The Adventure of Relevance: Speculative Reconstructions in Contemporary Social Science

Savransky, Martin. 2014. The Adventure of Relevance: Speculative Reconstructions in Contemporary Social Science. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

At a time when the institutional and intellectual futures of the social sciences are under threat, there has been growing concern among researchers and policy makers around the question of how to foster and enhance the relevance of their knowledge-practices. This thesis problematises such demands by elaborating a concept of ‘relevance’ that renders it not the product of a subjective act of interpretation, but an event that is part and parcel of the immanent processes by which the facts that compose situations come (in)to matter. By expanding on the work of William Connolly, Gilles Deleuze, John Dewey, Donna Haraway, William James, Michel Serres, Isabelle Stengers and Alfred North Whitehead, among others, I follow the implications of the concept of relevance through a speculative exploration of modes of knowledge-making in contemporary social science. As I show, such an exploration requires a transformation of the ethos with which social scientific inquiries are identified. If the former could be characterised as an ‘ethics of estrangement’ whereby to inquire is to estrange oneself from an apparent reality in order to gain access to a realm of social causes and reasons, an ethos oriented by the concept of relevance must reject that bifurcation of reality and cultivate, instead, a deep empiricism that is both singularly attentive to the coming into matter of the facts that compose a situation, and inventive of propositions that may contribute to the possible transformation of those situations that demand inquiry. It is this latter ethos, one which I call an ‘adventure’, that my thesis develops.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


social theory, methods, speculation, Alfred North Whitehead, Isabelle Stengers, relevance, inquiry, ethics, philosophy of social science, science and technology studies

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December 2014

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Date Deposited:

03 Feb 2015 15:13

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 09:07


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