Redefining the Social Link: From Baboons to Humans

[...] how do baboons know who is dominant or not? Is dominance a fact or an artefact? If it is an artefact, whose artefact is it –is it the observer's, who is searching for a society into which he can put the baboons? (Even in the classic dominance study, the investigator had to intervene by pairing males in contests over food, in order to "discover" the dominance hierarchy.) Or is it a universal problem, one that both observer and baboon have to solve?
Greater stability is acquired only with additional resources; something besides what is encoded in bodies and attainable through social skills is needed. Material resources and symblos can be used to enforce or reinforce a particular view of "what society is" and permit social life to shift away from complexity to what we will call complication. Something is "complicated" when it is made of a succession of simple operations. Computers are the archetype of a complicated structure where tasks are achieved by the machine doing a series of simple steps. We suggest that the shift from complexity to complication is the crucial practical distinction between types of social life.

Bruno Latour
Marc Girod