CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

Context plays a role in many variants of the sociological explanation. Nevertheless : 1 / “Individual-in-context” is a copy of Gestalttheorie’s “figure-on-background”, whose holism is incompatible with all individualistic paradigms ; 2 / Contrarily to Gestalt’s concept of background, “sociological context” is undefined as for scale, limits and content. This is why context cannot be causal subject of a well-formed statement : individuals only are able of action ; 3 / In regard to its objective aspects, context is reduceable to the social network of the individual ; 4 / In regard to its subjective aspects, context is reduceable to a belief of the individual. Sociology of science gives us such a case of a spontaneous reduction : the scientists’ action has been first refered to the “scientific community”, then to “self-regulated communities”, then to “specialized sub-communities” or “invisible colleges”, and finally to “networks of scientific collaboration”. Consequently, it is not necessary to maintain the concept of context, except as a fiction or a way-to-speak : explanatory uses are ill-founded ; referential use is avoidable.

Dominique Raynaud
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