This book presents the core ideas of early sociologist Gabriel Tarde and suggests a new pathway for sociology based on his foundational work. Rejecting anthropocentrism, Tarde highlights the contrast between the natural and the artificial, uniquely emphasizing the positive significance of the artificial in an age in which people have come to distrust it profoundly. Recovering Tarde’s theory today in the context of contemporary as well as classical scholarship, recognizing how it fits with such phenomena as quantum physics and digital media, this book develops the concept of the cosmological imagination as the context for a critical Tardian analysis of artifice that can bring together what we know about our contemporary future-oriented global societies.

How we know the universe, our place in it, the place of other animals and objects in it, our global socialities, our human claims of power and privilege within it, are pointed questions Tarde asks as he wonders whether a future temporality conducive to constant artifice has become our normal human way of life. Considering our ambivalence about modern products and modernity in general, our thinking about the future and our tendency to forget what nature used to signify in its presentation of problems beyond our control, such as illnesses and epidemics, Gabriel Tarde: The Future of the Artificial demonstrates the reasons for which we need to return to Tarde’s work rediscover its relevance for public debate, as we seek to think through the new era and its societies in which culture and nature are no longer distinct.

This book will appeal to scholars of social and political theory with interests in our digital age, new sociologies of materials and objects, neomonadology, and the thought of Gabriel Tarde.

Introduction 1. The Rise of the Artificial 2. A Sociology of the Cosmos 3. The Artifice of the Self 4. Digital Mediation 5. The Return of Nature 6. Imagining the Future Conclusion