Force, Movement, Intensity
Emma Kowal, Ghassan Hage
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The Newtonian Imagination in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Of all the scientific works that have influenced the social sciences and humanities, none has matched the profound effect of the work of Isaac Newton. In his 1687 masterpiece Principia Mathematica he laid the foundation of classical mechanics in his discoveries of the laws of motion and the law of universal gravitation. He reoriented human understanding of the cosmos, thus boosting the confidence of human beings to access elements of what they saw as the divine logic behind the order of things and to have a sense of control over it. From the nineteenth century to the present day, Newton's science has inspired scholars of society in their attempts to discern the patterns of social life. For others, such a positivist project serves as a cautionary tale to be resisted by contemporary social sciences.
This book considers the original and continuing legacy of Newtonian theories and imaginaries in the vast array of human attempts to understand the world. Drawing from a range of disciplines—including anthropology, sociology, the history of science, literary studies, cultural studies, social theory and economics—the essays in this volume engage with Newton as a thinker and examine his legacy. Some contributions illustrate the power of physical metaphors in understanding the social world; many others point to the limits of this endeavour. Still others show how since the eighteenth century Newtonian thought has influenced thinkers as diverse as Blake, Marx, Freud and Pierre Bourdieu. This innovative collection prompts a reconsideration of the importance of Newton for the social sciences and humanities.
About the authors
Professor Ghassan Hage is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the University of Melbourne's Future Generation Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory. He is the author of White Nation, Against Paranoid Nationalism, and Waiting (MUP). He has researched and published widely in the comparative anthropology of nationalism, multiculturalism, racism and migration.
Emma Kowal is a cultural anthropologist of white anti-racism and Indigenous governance in Australia. She is the co-editor of Moving Anthropology: Critical Indigenous Studies, and her work has been published in journals including American Anthropologist, Social Science and Medicine and Cultural Studies. She is currently a National Health and Medical Research Council Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne.