On qualculation, agency, and otherness

Callon, Michel and Law, John (2005). On qualculation, agency, and otherness. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 23(5) pp. 717–733.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1068/d343t


In this paper we explore the boundary between calculative and noncalculative action by arguing that these are separate but mutually constitutive. By using the notion of qualculation, a neologism coined by Cochoy, we redefine the notion of calculation to include judgment. We then argue that making qualculability is not trivial: that it takes effort to create calculation and judgment. But it also takes effort to consider nonqualculability. Two strategies for achieving nonqualculability are identified, those of rarefaction and proliferation. Rarefaction, illustrated by the cases of Quaker worship and selfless love or agapè, works by withdrawing all qualculative resources. Conversely, proliferation, illustrated by the attribution of cause and responsibility after railway accidents, and by a major television fund-raiser, the ‘Téléthon’, works to impede calculation by an overload of qualculative resources.

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