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The Social Conditions of Cumulation

Stephan Fuchs and Joseph H. Spear
The American Sociologist
Vol. 30, No. 2 (Summer, 1999), pp. 21-40
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27698910
Page Count: 20
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The Social Conditions of Cumulation
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Abstract

Unlike philosophy, a sociological theory of cumulation cannot legislate the logical or metaphysical criteria which make cumulation in science universally possible. Instead, sociology must explain under which structural conditions cumulation events are more likely to occur than different varieties of change. Organizationally, cumulation events are rational myths, which tend to surface on ritual and ceremonial frontstages directed at concerned and skeptical outsiders. Historically, cumulation presupposes the retrospective closure and coherent periodization of episodes. Structurally, cumulation tends to occur when the intellectual and design spaces of a network or specialty are highly focussed on narrow and isolated dimensions of performance. Technically, much as in natural evolution, cumulative advances are more likely when experimental controls allow for restrictive tinkering on machines and machine-like devices. Cumulation is local, not global; it occurs in the short, not the long, run, and prefers non-turbulent environments.

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