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Provocative containment and the drift of social-scientific realism

Abstract : The post-World War II period gave rise to a large number of social-scientific techniques for investigating and intervening in social reality. A particular group of these, exemplified here by the experiments of Moreno, Lewin, Bion, Milgram and Zimbardo, worked by establishing suggestive micro-realities in which participants were exposed to, or experimented with, selected 'social problems'. We investigate the nature of these techniques - being simultaneously highly artificial and disturbingly realistic - and propose the notion of 'provocative containment' to understand their operation and effects. We point to five ingredients of their characteristic mode of operation - expressionism, incitement, trauma, distillation and technology - and argue that they do not serve to represent a simplified version of social reality, but rather to 'realize' particular forms of social life intrinsic to the medium of provocative containment.
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Contributor : Fabian Muniesa <>
Submitted on : Friday, December 7, 2012 - 2:21:27 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 5:08:22 PM



Javier Lezaun, Fabian Muniesa, Signe Vikkelsø. Provocative containment and the drift of social-scientific realism. Journal of Cultural Economy, Routledge, 2013, 6 (3), pp.278-293. ⟨10.1080/17530350.2012.739972⟩. ⟨halshs-00762595⟩



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