Where do the limits of experience lie? Abandoning the dualism of objectivity and subjectivity

Christian Greiffenhagen, Wes Sharrock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The relationship between 'subjective' and 'objective' features of social reality (and between 'subjectivist' and 'objectivist' sociological approaches) remains problematic within social thought. Phenomenology is often taken as a paradigmatic example of subjectivist sociology, since it supposedly places exclusive emphasis on actors' 'subjective' interpretations, thereby neglecting 'objective' social structures. In this article, we question whether phenomenology is usefully understood as falling on either side of the standard divides, arguing that phenomenology's conception of 'subjective' experience of social reality includes many features taken to be 'objective' elements of it. We illustrate our argument by a critical examination of Jean Lave's attempt to differentiate social practice theory from phenomenology. We show that many theoretical positions that want to overcome the subjective-objective dualism retain an objectivist conception of the 'subjective' features of social reality. © 2008 SAGE Publications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-93
Number of pages23
JournalHistory of the Human Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008


  • Jean Lave
  • Objectivity
  • Phenomenology
  • Pierre Bourdieu
  • Social practice theory
  • Subjectivity


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