes that have transformed our personal and collective lives; in this new book he shows that we need to transform our ways of thinking about these changes. The very idea of society is in crisis: globalization and the liberation of desires from taboos have led to the collapse of the old social order. In our societies today, good and evil can no longer be defined by institutions; self-awareness is more important than the awareness of rules and subjects have become their own creators. Taking as his starting point a critique of what he calls the Dominant Interpretive Discourse, which tried throughout the twentieth century to impose the idea of a society without actors that was subject to various kinds of determinism (especially economic determinism), Touraine argues that the only principle that allows us to evaluate individual behaviour and social situations is the recognition of the political, social and cultural rights of all human beings, who are viewed as free and equal. The individual must be seen as a subject and treated as the cornerstone of a reconstructed sociology. Whereas some denounce individualism, the author celebrates a subjectivation that involves the defence of the rights of all against all modes of social integration. This general line of argument is made concrete through an analysis of the subordination of women, the exclusion of minorities and the difficulties young people face at school and at work. This major new book represents in many ways the culmination of twenty years of theoretical reflection which began with Critique of Modernity and which have established Touraine as one of the leading figures of contemporary social thought.