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Processual Sociology$
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Andrew Abbott

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226336596

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226336763.001.0001

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The Problem of Excess1

The Problem of Excess1

Chapter:
(p.122) Chapter 5 The Problem of Excess1
Source:
Processual Sociology
Author(s):

Andrew Abbott

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226336763.003.0005

This article argues for a new branch of theory based not on presumptions of scarcity—which are the foundational presumptions of most existing social theory—but on those of excess. The chapter first discusses the emergence of scarcity’s dominance in social theory. It then considers and rejects the idea that excess of one thing is simply scarcity of another. It discusses the mechanisms by which excess creates problems, noting three such mechanisms at the individual level (paralysis, habituation, and value contextuality) and two further mechanisms (disruption and misinheritance) at the social level. The article then considers four types of strategies with which we address excess: two reduction strategies (defensive and reactive) and two rescaling strategies (adaptive and creative). It closes with some brief illustrations of how familiar questions can be recast from terms of scarcity into terms of excess.

Keywords:   abundance, excess, habituation, scarcity, surfeit

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