Wittgenstein and the social context of an individual life

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19 Scopus citations


This article argues that two significant implications of Wittgenstein's writings for social thought are (1) that people are constitutively social beings and (2) that the social context of an individual life is nexuses of practice. Part one concretizes these ideas by examining the constitution of action within practices. It begins by criticizing three arguments of Winch's that suggest that action is inherently social. It then spells out two arguments for the practice constitution of action that are extractable from Wittgenstein's remarks. Part two contrasts the conception of the social context of individual life as practices with three historically significant conceptions of such a context: totality; sui generis reality; and abstract structure. It also circumscribes that contemporary movement - practice theory - that develops the Wittgensteinian position and represents, perhaps, his most significant legacy for social thought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-107
Number of pages15
JournalHistory of the Human Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2000


  • Constitution of the individual
  • Practices
  • Sociality
  • Winch
  • Wittgenstein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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