Experimentalism?

Experimentalism is old and is subject to perpetual reinvention. It is emblematic of a range of key contemporary phenomena – scientific curiosity and the pursuit of objectivity, the cultural fascination for unconventional ways of life and the political rhetoric of crisis. Philosopher John Dewey coined the term ‘democratic experimentalism’ as early as 1927. For him, knowledge was rooted in experiences arising from moments of crisis. In my book on “Experimenalism and Sociology” (english translation in preparation) I am asking: what conclusions might we draw about the present era in light of Dewey’s social philosophy? It shows how sociological experimentalism paves the way from a science of crisis to a science of experience, one that views uncertainty as the necessary point of departure for every form of research practice. Taking his lead from physics, Dewey took the notion of the experiment literally as the experience-based and operational transformation of ignorance into knowledge, inspired by the instrumental procedures of the natural scientific experiment. On this view, rather than a problem, ignorance – in other words uncertainty and crisis situations – is the stimulus for problem-solving action. Dewey’s thesis – and this is the point of departure for my conceptual inquiry – is surely of crucial importance to the current global sanitary crisis. Taking the crisis as a point of departure for a socio-ecological transformation challenges our modern way of life in a most fundamental way. But we can grasp the consequences of this idea only if we define the experiment not just as a social trope to be observed but concurrently as a tool for generating transformative knowledge. This interdependence between knowledge and practice is the departure to re-think the ontological differences between nature and society, as well as between crisis and experience. The books explores the procedural approach of sociological experimentalism through a plea for an ecological ontology, discussed through the three dimensions “experience”, “trial” and “cooperation”. Finally, it concludes on the practical consequences in the era of global ecological and sanitary vulnerability, aiming for inter- and transdisciplinary research including the natural sciences, and, finally, for democratic experimentalism in times of increasing social and political disparities within the world society.

Based on the introduction of my book: Experimentalismus und Soziologie. Von der Krisen- zur Erfahrungswissenschaften. Frankfurt a.M. / New York: Campus, translated by Alex Skinner. The english translation of the book is scheduled for 2021.

Find my post on Sociological Experimentalism within the Corona-Crisis on Campus.de: https://www.campus.de/news/die-aktuelle-ungewissheit-zwingt-zur-reflexion-ueber-bisherige-formen-des-produzierens-des-zusammenlebens-sowie-der-sozialen-und-kulturellen-anerkennung-1261.html

Selected english articles and papers

  • Bogusz, Tanja and Frédéric Keck (2020): “Silent Spring in Europe calls for a New Social Ecology”, in: Somatosphere, 29 April 2020 http://somatosphere.net/2020/silent-spring-in-europe.html/
  • Bogusz, Tanja (2019): „Public Concerns in Sustainability Research. An Experimental Approach“, in: Korn, Matthias et. al. (eds.): Infrastructuring Publics / Making Infrastructures Public. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, pp. 225-242 (online first: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-20725-0_11).
  • Bogusz, Tanja & Estrid Sørensen (2019): „Thinking with Stefan Beck‘s ‚Ecologies of Expertise‘ (2012) & ‚Sachen, Tat-Sachen, Tatsachen‘ (2014)“, in: Niewöhner, Jörg (ed.): After Practice. Thinking through Matter and Meaning relationally. Berlin: Panama Verlag, pp. 137-152.
  • Bogusz, Tanja (2018): „From Crisis to Experiment. Bourdieu and Dewey on Research Practice and Cooperation“, in: Anders Buch & Theodore Schatzki (eds.): Questions of Practice in Philosophy and Social Theory. London & New York: Routledge, pp. 156-175.
  • Bogusz, Tanja (2015): „Doing Biodiversity. An Experimental Heuristics for Collaborative Issue-Formation in Marine Studies“ (unpublished working paper).
  • Bogusz, Tanja, Roberto Frega & Albert Ogien (eds.) (2015): The Pragmatist Method: New Challenges for the Social Sciences and the Humanities. Symposium European Journal for Pragmatism and American Philosophy, Vol. 7 (1).
  • Bogusz, Tanja (2014): “Why (Not) Pragmatism?”, in: Susen, Simon & Bryan S. Turner (eds.): The Spirit of Luc Boltanski. Essays on the ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’. London, New York & Delhi: Anthem Press, pp. 129-152.
  • Bogusz, Tanja (2012): „Experiencing practical knowledge. Emerging convergences between pragmatism and sociological practice theory“, in: European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy, 2011, 2, 2. Symposia: “Pragmatism and the social sciences: A century of influences and interactions”, pp. 32-54.