The Strength of Weak Ties

The Strength of Weak Ties

Key Terms

  • Loosly Coupled Systems
  • Weak Ties
  • Strong Ties
  • Connections
  • Networks
  • Diffusion
  • Lockdown
  • Isolation
  • Quarantine
  • Separation
  • Preferences
  • Epidemiology
  • Tightly Coupled Systems
  • Slack
  • Buffer
  • Communities in Networks
  • Ties
  • Borders
  • Boundaries
  • Brokers
  • Boundary Spanners
  • Cooperation
  • Competition
  • Divisions
  • Risks
  • Contagion
  • Interconnectedness
  • Clusters

The Strength of Weak Ties is quite a relevant topic currently due to focus on

  • Diffusion of Innovation
  • Spread of Diseases
  • Global Supply Chains
  • Community Formation in Networks
  • Communication in Networks
  • Relations between Groups
  • Resilience
  • Risks and Fragility
  • Contagion and Spillovers

The Strength of Weak Ties

Mark Granovetter

The Strength of Weak Ties – Continued

My Related Posts

Boundaries and Networks

Contagion in Financial (Balance sheets) Networks

Boundaries and Relational Sociology

Boundaries and Distinctions

Boundary Spanning in Multinational and Transnational Corporations

FDI vs Outsourcing: Extending Boundaries or Extending Network Chains of Firms

Global Flow of Funds: Statistical Data Matrix across National Boundaries

Balance Sheets, Financial Interconnectedness, and Financial Stability – G20 Data Gaps Initiative

Micro Motives, Macro Behavior: Agent Based Modeling in Economics

Multiplex Financial Networks

Multilevel Approach to Research in Organizations

On Holons and Holarchy

Networks and Hierarchies

Key Sources of Research

The Strength of Weak Ties

Mark Gronovetter

The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 78, No. 6. (May, 1973), pp. 1360-1380

Click to access granovetterTies.pdf

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/The-Strength-of-Weak-Ties-Granovetter/c9aece346139711b8c65c618da99cdbecb162575

THE STRENGTH IN WEAK TIES

WILLIAM T. LIU,  ROBERT W. DUFF

Public Opinion Quarterly, Volume 36, Issue 3, FALL 1972, Pages 361–366, https://doi.org/10.1086/268018

Published: 01 January 1972

https://academic.oup.com/poq/article-abstract/36/3/361/1875803

The Future of Weak Ties

Aral, Sinan. “The Future of Weak Ties.”

American Journal of Sociology 121, no. 6 (May 2016): 1931–1939.

MIT

Attention on Weak Ties in Social and Communication Networks

Lilian Weng, Ma ́rton Karsai, Nicola Perra, Filippo Menczer and Alessandro Flammini

2017

Algebraic Analysis of Social Networks: Models, Methods and Applications Using R

By J. Antonio R. Ostoic

A test of structural features of granovetter’s strength of weak ties theory

Noah Friedkin

Department of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, U.S.A.

Social Networks
Volume 2, Issue 4, 1980, Pages 411-422

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0378873380900064

Social network Analysis
Lecture 5–Strength of weak ties paradox

Donglei Du

Faculty of Business Administration, University of New Brunswick, NB Canada Fredericton E3B 9Y2 (ddu@unb.ca)

Click to access Lec5_weak_tie_handout.pdf

THE STRENGTH OF WEAK TIES: A NETWORK THEORY REVISITED

Mark Granovetter

STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, STONY BROOK

Sociological Theory, Vol. 1 (1983), pp. 201-233
John Wiley & Sons
http://www.jstor.org/stable/202051 .

Social Interactions and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties

Gillian M. Sandstrom, Elizabeth W. Dunn
First Published April 25, 2014
https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167214529799

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167214529799

Information Flow Through Strong and Weak Ties in Intraorganizational Social Networks

Noah E Friedkin

UCSB

Social Networks 3, 1982

Click to access SNIflow.PDF

Time varying networks and the weakness of strong ties

Márton KarsaiNicola PerraAlessandro Vespignani

https://arxiv.org/abs/1303.5966

https://www.technologyreview.com/2013/03/28/83867/how-strong-social-ties-hinder-the-spread-of-rumours/

Strong and Weak Ties

Web Science (VU) (707.000)

Elisabeth Lex
KTI, TU Graz
April 20, 2015

Click to access strongweakties.pdf

Communication boundaries in networks

Trusina, Ala 

Rosvall, Martin 

Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Physics.

Sneppen, Kim 

2005 (English)

In: Physical Review Letters, ISSN 0031-9007, E-ISSN 1079-7114, Vol. 94, no 23, p. 238701-

Narrative, Rhetoric and Possible Worlds

Narrative, Rhetoric and Possible Worlds

‘Time has no being since the future is not yet, the past is no longer, and the present does not remain.’ (Ricoeur 1984: 7)

A rhetorician, I take it, is like one voice in a dialogue. Put several such voices together, with each voicing its own special assertion, let them act upon one another in cooperative competition, and you get a dialectic that, properly developed, can lead to the views transcending the limitations of each.

-KENNETH BURKE
“Rhetoric-Old and New” (1950)

Connecting Scenarios with Strategy and Action

How to bring about social, organizational, and strategic change?

For several years now, I have been attempting to piece together various strands of knowledge scattered around in boundaries of institutions and academic disciplines. I see a pattern emerging as to how we can attempt to bring about social, cultural, organizational change for strategic management.

More I read and learn, I find astonishing that all we need now is ability to read past knowledge hidden in old books correctly.

Dialectic (Alternatives/Scenarios) + Narratives (Stories) + Rhetoric (Persuasion) = Effective communication and action with scenarios for strategic management.

Narrative Scenarios

Source: Creating narrative scenarios: Science fiction prototyping at Emerge

Scenarios are stories. In the diverse field of scenario planning, this is perhaps the single point of universal agreement. Yet if scenarios are stories, their literary qualities are often underdeveloped. Scenarios used in business and government frequently do not contain a relatable protagonist, move a plot toward resolution, or compellingly use metaphor, imagery, or other emotionally persuasive techniques of literature. In these cases, narrative is relegated to an adjunct role of summarizing the final results of the workshop. While this neglect of narrative may be reasonable in some contexts, the power of narrative should not be underestimated. Scenario planning methodologies can benefit from using diverse narrative techniques to craft compelling and infectious visions of the future. This article explores the relationship between science fiction and scenarios as story genres and investigates a creative story-telling technique, ‘‘Science Fiction Prototyping’’ (Johnson, 2011). While the method is promising, it is an ultimately problematic means to incorporating narrative into scenario planning.

Key Terms

  • Possible Worlds
  • Futures
  • Narratives
  • Meaning Making
  • Temporality
  • Scenarios
  • Alternatives
  • Rhetoric and Dialectic
  • Acts of Meaning
  • Actual Minds, Possible Worlds
  • World Views
  • Beliefs
  • Culture
  • Meaningful
  • Competition
  • Cooperation
  • Coopetition
  • Socially Extended Mind
  • Six Degrees of Separation
  • Strategic Management
  • Law of Requisite Variety
  • Explicit vs Implicit
  • Tacit Knowledge
  • Assumptions
  • Contextual Environment
  • Operative Environment
  • Many Futures
  • Possibilities Space
  • Uncertainty
  • Complexity
  • Ambiguity
  • Normative Futures
  • Strategic Change Management
  • Social Change
  • Organizational Change
  • Cultural Change
  • Images of the Future
  • Subjunctivization
  • Jerome Bruner
  • Kenneth Burke
  • Strategy as Practice
  • Narrative Scenarios
  • Narratives and Strategy
  • Matti Hyvärinen
  • Victor Turner
  • Groups
  • Boundaries
  • Hierarchies
  • Inclusion and Exclusion
  • Networks

The narrative turn and Bruner’s contributions.

Source: Jerome Bruner and the challenges of the narrative turn

I take Jerome Bruner’s books, articles, and chapters that relate to narrative as a starting point for my contribution. He published most these texts between 1985 and 1991 (Bruner, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991). Later, at 80 years of age, Bruner published a book on culture, education and narrative (Bruner, 1996), and more recently, a monograph on narratives (Bruner, 2002). The texts he wrote in the second half of the 1980s are at the heart of his contribution to the narrative field. The two later books mentioned are reworked texts on the same subject matter, though with a focus on education and law, on which he also co-authored another important book (Amsterdam & Bruner, 2000).

In the mid-1980s, drawing on the discipline of psychology, Bruner sets criticism of cognitive psychology as a basis for his work, stressing that cognitive psychology had betrayed and narrowed down its initial agenda, to which he himself had so resolutely contributed. Its approach progressively had morphed into a simplistic approach to the processing of information; or, in other words, into a computational model of the mind.

Bruner throws into these foundational texts his theoretical and ideological interests, in a search for connections between psychology on the one hand, and literature, humanities and anthropology on the other. This is an innovative, courageous approach that aimed at shaking the foundations of the psychological study of language, cognition, education, personality, self and identity.

Bruner places himself within the framework of a tradition which he upholds and to which he wants to contribute. A classical precedent among the ancestors of this tradition would be Aristotle’s Poetics, in addition to the much more recent L. S. Vygotsky, A. Schütz, M. Weber, K. Burke and C. Geertz. The interpretive turn, according to Bruner, started in the first quarter of the 20th century, first surfacing in literature, then moving on successively to history, social sciences and epistemology, and eventually reaching the domain of education between the 80s and 90s. Towards the mid-70s meaning became a central element in social sciences. The moment of transition specifically related to the narrative turn (understood as the growing interest in narrative in both research and practice) occurred over the course of the 80s, which, according to Bruner, is when the idea of self as a narrator or a storyteller became more evident. This new momentum was reflected in a short space of time in various influential books from different disciplines: oral history (P. Thompson, F. Ferrarotti), anthropology (C. Geertz), sociology (D. Bertaux, K. Plummer, N. Denzin), philosophy (P. Ricoeur), education (I. Goodson, G. Pineau), and the humanities (D. Polkinghorne). It is interesting to note that all of these books were published within a seven-year period, which shows that the ecology of ideas shapes emerging paradigms based on a set of new, shared assumptions across different fields.

These epistemological transformations form part of a broader intellectual movement – the qualitative approach. This approach has been characterized by its critical stance vis-à-vis positivism, the broader redefinition of the concept of human sciences, a focus on interpretation and on the construction of meaning, as well as the use of qualitative research methods and techniques, such as the open interview, participative observation, action research, and life stories. Constructivism, postmodernism and literary studies on their part have influenced the development of these tendencies, and the said approaches have had a major impact on psychology and education. It is therefore in this grand panorama of epistemological and methodological renovation where we are to place Jerome Bruner, as the innovator of the narrative paradigm that he is (Spector-Mersel, 2010; Domingo, 2005; Shore, 1997).

Bruner has highlighted the importance of meaning as a central process of the individual mind as well as of social interaction. In psychology there can be no avoiding of the problem of meaning, and when it is tackled, the creation of meaning needs to be placed within a community of practice. Culturalism assumes a shared and symbolic mode of preserving, creating and communicating the human world. Meanings have a situated character and this allows their negotiability and communicability. Bruner frequently mentions C. Geertz when specifying his own conception of culture, and emphasizes Geertz’s idea of cultures as texts (Lutkehaus, 2008; Mattingly, Lutkehaus & Throop, 2008). Within this cultural perspective, Bruner’s contribution finds itself placed within the vast domain of cultural psychology, in which he connects with researchers such as as M. Cole, B. Rogoff and J. V. Wertsch.

Characteristics and functions of narratives.

Bruner returns to earlier studies on narrative, he redefines them and brings them into the sphere of social sciences, and into cultural psychology in particular (for a synthesis on narrative and psychology until 1980, see Polkinghorne, 1987, pp. 101-123). In taking on this task, Bruner is conscious of the difficulties and the risks of his intellectual venture. But he also considers his initiative a way to invigorate the intellectual and methodological situation of psychology and other social sciences in the mid-80s. Bruner begins this phase with a text of enormous influence (Bruner, 1985), in which he defends the existence of two basic modes of thinking: paradigmatic or logical-scientific thinking and narrative thinking. The two modes operate with different means, ends and legitimacy criteria. The narrative mode is based on common knowledge and stories; it is interested in the vicissitudes of human actions, it develops practical and situated knowledge; it has a temporal structure and it emphasizes the agentivity of social actors (Bruner, 1985, 1987, 1991).

Bruner has shown great interest in literature and has explored the potential contributions of literature to social sciences. He points out that modern science has become less ontological and more epistemological, adding that literature has developed in the same direction. Literature offers a new and open outlook on the world. This is crucial for education, a field that can be characterized by the development of critical conscience and by the search for alternatives and possibilities. This is why Bruner affirms that democratic classrooms are the ideal place for novelists and poets, while dictatorships control literature and hinder creativity.

By concentrating on narrative, Bruner maintains and deepens his interest in language. This does not solely entail language development in babies and children but also the acquisition and evolution of narrative competence, a subject linked to the understanding of the minds of others. It also refers to philosophical and sociocultural dimensions of human language. Language is not neutral and this has profound implications when it is used in scientific, educational, social and political contexts. The visibility that Bruner has given to language and cognition is also important to note. He highlights the significance of speech and orality – which taken in their everyday contexts can be described as processes of expression, negotiation and exchange – out of which the theories emerge that guide people in their everyday lives to understand themselves as well as to understand others and to interact with them. This is related to studies on folk psychology, which are based on the contents and processes of knowledge of ordinary people. Here we find also, as part of a broader movement, the so-called linguistic turn. Contrary to Saussure’s conception of language as an abstract, balanced system, the new tendencies take an interactive and dialogical perspective, and underline the functions of speech in real, natural, everyday communicative contexts. In this field we can also not forget the influence of Bakhtin and his circle.

In addition, narratives are characterized by their complexity. Stories are about problems, dilemmas, contradictions and imbalances. They connect the past, the present and the future, and they link past experiences with what may be yet to come. Bruner calls this process of imagining and creating alternatives subjunctivization. For this reason he insists on the importance of the possible worlds, even in sectors such as law, in which the possibility of contemplating or foreseeing alternatives seemingly does not exist (Bruner, 2002). This capacity of narratives for imagining and constructing other worlds, and for trying to make them a reality, is an essential feature of the human capacity to transform our own selves as well as our social contexts. Narrative reality has a high level of complexity, which manifests itself through its specific characteristics: temporality, generic particularity, interpretability, implied canonicity, negotiability, ambiguous reference and historical extension (Bruner, 1996, 133-147).

Bruner has emphasized and criticized our ignorance of the subject of narrative. The knowledge of the ways in which we interpret, construct and use stories has been nonexistent or marginal in the education system as well as in other areas. Bruner also criticizes the lack of interest in narrative and the emphasis on logical-scientific knowledge modes (we know more about the right-angled triangle than about Aristotle’s Poetics). In an attempt to change the situation, Bruner has invested much effort into introducing narrative to research, teaching, law and social debates. Teaching the art of narrative and storytelling represents a necessity but, at the same time, a challenge given the difficulty of the task.

Books by Jerome Bruner

Source: Wikipedia

Narratives in Organizational Studies

Source: A Review of Narrative Methodology

Case studies of narrative in organisational studies demonstrate how narrative can be used to effect cultural change, transfer complex tacit knowledge through implicit communication, construct identity, aid education, contribute to sense making, act as a source of understanding, and study decision making.

This review of storytelling positions narrative research largely within the postmodernist paradigm. Postmodernism came into use during the late 20 century, and questions the modernist philosophical assumptions of rationality and universal truth, and the application of scientific empirical methods to problem solving. Instead, postmodernism emphasises that knowledge is value-laden, and reality is based on multiple perspectives, with truth grounded in everyday life involving social interactions amongst individuals. Context plays a crucial role in the social construction of reality and knowledge. Its criticism of the modernist or positivist (empirical, rational) paradigm is based on the concept of social representation. Postmodernism is said to account for this limitation in modernism by acknowledging that stories told through language as the medium are constitutive of reality. Postmodernism emphasises the social nature of knowledge creation.

There is some indication that the narrative approach is gradually gaining recognition in various disciplines including those outside the social sciences. The approach is said to enable capture of social representation processes such as feelings, images, and time. It offers the potential to address ambiguity, complexity, and dynamism of individual, group, and organisational phenomena.

Rhetoric in Organizational and Social Sciences

Affective Rhetoric: Unity and Division

Source: Affective Rhetoric in China’s Internet Culture

According to Burke, rhetoric is “the use of language as a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols” (Rhetoric 43). Rhetoric induces cooperation through symbols to effect an identification between a speaker and an audience and among members of organizations and social groups. It therefore also, and necessarily, both unifies individuals and groups and divides them from one another. It is thus a “simultaneous identification-with and division-from” (46). As recent scholarship has demonstrated, however, Burke’s view of language encompasses both its symbolic and affective dimensions (Hawhee 83-86). In Permanence and Change, Burke observes the “remarkable affective responsiveness” required “to be terrified at a gun the first time in one’s life a gun is pointed at one, and without ever having been shot” (149). This affective responsiveness is not solely a bodily reaction but is a consequence of “our interpretations of the signs, [which,] be they true or false, can instigate the most intense affections” (149). Debra Hawhee explains this affective responsiveness as “a serialized process of meaning making whereby affect enters at every step, forming and reforming what is called rational” (84). In Language as Symbolic Action, Burke insists that computers are incapable of this kind of affective responsiveness. Computers, he explains, “not being biological organisms, . . . lack the capacity for pleasure or pain (to say nothing of such subtler affective states as malice, envy, amusement, condescension, friendliness, sentimentality, embarrassment, etc.)” (23). Contemporary theories of affect show, however, how computers can facilitate and enable the serialized process of meaning making that Hawhee attributes to Burke.

Persuasion in the Rhetorical Tradition

Source: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.686.8630&rep=rep1&type=pdf

List of selected studies

Source: Strategy as Practice and the Narrative Turn

Key References

  • Introduction to Narrative For Futures Studies
  • Creating narrative scenarios: Science fiction prototyping at Emerge
  • Strategy as Practice and the Narrative Turn

My Related Posts

Networks, Narratives, and Interaction

Kenneth Burke and Dramatism

Erving Goffman: Dramaturgy of Social Life

Narrative Psychology: Language, Meaning, and Self

Psychology of Happiness: Value of Storytelling and Narrative Plays

Phenomenological Sociology

Phenomenology and Symbolic Interactionism

Global Trends, Scenarios, and Futures: For Foresight and Strategic Management

Shell Oil’s Scenarios: Strategic Foresight and Scenario Planning for the Future

Water | Food | Energy | Nexus: Mega Trends and Scenarios for the Future

On Anticipation: Going Beyond Forecasts and Scenarios

Strategy | Strategic Management | Strategic Planning | Strategic Thinking

Art of Long View: Future, Uncertainty and Scenario Planning

Third and Higher Order Cybernetics

A Unifying Model of Arts

Key Sources of Research:

A Tripartite Self-Construction Model of Identity

LEOR COHEN

Bar-Ilan University

In TELLING STORIES: Language, Narrative, and Social Life 

Deborah Schiffrin, Anna De Fina, and Anastasia Nylund, Editors

The Narrative Construction of Reality

Jerome Bruner

Critical Inquiry 18 (Autumn 1991)

Click to access bruner1991narrative.pdf

NARRATIVES OF AGING 

JEROME BRUNER*

New York University

Jerome Bruner and the challenges of the narrative turn

Then and now

José González Monteagudo University of Seville, Spain

(Narrative Inquiry, Clark University/USA, 21, 2, 295-302, ISSN: 1368-6740).

https://idus.us.es/bitstream/handle/11441/70368/2011%20ar%20Bruner%20Preprint.pdf?sequence=1

Life as Narrative

Jerome Bruner

Click to access Bruner_J_LifeAsNarrative.pdf

Chapter 1
Narrative Inquiry: From Story to Method

Margaret S. Barrett and Sandra L. Stauffer

In Narrative Inquiry in Music Education : Troubling Certainty

Jerome Bruner. A psychologist beyond any border

Piero Paolicchi pierpaolic@gmail.com

Introduction to Narrative For Futures Studies

Vuokko Jarva

University of Helsinki Finland

Journal of Futures Studies, March 2014, 18(3): 5-26

Reaching for Meaning : Human Agency and the Narrative Imagination

Jens Brockmeier
Theory Psychology 2009 19: 213

DOI: 10.1177/0959354309103540

Click to access Reaching-for-Meaning.pdf

Complexity Thinking, Complex Practice: The case for a narrative approach to Organizational Complexity

Mary J Hatch

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.621.6579&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Conversation at the Border Between Organizational Culture Theory
and Institutional Theory

Mary Jo Hatch and Tammar Zilber

Journal of Management Inquiry
21(1) 94–97
2012
DOI: 10.1177/1056492611419793

Cultural Paradigms in Management Sciences 

Łukasz Sułkowski

Management and Business Administration.Central Europe

Vol.22,No.3(122):p.50–57,ISSN2084–3356

Click to access MBA_03_2013_Sulkowski_050.pdf

USING STORIES IN ORGANIZATIONAL RESEARCH

Yiannis Gabriel

School of Management Imperial College

From:
Cassell, Catherine and Gillian Symon (eds.), An essential guide to qualitative research methods in organizations, Sage Publications, London

Making Sense of Stories: A Rhetorical Approach to Narrative Analysis

Martha S. Feldman

University of California at Irvine

Kaj Sko ̈ldberg

Stockholm University

Ruth Nicole Brown Debra Horner University of Michigan

The Sociology of Storytelling

Francesca Polletta, Pang Ching Bobby Chen,

Beth Gharrity Gardner, and Alice Motes

Department of Sociology, University of California, Irvine, California 92697; email: polletta@uci.edu, chenpc@uci.edu, gardnerb@uci.edu, amotes@uci.edu

Annu. Rev. Sociol. 2011. 37:109–30

This article’s doi: 10.1146/annurev-soc-081309-150106

Click to access Polletta,%20Chen,%20Gardner%20&%20Motes%20(2011)%20-%20The%20sociology%20of%20storytelling.pdf

Strategy as Practice and the Narrative Turn

Christopher Fenton

HEC Montréal

Ann Langley

HEC Montréal

Organization Studies 32(9) 1171–1196 /2011

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0170840611410838

Click to access GePS-08-06.pdf

What Is Complexity Science? A Possible Answer from Narrative Research

 John T. Luhman & David M. Boje

EMERGENCE, 3(1), 158–68
2001,

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.594.3354&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Phenomenology of embodied implicit and narrative knowing

Wendelin Ku ̈pers
Wendelin Ku ̈pers is a Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the Open University Hagen, Hagen, Germany.

JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT j VOL. 9 NO. 6 2005, pp. 114-133

RETELLING STORIES IN ORGANIZATIONS: UNDERSTANDING THE FUNCTIONS OF NARRATIVE REPETITION

STEPHANIE L. DAILEY
The University of Texas at Austin

LARRY BROWNING
The University of Texas at Austin and University of Nordland

Academy of Management Review 2014, Vol. 39, No. 1, 22–43. http://dx.doi.org/10.5465/amr.2011.0329

https://digital.library.txstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10877/9375/dailey2.pdf?sequence=1

Narrative Temporality: Implications for Organizational Research

Ann L. Cunliffe, John T. Luhman and David M. Boje

Organization Studies
25(2): 261–286 ISSN 0170–8406 /2004

Time and Narrative Volume 1

Paul Ricoeur

1984

Translated by Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer

The Handbook of Narrative Analysis, First Edition.

Edited by Anna De Fina and Alexandra Georgakopoulou.

© 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

NARRATIVES AND PROCESSUALITY

Anniina Rantakari

University of Oulu anniina.rantakari@oulu.fi

Eero Vaara
Aalto University School of Business EMLYON Business School Lancaster University eero.vaara@aalto.fi

A Review of Narrative Methodology


Narrative and Rhetorical Approaches to Problems of Education.

Jerome Bruner and Kenneth Burke Revisited

Kris Rutten • Ronald Soetaert

Published online: 24 August 2012

Stud Philos Educ (2013) 32:327–343 DOI 10.1007/s11217-012-9324-5

Applying Burke’s Dramatic Pentad to scenarios

Allan W Shearer

Department of Landscape Architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design, 48 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

Available online 21 May 2004.

Creating narrative scenarios: Science fiction prototyping at Emerge

Michael Burnam-Fink 

Futures 70 (2015) 48–55

Gramma of Motives: The Drama of Plato’s Tripartite Psychology

John J. Jasso

Philosophy & Rhetoric Vol. 53, No. 2 (2020), pp. 157-180 (24 pages) 

Published By: Penn State University Press 

https://doi.org/10.5325/philrhet.53.2.0157

Kenneth Burke on Dialectical-Rhetorical Transcendence

James P. Zappen

Philosophy & Rhetoric 

Vol. 42, No. 3 (2009), pp. 279-301 (23 pages) 

Published By: Penn State University Press

Affective Rhetoric in China’s Internet Culture

10th Triennial Kenneth Burke Society Conference Conflicts & Communities: Burke Studies in a World Divided East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, June 8-11, 2017

James P. Zappen

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

CHAPTER 1
Persuasion in the Rhetorical Tradition

J. Michael Hogan

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.686.8630&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Click to access 51183_CH_1.pdf

Kenneth Burke’s New Deal

Dries Vrijders Ghent University

https://www.monmouth.edu/department-of-english/documents/kenneth-burkes-new-deal.pdf/

‘Dramatistic to the Core’: Allen Tate and A Grammar of Motives

M. Elizabeth Weiser Ohio State University

The Space Between, Volume V:1 2009 ISSN 1551-9309

https://www.monmouth.edu/department-of-english/documents/dramatistic-to-the-core-allen-tate-and-a-grammar-of-motives.pdf/

Rhetoric of Motives

Kenneth Burke

Click to access kenneth_burke_-_a_rhetoric_of_motives_1950.pdf

Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative.

Jahn, Manfred. 2005.

English Department, University of Cologne.

Click to access 0cef85a3-0b78-4bf8-8fa2-f2e8e57f5092.pdf

‘Roleplaying to Improve Resilience’. 

Shearer, A. W.

Architecture_MPS 18, 1 (2021): 6. DOI: https://doi.org/10.14324/111.444.amps.2020v18i1.006.

Does the intuitive logics method – and its recent enhancements – produce “effective” scenarios?

George Wright a,⁎, Ron Bradfield b, George Cairns

Technological Forecasting & Social Change (2012)

The Handbook of Narrative Analysis

Edited by

Anna De Fina and Alexandra Georgakopoulou

From Ritual to Theater

the Human Seriousness of Play

Victor Turner

Victor Turner’s Postmodern Theory of Social Drama:

Implications for Organization Studies

David M. Boje, Ph.D., New Mexico State University

August 1, 2003

https://business.nmsu.edu/~dboje/theatrics/7/victor_turner.htm

A Narrative to Approach to Strategy as Practice: strategy making from texts and narratives.

Valérie-Inès de la Ville, Eléonore Mounoud.

Damon Golsorkhi; Linda Rouleau; David Seidl; Eero Vaara.

Cambridge Handbook of Strategy as Practice, Cambridge University Press, pp.249-264, 2015, 978- 1107421493. halshs-01390100

https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01390100/document

Rhetoric, Discourse and Argument in Organizational Sense Making: A Reflexive Tale

Tony J. Watson

First Published September 1, 1995 

https://doi.org/10.1177/017084069501600503

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/017084069501600503

A narrative approach to strategy-as-practice.

Brown, A.D. & Thompson, E.R. 2013.

Business History 55, 7: 1143-1167

https://www.academia.edu/4965170/A_narrative_approach_to_strategy_as_practice

Kenneth Burke’s Dramatistic Pragmatism:
A Missing Link between Classical Greek Scholarship and the Interactionist Study of Human Knowing and Acting1

Robert Prus

University of Waterloo, Canada

2017 QSR Volume XIII Issue 2

Click to access QSR_13_2_Prus.pdf

Jerome Bruner

Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome_Bruner

CLASSICAL RHETORIC
History of Classical Rhetoric – An overview of its early development (1)

BY BRIAN LEGGETT
Posted on October 16, 2012

Phenomenological Sociology

Phenomenological Sociology

Key Terms

  • Interaction
  • Networks
  • Culture
  • Acts of Meaning
  • Grammar of Motives
  • Intention
  • Context
  • Frames
  • Meaning
  • Symantic
  • Symbolic
  • Self, Mind, Society
  • Self, Culture, Nature
  • Contextually dependent form of Meaning
  • Pragmatic
  • Phenomenological Sociology (Alfred Schutz)
  • Cultural Sociology
  • Phenomenology
  • Sociology
  • Mind
  • Phenomenological Hermenutics
  • Intersubjectivity
  • Transcendental Phenomenology (Edmund Husserl)
  • Transcendental Subjectivity
  • Interpretive Sociology (Max Weber)
  • Mundane Phenomenology ( Alfred Schutz)
  • Life World
  • Embeddedness in Society
  • Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann in The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge
  • Ethnomethodology introduced by Harold Garfinkel in the early 1960s
  • Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger
  • The Phenomenology of the Social World (1932/1972), Collected Papers I-III (1962-1966), and The Structures of the Life-World, co-authored by Thomas Luckmann and published in 1973 (Alfred Schutz)
  • George Psathas

Source: Phenomenological Sociology – The Subjectivity of Everyday Life

The Phenomenological Sociology of Everyday Life

Among the key figures in phenomenological sociology are Alfred Schutz (1899-1959), author of the works The Phenomenology of the Social World (1932/1972), Collected Papers I-III (1962-1966), and The Structures of the Life-World, co-authored by Thomas Luckmann and published in 1973; Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, authors of the book The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (1966/1991); and finally Harold Garfinkel, whose most important publication in this context is Studies in Ethnomethodology (1967). These will be dealt with below.

Alfred Schutz

Alfred Schutz is often referred to as the founder of phenomenological sociology. Schutz originally studied law and obtained his PhD from Vienna in 1921. Subsequently, he worked in a bank, however, and it was not until 1943, after his emigration to the USA, that Schutz obtained a part-time position at a university, namely New School for Social Research in New York. In 1952 he became professor at the same institution.

Schutz was initially inspired by Max Weber’s interpretive sociology. However, although Weber regarded meaningful action as the central topic of the social sciences, and although he emphasized the importance of an explicit thematization of the meaning that the individual actor attributes to her own action, he did not examine the constitution of social meaning as such, and was generally uninterested in fundamental questions in epistemology and the theory of meaning. It is precisely this gap that Schutz attempts to fill by combining Weber’s sociology with Husserl’s phenomenological methodology (Schutz 1932/1972:13).

Schutz claims that we experience the world as containing various relatively distinct and independent provinces of meaning (Schutz 1962:230). Dreams, for example, have their own unique temporal and spatial ‘logic’. The same goes for children’s play, stage performances, religious experience, and so on. According to Schutz, science and research, too, take place within a distinct province of meaning. One region has a special status, however, and that is the life-world. This is not only because it is the region in which we spend most of our lives. Equally important is the fact that each of the other regions, or limited ‘realities’, is a modification of the life-world. The ‘realities’ of science and of dreams, for example, are regions that one enters by ‘bracketing’ or ‘switching off’ in some way the quotidian life-world; and to that extent they both fundamentally presuppose the reality of the life-world (Schutz 1962:231-233; see Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:39-40). Following Husserl, Schutz employs the term epoché for such ‘switching off’. When we dream, for example, we perform an epoché on the rules that in everyday reality govern the identities of persons and places. Most of us are thus familiar with dreams in which an event that takes place in one country switches to another location, without this being perceived as particularly odd within the universe of the dream.

Since it is the life-world rather than the mathematicized world of science that constitutes the frame and stage of social relations and actions, the sociologist, Schutz argues, should take her point of departure in the former. What is needed is a systematic examination of everyday life, and this requires a new type of sociological theory. Schutz’s concrete contribution here is twofold. First, he aims to describe and analyze the essential structures of the life-world. Second, he offers an account of the way in which subjectivity is involved in the construction of social meaning, social actions and situations – indeed social ‘worlds’. Relying on Husserl’s analyses of intentionality and the life-world, Schutz accordingly claims that the social world reveals and manifests itself in various intentional experiences. Its meaningfulness is constituted by subjects, and in order to understand and scientifically address the social world it is therefore necessary to examine the social agents for whom it exists as such.

It is partly for this reason that Schutz claims that the subject matter of the social sciences is more complex than that of the natural sciences. As he puts it, the social sciences must employ ‘constructs of the second degree’ (Schutz 1962:6), because the ‘objects’ of these sciences – social agents – themselves employ ‘first-order constructs’ of the reality around them. Of course, the social sciences must satisfy the same sorts of requirements as other empirical sciences: scientific results must be controllable and reproducible by other scientists working in the field, and scientific theories must be precise, consistent, and so on (Schutz 1962:49-52). Schutz also stresses that social scientists and natural scientists alike are motivated by other, more theoretical interests than the everyday person is guided by. The everyday person is an agent rather than a theoretical observer; she has practical interests and is normally guided by common-sense knowledge and understanding. The social scientist, by contrast, is not an agent in the social relations she studies. A scientific researcher, regardless of whether she studies social hierarchies in Scottish factories or electrons and amino acids, is an observer, not a participant. Schutz thus insists that the social scientist must maintain a distance to the phenomena she studies. However, the social sciences examine human beings in manifold social relations, and human agents have interests, motives, self-interpretation and an understanding of the world they live in – all of which must be taken into account if we want to understand social reality in its full concretion (Schutz 1962:6; Gurwitsch 1974:129). This radically distinguishes social science from natural science: the latter obviously has no need to take into account the self-understanding and self-interpretation of the objects studied (electrons and amino acids have no self-understanding). Schutz thus emphatically rejects reductionist programs, such as behaviourism and positivism, which attempt to reduce human action to observable behaviour and stimulus-response mechanisms. The social scientist must construct credible models of everyday agents – models that include such things as consciousness, motives and understanding. The task is to make explicit the meaning and significance these structures and relations have for the observed agents themselves (see Schutz 1964:7).

For Schutz, the investigation of intersubjectivity – in particular, of how one subject has experiential access to another subject, and how a community of ‘we’ is constituted – has a central place in sociological theory (see Schutz 1932/1972:97-99). A further task is to give an account of how a multitude of experiences can constitute the structures of meaning that make up social reality. As Schutz writes, every science of social meaning refers back to our meaning-constituting life in the social world: to our everyday experience of other persons, to our understanding of pre-given meanings, and to our initiation of new meaningful behaviour (Schutz 1932/1972:9). Schutz’s phenomenological perspective thus emphasizes that the primary object of sociology is not institutions, market conjunctures, social classes or structures of power, but human beings, that is, acting and experiencing individuals, considered in their myriad relations to others, but also with an eye to their own, meaning-constituting subjective lives. Schutz’s point, of course, is not that sociology should have no interest whatsoever in institutions, power structures, and the like. Rather, he merely insists that a concept such as ‘power structure’ must be regarded as a sort of ‘intellectual shorthand’, which can be useful for certain purposes, but must never lead us to forget that, in the end, power structures presuppose experiencing, interpreting and acting individuals (Schutz 1962:34-35; 1964:6-7). Along with Husserl and other phenomenologists, Schutz thus understands sociality as inter- subjectivity – that is, as something that is ultimately anchored in individual subjects.

According to Schutz, each of us experiences his or her social environment as structured in ‘strata’ or ‘layers’ around himself or herself. Temporally as well as spatially, these layers are, for each individual, structured with that individual as the centre. With regard to the temporal structure, Schutz distinguishes between three layers or spheres:

In the dimension of time there are with reference to me in my actual biographical moment ‘contemporaries’, with whom a mutual interplay of action and reaction can be established; ‘predecessors’, upon whom I cannot act, but whose past actions and their outcome are open to my interpretation and may influence my own actions; and ‘successors’, of whom no experience is possible but toward whom I may orient my actions in a more or less empty anticipation. All these relations show the most manifold forms of intimacy and anonymity, of familiarity and strangeness, of intensity and extensity (Schutz 1962:15-16; see Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:46-49).

With regard to my contemporaries, there are various layers of ‘spatial’ proximity and distance, familiarity and strangeness. Some people are part of my immediate environment. Schutz says that I have a ‘face-to-face’ relationship with those people, but this expression is intended to refer to ‘a purely formal aspect of social relationship equally applicable to an intimate talk between friends and the co-presence of strangers in a railroad car’ (Schutz 1962:16; see Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:43-46). Obviously, even in the course of a whole lifetime, I have this sort of spatial proximity with only a very small percentage of the population of the world. This does not mean, however, that the rest of humanity is not part of my environing world at all. There is some mutual contact and influence, however vague, indirect and insignificant, between most of my contemporaries and me.

According to Schutz, the experience of the life-world is a process of typification. We employ a repertoire of maxims and recipes – a type of practical ‘know-how’ – for understanding and dealing with the world and other people. Objects in the life-world are not simply unique, individual entities, but ‘mountains’, ‘trees’, ‘houses’, ‘animals’, and ‘persons’. No matter what we encounter, it is something whose more or less general ‘type’ we are familiar with. A person who has only very limited knowledge of trees can perhaps not tell whether the tree she passes in the woods is an elm or a beech, but she sees it immediately as ‘a tree’. In other words, we have a kind of immediate knowledge about how to understand our environment. The primary source of this knowledge is previous experience – both experiences we have had ourselves, and experience transmitted to us by others.

Obviously, typifications also play an important role in our social life. We immediately experience others in a typified manner. Not only people with whom we are personally acquainted or bump into on the train, or with whom we communicate via the internet, but also people with whom we never have any direct contact; indeed, we even typify in various ways our predecessors and possible successors. In fact, we do not only experience objects and living creatures as typified, but also actions, situations, motives, personalities, and so forth. Schutz writes:

Putting a letter in the mailbox, I expect that unknown people, called postmen, will act in a typical way, not quite intelligible to me, with the result that my letter will reach the addressee within typically reasonable time. Without ever having met a Frenchman or a German, I understand ‘Why France fears the rearmament of Germany’. Complying with a rule of English grammar, I follow a socially approved behaviour pattern of contemporary English-speaking fellow-men to which I have to adjust my own behaviour in order to make myself understandable. And, finally, any artefact or utensil refers to the anonymous fellow-man who produced it to be used by other anonymous fellow-men for attaining typical goals by typical means (Schutz 1962:17; see Schutz 1932/1972:185).

An action such as putting a letter in the mailbox involves a typification of other people and their motives in time and space. I implicitly assume that certain typical other people have certain typical motives (for example, that they want to do their job well) and therefore will perform certain typical actions in such a way that my letter will arrive at its destination. According to Schutz, another element in this pattern of typification is an assumption that others have ‘systems of relevancies’ that are similar to my own (Schutz 1962:12); in other words, that others will by and large consider those things important that I myself regard as important. Of course, Schutz does not claim that we implicitly assume that others’ interests, projects and tastes are exactly like our own. Rather, he is trying to direct attention to something much more fundamental. If I send a letter to China, for example, I assume that Chinese postal workers will consider the address written on the envelope more important than, say, the size or colour of the envelope, when determining to which part of China the letter should be sent. According to Schutz, this idea about the ‘congruence of the systems of relevancies’ is part of a larger complex of implicit assumptions, which he calls the thesis of ‘the reciprocity of perspectives’ (Schutz 1962:11, 147). We do not merely assume that our systems of relevancies are in tune, but also that we should view things in the same way if we could view them from other people’s perspectives. This point applies not only to spatial perspectives, but also to culturally, historically and biographically conditioned ‘perspectives’.

As an agent in the life-world, however, I not only typify others. For example, my very imperfect understanding of the motives and actions of postal workers will lead me to typify some of my own actions when posting a letter. I try to write in such a way that a typical postal worker will be able to decipher my handwriting; I write the address in a typical place on the envelope, etc. Briefly put, I try to make myself the typical ‘sender of a letter’ (see Schutz 1962:25-26).

In connection with his analyses of the typifying assumptions that are implicit in any life- worldly action, Schutz also offers a close analysis of the motives for actions. He argues that we need to distinguish between two types of motives: ‘in-order-to’ motives and ‘because’ motives. An agent’s in-order-to motive is what she wants to achieve with the action – her aim or purpose. From the perspective of the agent, the in-order-to motive is thus directed at the future, that is, at the state of affairs that the action is supposed to realize. The because motive, in contrast, has to do with the agent’s past and the circumstances that made her seriously consider the course of action she adopts. Schutz’s favourite example involves a person who commits murder in order to obtain the victim’s money. The in-order-to motive is straightforward: the purpose is to obtain money. The because motive is rather more complex, in that it includes all the factors that contributed to putting the agent in a situation where she could project and carry out this action. Her problematic childhood and her drug addiction may, for example, be part of the because motive. In ordinary language, both types of motive can be expressed by ‘because’ utterances, while only in-order-to motives can be expressed by ‘in-order- to’ utterances. It makes sense to say both ‘I hit him because I wanted his money’ and ‘I hit him because I was abused as a child’, but only the former sentence can be turned into an ‘in- order-to’ sentence. ‘I hit him in order to get his money’ makes perfect sense; ‘I hit him in order to have been abused as a child’ does not (Schutz 1962:69-72).

My aims and interests decide how I experience things and people around me. As already suggested, these interests are mainly practical rather than theoretical (Schutz 1962:208). Thus, although I have many levels of typification at my disposal, my interest usually picks out one such level as salient. With regard to some people and objects, I am only interested in certain typical features or aspects, whereas other things may not interest me in their typicality, but only in their uniqueness. My interest in the postal worker usually does not go beyond her typical motives and actions qua postal worker: her blood type and hobbies, for example, are of no interest to me. In fact, it would not matter much if pigeons or robots rather than human beings delivered my letters, as long as something ‘performed’ certain typical actions in such a way that my letters would reach their addressees. If I encounter a large, growling animal in the woods on a dark night, this creature does not strike me as an example of a spatially extended thing, but as a dangerous animal. The book a good friend gave me as a birthday present ten years ago, on the other hand, is not for me a typical ‘book’, nor is it, more specifically, ‘a copy of The Brothers Karamazov’ that could simply be replaced by another, identical copy. Rather, for me this object is unique. The same obviously goes for my friends and family. I do not regard them as ‘mammals’, specimens of homo sapiens or ‘postal workers’, which could in principle be replaced by other specimens of the type (Schutz 1962:8-10).

These ways of understanding my environment are generally so natural and familiar to me that I never pause to reflect on them. As Schutz often puts it, I take them for granted, without questioning their validity, and without subjecting them to scrutiny (Schutz 1962:74). Like Husserl, Schutz calls this unquestioning and uncritical attitude to one’s environment the ‘natural attitude’ (see Husserl 1982:§27). When I am naturally attuned, the entire system of practical knowledge or ‘know-how’, to which my typifications belong, remains in the background, as it were. This is obviously connected with the practical focus of the everyday subject: we have letters to send, groceries to buy, children to take to school, and so on. These activities and the various projects of which they form part guide our interests and priorities. Our practical knowledge, including the various typifications, are tools that we employ immediately and take for granted in order to navigate in the life-world and accomplish our aims.

Our background knowledge, however, is not immune to revision. As long as my typifications help me achieve my aims and objectives, they will remain in force; but if they are repeatedly defeated, I will typically revise them. As Schutz puts it, our background knowledge is taken for granted, but only ‘until further notice’ (Schutz 1962:74; Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:58). If, for example, I repeatedly experience that the addressees do not receive my letters, I will revise some of my assumptions concerning typical postal workers and their typical motives. On the other hand, I can only deal with such a situation by relying on other assumptions and typifications. I may file a complaint with The Royal Mail, for example, thereby tacitly assuming that certain officials will react in certain typical ways (read my complaint, rather than simply ignore it). Alternatively, I may decide that from now on I will use electronic mail only, thereby assuming typical courses of action on the part of my internet service provider, and so on. Thus, even if individual typifications are only taken for granted ‘until further notice’, it would be practically impossible to abandon them unless other typifications and assumptions at the same time remained in operation. Schutz accordingly concludes that it is within the context of a world taken for granted that I can question and doubt individual cases. The life-world itself is the undoubted ‘foundation of any possible doubt’ (Schutz 1962:74).

We perceive, experience and understand in accordance with normal and typical structures, models and patterns, which previous experiences have inscribed in our subjective lives (Schutz 1962:7-10). These structures and models prescribe what we should do in a particular situation, and they give us a sense that we can count on social reality, that it is reliable and can be comprehended, and that others experience it as we do. Obviously, intersubjectivity plays an important role in this. The stock of typical assumptions, expectations and prescriptions, which I make use of with complete naturalness, is for the most part socially derived and socially accepted.

Normality is also conventionality, which essentially transcends the individual person. My relations with others go as far back as I can remember, and my understanding is structured in accordance with the intersubjectively handed-down ways of understanding, which I have acquired through my upbringing and through learning a language (Schutz 1962:13-14; see Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:150-153). The same goes for a wide range of my opinions and actions. As already Husserl pointed out, beside the influences of concrete individual others, there are the more indeterminate, general commands that custom and tradition issue: ‘one’ thinks this about that; ‘one’ holds a fork like this, and so on (Husserl 1989:281-282; Heidegger 1927/1962:149-168). In sum, it is from others that I learn what is normal – in particular those others that are closest to me, those who raise me and those I grow up together with and live with. I am thereby part of a common tradition that, through a chain of generations, stretches back into a distant past.

My background knowledge, implicit assumptions, expectations, and so on, are hence not primarily mine, understood as my own personal and unique constructions. On the contrary, they are social constructions. In connection with this general point, Schutz subjects knowledge to a close analysis. He focuses on three aspects of the socialization of human knowledge: its structural socialization, its genetic socialization and its social distribution (Schutz 1962:11). As for the structural aspect, Schutz emphasizes that the knowledge we have is knowledge that others could have as well, if they had access to the same facts as we have access to. Conversely, I could know what others know, if only I could view things from their perspective, with their background knowledge, etc. This is, of course, connected with the already mentioned point about the ‘reciprocity of perspectives’. Knowledge, however, also has a social genesis, in that, as mentioned, most of our knowledge has been transmitted to us through others (parents, friends and teachers, who were themselves taught by teachers, and so on). Finally, Schutz emphasizes that knowledge is socially distributed. This claim includes the obvious point that most of us know something about certain things, but very little about other things. A person can be an expert in Slavic languages and have no idea what to do if he cannot start his car. Fortunately, others (mechanics) do know how to deal with this sort of thing. And most of us have sufficient knowledge, even outside our fields of expertise, to get by in everyday life. We know how to fill up the tank and check the oil; and besides, we have some rough knowledge of how to find someone who can fill the gaps in our own stock of knowledge (Schutz 1962:14-15).

The Successors of Schutz

With Schutz’s immigration to the U.S.A. shortly before the Second World War, American social scientists were introduced to phenomenological sociology. Nevertheless, it took considerable time for Schutz’s perspective to achieve any real impact on American sociology. There are several reasons for this. First, Schutz only became a full-time professor after more than ten years in the U.S.A. Second, he was attached to the New School for Social Research in New York, which at that time was not regarded as a prestigious institution. Third, Schutz’s publications were not very successful. The English translation of his early book The Phenomenology of the Social World was only published posthumously; while he had begun a similarly comprehensive and systematic account of his ideas after immigrating to America, he was unable to complete it; and his papers were primarily published in philosophical rather than sociological journals. Finally, due primarily to misunderstandings, Schutz fell out with the influential Harvard sociologist Talcott Parsons. Despite all of this, Schutz managed, albeit with some delay, to influence the American sociological scene, and it was thus in the U.S.A. that two new phenomenological sociologies were first introduced: the sociology of knowledge and ethnomethodology.

Schutz repeatedly points out that the social distribution of knowledge is a topic that has been insufficiently studied – a topic that would deserve the title ‘sociology of knowledge’ (Schutz 1962:15, 149; 1964:121). Originally, the sociology of knowledge was a discipline that primarily addressed epistemological issues, such as how true knowledge is acquired, by which methods, etc. Its focus was on theoretical ideas and the knowledge of the ‘elite’ – i.e., the established sciences, the cultural elite, and so on. Schutz, however, emphasizes that also the mechanic and the supermarket check-out assistant have their ‘knowledge’ and that such knowledge is just as legitimate an object for a genuine sociology of knowledge as is the knowledge of the scientific and cultural elite. Besides, it is not the task of sociology as an empirical science to address general epistemological questions. Rather, in Schutz’s view, sociology should focus on the life-world as it is experienced by everyday subjects (Schutz 1962:144-145).

These ideas were taken up by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann in The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. This influential book attempts to combine Schutz’s phenomenological outlook with the symbolic interactionism of George Herbert Mead. But Berger and Luckmann also draw upon German anthropology and figures such as Max Scheler, Helmuth Plessner and Arnold Gehlen, as well as Karl Marx, Max Weber and Émile Durkheim. Berger and Luckmann were born in Austria and Slovenia, respectively, but both immigrated to the United States, and studied with Schutz at the New School for Social Research.

Berger and Luckmann seek to apply the theoretical perspective of phenomenology to crucial notions such as identity, socialization, social roles, language, normality/abnormality, and so on. They claim that it is the task of the sociology of knowledge to analyze the societal conditions for the formation and maintenance of various types of knowledge, scientific as well as quotidian. Berger and Luckmann thus widen the focus of the sociology of knowledge beyond the question of the social distribution of knowledge that Schutz had singled out as the central problem (Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:28). But they share Schutz’s basic intuitions. The sociology of knowledge is, briefly put, interested in how knowledge is produced, distributed, and internalized; it examines how the validity of any form of knowledge (that of the Tibetan monk no less than that of the American businesswoman or the criminologist) becomes socially established (Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:15). But as they also stress, the sociology of knowledge must first of all concern itself with what people ‘know’ as ‘reality’ in their everyday, non- or pre-theoretical lives. In other words, common-sense ‘knowledge’ rather than ‘ideas’ must be the central focus for the sociology of knowledge. It is precisely this ‘knowledge’ that constitutes the fabric of meanings without which no society could exist (Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:27).

This project involves a challenge to any objectivist and positivist social theory. Berger and Luckmann reject any attempt to view social reality as an objective entity, as a non-human or supra-human thing (Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:106). As they write, the social order is a product of human activity; it is neither biologically determined, nor in any other way determined by facts of nature: ‘Social order is not part of the “nature of things”, and it cannot be derived from the “laws of nature”. Social order exists only as a product of human activity’ (Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:70). The task of social theory is to provide an account of how human beings, through manifold forms of interaction, create and shape social structures and institutions, which may first have the character of a common, intersubjective reality, but eventually become ‘externalized’ and achieve objective reality. As also Schutz would say, this happens largely through institutionalized typifications (Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:85- 96). Through institutionalization, human activity is subjected to social control. The constructed social structures define what is normal, and sanctions are introduced to maintain the social order and avoid digression. With time, institutions come to appear inevitable and objective. Yet:

It is important to keep in mind that the objectivity of the institutional world, however massive it may appear to the individual, is a humanly produced, constructed objectivity … The institutional world is objectivated human activity, and so is every single institution … The paradox that man is capable of producing a world that he then experiences as something other than a human product will concern us later on. At the moment, it is important to emphasize that the relationship between man, the producer, and the social world, his product, is and remains a dialectical one. That is, man (not, of course, in isolation but in his collectivities) and his social world interact with each other. The product acts back upon the producer (Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:78).

Social reality is thus not only an externalized and objectified human product; it acts back upon human beings. Not only in the sense that we may feel it as an oppressive external force that we cannot resist, but also in the sense that social reality is something individual human beings ‘internalize’. We are not raised outside society, but grow up in it. And as we grow up and mature, we take over from others (and make our own) a language, roles, attitudes and norms (see Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:149-157). Human society, Berger and Luckmann emphasize, must therefore be ‘understood in terms of an ongoing dialectic of the three moments of externalization, objectivation and internalization’ (Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:149).

The Social Construction of Reality became very popular in the late 1960s and in the 1970s, and was the book that made Schutz’s ideas accessible to a wider audience. Another brand of American sociology that received crucial impulses from Schutz was the ethnomethodology introduced by Harold Garfinkel in the early 1960s. Garfinkel was influenced by Husserl, Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger, but his main inspiration came from Schutz, Aaron Gurwitsch and Talcott Parsons. Unlike Berger and Luckmann, Garfinkel was never a student of Schutz; but Garfinkel’s approach to sociology nevertheless betrays an important Schutzean inspiration. While Schutz remained a social theorist, however, Garfinkel applied phenomenological ideas in carrying out actual empirical research.

Briefly put, the task of ethnomethodology is to examine how social agents structure their social environment in a meaningful way. Like Schutz, the ethnomethodologist seeks to view things from participants’ perspectives and attempts to understand how their life-form can be viewed as a result of their interaction with each other. The point is not to establish whether a given life-form is ‘true’ or ‘false’, but rather to determine how agents have formed the interpretations and opinions that they hold. Ethnomethodology regards social structures (roles, institutions and systems of cultural meaning and value) as products of social interaction, rather than as pre-existing and determining factors. Social reality is thus conceived of as a fragile and vulnerable construction. It is a construction that is actively maintained by the participants.

According to Garfinkel, we are all busy constructing a world in which we feel at home. As also emphasized by Schutz, this happens in part via a process of typification. We make use of various routines and maxims in coping with social reality. These routines and maxims are gradually internalized and thereby recede from our view. In this way, the preconditions for our production of social meaning and order become inaccessible to us. Our understanding can never be made completely explicit and will always involve a horizon of background assumptions. But ethnomethodology has developed special techniques to reveal the practices that people engage in when establishing a social order. One such technique involves creating situations in which our normal background assumptions are undermined and thereby made explicit. In one experiment, Garfinkel thus asked his students to act like guests in their own homes and record the reactions of their family members. These reactions varied from confusion to anger, and thus, according to Garfinkel, illustrated the fragility of the social order: an order that we ourselves help to produce, but which we nevertheless tend to take for granted (Garfinkel 1967:42-43).

A famous empirical study informed by phenomenological ideas is Aaron V. Cicourel’s study of the treatment of juvenile delinquents in two Californian cities. According to Cicourel, the process of classifying a young person as a delinquent crucially involves certain background assumptions on the part of police officers, probation officers, court officials, and others. The police may, for example, have a tendency to pick out likely candidates on the basis of an implicit picture of the ‘typical delinquent’. The picture includes such factors as family background, school performance and ethnicity. By applying such ‘typifications’, police officers and others involved make sense of the cases they are faced with (Cicourel 1976). A similar approach is adopted in J. Maxwell Atkinson’s work on suicide statistics (Atkinson 1978). Atkinson found that coroners often rely on ‘common-sense theories’ about suicide and its causes when determining whether a particular death should be classified as a suicide or an accidental death – theories that to a remarkable extent converge with the typical picture of suicide propagated by news media. For coroners as well as for other agents, Atkinson suggests, such theorizing ‘provid[es] for the social organization of sudden deaths by rendering otherwise disordered and potentially senseless events ordered and sensible’ (Atkinson 1978:173).

Phenomenology and ethnomethodology have often criticized sociologies that attempt to analyze social reality in terms of various pre-defined categories, such as gender, class struggles, and the like. The claim is that such a procedure theorizes about the world instead of describing it. This critique suggests the phenomenological point that sociology must return to ‘the things themselves’, to the ‘phenomena’. Rather than moulding the social world to fit various predefined theoretical categories, we ought to examine how people themselves experience their social reality. For ethnomethodology, the main sociological task is thus to understand how social agents themselves cope with the task of describing and explaining the order of the reality in which they live.

Criticism of Phenomenological Sociology

Let us briefly consider some of the criticisms that phenomenological sociology has been met with. Nick Crossley (1996:95-98) lists a number of allegedly problematic features of Schutz’ work, one of which merits consideration here. According to Crossley, ‘Schutz tends to stick to the sorts of relationship which an individual takes to other individuals or groups at the expense of a consideration of relationships, practices and processes viewed from the trans- individual position of the systems which they form’ (Crossley 1996:98). In other words, Schutz seems to adopt an ‘individualist’ perspective and thereby loses sight of the way ‘the community itself functions as a system, perpetuating itself through space and time’ (Crossley 1996:98).

A phenomenological reply to this criticism consists of two parts. First, one should not think that Schutz’s shortcomings are necessarily the shortcomings of the phenomenological perspective as such. Thus, even if it is correct that Schutz failed to consider the community as a system that perpetuates itself through space and time, this need not be because of his commitment to phenomenology. In fact, Berger and Luckmann, in part two of The Social Construction of Reality, give detailed consideration to how society perpetuates itself as an impersonal, ‘trans-individual’ system.

That said, however, Crossley does have a point. As readers of the present chapter may have noticed, some sort of emphasis on the individual person or subject is found in all the phenomenological thinkers we have considered – from Husserl, through Schutz, to Berger and Luckmann and Garfinkel. The phenomenologists, however, would insist that this is ultimately no ground for criticism. A society cannot be reduced to the sum of its individual members; but on the other hand, the phenomenologists maintain that there is no society without individual subjects. To speak of a ‘social system’ in the absence of a robust notion of individual subjects makes little sense; for in what sense would the system in question be social? What could make it social except the fact that it involves (which is not the same as: ‘can be reduced to’) individual subjects standing in various relations to each other? A community of no one is hardly a community. An impersonal ‘system’ will never yield a society. For that, we need the interpersonal – and without the personal, there is no interpersonal (see Overgaard 2007, esp. chapter 5).

As another general criticism of phenomenology, one might maintain that its strengths could easily become its weaknesses. The phenomenological rehabilitation of the life-world, and the insistence on the importance of the everyday human being and its ‘common-sense’ knowledge, may seem to verge on celebrating the ordinary or mediocre. For example, the idea that common-sense knowledge is as legitimate a sociological theme as is scientific knowledge may seem to imply that these two kinds of knowledge are equally valuable. But, if so, the phenomenological perspective would implicitly legitimize intellectual laziness. Other critics have claimed that phenomenological sociology is conservative, that it implies a defence of the status quo – even when status quo is an unjust social order. Finally, the phenomenological emphasis on subjectivity as active and creative must not lead to blindness regarding the manifold ways in which individuals can be subjected to, and controlled by, institutions or other individuals.

However, phenomenology has largely pre-empted these criticisms. The notion that the phenomenological sociologist must primarily examine the everyday person, and that she must take seriously this person’s ‘knowledge’ and perspective, is fully compatible with maintaining a critical distance. Schutz himself stresses that the sociologist must be an observer of, rather than a participant in, the social phenomena she examines. And he emphasizes the fact that our common-sense knowledge is limited and incomplete. A phenomenologist such as Heidegger couples an examination of the everyday human being and its ‘average’ understanding with a rather critical perspective on this everyday understanding (allegedly superficial and with a tendency to rely on hearsay) (Heidegger 1927/1962:210-219). Indeed, he emphasizes that the everyday subject may be blinded by habit and convention (Heidegger 1927/1962:149-168). Thus, a phenomenological examination of the everyday subject need not glorify or idealize it. Similarly, a descriptive analysis of social reality as it is need not legitimize it. On the contrary, a sober description is an important element in any rational deliberation on what, precisely, ought to be changed about the status quo.

Ultimately, however, the phenomenologists would insist that it is not an option to devaluate entirely – let alone reject – our ordinary everyday knowledge. For even scientists and political revolutionaries must rely on this knowledge in the greater part of their lives. Moreover, in spite of its many imperfections and limitations, this knowledge is usually adequate enough for practical purposes. Nor, as already mentioned, is it an option to ignore completely the individual subject or to insist that it is nothing but a plaything in the hands of society. As individual subjects we are not merely subjected to the social reality in which we live; we also take part in its creation and maintenance. And for that very reason it is possible for us to change it. As Berger and Luckmann write: ‘However objectivated, the social world was made by men – and, therefore, can be remade by them’ (Berger & Luckmann 1966/1991:106).

Conclusion

Let us briefly recapitulate some of the crucial features of phenomenological everyday life sociology. First, all phenomenologists share an insistence on description and a resistance toward theoretical speculation. A second important feature of phenomenological sociology is its emphasis on the need to take everyday life seriously. The ‘naturally attuned’, practically oriented common-sense person and her experienced life-world is the primary object of sociology. Thirdly, phenomenology maintains that an examination of sociality and social reality has to take subjectivity into account. Human subjectivity is not merely moulded and determined by social forces. In interaction with others, subjectivity also shapes social reality.

Phenomenological sociologists have consistently issued warnings against the tendency to substantialize and reify social matters and they have offered a corrective to traditional positivistic research methodologies. Societal reality, including institutions, organizations, ethnic groupings, classes, and so on, must be regarded as a product of human activity. The sociological task is to understand the workings of this productive or constitutive process. No account of everyday social life can be complete if it does not take into account the contribution of individual subjectivities. This is the fundamental message of phenomenological sociology.

My Related Posts

Cyber-Semiotics: Why Information is not enough

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Boundaries and Relational Sociology

Society as Communication: Social Systems Theory of Niklas Luhmann

Phenomenology and Symbolic Interactionism

Networks, Narratives, and Interaction

Semiotics, Bio-Semiotics and Cyber Semiotics

Socio-Cybernetics and Constructivist Approaches

Third and Higher Order Cybernetics

Key Sources of Research

Manifesto for a Relational Sociology

Mustafa Emirbayer

New School for Social Research

The Sociology of the Self

Author(s): Peter L. Callero
Source: Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 29 (2003), pp. 115-133

Phenomenology (sociology)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenomenology_(sociology)

Interactionism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactionism

Interpretivism, social constructionism and phenomenology

https://lo.unisa.edu.au/mod/page/view.php?id=489362

The Meaning of Meaning in Sociology. The Achievements and Shortcomings of Alfred Schutz’s Phenomenological Sociology

RISTO HEISKALA

First published: 04 March 2011 

https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5914.2011.00461.x

Volume41, Issue3 September 2011 Pages 231-246

Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 41:3 0021-8308

Theories of Meaning

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/meaning/

Beyond Husserl and Schütz. Hermann Schmitz and Neophenomenological Sociology

Robert Gugutzer

DOI: 10.1111/jtsb.12240

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/jtsb.12240

“Meaning” as a sociological concept:
A review of the modeling, mapping, and simulation of the communication of knowledge and meaning

Loet Leydesdorff
Amsterdam School of Communications Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX Amsterdam, The Netherlands; loet@leydesdorff.net; http://www.leydesdorff.net

Click to access meaning.pdf

Chapter 3

Phenomenological Sociology – The Subjectivity of Everyday Life

Søren Overgaard & Dan Zahavi

Beyond Empathy Phenomenological Approaches to Intersubjectivity

Dan Zahavi

The Concept of Meaning in Sociology

  • February 2016

DOI:10.13140/RG.2.1.1029.0320

Norbert Wiley

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299353047_The_Concept_of_Meaning_in_Sociology

What is sociology?

  • August 2014

DOI:10.13140/2.1.3537.6003

  • Conference: Induction for sociology beginners
  • At: Lagos, Nigeria

Flourish Itulua-Abumere

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264800355_What_is_sociology

Alfred Schutz

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/schutz/

Phenomenological Life-World Analysis and Ethnomethodology’s Program

Thomas S. Eberle

Hum Stud (2012) 35:279–304 DOI 10.1007/s10746-012-9219-z

Click to access 10746_2012_Article_9219.pdf

Phenomenological Sociology Reconsidered 

On The New Orleans Sniper

Thomas S. Eberle

Hum Stud (2013) 36:121–132 DOI 10.1007/s10746-013-9261-5

Phenomenology and the Social Sciences: a story with no beginning

Carlos Belvedere􏰀

Sociedad (B. Aires) vol.2 no.se Buenos Aires 2007

Click to access scs_a01.pdf

The phenomenology of Alfred Schutz

Maurice Natanson Pages 147-155 | Published online: 29 Aug 2008


Inquiry 
An Interdisciplinary Journal of PhilosophyVolume 9, 1966 – Issue 1-4

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00201746608601455?src=recsys

CHAPTER 9

PHENOMENOLOGY AND SOCIOLOGY: DIVERGENT INTERPRETATIONS OF A COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP 

Thomas S. Eberle

in Book Interactions in Everyday Life

What is Phenomenological Sociology Again?

DOI:10.1007/s10746-009-9131-3

Greg Bird

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227304180_What_is_Phenomenological_Sociology_Again

Sociology and Phenomenology

DOI:10.15448/1984-7289.2017.3.29429

Jochen Dreher

Hermílio Santos

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321839851_Sociology_and_Phenomenology

George Psathas

Emeritus Professor of Sociology

George Psathas

Networks, Narratives, and Interaction

Networks, Narratives, and Interaction

Bruner (1973: xi) described this duality as follows:“our knowledge of the world is not merely a mirroring or reflection of order and structure ‘out there,’ but consists rather of a construct or model that can, so to speak, be spun a bit ahead of things to predict how the world will be or might be”

Key Terms

  • Narratives
  • Culture
  • Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Meaning
  • Meaning making
  • Networks
  • Boundaries
  • Folk Culture
  • Communication
  • Sensemaking
  • Active Learning
  • Karl Weick
  • Dirk Baecker
  • Jerome Bruner
  • Erving Goffman
  • George Spencer Brown
  • Charles Sanders Peirce
  • Social Interactions
  • Strategic Interactions
  • Cultural Psychology
  • Systems
  • Social Systems
  • Individual and Collective
  • Symbolic Interactions
  • Face Work
  • Face to Face
  • Micro Sociology
  • Drama
  • Kenneth Burke
  • Chain of Events
  • Sequence of Events
  • Time Space
  • Choices, Conflicts, Dilemmas
  • Constraints, Limits, Boundaries
  • Networks, Connections, Interaction
  • Social Simulation
  • Discrete Events
  • Scenes, Scenarios
  • Games and Dramas
  • Harmony
  • Colors, Tones
  • Interaction Rituals
  • Interaction Order
  • Ethnomethodology
  • LL and LR Quadrants in AQAL Model of Ken Wilber
  • Many Faces of Man
  • Backstage and Frontstage
  • Russell Ackoff’s Interaction Planning
  • Faces, Masks, and Rituals
  • Frame Analysis
  • Self and Others
  • Social Constructivism
  • Agent Based Modeling
  • Cellular Automata
  • Computational Sociology
  • Micro Motives and Macro Behavior
  • Conversations
  • Strategic Conversations
  • Boundaries and Distinctions
  • Networks and Boundaries

Jerome Bruner ON Narratives

Source: Chapter 1 Narrative Inquiry: From Story to Method

… Narrative as a mode of knowing 

In 1984 at an address to the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Jerome Bruner challenged the psychological community to consider the possibilities of narrative as one of two distinct and distinctive modes of thinking, namely the “paradigmatic” or logico-scientific mode and the narrative mode. For Bruner, each mode constituted a unique way of construing and constructing reality and of ordering experience. Importantly, neither of these modes was reducible to the other, as each was necessary in the development of human thought and action. Taking up these ideas in later writings, Bruner (1986) presents the narrative mode of meaning-making as one that “looks for particular conditions and is centred around the broader and more inclusive question of the meaning of experience” (p. 11), whilst the paradigmatic mode is characterised as one that is more concerned with establishing universal truth conditions.

Bruner has pursued the notion of “narrative” modes of thinking and explored the ways in which we draw on “narrative” modes of knowing as a learning process (1996a). For Bruner, we construct our understandings of the world “mainly in the form of narrative – stories, excuses, myths, reasons for doing and not doing, and so on” (2003, p. 44). In earlier writings, he points to the power and import of narrative as a meaning-making process, commenting that “our capacity to render experience in terms of narrative is not just child’s play, but an instrument for making meaning that dominates much of life in culture – from soliloquies at bedtime to the weighing of testimony in our legal system” (1990, p. 97). Importantly, Bruner suggests that our “sensitivity” to narrative constitutes a major link between our “sense of self and our sense of others in the social world around us” (1986, p. 69) and is the mode through which we “create a version of the world” with which we can live (1996a, p. 39).

Bruner’s work in the field of cognitive psychology constitutes one way in which narrative has been conceptualised within scholarship and has led to the establishment of the field of narrative psychology. It is perhaps serendipitous that Bruner’s account of the narrative mode of thinking occurred at a time of growing interest in the ways in which narrative might be drawn upon for research and inquiry purposes. As educators and scholars took up the “call of stories” (Coles, 1989) to provide alternative means to explore, interrogate, interpret, and record experience, “it helped that the messenger was Bruner, an enormously powerful scholar with unusual cross-disciplinary knowledge, stature, and impact, who ventured to articulate what narrative could mean to the social sciences at large” (Bresler, 2006, p. 23). Crucially, Bruner’s work leads us to consider narrative as more than a means of presenting meaning and to consider the role of narrative and narrative forms in “re-presenting,” in the sense of constructing meaning, both individually and collectively. For Bruner, narrative operates simultaneously in both thought and action, shaping the ways in which we conceive and respond to our worlds. In short, all cognition, whatever its nature, relies upon representation, how we lay down our knowledge in a way to represent our experience of the world . . . representation is a process of construction, as it were, rather than of mere reflection of the world (Bruner, 1996b, p. 95).

Here, a narrative might become a “template for experience” (Bruner, 2002, p. 34) that works on the mind, modelling “not only its world but the minds seeking to give it its meanings” (p. 27). This move from narrative as “story presented” to narrative as a “form of meaning-making,” indeed, a form of “mind-making,” has played an important role in the development of narrative as a method of inquiry in the social sciences.

Source: INTRODUCTION: BRUNER’S WAY/ David Bakhurst and Stuart G. Shanker

Another reason why Bruner is an ideal focus is his role in two crucial paradigm shifts in twentieth-century psychology. In the 1950s, he was an instrumental figure in the cognitive revolution, which restored to psychology the inner life of the mind after decades of arid behaviourist objectivism. Cognitive psychology prospered and, in league with other fields, evolved into ‘cognitive science’, conceived as a systematic inter- disciplinary approach to the study of mind (see Gardner, 1985). Bruner, however, gradually grew more and more dissatisfied with what cognitivism had become. In 1990, he published Acts of Meaning, in which he argued that the cognitive revolution had betrayed the impulse that had brought it into being. The revolution’s principal concern, Bruner argued, had been to return the concept of meaning to the forefront of psychological theorizing. But cognitivism had become so enamoured of computational models of the mind that it had replaced behaviourism’s impoverished view of the person with one no better: human beings as information processors. In response, Bruner argued forcefully that meaning is not a given, but something made by human beings as they negotiate the world. Meaning is a cultural, not computational, phenomenon. And since meaning is the medium of the mental, culture is constitutive of mind.

In many ways, Bruner’s objection was familiar. It had often been lamented that mainstream psychology was individualistic and scientistic, representing minds as self-contained mental atoms and ignoring the social and cultural influences upon them. In the last decade, however, this well-known critique has really been gaining momentum. Besides Bruner, both Richard Shweder (1990) and Michael Cole (1996) have sounded the call for a new ‘cultural psychology’. Assorted versions of ‘constructionist’ and ‘discursive’ psychology have appeared on the scene, joining a veritable chorus of diverse voices urging that psychology treat the mind as a sociocultural phenomenon (e.g., Edwards and Potter, 1992; Harré and Gillett, 1994; Gergen, 1999). It is particularly striking that these voices no longer come exclusively from the margins. Just as the left/right divide is collapsing in political theory, so the dichotomy between mainstream ‘individualistic/scientistic/Cartesian’ psychology and radical ‘communitarian/interpretative/post-Cartesian’ psychology has become outmoded. Cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind now commonly acknowledge that no plausible account of the mind can be indifferent to the context in which we think and act, and some significant works have appeared devoted to the cultural origins, and social realization, of human mentality (e.g., Donald, 1991). A psychologist interested in culture is no longer a counter-cultural figure.

Source: The narrative constitution of identity: A relational and network approach

From diverse sources it is possible to identify four features of a reframed narrativity particularly relevant for the social sciences:1) relationality of parts, 2) causal emplotment, 3) selective appropriation, and 4) temporality, sequence and place.43 Together, these dimensions suggest narratives are constellations of relationships (connected parts) embedded in time and space, constituted by causal emplotment. Unlike the attempt to produce meaning by placing an event in a specified category, narrativity precludes sense making of a singular isolated phenomenon. Narrativity demands that we discern the meaning of any single event only in temporal and spatial relationship to other events. Indeed, the chief characteristic of narrative is that it renders understanding only by connecting (however unstably) parts to a constructed configuration or a social network of relationships (however incoherent or unrealizable) composed of symbolic, institutional, and material practices 4.4

Source: CHAPTER 2 SELF-MAKING AND WORLD-MAKING

Narrative accounts must have at least two characteristics. They should center upon people and their intentional states: their desires, beliefs, and so on; and they should focus on how these intentional states led to certain kinds of activities. Such an account should also be or appear to be order preserving, in the sense of preserving or appearing to preserve sequence — the sequential properties of which life itself consists or is supposed to consist. Now, in the nature of things, if these points are correct, autobiographies should be about the past, should be par excellence the genre (or set of genres) composed in the past tense. So just for fun, we decided to find out whether in fact autobiographies were all in the past tense — both the spontaneous ones we had collected and a sample of literary autobiographies.

We have never found a single one where past-tense verbs constituted more than 70 percent of the verbs used. Autobiographies are, to be sure, about the past; but what of the 30 percent or more of their sentences that are not in the past tense? I’m sure it will be apparent without all these statistics that autobiography is not only about the past, but is busily about the present as well. If it is to bring the protagonist up to the present, it must deal with the present as well as the past — and not just at the end of the account, as it were. That is one part of it. But there is another part that is more interesting. Most of the “present-tense” aspect of autobiography has to do with what students of narrative structure call “evaluation” — the task of placing those sequential events in terms of a meaningful context. Narrative, whether looked at from the more formalistic perspective of William Labov (1982) or the more literary, historical one of Barbara Herrnstein-Smith (1986), necessarily comprises two features: one of them is telling what happened to a cast of human beings with a view to the order in which things happened. That part is greatly aided by the devices of flashback, flashforward, and the rest. But a narrative must also answer the question “Why”, “Why is this worth telling, what is interesting about it?” Not everything that happened is worth telling about, and it is not always clear why what one tells merits telling. We are bored and offended by such accounts as“I got up in the morning, got out of bed, dressed and tied my shoes, shaved, had breakfast, went off to the office and saw a graduate student who had an idea for a thesis…”

The “why tell” function imposes something of great (and hidden) significance on narrative. Not only must a narrative be about a sequence of events over time, structured comprehensibly in terms of cultural canonicality, it must also contain something that endows it with exceptionality. We had better pause for a moment and explore what this criterion of exceptionality means for autobiography and, incidentally, why it creates such a spate of present-tense clauses in the writing of autobiography.

Source: CHAPTER 2 SELF-MAKING AND WORLD-MAKING

The object of narrative, then, is to demystify deviations. Narrative solves no problems. It simply locates them in such a way as to make them comprehensible. It does so by invoking the play of psychological states and of actions that transpire when human beings interact with each other and relates these to what can usually be expected to happen. I think that Kenneth Burke has a good deal to say about this “play of psychological states” in narrative, and I think it would help to examine his ideas. In his The Grammar of Motives, he introduces the idea of “dramatism” (Burke 1945). Burke noted that dramatism was created by the interplay of five elements (he refers to them as the Pentad). These comprise an Actor who commits an Action toward a Goal with the use of some Instrument in a particular Scene. Dramatism is created, he argues, when elements of the Pentad are out of balance, lose their appropriate “ratio”. This creates Trouble, an emergent sixth element. He has much to say about what leads to the breakdown in the ratios between the elements of the dramatistic pentad. For example, the Actor and the Scene don’t fit. Nora, for example: what in the world is the rebellious Nora in A Doll’s House doing in this banal doctor’s household? Or Oedipus taking his mother Jocasta unknowingly to wife. The “appropriate ratios”, of course, are given by the canonical stances of folk psychology toward the human condition. Dramatism constitutes their patterned violation. In a classically oral culture, the great myths that circulate are the archetypal forms of violation, and these become increasingly “smoothed” and formalized — even frozen — over time, as we know from the classic studies of Russian folktales published by Vladimir Propp (1986). In more mobile literary cultures, of course, the range and variation in such tales and stories greatly increases, matching the greater complexity and widened opportunities that accompany literacy. Genres develop, new forms emerge, variety increase — at least at first. It may well be that with the emergence of mass cultures and the new massifying media, new constraints on this variation occur, but that is a topic that would take us beyond the scope of this essay (see Feldman, in this volume).

Erving Goffman On Interactionism

Source: Wikipedia

Goffman was influenced by Herbert BlumerÉmile DurkheimSigmund FreudEverett HughesAlfred Radcliffe-BrownTalcott ParsonsAlfred SchützGeorg Simmel and W. Lloyd Warner. Hughes was the “most influential of his teachers”, according to Tom Burns.[1][3][22] Gary Alan Fine and Philip Manning have said that Goffman never engaged in serious dialogue with other theorists,[1] but his work has influenced and been discussed by numerous contemporary sociologists, including Anthony GiddensJürgen Habermas and Pierre Bourdieu.[23]

Though Goffman is often associated with the symbolic interaction school of sociological thought, he did not see himself as a representative of it, and so Fine and Manning conclude that he “does not easily fit within a specific school of sociological thought”.[1] His ideas are also “difficult to reduce to a number of key themes”; his work can be broadly described as developing “a comparative, qualitative sociology that aimed to produce generalizations about human behavior”.[23][24]

Goffman made substantial advances in the study of face-to-face interaction, elaborated the “dramaturgical approach” to human interaction, and developed numerous concepts that have had a massive influence, particularly in the field of the micro-sociology of everyday life.[23][25] Much of his work was about the organization of everyday behavior, a concept he termed “interaction order”.[23][26][27] He contributed to the sociological concept of framing (frame analysis),[28] to game theory (the concept of strategic interaction), and to the study of interactions and linguistics.[23] With regard to the latter, he argued that the activity of speaking must be seen as a social rather than a linguistic construct.[29] From a methodological perspective, Goffman often employed qualitative approaches, specifically ethnography, most famously in his study of social aspects of mental illness, in particular the functioning of total institutions.[23] Overall, his contributions are valued as an attempt to create a theory that bridges the agency-and-structuredivide—for popularizing social constructionismsymbolic interactionconversation analysis, ethnographic studies, and the study and importance of individual interactions.[30][31] His influence extended far beyond sociology: for example, his work provided the assumptions of much current research in language and social interaction within the discipline of communication.[32]

Goffman defined “impression management” as a person’s attempts to present an acceptable image to those around them, verbally or nonverbally.[33] This definition is based on Goffman’s idea that people see themselves as others view them, so they attempt to see themselves as if they are outside looking in.[33] Goffman was also dedicated to discovering the subtle ways humans present acceptable images by concealing information that may conflict with the images for a particular situation, such as concealing tattoos when applying for a job in which tattoos would be inappropriate, or hiding a bizarre obsession such as collecting/interacting with dolls, which society may see as abnormal.

Goffman broke from George Herbert Mead and Herbert Blumer in that while he did not reject the way people perceive themselves, he was more interested in the actual physical proximity or the “interaction order” that molds the self.[33] In other words, Goffman believed that impression management can be achieved only if the audience is in sync with a person’s self-perception. If the audience disagrees with the image someone is presenting then their self-presentation is interrupted. People present images of themselves based on how society thinks they should act in a particular situation. This decision how to act is based on the concept of definition of the situation. Definitions are all predetermined and people choose how they will act by choosing the proper behavior for the situation they are in. Goffman also draws from William Thomas for this concept. Thomas believed that people are born into a particular social class and that the definitions of the situations they will encounter have already been defined for them.[33] For instance. when an individual from an upper-class background goes to a black-tie affair, the definition of the situation is that they must mind their manners and act according to their class.

In 2007 by The Times Higher Education Guide listed Goffman as the sixth most-cited author in the humanities and social sciences, behind Anthony Giddens and ahead of Habermas.[2] His popularity with the general public has been attributed to his writing style, described as “sardonic, satiric, jokey”,[31] and as “ironic and self-consciously literary”,[34] and to its being more accessible than that of most academics.[35] His style has also been influential in academia, and is credited with popularizing a less formal style in academic publications.[31] Interestingly, if he is rightly so credited, he may by this means have contributed to a remodelling of the norms of academic behaviour, particularly of communicative action, arguably liberating intellectuals from social restraints unnatural to some of them.

His students included Carol Brooks Gardner, Charles Goodwin, Marjorie Goodwin, John Lofland, Gary Marx, Harvey SacksEmanuel Schegloff, David Sudnow and Eviatar Zerubavel.[1]

Despite his influence, according to Fine and Manning there are “remarkably few scholars who are continuing his work”, nor has there been a “Goffman school”; thus his impact on social theory has been simultaneously “great and modest”.[30] Fine and Manning attribute the lack of subsequent Goffman-style research and writing to the nature of his style, which they consider very difficult to duplicate (even “mimic-proof”), and also to his subjects’ not being widely valued in the social sciences.[3][30] Of his style, Fine and Manning remark that he tends to be seen either as a scholar whose style is difficult to reproduce, and therefore daunting to those who might wish to emulate it, or as a scholar whose work was transitional, bridging the work of the Chicago school and that of contemporary sociologists, and thus of less interest to sociologists than the classics of either of those groups.[24][30] Of his subjects, Fine and Manning observe that the topic of behavior in public places is often stigmatized as trivial and unworthy of serious scholarly attention.[30]

Nonetheless, Fine and Manning note that Goffman is “the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century”.[36] Elliott and Turner see him as “a revered figure—an outlaw theorist who came to exemplify the best of the sociological imagination”, and “perhaps the first postmodern sociological theorist”.[14]

Source: Looking back on Goffman: The excavation continues

The “descent of the ego,” then, was witnessed by both Durkheim and Goffman in terms of the mechanisms at work in modem Western society whereby the tendencies toward an unbridled egoistic individualism are continually rebuffed (Chriss, 1993). MacCannell successfully makes the case for such a Durkheim-Goffman link through a semiotic sociology which resists the temptation of explaining in solely positivistic terms why it is that in modem Western society, imbued as it is with a strong ethic of individualism, we nevertheless see persons orienting their actions toward a perceived moral universe and the accommodation of the other. Like Durkheim and many of the great students of society from Plato to Hobbes, from Kant to Parsons, Goffman was ultimately concerned with the question, how is social order possible (Berger, 1973: 356; Collins, 1980: 173)?

Burns recognizes the Durkheim-Goffman link as well, but carries the analysis even further by comparing and contrasting Durkheim’s notion of social order with Goffman’s interaction order. Durkheim’s sui generis reality was society; Goffman’s is the encounters between individuals, or the social act itself. The moral order which pervades society and sustains individual conduct constitutes a “social fact” in both Durkheim’s and Goffman’s eyes. But Burns (1992) notes also that for Durkheim this order was·seen as durable and all-sustaining, whereas for Goffman “it was fragile, impermanent, full of unexpected holes, and in constant need of repair” (p.26).

my Related Posts

Boundaries and Relational Sociology

Boundaries and Distinctions

Boundaries and Networks

Society as Communication: Social Systems Theory of Niklas Luhmann

Third and Higher Order Cybernetics

Autocatalysis, Autopoiesis and Relational Biology

Relational Turn in Economic Geography

Cybernetics, Autopoiesis, and Social Systems Theory

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Systems and Organizational Cybernetics

A Unifying Model of Arts

Ratio Club: A Brief History of British Cyberneticians

Micro Motives, Macro Behavior: Agent Based Modeling in Economics

On Holons and Holarchy

Reflexivity, Recursion, and Self Reference

The Social Significance of Drama and Narrative Arts

Socio-Cybernetics and Constructivist Approaches

Drama Therapy: Self in Performance

Narrative Psychology: Language, Meaning, and Self

Psychology of Happiness: Value of Storytelling and Narrative Plays

Drama Theory: Choices, Conflicts and Dilemmas

Drama Theory: Acting Strategically

Key Sources of Research

The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology

edited by Jaan Valsiner

Culture in Mind: Cognition, Culture, and the Problem of Meaning

By Bradd Shore

Erving Goffman on Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erving_Goffman

On Face-Work
An Analysis of Ritual Elements in Social Interaction

Erving Goffman
Pages 213-231 | Published online: 08 Nov 2016
https://doi.org/10.1080/00332747.1955.11023008

Chapter in Book Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face to Face Behavior

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00332747.1955.11023008

Click to access Goffman,%20Erving%20%27On%20Face-work%27.pdf

Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-To-Face Behavior

E. Goffman

Published 1967

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Interaction-Ritual%3A-Essays-on-Face-To-Face-Behavior-Goffman/976f5fcc01b26ec011790d419eb471eb7beb13f8

 

Encounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interaction.

Goffman, Erving. 1961

Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. 

Goffman, Erving. 1959. 

New York: Doubleday Anchor.

Strategic interaction.

Goffman, Erving (1969), 

Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.

Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience.

Goffman, E. (1974). 

New York: Harper & Row.

Sociology. Narrative psychology: Internet and resource guide. 

Hevern, V. W. (2004, Apr). 

Retrieved [3/15/2021] from the Le Moyne College Web site: http://web.lemoyne.edu/~hevern/nr-soc.html

http://web.lemoyne.edu/~hevern/narpsych/nr-soc.html

Narrative scenarios: Toward a culturally thick notion of narrative. 

Brockmeier, J. (2012). 

In J. Valsiner (Ed.), Oxford library of psychology. The Oxford handbook of culture and psychology (p. 439–467). Oxford University Press.

https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2012-04461-020

Erving Goffman

https://monoskop.org/Erving_Goffman

Looking back on Goffman: The excavation continues

James J. Chriss 

Cleveland State University

1993

Sociology & Criminology Faculty Publications. 98.
https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clsoc_crim_facpub/98

Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution, and Social Interaction

1990

Erving Goffman: Exploring,the interaction order 

(1988)

Tom Burns’s Erving Goffman

(1992)

Chapter 1
Narrative Inquiry: From Story to Method

Troubling Certainty

Margaret S. Barrett and Sandra L. Stauffer

In Narrative Inquiry in Music Education

DOI 10.1007/978-1-4020-9862-8  

Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

INTRODUCTION: BRUNER’S WAY

David Bakhurst and Stuart G. Shanker

In Jerome Bruner: Language, Culture, Self

Edited by
David Bakhurst and Stuart G. Shanker

Sage Publications, 2001

Analyzing Narratives and Story-Telling

Matti Hyvärinen

THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF SOCIAL RESEARCH METHODS

The narrative constitution of identity: A relational and network approach

MARGARET R. SOMERS

Universityof Michigan

TheoryandSociety23: 605-649, 1994

https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/43649/11186_2004_Article_BF00992905.pdf?sequence=1

Cognitive–Linguistic and Constructivist Mnemonic Triggers in Teaching Based on Jerome Bruner’s Thinking

Jari Metsämuuronen1* and Pekka Räsänen2

  • 1Department of Pedagogy, NLA University College, Bergen, Norway
  • 2Niilo Mäki Institute, Jyväskylä, Finland

Front. Psychol., 12 December 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02543

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02543/full

Storytelling and the Construction of Realities

Paul Stoller

Etnofoor Vol. 30, No. 2, Race-ism (2018), pp. 107-112 

The Construction of Identity in the Narratives of Romance and Comedy

Kevin Murray 

Texts of Identity In J.Shotter & K.Gergen (eds.)  London: Sage (1988)

The Construction of Identity in the Narratives of Romance and Comedy

Actual Minds, Possible Worlds

By Jerome S. BRUNER

The Narrative Construction of Reality

Jerome Bruner

Jerome Bruner Life as a Narrative

Polarising narrative and paradigmatic ways of knowing: exploring the spaces through narrative, stories and reflections of personal transition

CLEO91571

David Cleaver

cleaver@usq.edu.au University of Southern Queensland

Possibilities for Action: Narrative Understanding

Donald Polkinghorne

Fielding Graduate University

https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/NW/article/view/23789/27568

Two Modes of Thought

Jerome Bruner

Narrating the Self

http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/anthro/faculty/ochs/articles/96narr_self.pdf?q=narrating-the-self

THE USES OF NARRATIVE IN ORGANIZATION RESEARCH

Barbara Czarniawska

Acts of meaning. 

Bruner, J. (1990). 

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Language learner stories and imagined identities

Margaret Early and Bonny Norton
Department of Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia

Narrative Rhetorics in Scenario Work: Sensemaking and Translation

Zhan Li
University of Southern California USA

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.431.411&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Chapter 2
Self-making and world-making

Jerome Bruner

In Narrative and Identity

Studies in Autobiography, Self and Culture

Jens Brockmeier
University of Toronto & Freie Universität Berlin

Donal Carbaugh
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

John Benjamins Publishing Company

A Grammar of Motives

By Kenneth Burke

Essays Toward a Symbolic of Motives, 1950–1955

By Kenneth Burke

A RHETORIC OF MOTIVES

Kenneth Burke

Click to access CaricatureofCourtshipKafkaCastleKennethBurke.pdf

A Calculus of Negation in Communication

Cybernetics & Human Knowing 24, 3–4 (2017), 17–27

Posted: 23 Jan 2018

Dirk Baecker

Witten/Herdecke University

Date Written: September 1, 2017

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3102888

Working the Form: George Spencer-Brown and the Mark of Distinction*

Dirk Baecker

Universität Witten/Herdecke

dirk.baecker@uni-wh.de

Shape of things to come: From the ‘laws of form’ to management in the post-growth economy

André Reichel

http://www.ephemerajournal.org volume 17(1): 89-118

Click to access 17-1reichel.pdf

Systems, Network, and Culture

Dirk Baecker Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen, Germany baecker@mac.com

Presented at the International Symposium “Relational Sociology: Transatlantic Impulses for the Social Sciences”, Berlin, September 25-26, 2008

Click to access baecker2.pdf

Organisations as distinction generating and processing systems: Niklas Luhmann’s contribution to organisation studies

David Seidl and Kai Helge Becker

SOCIAL SYSTEMS

Niklas Luhmann
TRANSLATED BY John Bednarz, Jr., with Dirk Baecker FOREWORD BY Eva M. Knodt
STANFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA

Introduction to Systems Theory

Niklas Luhmann

Click to access Niklas_Luhmann_Introduction_to_System_Theory.pdf

Mysteries of cognition. Review of neocybernetics and narrative by bruce clarke.

Baecker D. (2015)

Constructivist Foundations 10(2): 261–263. http://constructivist.info/10/2/261

https://constructivist.info/10/2/261.baecker

The Communication of Meaning in Anticipatory Systems: A Simulation Study of the Dynamics of Intentionality in Social Interactions

Loet Leydesdorff

In: Daniel M. Dubois (Ed.) Proceedings of the 8th Intern. Conf. on Computing Anticipatory Systems CASYS’07, Liège, Belgium, 6-11 August 2007. Melville, NY: American Institute of Physics Conference Proceedings, Vol. 1051 (2008) pp. 33-49.

Why Systems?

Dirk Baecker

Universität Witten/Herdecke http://www.uni-wh.de/baecker

Theory Culture & Society 18 (2001), pp. 59-74

LAWS OF
FORM by GEORGE SPENCER-BROWN

In collaboration with the Liverpool University
and the Laws of Form 50th Anniversary Conference.
Alphabetum III
September 28 — December 31, 2019 West Den Haag, The Netherlands

Click to access Alphabetum_III_V8_ONLINE.pdf

Systems in Context
On the outcome of the Habermas/Luhmann
debate

Poul Kjaer

Niklas Luhmann and Organization Studies

Edited by
David Seidl and Kai Helge Becker

Click to access 9788763003049.pdf

A Note on Max Weber’s Unfinished Theory of Economy and Society

Dirk Baecker
Witten/Herdecke University, Germany dbaecker@uni-wh.de

The fractal geometry of Luhmann’s sociological theory or debugging systems theory

José Javier Blanco Rivero

CONICET/Centro de Historia Intelectual, National University of Quilmes, Roque Sáenz Peña 352, Bernal, Argentina

Technological Forecasting & Social Change 146 (2019) 31–40


Diamond Calculus of Formation of Forms

A calculus of dynamic complexions of distinctions as an interplay of worlds and distinctions

Archive-Number / Categories 3_01 / K06, K03
Publication Date 2011

Rudolf Kaehr (1942-2016)

Click to access rk_Diamond-Calculus-of-Formation-of-Forms_2011.pdf

ART AS A SOCIAL SYSTEM

Niklas Luhmann

TRANSLATED BY EVA M. KNODT

Snakes all the Way Down: Varela’s Calculus for Self-Reference and the Praxis of Paradise

André Reichel*

European Center for Sustainability Research, Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen, Germany

Systems Research and Behavioral Science Syst. Res. (2011)
Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/sres.1105

Who Conceives of Society?

Ernst von Glasersfeld

University of Massachusetts evonglas@hughes.net

Constructivist Foundations 2008, vol. 3, no. 2 http://www.univie.ac.at/constructivism/journal/

Click to access glasersfeld.pdf

Dramaturgy (sociology)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dramaturgy_(sociology)

Dramaturgy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dramaturgy

Beyond Bourdieu:
The Interactionist Foundations of Media Practice Theory

PETER LUNT University of Leicester, UK

International Journal of Communication 14(2020), 2946–2963

https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/11204/3104

Drama as Life: The Significance of Goffman’s Changing Use of the Theatrical Metaphor

Phil Manning

Sociological Theory Vol. 9, No. 1 (Spring, 1991), pp. 70-86 (17 pages) 

Published By: American Sociological Association 

https://doi.org/10.2307/201874https://www.jstor.org/stable/201874

RECONSTRUCTING THE SELF: A GOFFMANIAN PERSPECTIVE

Simon Susen

In: H. F. Dahms & E. R. Lybeck (Eds.), Reconstructing Social Theory, History and Practice. Current Perspectives in Social Theory. (pp. 111-143). Bingley, UK: Emerald. ISBN 9781786354709

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b8ca/9e1bb2a4bdf97330c932fc75ea7f60253551.pdf?_ga=2.252111627.386639570.1616097397-89425557.1612485585

Mainstreaming Relational Sociology – Relational Analysis of Culture in Digithum

P. Baert. Published 2016

The Foundations of the Social: Between Critical Theory and Reflexive Sociology

S. Susen. Published 2007

Language, self, and social order: A reformulation of Goffman and Sacks

A. RawlsPublished 1989SociologyHuman Studies

The Interaction Order: American Sociological Association, 1982 Presidential Address

Author(s): Erving Goffman

Reviewed work(s):
Source: American Sociological Review, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Feb., 1983), pp. 1-17 Published by: American Sociological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095141 .

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/cc41/6add65c01434e70c1eff295ccf2c4d45ad49.pdf?_ga=2.51373867.386639570.1616097397-89425557.1612485585

Face and interaction

Michael Haugh

(2009): In Francesca Bargiela-Chiappini and Michael Haugh (eds.), Face, Communication and Social Interaction, Equinox, London, pp.1-30.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313098378_Face_and_Interaction

Public and private faces in web spaces – How Goffman’s work can be used to think about purchasing medicine online. 

Lisa Sugiura

Organizational Analysis: Goffman and Dramaturgy  

Peter K. Manning

The Oxford Handbook of Sociology, Social Theory, and Organization Studies: Contemporary Currents

Edited by Paul Adler, Paul du Gay, Glenn Morgan, and Mike Reed

Print Publication Date: Oct 2014

https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199671083.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199671083-e-012

Complete bibliography: Erving Goffman ́s writings

Persson, Anders

http://lup.lub.lu.se/search/ws/files/5499425/2438065

Chapter 1 THE PROGRAM OF INTERACTION RITUAL THEORY

Click to access s7769.pdf

A review of Jerome Bruner’s educational theory:

Its implications for studies in teaching and learning and active learning (secondary publication)

Koji MATSUMOTO

Faculty of Economics Nagoya Gakuin University

Click to access syakai_vol5401_11.pdf

The Use of Stories in Moral Development: New Psychological Reasons for an Old Education Method

DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.45.6.709

Narrative Understanding and Understanding Narrative

Sarah E. Worth

Contemporary Aesthetics (Journal Archive): Vol. 2 , Article 9.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.risd.edu/liberalarts_contempaesthetics/vol2/iss1/9

A Unifying Model of Arts

A Unifying Model of Arts

Key Terms

  • Natya Shastra of Bharata Muni
  • Poetics of Aristotle
  • Narrative Arts
  • Narrative Psychology
  • Drama Therapy
  • Social Simulation
  • Learning and Reflection
  • Normative Choices
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Mirrors
  • Psychological Mirrors
  • Self as Other
  • Other as Self
  • Coordination Arts
  • Competition Vs Cooperation
  • Networks and Hierarchy
  • Dance
  • Music
  • Drama/Films/Theater
  • Visual Arts
  • Diegesis
  • Haple diegesis
  • Diegesis dia mimeseos
  • Diegesis di’ amphoteron
  • Mimesis

Source: A Unifying Model of the Arts: The Narration/ Coordination Model

The Narration/Coordination model is presented as a unifying model of the arts with regard to psychological processing and social functions. The model proposes a classification of the arts into the two broad categories of the narrative arts and the coordinative arts. The narrative arts function to tell stories, often to promote social learning through the modeling of prosocial behaviors. The coordinative arts function to stimulate group participation through synchronized action, thereby serving as a reinforcer of group affiliation and a promoter of social cooperation. These two categories vary with regard to a number of psychological and social features related to personal engagement, role playing, cognitive structure, and performance. The arts are evolutionarily adaptive because they promote social cooperation through two distinct routes: the simulation of prosocial behaviors via the narrative arts, and the stimulation of group synchronization and cohesion via the coordinative arts.

Narrative and Coordinative Arts

Source: A UNIFYING MODEL OF THE ARTS: THE NARRATION/ COORDINATION MODEL

Narration/Coordination Model of the Arts

Source: A UNIFYING MODEL OF THE ARTS: THE NARRATION/ COORDINATION MODEL

Features of Narrative and Coordinative Arts

Source: A UNIFYING MODEL OF THE ARTS: THE NARRATION/ COORDINATION MODEL

Classification of Arts

Source: TOWARD A UNIFICATION OF THE ARTS

Interaction among the Arts

Source: TOWARD A UNIFICATION OF THE ARTS

Modular Aspects of Performance Arts

Source: TOWARD A UNIFICATION OF THE ARTS

Connections Between the arts: an Indian Perspective

Source: ART AND COSMOLOGY IN INDIA

The view that the arts belong to the domain of the sacred and that there is a connection between them is given most clearly in a famous passage in the Vishnudharmottara Purana in which the sage Markandeya instructs the king Vajra in the art of sculpture, teaching that to learn it one must first learn painting, dance, and music:

Vajra: How should I make the forms of gods so that the image may always manifest the deity?

Markandeya: He who does not know the canon of painting (citrasutram) can never know the canon of image-making (pratima lakshanam).

Vajra: Explain to me the canon of painting as one who knows the canon of painting knows the canon of image-making.

Markandeya: It is very difficult to know the canon of painting without the canon of dance (nritta shastra), for in both the world is to be represented.

Vajra: Explain to me the canon of dance and then you will speak about the canon of painting, for one who knows the practice of the canon of dance knows painting.

Markandeya: Dance is difficult to understand by one who is not acquainted with instrumental music (atodya).

Vajra: Speak about instrumental music and then you will speak about the canon of dance, because when the instrumental music is properly understood, one understands dance.

Markandeya: Without vocal music (gita) it is not possible to know instrumental music.

Vajra: Explain to me the canon of vocal music, because he, who knows the canon of vocal music, is the best of men who knows everything.

Markandeya: Vocal music is to be understood as subject to recitation that may be done in two ways, prose (gadya) and verse (padya). Verse is in many meters.

My Related Posts:

The Social Significance of Drama and Narrative Arts

Narrative Psychology: Language, Meaning, and Self

Psychology of Happiness: Value of Storytelling and Narrative Plays

Aesthetics and Ethics

Arts and Moral Philosophy

Drama Therapy: Self in Performance

Aesthetics and Ethics: At the Intersection

Understanding Rasa: Yoga of Nine Emotions

Rituals | Recursion | Mantras | Meaning : Language and Recursion

Meta Integral Theories: Integral Theory, Critical Realism, and Complex Thought

Levels of Human Psychological Development in Integral Spiral Dynamics

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Luminosity and Chromaticity: On Light and Color

Geometry of Consciousness

Drama Theory: Acting Strategically

Drama Theory: Choices, Conflicts and Dilemmas

Third and Higher Order Cybernetics

Key Sources of Research:

Toward a Unification of the Arts

Steven Brown*

Front. Psychol. 9:1938. 2018

doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01938

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6207603/

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01938/full

Psychology of Narrative Art

Keith Oatley and Maja Djikic

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317424139_Psychology_of_Narrative_Art

A Unifying Model of the Arts: The Narration/ Coordination Model

Steven Brown

Empirical Studies of the Arts 2019, Vol. 37(2) 172–196

Click to access NarrCoord.pdf

Interaction, narrative, and drama: Creating an adaptive interactive narrative using performance arts theories

Magy Seif El-Nasr

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233651644_Interaction_narrative_and_drama_Creating_an_adaptive_interactive_narrative_using_performance_arts_theories

Art, dance, and music therapy

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15458755/

Healing Dramas and Clinical Plots: The Narrative Structure of Experience (Cambridge Studies in Medical Anthropology)1st Edition

Cheryl Mattingly

A hypothesis on the biological origins and social evolution of music and dance

Tianyan Wang

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4332322/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25741232/

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2015.00030/full

Narrative, Emotion, and Insight

Edited by Noël Carroll, and John Gibson

https://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-04857-4.html

The narrative arc: Revealing core narrative structures through text analysis

  • Ryan L. Boyd1,*
  • Kate G. Blackburn2 and 
  • James W. Pennebaker2

 Science Advances   07 Aug 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 32, eaba2196
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba2196

Historical Narratives and the Philosophy of Art

Noël Carroll

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 

Vol. 51, No. 3, Philosophy and the Histories of the Arts (Summer, 1993),

pp. 313-326 (14 pages) Published By: Wiley 

https://doi.org/10.2307/431506

Narratives and Narrators: A Philosophy of Stories

Gregory Currie

The Poetics, Aesthetics, and Philosophy of Narrative

Noël Carroll

Wiley-Blackwell (2009)

https://philpapers.org/rec/CARTPA-11

The Psychology of Narrative Thought: How the Stories We Tell Ourselves Shape our lives

By Lee Roy Beach

Narrative: State of the Art

Click to access Bamberg,%20%20%20%20%20%20Narrative-State%20of%20the%20Art,%20%20%20%20%20%20Georgakopoulou%20Thinking%20Big%20with%20small%20stories%20in%20narrative%20and%20%20%20%20%20%20identity%20analysis.pdf

Narrative Psychology, Trauma and the Study of Self/Identity

Michele L. Crossley

Theory and Psychology Vol 10, Issue 4, 2000

First Published August 1, 2000 

https://doi.org/10.1177/0959354300104005

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0959354300104005

The “Who” System of the Human Brain: A System for Social Cognition About the Self and Others

Steven Brown*

  • Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 19 June 2020 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2020.00224

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2020.00224/full

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/The-“Who”-System-of-the-Human-Brain%3A-A-System-for-Brown/ba6117482c0a649736251ef80ab12f6cf9cb7032

The Synthesis of the Arts: From Ceremonial Ritual to “Total Work of Art”

Steven Brown1* and Ellen Dissanayake2

  • 1Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
  • 2School of Music, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States

Front. Sociol., 15 May 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fsoc.2018.00009

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsoc.2018.00009/full

Storytelling Is Intrinsically Mentalistic: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study of Narrative Production across Modalities

Ye Yuan, Judy Major-Girardin, and Steven Brown

https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1162/jocn_a_01294

The neural basis of audiomotor entrainment: an ALE meta-analysis

Léa A. S. ChauvignéKevin M. Gitau and Steven Brown*

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 30 September 2014 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00776

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00776/full

The Evolution and Ontogeny of Ritual

Part VI. Culture and Coordination

Cristine H. LegareRachel E. Watson‐Jones


The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology

First published: 18 November 2015 https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119125563.evpsych234

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/9781119125563.evpsych234

On the distinction of empathic and vicarious emotions

Frieder M. Paulus1,2*, Laura Müller-Pinzler1Stefan Westermann1 and Sören Krach1*

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 15 May 2013 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00196

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00196/full

The Narrative Construction of Reality

Jerome Bruner

https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/448619

Click to access bruner1991narrative.pdf

Cooperation and the evolution of hunter-gatherer storytelling

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-02036-8

NATURE COMMUNICATIONS | 8: 1853

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-02036-8.pdf?origin=ppub

Ancient or Modern? Alexander G. Baumgarten and the Coming of Age of Aesthetics

Alessandro Nannini

Click to access 0353-57381503629N.pdf

EVOLUTION, AESTHETICS, AND ART: AN OVERVIEW

Stephen Davies, Philosophy, University of Auckland

https://researchspace.auckland.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/2292/43360/Davies2018RoutHbookEvolutionandPhilosophy.pdf?sequence=2

Diegesis – Mimesis

Stephen Halliwell
Created: 17. October 2012 Revised: 12. September 2013

Published on the living handbook of narratology (http://www.lhn.uni-hamburg.de)

https://www.lhn.uni-hamburg.de/printpdf/article/diegesis-–-mimesis

Art and Cosmology in India

Subhash Kak 2006

Aesthetics and Ethics

Aesthetics and Ethics

  • Aesthetics and Ethics are interdependent on each other
  • Steps to an Ecology of mind

Why do good? Why be moral?

  • Do good because its a good value for a virtuous person
  • Do good out of compassion and love for others
  • Do good because it is good for one’s self
  • Do good because world outside is none other than yourself. (Vedantic Perspective)

Aesthetics

  • of Design
  • of Arts
  • of Performance Arts
  • of Rituals
  • of Traditions
  • of Narrative Arts
  • of Culture
  • of Architecture
  • of Actions
  • of Thoughts
  • of Senses
  • of Emotions
  • of Values
  • of Experience

Key Terms

  • Virtues
  • Values
  • Aesthetics
  • Arts
  • Morals
  • Ethics
  • Good ness
  • Art and Morals
  • Aesthetics and Ethics
  • Beauty and Goodness
  • Ist person and 2nd Person
  • Integral Theory
  • Ken Wilber
  • Self, Culture, Nature
  • I, We, It/Its
  • Immanual Kant
  • Wittgenstein
  • Sameness and Otherness
  • Difference
  • Boundaries and Networks
  • Hierarchy and Networks
  • Plato and Aristotle
  • Action Learning
  • Reflexive Action
  • Social Ethics
  • Communities of Goodness
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Inter-objectivity
  • Inter-subjectivity
  • Subject and Object
  • Phenomenology and Hermenutics
  • Virtue Ethics
  • Development and Relations
  • Internal vs External
  • Individual vs Collective
  • Culture, Society, and Ethics
  • Narrative Arts
  • Intentions and Actions
  • Sewa and Service
  • Altruism
  • Philosophy of Arts
  • Aesthetics of living culture
  • Traditions, Rituals, and Culture
  • Classical Education
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Dance, Music and Performance Arts
  • Universals
  • Transcendentals
  • Ethnomethodology
  • Nondual Vedanta (Advait Vedanta)
  • Steps to an Ecology of Mind
  • Value Theory
  • Virtue Theory
  • Art Criticism
  • Taste, Style, Manners
  • Relational
  • Aesthetics and Relatedness
  • Consciousness
  • Nondual Awareness
  • Interconnectedness

Ethics as Aesthetics: Foucault’S Critique of Moralization of Ethics

This study found a new idea of ethics to bridge the gap between morality and aesthetics. This new idea is called aesthetics morality. This study concluded as follows: 1) ethics as morality is in the form of teleology, deontology and virtue ethics; 2) ethics is a synthesis of aesthetics and morality; and 3) ethics is aesthetics in the form of care of the self. 

Ethics as Style:
Wittgenstein’s Aesthetic Ethics and Ethical Aesthetics

An inquiry into Wittgenstein’s ethics and aesthetics has to start with the following questions: Can an aesthetics and/or ethics be extracted from his philosophical texts at all? If yes, what kind of aesthetics and/or ethics does Wittgenstein offer beyond his well-known aphoristic comments on the subject? Finally, how can we understand the meaning of his claim that ‘‘ethics and aesthetics are one’’? This article responds to the above questions by presenting an account of Wittgenstein’s ethical aesthetics and aesthetic ethics, elucidating both through the prism of his notion of style as ‘‘general necessity seen sub specie eterni.’’ It explains how logical necessity implodes within the limits of propositional language to open onto the realm of style, within which ethical necessity is to be understood in terms of aesthetic life-form and aesthetic expression is to be understood in terms of ethical enactment.

Es ist klar, daß sich die Ethik nicht aussprechen läßt. Die Ethik ist transzendental.
(Ethik und Ästhetik sind Eins.)

[It is clear that ethics cannot be expressed. Ethics is transcendental.
(Ethics and aesthetics are one.)]
Ludwig Wittgenstein

Aesthetics and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection

This book brings together a number of new essays in an area of growing concern, namely the intersection or overlap of aesthetics and ethics. Recent developments aside, for the past thirty years or so in Anglo-American philosophy, aesthetics and ethics have been pursued in relative isolation, with aesthetics being generally regarded as the poorer, if flashier, cousin. The attention aestheticians have recently given to moral aspects of art and art criticism, and that ethicists have recently paid to aesthetic aspects of moral life and moral evaluation, give hope of ending this rather artificial isolation, though without necessarily forcing us to accede in Wittgenstein’s gnomic dictum that “ethics and aesthetics are one.”

The intersection of aesthetics and ethics can be understood to comprise three spheres of inquiry. The first is that of problems or presuppositions common to aesthetics and ethics, the two traditional branches of value theory. The second is that of ethical issues in aesthetics, or in the practice of art. And the third sphere is that of aesthetic issues in ethics, theoretical and applied.

As it turns out, the concerns of the present collection do not span the full intersection of aesthetics and ethics as just explained. For reasons of both unity and manageability, the decision was made to foreground aesthetics in the present venture. The result is that the essays fall under the first and second, but not the third ways of understanding the intersection of the two fields.

2 – Three versions of objectivity: aesthetic, moral, and scientific

How does the objective validity of aesthetic judgments compare with the objective validity of moral judgments and scientific beliefs? There are two traditional answers. According to one, aesthetic and moral appraisals both utterly lack the cognitive authority of scientific inquiry, since neither kind of appraiser has access to a fact independent of her own judgments and neither is in a position to claim that all who are adequately qualified would share her judgment. For example, emotivists deprive both aesthetic and moral judgments of both kinds of objectivity. According to the other tradition, well-formed aesthetic and moral judgments have the same cognitive authority as wellformed scientific beliefs, because in all three realms the judgment maker is often in a position to assert a truth independent of her judgments, in a claim to which all adequately qualified inquirers would assent. For example, Kant puts the three realms on a par in both ways.

Each of these traditions has distinctive liabilities, which jointly suggest the need to explore a third alternative. The debunking tradition, depriving both aesthetic and moral judgments of all the authority of science, is hard to reconcile with the pervasive aspirations to truth and interests in impersonal argument of apparently rational people engaged in moral and aesthetic judgment. On the other hand, the claims to universality in the elevating tradition often seem wishful thinking.

Elsewhere, I have defended a view of morality and science that rejects the association in both traditions of rational access to appraiser-independent truth with epistemic universality.

5 – Art, narrative, and moral understanding

With much art, we are naturally inclined to speak of it in moral terms. Especially when considering things like novels, short stories, epic poems, plays, and movies, we seem to fall effortlessly into talking about them in terms of ethical significance – in terms of whether or which characters are virtuous or vicious, and about whether the work itself is moral or immoral, and perhaps whether it is sexist or racist. Undoubtedly, poststructuralists will choke on my use of the phrase “naturally inclined,” just because they do not believe that humans are naturally inclined toward anything. But that general premise is as needlessly strong a presupposition as it is patently false. And, furthermore, I hope to show that my talk of natural inclinations is hardly misplaced here, for we are prone to respond to the types of works in question in the language of moral assessment exactly because of the kinds of things they are.

Moreover, we do not merely make moral assessments of artworks as a whole and characters in particular; it is also the case that these moral assessments are variable. That is, we find some artworks to be morally good, while some others are not; some are exemplary, while some others are vicious and perhaps even pernicious; and finally other works may not appear to call for either moral approbation or opprobrium. So, though we very frequently do advance moral assessments of artworks, it is important to stress that we have a gamut of possible evaluative judgments at our disposal: from the morally good to the bad to the ugly, to the morally indifferent and the irrelvant.

Problems at the Intersection of Aesthetics and Ethics

The Intersection of Aesthetics and Ethics

Ever since the publication of Kant’s Critique of Judgment, the concept of taste has been severed from its moral sense and reduced to a merely aesthetic one.1 Since then two trends have predominated in moral philosophy. The first is a rationalist view of ethics, which proposes the need to subsume particular actions under universal laws. Deontological and utilitarian theories both have this paradigm in common. The second is the refraction of this position, which marginalizes any discussion of moral feeling as a psychological question of emotivism or subjectivism.2 This trend of positivism dismisses feelings as mere emotive states, questions of psychology, subjective, and therefore not binding.

In order to recapture the aesthetic dimensions of moral experience, one needs a view of aesthetics that is not limited to reflections on the beautiful and sublime in nature or art and that is not reducible to an allegiance to taste and manners; and one needs a continuity principle that enables reflection on morality to be true to experience. Two process philosophers, Alfred North Whitehead and John Dewey, present a metaphysics of experience which enriches ethics by illustrating the aesthetic dimensions of moral experience. Where the traditions outlined above view reason as the pivotal faculty in navigating the moral landscape, process philosophy emphasizes the aesthetic categories of feeling and imagination as operative in moral experience.

Those skeptical of “aestheticizing morality” often invoke the show-stopping reference to the Nazi Regime, one which consciously and politically recruited aesthetic ideals toward the crystallization of immorality.3 This is the Reductio ad Hitlerum to which the title refers. Fascism and Nazism in particular habituated a marriage between politics and aesthetics, and took up the goal of making politics a triumphant and beautiful spectacle.4 Art, music, and aesthetic symbols were recruited as instruments toward fulfilling this goal.5 Nazi Germany held “countless historical pageants, Volk festivals, military parades, propaganda films, art exhibitions and [erected] grandiose buildings”6 in order to exemplify “the fascist desire to invent mythic imperial pasts and futures,”7 while stirring the passions of the people for its war efforts. The Nazis denounced any allegiance to liberal political texts such as the Versailles Treaty “in favor of decisive political action based on fatal aesthetic criteria — beautiful vs. ugly, healthy vs. degenerate, German vs. Jew.”8 It is warranted to invoke this as the problem for those who “aestheticize” morality. The Nazi problematic, illustrated by an analysis of two films surrounding the immorality of the Nazi Regime, James Ivory’s The Remains of the Day (1993) and István Szabó’s Taking Sides (2001) illuminates the limitations and failures of the tendency to “aestheticize” morality. These films help show the nuances that reside at this tense intersection between aesthetics and ethics. However, tension between aesthetics and ethics, as depicted by the two films, dissolves once one’s understanding of aesthetics ceases to be reductive and narrow.

The aesthetic dimensions of moral experience in the philosophies of Alfred North Whitehead and John Dewey provide a basis for defining the continuity between ethics and aesthetics. For Whitehead, an aesthetic vision which builds on insights of his descriptive metaphysics enables us to see moral experience as aesthetic. For Dewey, the imagination works on the possibilities at hand in order to resolve morally problematic situations, and the grist for the imagination’s mill is experiential, perceptual, and aesthetic, not merely rational or conceptual. Thus, the broad use of aesthetics advocated herein enables us to draw moral distinctions in the face of Nazi atrocities instead of blindly serving the ideal of artistic creation. Nor does it reduce aesthetics to a fetish for manners. Rather, as including imagination, perception, taste, and emotion, an aesthetic orientation to ethics can encompass the limits posed by these films, and it can morally condemn the Nazi Regime and avoid the Hitler-reductio.

A.N. Whitehead at the Intersection

A sketch of Whitehead’s metaphysics is necessary in order to show how the foundations for moral action may be subsumed under the category of aesthetic experience. According to Whitehead’s systematic metaphysics, the world is a process of becoming. It is ultimately composed of self-creating “actual occasions.”9 The act of self-creation is the “concrescence” of an actual entity, “the final real things of which the world is made up.”10 Thus an “entity” describes an occasion or event in the mode of concrescense, the act of an occasion having prehended its environment. Events create themselves by virtue of their interdependence. The mode of relation each entity has toward others and toward its possibilities in general is “feeling.” “Prehensions” are the feelings which each entity has of its environment, which includes the entire universe, as each entity pulsates and vibrates throughout the cosmos in its process of self-creation.11 Since Whitehead holds that relations are more fundamental than substance, these prehensions constitute the actual entity. Where in traditional metaphysics, substance is primary and the relations among substances are described as secondary attributes, in Whitehead’s description entities are internally related, constituted by their relations. In this process metaphysics, relations are not secondary but primary in that they constitute the entities. When an actual entity prehends its environment, the entity constitutes itself and makes itself what it is.12Each entity serves as the subject of its own becoming and the “superject” of others, imparting itself to other entities in their becoming.13 Actual entities, in process metaphysics, are events, occasions in time, and always situated in a complex, interdependent environment of other entities. Thus, Whitehead’s speculative metaphysics is relational, not atomistic.

This speculative picture of reality lends itself to reflections on moral experience, including an account of Whitehead’s theory of value. In Process and Reality, Whitehead’s theory of value uses strong aesthetic language. He describes intensity of experience as “strength of beauty”: the degree of feeling in an occasion’s prehension of its environment. 14 Further, as John Cobb notes, “The chief ingredients [to beautiful experience] are emotional.”15 The actual entity prehends its environment, feeling its aesthetic surrounding in a chiefly emotional comportment. Because the locus of value is the intensity and harmony of an experience and the emotional sphere contributes chiefly to beautiful experience, emotion need not be corralled by reason, but channeled toward the achievement of beauty. Further, Whitehead shows that philosophers who treat feelings as merely private are mistakenly taking a phase of concrescence to be the whole of experience. For Whitehead, “there is no element in the universe capable of pure privacy.”16 The impossibility of pure privacy undermines the conceptual option of positivists and others who atomize and privatize feeling in order to dismiss its role in moral experiences as subjectivism or emotivism, both of which result in relativism.

Moral experience and aesthetic experience work dialectically: “The function of morality is to promote beauty in experience,”17 but emotions inform morality by adding to the value of experience. Sensation and emotion are not passively received, private reifications; instead, they seamlessly compose the environment we inhabit. Cobb contends that “the purely aesthetic impulse and the moral one exist in a tension” and that “the good aimed at for others is an aesthetic good — the strength of beauty of their experience.”18

Whitehead writes:

In our own relatively high grade human existence, this doctrine of feelings and their subject is best illustrated by our notion of moral responsibility. The subject is responsible for being what it is in virtue of its feelings. It is also derivatively responsible for the consequences of its existence because they flow from its feelings.19

That our existence flows from our feelings reveals the foundation of moral action on aesthetic, αἰσθηματικός, “sensuous” experience. When Whitehead contends that our moral actions flow from our feelings, he places a primacy upon our emotional comportment. The main contribution we make to others is our spirit or attitude.20This spirit is a comportment and temperament, an angle of vision. If our vision is broad and seeks to contribute to the strength of beauty of others’ experience, it is continuous with moral experience. Moral vision is attitudinal and acting according to calculation, deliberation, and reason, while poor in spirit, is not moral action. Whitehead posits a theory of value where our goal is to realize a strength of beauty in our immediate occasions of action. Taking a calculating attitude towards future consequences endangers this goal.21 It is misleading to think that one can calculate rationally toward that best action.22 Rather, such moral rationalism can justify activity that we feel is inhumane, evil, ugly, unjust, and wrong. It can sever means from ends and justify that which our sentiments would impeach.

Whitehead’s speculative metaphysics, by using humanistic and aesthetic language, includes a description of moral experience. Occasions of activity become harmonious with their environment by acting in the service of beauty. Actions emanate from feelings, and right action is not the function of rational deliberation, but of whole-part relations, of fitting the variety of detail and contrast under the unity of an aesthetic concrescence. Whitehead’s is a seductive account of reality, but nowhere in it do we find something like evil. Those skeptical of such an aesthetic description of moral experience may ask, “Where is the Holocaust in this picture?” Thus, below a recourse to two films about Nazism, aesthetics, and morality enables the skeptic to reexamine the continuity between ethics and aesthetics and consider a broader, less reductive, understanding of aesthetics itself. Before addressing this question, another account of how process philosophy maintains continuity between ethics and aesthetics is in order.

John Dewey at the Intersection

In order to outline Dewey’s description of the aesthetic dimensions of moral experience, a cursory illustration of the continuity at work in his metaphysics of experience and theory of inquiry is in order. Dewey described the generic traits of human experience as both precarious and stable.23 Indeterminate situations produce the conditions of instability.24 Subjecting a precarious situation to inquiry constitutes it as problematic, enabling an agent to identify possible means of resolving the situations within the constituent features of the uniquely given situation. Our employment of imaginative intelligence directs our activity in an effort to resolve the situation by rearranging the conditions of indeterminacy toward settlement and unification.25

In a manner similar to Whitehead, Dewey refers to the creative integration of the entire complex situation with the term “value.”26 One constituent in the activity of unifying the problematic situation is the end-in-view, which functions as a specific action coordinating all other factors involved in the institution and resolution of the problem. The value is the integration and unification of the situation. When the end-in-view functions successfully toward the integration of the situation, the resultant unification is a “consummatory phase of experience.”27 Dewey wrote, “Values are naturalistically interpreted as intrinsic qualities of events in their consummatory reference.”28 Their naturalistic interpretation renders the experience of value and the process of valuation continuous with other natural processes. That is, the ends-in-view, whether or not these are moral ideals, do not exist antecedent to inquiry into the complex, historical, and uniquely given situation, as the rationalists would have it. The general traits of moral experience are found within aesthetic experience — dispelling the need dichotomize experience into the cognitive and the emotional — because values are qualities of events.

The ability to examine the aesthetic dimensions of moral experience depends on the way Dewey defines an aesthetically unified and integrated experience as consummatory. The consummation refers to the experience of the unification of meaning of all of the phases of a complex experience.29 Thus, the aesthetic experience gives a holistic meaning to the precariousness of its parts. The value of an experience, including moral value, refers, as in Whitehead’s description, to whole-part relations and the unification of various elements therein.

Art is the skill of giving each phase its meaning in light of the whole. Art unifies each function of the experience, giving reflection, action, desire, and imagination an integrated relation both to each other and to the possibility of meaningful resolution.30 Thus, Dewey refuses to parcel out a separate faculty at work in isolation in any meaningful experience, whether that is reason in cognition or emotion in sympathetic attention to a friend. The consummatory experience is one in which we employ imaginative intelligence in appropriating aesthetic, felt elements of experience above and beyond their immediacy and one in which the instability of their immediacy is seen imaginatively as a possibility toward its meaningful integration.31

Thus, artful conduct includes moral conduct, but in a way that both avoids the need to import ideals transcendent to our experience and gives moral ideals their reality in the meaning that ensues in the consequences of their enactment. The features of artful conduct inherent in moral behavior concern the ability to see possibilities in the elements of precariousness, “to see the actual in light of the possible.”32 Where the rationalist searches for a universal concept to justify a given, isolated action whose justification could be known but not felt, the moral imagination enables the agent to envision in her environment the constituent possibilities in order to reconstruct the situation.

Both Whitehead and Dewey treat moral experience as continuous with the aesthetic experience of intensity, meaning, unification, and harmony found in the consummatory phase of experience, or in Whitehead’s terms, in concrescence. Both treat vision and imagination, not calculative rationality, as operative in navigating morally problematic situations. The general trend running through these process philosophies that maintains continuity between ethics and aesthetics concerns whole-part relations. The individual in morally charged situations must harmonize her particular conduct to the whole of her environment broadly construed. She must imaginatively find the proper fit of her conduct with her greater cultural context. If she succeeds, she harmonizes her experience and the part coheres with the whole. Value, harmony, and stability ensue. Whitehead and Dewey describe our moral experience at a sufficient level of abstraction, one which could include the hosting of a dinner party or the conducting of an orchestra. Each part must cohere with the whole — harmony is the motivating ideal.

Much like Whitehead, Dewey gives us a processive account of reality which seems to cohere with personal experience; however, Dewey’s description of the pattern of inquiry has been accused of being so broad and vague that the Nazi resolution of the Jewish problem could be described according to it..33 The Germans under Hitler constituted their situation during the Great Depression as problematic. Their economy was in shambles, and their national pride was wounded. They found within their situation the constitutive elements, marginally-German, supposed conspirators and enemies of all sorts, to employ in resolving their situation. They achieved a sort of integration of their experience and a distorted sort of harmony in armament and invasion to reincorporate native Germans outside of their truncated borders. They consciously recruited aesthetic ideals and played on the national emotions of soil and blood. Thus, according to the Hitler-reductio, to condemn morally their actions with the language of Dewey or Whitehead is no easy task. The reductio causes moral philosophers to long for universality in any of its rationalist iterations.

The British Problem at the Intersection: The Remains of the Day

The philosophical depiction of aesthetic experience, of which moral dimensions compose a part, is problematic if individuals acting under aesthetic norms, guided by manners and in service of harmonizing part-whole relations, engage in outright immorality or shy away from moral duty in the face of evil. This is the “British” problem because to highlight it, we must attend to the British characters in The Remains of the Day. While much has been written on the film (and the Ishiguro novel upon which it is based), about the role of class and the symbolic nature of British imperial politics, the film also serves as an excellent test case for the continuity between aesthetics and ethics.34 The setting of The Remains of the Day, the aristocratic estate of Darlington Hall in rural England, announces an aesthetic emphasis on beauty and order which persists throughout the film. Most of the action in the film occurs in the pre-war 1930s, but the film flashes forward to the post-war 1950s to show “present” character interactions. The central characters are an emotionally-repressed butler, Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), his superior and owner of the estate in the 1930s, Lord Darlington (James Fox), and his fellow caretaker of the estate, Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson). The problematic relationship between aesthetic orientation and morality comes into view by focusing on Lord Darlington’s demeanor throughout the events of the 1930s, and Mr. Stevens’s comportment to the politically and morally problematic events that unfold at Darlington Hall.

Lord Darlington had a friend in Germany against whom he fought in the First World War, with whom he intended to sit down and have a drink after the war. But this never happened, as the German friend, ruined by the inflation that ensued in the post-Versailles Weimar Republic, took his own life. Lord Darlington exclaims to Mr. Stevens, “The Versailles Treaty made a liar out of me.” Darlington laments that the conditions of the treaty, (debt reparations, guilt clause) were too harsh: “Not how you treat a defeated foe,” as Darlington puts it. With this as his proximate motivation, Lord Darlington uses his influence to broker the policy of appeasementtoward Nazi Germany. It appears that Lord Darlington puts manners before moral duty. He hosts the delegates from Germany, France, and the United States at his home, and they dine dressed in black tie, served by the army of under-butlers commanded by Mr. Stevens.

One is tempted to view Lord Darlington’s behavior as kind, if not for other telling incidents. He temporarily agrees to employ two Jewish refugees at his estate, and it is made clear to the viewer that he understands the dangers they faced in Germany and that his home is serving as a sanctuary. However, after reading the work of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Lord Darlington orders that two German, Jewish maids should be discharged, as he considers their employment inappropriate for his German guests. Mr. Stevens carries out the order without reflection, while Miss Kenton threatens to resign in protest, but fails to follow through out of self-admitted weakness.35 Thus, Darlington knew of the Nazi policies in Germany, understood the potential plight of the maids, but fired them anyway in service of behavior “appropriate” for his German guests.

Darlington’s elevation of manners above duty reappears as he cannot even tell his godson (Hugh Grant), whose father has died and who is soon to be married, about the birds and the bees. He asks Mr. Stevens, his butler, to do it for him. Darlington seems unwilling to confront the issue of sexuality as it offends his Victorian manners and sensibilities. Thus, manners, while they can be seen as the outward display of inner character, here get in the way of the more difficult, unmannerly, and inappropriate conduct commanded in the face of negotiation with the Germans, the employment of the Jewish maids, and the acceptance of surrogate fatherly duties.

Mr. Stevens’s motivations are more opaque to the audience. He is so univocally driven to serve and fulfill his duty to Lord Darlington, that he almost fails to portray any moral subjectivity.36 But as the head butler, his service is also for the aesthetic ideals of orderliness and cleanliness. The prospect of a dustpan being left on the landing frightens him, such that he rushes to retrieve it before his employer notices his shortcoming. Mr. Stevens’s single-minded focus is best displayed when his own father, also an employee, is dying. Stevens attends to the dinner of the foreign delegates without pain or pause, while his own father lies on his death bed. His relationship with Miss Kenton, central to the development of his character, reveals his coldness, emotional repression, and narrowly driven service toward aesthetic ends. Miss Kenton first extends kindness to Mr. Stevens by putting flowers in his office, but he asks that they be removed so as not to distract him. She falls in love with Mr. Stevens and ends up in tears when she tries to break through his emotional wall and communicate her love to him. But he ignores her and asks to be excused to attend to his duties. Before her eventual departure and engagement to another man, she insults Stevens out of manifest distress that he has never expressed any emotional interest in her, but he still remains unmoved. After his reunion with her in the 1950s, Stevens departs for Darlington Hall in a deluge of rain. Kenton cries, but Stevens, still fails to demonstrate any feeling and only raises his hat out of politeness. While Stevens’s class-based subordination could explain his failure to fulfill his duty to his father, his coldness to Miss Kenton illustrates that he was a cold rationalist in service of aesthetics — thinly defined aesthetics.

Reflecting on Mr. Stevens’s relationship to Miss Kenton reveals two sides of the problem at the intersection of aesthetics and ethics. First, because he serves only the aesthetic ideals of order, beauty, and cleanliness, he does a disservice to the human and intersubjective dimensions of moral experience. He is polite but inattentive and stoic in the face of obvious human suffering, from the firing of the Jewish maids, to the death of his father, to the jilted and regretful Miss Kenton. Does this pose a problem for the continuity between aesthetics and ethics? Stevens serves beauty at the cost of moral duty but also interpersonal sympathy. Since an emotional angle of vision is the necessary condition for attending to moral circumstances, his aesthetic orientation is too narrow. While he has an aesthetic ideal as his motive, he has a rational methodology to achieve it. He acts in each situation as if subsuming his particular action under the universal conceptual criteria of serving beauty and order. He does not allow his actions to flow from his feelings as Whitehead would prescribe. His contribution to others is his spirit, but this is a cold, deliberate, and rational spirit. Thus, with Mr. Stevens as a test case, a conception of aesthetic experience needs to be broad enough to include emotional comportment. Failing to do so through operating in service of a narrow ideal of beauty reveals an impoverished sense of aesthetics which results in immorality.

American Congressman, Mr. Lewis (Christopher Reeve) of The Remains of the Dayserves as a pivot to the American problem at the intersection of aesthetics and ethics discussed at length below. Laughed at as nouveau riche by the British delegates, Lewis attends the conference with the intent of resisting the policy of appeasement. Because he fails to recruit the French delegate, Dupont d’Ivry (Michael Lonsdale), to his side (D’Ivry is busy attending to his sore feet), Mr. Lewis resorts to making an impolite toast at the black tie dinner. He argues in favor of the Realpolitik of professionals, rather than that of “honorable amateurs,” which is his epithet for the noblemen in his company and the Lord who is his host. In his toast “to the professionals” he embodies the moral high ground against the Nazis and the unmannerly and barefooted behavior of a stereotypical American on aristocratic soil; thus he hammers in the wedge that separates manners from morals. Apparently, Americans stand up for right against wrong even at the expense of politeness and pretty conduct. Lewis is a representative character for those skeptical of continuity between aesthetics and ethics. He knows that aesthetic ideals, when reducible to the appreciation of good taste and mannerly behavior, can dull moral distinctions. Yet he fails to unify the precariousness of his situation in a manner which Whitehead or Dewey describe.

The American Problem at the Intersection: Taking Sides

Taking Sides tells the story of Dr. Wilhelm Furtwängler, (Stellan Skarsgård), one of the most respected German conductors of the 20th century, who chose to remain in Germany during the Nazi regime. After Germany’s defeat, he fell victim to a ruthless investigation by the Allies. The major in charge of the investigation is a stereotypically uncultured American, Major Steven Arnold (Harvey Keitel), who works in the insurance business. Arnold tries to uncover how complicit Furtwängler was. Furtwängler was appointed to the Privy Council, he was Hitler’s favorite conductor, and Goebbels and Goering honored him. However, he never joined the Nazi party, he helped numerous Jews escape, and several witnesses testify that he tried to protect Jewish musicians under his direction.

The audience is left to judge Furtwängler morally. On the one hand, Arnold has the moral high ground. The Nazis perpetrated the Holocaust, and the Allied victory ended it. Justice awaits the guilty. But Major Arnold is no Congressman Lewis, who has the outward appearance of a British Peer but falls short of their mannerly conduct only by degree. Arnold is a bullying interrogator, somewhere between the caricature of an ugly American and a down-to-earth pragmatist who thinks musical genius is no excuse for collusion with Nazism, and he is willing to employ an overbearing rudeness to expose this. For Arnold, the question is all about strength of will, and he deems Furtwängler weak. However, Arnold seems to misunderstand most of Furtwängler’s replies to his questions, and at times, his interrogation seems like self-righteous taunting and badgering. The viewer is left wondering whether the distressed conductor or the clinched-fist interrogator is acting more like a Nazi.

In one telling exchange, Furtwängler claims that art has mystical powers, which nurture man’s spiritual needs. He confesses to being extremely naïve. While having maintained the absolute separation of art and politics, he devoted his life to music because he thought through music he could do something practical: to maintain liberty, humanity, and justice. Arnold replies with sarcastic disdain, “Gee, that’s a thing of beauty. […] But you used the word “naïve.” Are you saying you were wrong in maintaining the separation of art and politics?”37 Furtwängler replies that he believed art and politics should be separated, but that they were not kept separate by the Nazis, and he learned this at his own cost. Furtwängler is in an obvious bind here. He cannot hold the following propositions together without internal contradiction: (1) Art has mystical power which nurture’s man’s spiritual needs; (2) Art and politics should be kept separate; (3) Art can maintain liberty, justice and humanity; (4) Art was not kept separate from politics during Nazi rule in Germany, and this was a bad thing. If art nurtures man’s spiritual needs, but art must be kept separate from politics, are man’s spiritual needs distinct from questions of community and well-functioning societies? Put otherwise, can music perform its practical function of maintaining justice, while being separate from politics? It would not seem so.

In what follows this interrogation, Arnold accuses Furtwängler of weakness, of selling out to the Nazis for ordinary petty reasons of fear, jealousy of other conductors, and selfishness. Arnold’s two subordinates are offended by his demeanor and his denigration of a national artistic genius and hero. His assistant eventually refuses to participate. She claims that Arnold is embodying the demeanor of the S.S., which she witnessed firsthand. But Arnold shows her a film of corpses being bulldozed into mass graves, and he tells her that Furtwängler’s friends did this, and by virtue of the fact that Furtwängler actually helped some Jews escape, he knew what they were doing.

The moment of supposed revelation for the viewers of the film comes by way of archival footage, in which Furtwängler is shown shaking hands with Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels after a concert. Furtwängler’s face reveals the complexity of emotions at work — placidness, fear, and contempt. Furtwängler wipes his hand on his leg, revealing his disdain for his patron, but remains reserved and inoffensive. At once the viewer feels he is redeemed, because his true feelings for Goebbels and the Nazi project are revealed, but Furtwängler’s weakness is evident, as Arnold would have pointed out. Ultimately Furtwängler served the harmonious sensibility of artistic creation. Indeed, throughout the film the German admiration of him is severe, especially when contrasted to Arnold’s unimpressed frankness with him. The German temperament and faithfulness to aesthetic appreciation is manifest in a scene where the German audience stands in the rain, listening to Furtwängler conduct a symphony. To leave would offend, and service to the aesthetic ideals cannot give way to pragmatic considerations — how “American” that would be! One imagines Arnold thinking “what insensible dolt stands in the rain to listen to music?” Perhaps Congressman Lewis’s willingness to offend at the black tie dinner can be seen as a middle ground between Arnold’s bullying and Furtwängler’s and Darlington’s inverted values. However, this might only translate conduct into class, hiding the one true moral question beneath another layer of social convention. Arnold would insist that knowing where your salad fork belongs may not prevent you from colluding with murderers.

The Continuity between Ethics and Aesthetics

For both Whitehead and Dewey there are no universal moral situations. Our occasions of experience are always contextual and specific, never occurring in vacuous actuality. But this calls for a more general approach to descriptive ethics, not a more particularized prescription of universal moral laws. Both philosophers begin with a description of the general traits of experience and each uses highly aesthetic language. Each treats imagination and vision, not rationality, as operative in navigating morally problematic situations. Whitehead, by making feeling a metaphysical category, gives emotion a primary role; Dewey, in collapsing the gap between scientific, practical, and moral inquiries, gives imaginative intelligence primacy.

Neither of our two films presents the ideal character, with an emotional comportment and an intensity of experience able to serve as the causally efficacious and morally demanding superject in its environment. Nor do they offer a character of superior imaginative intelligence who finds and applies the elements of her problematic situation as means toward the valuable integration of meaning. This is not a surprise. England appeased the Nazis; the Holocaust occurred and so did the very limited prosecution of the guilty by the Allies afterwards. Furthermore, ugly, but welcomed, Americans plodded onto European soil either on the model of Major Arnold, at worst, or on that of Congressman Lewis at best. (He eventually buys Darlington Hall and retains Mr. Stevens as his butler, but he installs a ping-pong table there, of all aesthetic affronts). Does the “American” problem recur in summer retreats to European museums and cafes? Americans plod, loud and entitled, over the artistic feats of the Continent, and their European hosts translate aesthetic missteps into moral offense.

Where did each character fall short, and what did their shortcomings reveal about the intersection of aesthetics and ethics? Lord Darlington employed his servants to erect a mannerly and orderly veneer between him and that which is ugly. However, he can be viewed as a tragic figure because his mild manners and sensitivity to common cultural (and aesthetic in the narrow sense) values with the Germans were used against him. He ended in disgrace as the news of his involvement in the appeasement was publicized by the press. But his heightened sense of manners disabled him from confronting the soil of moral problems as he did not want to get dirty — (that’s what the servants are for). The head butler, Stevens, was not the emotionally comported or spontaneously active character tacitly advocated for by Whiteheadian ethics, but the coldly rational and deliberative agent serving a narrow aesthetic end. Miss Kenton and Furtwängler demonstrated a weakness of will in the face of wrong-doing, and for that they are condemned, not by an aesthetic measure, but by a pragmatic one. Their beliefs were their propensities to act, and their inability to act revealed a weak belief in their moral ideals.38 But the American characters are not morally pure. As the victors, the

tools they had at their disposal to resolve their situations were ready at hand, and they too were constituted by their prehensions of their environment. Denigrating an artistic genius does not show the service of a moral ideal, but only the privileged position of Major Arnold of judging Furtwängler’s weakness from outside his context.

These films do illustrate the tension at work at the intersection of aesthetics and ethics. While both films depict the limitations and failures of the tendency to “aestheticize” morality, they do not prove the need to import a falsely universal moral ideal antecedent to the experience of a particular problematic situation in order to judge right from wrong. Insofar as the tools needed to make these judgments are had in experience, they have been, accurately described by figures like Whitehead and Dewey, in aesthetic language. The Reductio ad Hitlerum only succeeds if the meaning of aesthetics is deflated and reduced to something much narrower than either Whitehead or Dewey intended, such as reflection on artistic creation. The broad use of aesthetics advocated here does not fail to draw moral distinctions in the face of Nazi atrocities while blindly serving the ideal of artistic beauty or mere manners. Rather, as including imagination and emotion, an aesthetic orientation to ethics encompasses the problems posed by the characters’ shortcomings, even if their moral shortcomings run parallel to their heightened aesthetic and misguided sensibilities.


  1. Hans Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, (London: Continuum, 2006), 31. Nöel Carroll makes the further claim that because of Kant’s aesthetic theory and its interpretation, twentieth century philosophers have neglected the ethical criticism of art. (Noël Carroll, “Art and Ethical Criticism: An Overview of Recent Directions of Research,” Ethics, Vol. 110, No. 2 (January 2000), pp 350). ↩︎
  2. Thomas Alexander, “John Dewey and the Moral Imagination: Beyond Putnam and Rorty toward a Postmodern Ethics,” Transactions of the Charles Sanders Peirce Society, Vol. XXIX, No. 3, (Summer 1993), 373. ↩︎
  3. For a complex examination of this problematic, see George Kateb, “Aestheticism and Morality: Their Cooperation and Hostility,” Political Theory, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Feb., 2000), pp. 5-37. ↩︎
  4. See Noël Carroll, “Art and Ethical Criticism: An Overview of Recent Directions of Research,” Ethics, Vol. 110, No. 2 (January 2000), pp. 350-387. Carroll highlights the problematic relationship between ethics and art criticism by examining the immorality and aesthetic value of The Triumph of the Will, among other artifacts. ↩︎
  5. Boaz Neumann, “The National Socialist Politics of Life,” New German Critique, No. 85, Special Issue on Intellectuals (Winter, 2002), p 120. ↩︎
  6. Paul Betts, “The New Fascination with Fascism: The Case of Nazi Modernism,” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Oct., 2002), 546. ↩︎
  7. Betts, “The New Fascination with Fascism,” 547. ↩︎
  8. Betts, “The New Fascination with Fascism,” 547. ↩︎
  9. Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality, (London: The Free Press, 1978), 18. ↩︎
  10. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 18, 22. ↩︎
  11. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 19. ↩︎
  12. Harold B. Dunkel, “Creativity and Education,” Educational Theory, Volume XI, Number 4, (1961), 209. ↩︎
  13. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 29. ↩︎
  14. John B. Cobb, “Whitehead’s Theory of Value,” religion-online.org Accessed 2/27/2015. ↩︎
  15. Cobb, “Whitehead’s Theory of Value.” ↩︎
  16. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 212. ↩︎
  17. Cobb, “Whitehead’s Theory of Value.” ↩︎
  18. Cobb, “Whitehead’s Theory of Value.” ↩︎
  19. Process and Reality, 222. ↩︎
  20. Cobb, “Whitehead’s Theory of Value.” ↩︎
  21. Cobb, “Whitehead’s Theory of Value.” ↩︎
  22. Cobb, “Whitehead’s Theory of Value.” ↩︎
  23. Dewey, Later Works Vol. 1, Ed. Boydston, (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967-1990) 42-45. ↩︎
  24. Dewey, Logic The Theory of InquiryLW 12: 110. ↩︎
  25. Dewey, LW 12: 121. ↩︎
  26. James Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value, (New York: Humanities Press, 1972), 132. ↩︎
  27. Dewey, LW 10: 143. ↩︎
  28. Dewey, LW 1: 9. ↩︎
  29. Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value, 150. ↩︎
  30. Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value, 151. ↩︎
  31. Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value, 152. ↩︎
  32. Alexander, “John Dewey and the Moral Imagination,” 384. ↩︎
  33. Richard Posner*, Law, Pragmatism, and Democracy*, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), p. 45. Posner claims that pragmatism, via Darwinism, has nurtured philosophies including Nazism. ↩︎
  34. See, for example, Meera Tamaya, “Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day: The Empire Strikes Back,” Modern Language Studies, Vol. 22, No. 2 (spring, 1992), pp. 45-56. Tanaya focuses on the relationship between Darlington and Stevens as one of colonizer and colonized, subject and object. ↩︎
  35. See Geoffrey G. Field, Evangelist of Race: The Germanic Vision of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981). ↩︎
  36. See McCombe, “The End of (Anthony) Eden: Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day” and Midcentury Anglo-American Tensions,” 78. ↩︎
  37. See Page R. Laws, “Taking Sides by Ronald Harwood; India Ink by Tom Stoppard,” (review), Theatre Journal, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Mar., 1996), pp. 107-108. Laws makes note of the fact that the Nazis used art in the service of politics. ↩︎
  38. Charles Sanders Peirce, Collected Papers (1958-1966), Vol. 5, Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss, eds., (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press), 400. ↩︎

References: 

Alexander, Thomas. “John Dewey and the Moral Imagination: Beyond Putnam and Rorty toward a Postmodern Ethics.” Transactions of the Charles Sanders Peirce Society. Vol. XXIX. No. 3. (Summer 1993).

Betts, Paul. “The New Fascination with Fascism: The Case of Nazi Modernism.” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 37. No. 4. (Oct., 2002).

Carroll, Noël. “Art and Ethical Criticism: An Overview of Recent Directions of Research.” Ethics. Vol. 110, No. 2 (January 2000), pp. 350-387.

Cobb, John B. Jr. “Whitehead’s Theory of Value.” www.religion-online.org.

Dewey, John. Later Works Vol. 1, Ed. Boydston, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967-1990.

Dewey, John. Later Works Vol. 10. Ed. Boydston, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967-1990.

Dewey, John. Later Works Vol. 12. Ed. Boydston. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967-1990.

Dunkel, Harold B. “Creativity and Education,” Educational Theory. Vol. XI. No. 4. (1961).

Field, Geoffrey G. Evangelist of Race: The Germanic Vision of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. New York: Columbia University Press, 1981.

Gadamer, Hans Georg. Truth and Method. London: Continuum, 2006.

Gouinlock, James. John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value. New York: Humanities Press, 1972.

Ivory, James. The Remains of the Day. Merchant Ivory Film, 1993.

Kateb, George. “Aestheticism and Morality: Their Cooperation and Hostility.” Political Theory. Vol. 28. No. 1 (Feb., 2000), pp. 5-37.

Neumann, Boaz. “The National Socialist Politics of Life.” New German Critique. No. 85. Special Issue on Intellectuals (Winter, 2002), pp. 107-130.

Peirce, Charles Sanders, (1958-1966) Collected papers. Vols. 1- 6, Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss, eds., (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press).

Posner, Richard. Law, Pragmatism, and Democracy, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Szabó, István. Taking Sides. Paladin Production S.A., 2001.

Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality. London: The Free Press, 1978.About the Author: 

Seth Vannatta earned his PhD in philosophy at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Morgan State University, where he won the university award for research and scholarship in 2012. He studies the history of philosophy and American philosophy and is interested in philosophy’s relationship to other dimensions of culture including law, politics, education, and sport. He is the author of Conservationsim and Pragmatism in Law, Politics, and Ethics(Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and editor and contributor to Chuck Klosterman and Philosophy: The Real and the Cereal (Open Court, 2012). He has published articles in The Pluralist, Contemporary Pragmatism, The European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy, Education and Culture, and others.

Notes on Ecological Aesthetics and Ethics

By David George Haskell

A sense of beauty is a rigorous, perhaps even objective, foundation for environmental ethics. Our human aesthetic judgment integrates many strands of experience: intellect, emotion, bodily senses, and all we know from our interactions with others, both human and non-human others. From this integration, we understand the good.

Of course, an aesthetic sense is subject to the whims of desire, passing fads, and superficial impressions. So a well-grounded ethic depends for its rigor on a mature sense of aesthetics. By “mature,” I mean a sense of aesthetics that emerges from many years of lived relationship with a place and its community of life, both human and non-human. Such experience allows us to “unself” our judgment into the wider experience of the community. Our aesthetic and then our ethic will thus emerge not just from the limited confines of our own self, but from the knowledge that lives within the networks from which communities are made.

Once we—collectively—have an integrated sense of aesthetics, we can begin to discern what is beautiful and what is broken about a place, and, from there, I believe we can begin to form an objective—or near-objective—foundation for ethical discernment. Answers emerge from the community of life itself, filtered through human experience and consciousness.

What do I mean by that? Years of experience in a particular place will open us to the lives of other people and other species in that place, so our sense of aesthetics will incorporate their realities. Once we have that, we have a ground for moving forward and making ethical decisions that are actually deeply rooted in the physical, biological realities of a place, rather than coming only from abstractions of a seminar room or dogmas in a philosophy born in another ecosystem.

Aesthetics is often presented as something that’s very subjective, divorced from the reality of the world. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. A sense of ecologic aesthetics comes from a very gritty, sensually rich experience that has its tendrils in the realities of a place.

None of this can answer the ethical nihilist who poses the question, “So, what? Ethics are vaporous illusions carved into the human nervous system by evolution.” But if some ground for ethics does exist in this universe, then a sense of aesthetics can, I think, help us find this ground by a process that fully acknowledges and embraces our existence as evolved members of ecological communities. This is a fully biological foundation for ethics.

On a practical level, if we try to answer questions about how to live in particular places without first listening to the realities and particularities of the place itself, our answers are going to be unmoored and will have terrible consequences. Understanding how to live ethically in a place is an extraordinarily complicated, important, and difficult challenge. Moving forward with answers that are not based on deep engagement with a place and its inhabitants is a recipe for disaster. So action in the world demands, first, a practice of listening.

Religious and philosophical traditions have known this for many millennia: contemplation and action go together, just as the inhale and the exhale go together. Monastic communities are deeply contemplative, but also have engaged in action in the world—whether that action is caring for other people in hospitals, or agricultural action, or caring for the sick. This history evinces the truth that we need open, contemplative spaces within our lives, especially lives of action. I think there’s a hunger for that kind of open space. Without it, we feel a desperation and a feeling that we’re up against the wall without a good way forward. Contemplative practices create spaces for new ideas, new connections to emerge. That sounds like a rather goal-oriented way of putting it, but I do think that one of the fruits of contemplation is an increased ability to come up with new ideas or to see old ideas in a new light.

In the environmental community, there are some instances of people making decisions about the fate of ecosystems when the decision-makers have never experienced the ecosystem at stake. When NGOs, governments, or businesses have decision-making structures that are divorced from the lived experience of a place, then the outcomes will most likely not be good for that place or the people in them. We need to bring lived experience of ecosystems back into the decision-making process.

Call: Aesthetics and Ethics in the Digital Age – British Society of Aesthetics Conference

Published: AUGUST 20, 2020

Call for Abstracts

British Society of Aesthetics: Aesthetics and Ethics in the Digital Age
27th and 28th May 2021
Cambridge, UK
https://fass.open.ac.uk/research/conferences/AEDA

Submission deadline: 31st December 2020

Submissions are invited for the upcoming conference British Society of Aesthetics: Aesthetics and Ethics in the Digital Age. The conference will take place on 27th and 28th May 2021 in Cambridge, UK.

The aim of this conference is to explore some developments in recent practice that raise new and interesting questions for the philosophy of art. Artists, working independently in different parts of the world, are creating new forms of technological interfaces and experimenting with the biological, the nano and the digital. At the heart of all their works is a deep ethos of balancing the aesthetic and the ethical in how we relate with others and our environment, whether in the same physical space or as distributed bodies. The spheres of the arts, sciences, and (in particular) technology overlap both to explore and to attempt to change the way in which we live in the world. These artistic practices raise questions about the interaction between aesthetics and ethics that go beyond those familiar to us in discussions over the past decade or so.

Abstracts of up to 1000 words should be submitted as an email attachment to Satinder Gill (spg12@cam.ac.uk) and Derek Matravers (derek.matravers@open.ac.uk). Please include the talk title, author’s name, affiliation and contact details in the body of email; and please write “BSA Conference Submission” in the subject line.  Abstracts should outline a talk lasting 25 minutes, on a topic related to the topic of the conference. The deadline for submissions is the end of 31st December 2020.

There will be no registration fee for the conference. UK-based contributing speakers will be encouraged to apply for the BSA Travel Stipend to cover travel and accommodation costs. The conference will adhere to BPA/SWIP Good Practice Scheme.

The conference website is https://fass.open.ac.uk/research/conferences/AEDA. For more information, please email Satinder Gill or Derek Matravers (emails above).

This conference is generously supported by the British Society of Aesthetics.

https://materialworldblog.com/2015/03/aesthetics-and-ethics-an-enquiry-into-their-relationship/

The relationship between aesthetics and ethics has long been the topic of scholarly debates, from Kant’s (1928[1790]) insistence that the experience of beauty involved disinterested contemplation and, subsequently, the separation of aesthetics from ethics, or Wittgenstein’s (1961[1889]) enigmatic proposition that ‘ethics and aesthetics are one’, to the numerous enquiries into the ethical aspects of art and art criticism or the aesthetic aspects of moral life and moral evaluation (e.g. Bourdieu 1984, Foucault 1985, 1986, Eco 1986, Eagleton 1990, Guattari 1995, Korsmeyer 1998, Levinson 2001, Rancière 2006, Osborne and Tanner 2007).
How has anthropology related to these debates? Thompson (2006[1973)], Bateson (2006[1973)], or Boone (1986), for example, in the tradition of a holistic anthropology, have analysed local concepts of beauty and illustrated the ways in which these concepts articulated with religious and moral values. Gell (1998), to give another example, through his notion of the artwork as an index, which enables the observer to make causal inferences about the artist’s intentions, has theoretically paved the way for inquiries into the morality of intentions. Furthermore, how can anthropology contribute to these debates, especially in light of its increasing interest in ethics (e.g. Lambek 2010, Faubion 2011, Robbins 2013, Keane 2013, 1014, Fassin and Lézé 2014, Laidlaw 2014)?

Participants have been invited to address the relationship between aesthetics and ethics in anthropology and to consider the following questions:
i) do the definitions of aesthetics and ethics currently in use in anthropology help or hinder us in our reflections on their relationship?
ii) when are the questions of aesthetics and ethics similar?
iii) what kind of theoretical framework is appropriate for reflecting on this relationship? (e.g. value theory; then the questions might be: how does aesthetic value relate to the notion of value generally? how does ethical value relate to the notion of value generally? are these types of value incompatible?)
iv) what kind of ethnographic topic is appropriate for reflecting on this relationship? (only those where there is an explicit expectation that aesthetic principles are guided by ethical considerations, such as Qur’anic art and Islamic fashion?)
v) should a third term, that is, politics, be also taken into consideration in order to better understand the relationship between aesthetics and ethics?

https://philpapers.org/browse/aesthetics-and-ethics

About this topic 

SummaryBroadly construed, Aesthetics and Ethics concerns the relationship between art and morality. Here we ask: Can artworks provide moral knowledge? Can artworks corrupt and instruct morally?  More narrowly construed, the category concerns the relationship between aesthetic and moral value. The chief question is this: Do moral flaws with works of art constitute aesthetics flaws? In addition, we can ask if aesthetic value is morally significant. This last issue has important implications for environmental ethics.
Key worksThe most important collection on the topic is Levinson 1998. The majority of the work on the topic is in essay form, but there are a few influential books. Gaut 2007 is an important, recent monograph. 
IntroductionsAlthough a bit out of date, Carroll 2000 provides an excellent overview of the area.  Gaut 2001 is also an excellent introduction.

References

Art and Ethical Criticism: An Overview of Recent Directions of Research.

Noël Carroll – 2000 – Ethics 110 (2):350-387.

Art and Ethics.

Berys Gaut – 2001 – In Berys Nigel Gaut & Dominic Lopes (eds.), 

The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics. Routledge. pp. 341–352.

Art, Emotion and Ethics.

Berys Gaut – 2007 – Oxford University Press.

Aesthetics and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection.

Jerrold Levinson (ed.) – 1998 – Cambridge University Press.

AESTHETICS & ETHICS: OTHERNESS AND MORAL IMAGINATION FROM ARISTOTLE TO LEVINAS AND FROM UNCLE TOM’S CABIN TO HOUSE MADE OF DAWN

In recent years, American Studies have taken a turn toward the political. However, although poststructuralism and deconstruction have undermined numerous of the moral-philosophical dogmas of the Western metaphysical tradition, many of the political claims that the revisionist turn in American Studies has voiced still rest, if tacitly, on these moral and ethical assumptions. As the latter often collide with the theoretical axioms that inform these revisionist works, some resort to what one could call the “pathos of marginality” and rather vague concepts of “otherness.” Moreover, these political-ideological readings often completely blot out aesthetic aspects, as these are suspected to be carriers of implicit and hegemonic strategies of representation.

In the first part, this study analyzes what role “otherness” plays in the most influential moral-philosophical approaches to date – from Aristotle and the Neo-Aristotelians (Alasdair MacIntyre, Martha Nussbaum) via Kantianism and its deconstructors (Jean-François Lyotard, J. Hillis Miller) to the works of Paul Ricoeur and Emmanuel Levinas – and sheds light on its highly problematic status in Western notions of justice. Moreover, on the background of these analyses it examines the role that aesthetics plays not only for, but within these approaches, with a special focus on what task literature is accorded to dramatize the clash of sameness and otherness.

Starting from a revised notion of the sublime, the second part “applies” the different approaches to four American novels: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor, Richard Wright’s Native Son, and N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn, and examines how far the moral-philosophical systems carry to elucidate these texts. What becomes clear is that none of these works can be captured in their complexity by either one moral philosophy or one political agenda, in that every literary “exemplification” of such theory inevitably falls prey to the treacherous dynamics of the example – a dynamics that inhabits literature and haunts ethics, and that defies literature’s instrumentalization by either ethics or ideologies.

Keywords: American Studies, Aesthetics, Ethics, the Sublime, the Other, Otherness, Immanuel Kant, Jean-François Lyotard, J. Hillis Miller, Martha Nussbaum, Alasdair MacIntyre, Paul Ricoeur, Emmanuel Levinas, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Herman Melville, Billd Budd, Richard Wright, Native Son, N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn, Ecology.

Contents

List of Abbreviations for Reference Works

Introduction

American Studies Today

Enter (And Leave): The Aesthetic

Difficult Neighbors: Ethics and Aesthetics

The Novels

I. The Kantian Legacy of Deconstruction

1. Kant – for Example

2. The Ethics of Reading and the End of History

2.1. Ce dangereux exemple…

2.2. De Man’s Demands

2.3. …close the gap!

2.4. Giving the Li(f)e to Miller’s Lie

3. Toward a Politics of the Sublime: Jean-François Lyotard

3.1. The Idea of the “Idea”

3.2. Lyotard Just Gaming?

3.3. The Sacrificial Sublime

II. The Return of Aristotle: Alasdair MacIntyre and Martha Nussbaum

4. Going Back Home: MacIntyre and the Greek Polis

4.1. The Price of Historicization

4.2. The Polis Rebuilt

4.3. Virtual Ethics and Virtuous Reading

4.4. Ethics, Practice, and the Narrative Unity of a Human Life

5. A Mind too Refined to be Touched by an Idea: Martha Nussbaum’s Aristotelian Liberalism

5.1. Aristotle and the Virtues

5.2. The Tragic Muse as Éducation Sentimentale

5.3. The End of Tragedy and The Limits of Identification

III. Approaching the Other: Emmanuel Levinas and Paul Ricoeur

6. Oneself for the Other: Emmanuel Levinas

6.1. Facing The Other

6.2. Ethics, Politics, and Literature

6.3. The Other Sublime

7. Oneself as Another: Paul Ricoeur

7.1. Toward a Narrative Ethics

7.2. Narration and Alterity

7.3. A Tragic Encounter – Narrating the Other

IV. Toward an Ethics of Literature

8. Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin

8.1. How to Turn a Thing Into a Man, or: Categorical Imperative vs. Golden Rule

8.2. Sentimentalism as Aesthetic and Ethical Strategy

8.3. The Economy of Religion and Politics

8.4. Face/Off

9. Herman Melville: Billy Budd, Sailor

9.1. Phronimos Goes To War

9.2. Literature, Responsibility, and Political Philosophy: Hannah Arendt and Paul Ricoeur

9.3. (Ef-)facing the Other – Melville’s Silences, Ethics, and War

9.4. Singular Madnesses, Maddening Singularities: Vere, Billy, and the “Hebrew Prophets”

10. Richard Wright: Native Son

10.1. Polis into Metropolis, or: How to Identify with a Rat

10.2. Whose Narrative Is It, Anyway?

10.3. The Racial Sublime

10.4.  Re(w)ri(gh)ting Native Son, Or: Who’s Afraid of Bigger Thomas?

11. N. Scott Momaday: House Made Of Dawn

11.1.  Polis into Pueblo, or: How to Identify with a Bear

11.2. “Evil Was”: Balance, Control, and the Ethics of Myth

11.3. To Kill or Not to Kill

11.4.  Excursus: Is there an other Other? Toward an Environmental Ethics

Conclusion

References

Index of Names

My Related Posts

Aesthetics and Ethics: At the Intersection

On Aesthetics

On Beauty

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful

On Classical Virtues

Indra’s Net: On Interconnectedness

Levels of Human Psychological Development in Integral Spiral Dynamics

Arts and Moral Philosophy

Human Rights and Human Development

Third and Higher Order Cybernetics

The Social Significance of Drama and Narrative Arts

Key Sources of Reserach

AESTHETICS AND ETHICS: THE STATE OF THE ART

Jeffory Dean

https://aesthetics-online.org/page/DeanState

Aesthetics and ethics

Tanner, Michael

https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/aesthetics-and-ethics/v-1

Aesthetics and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection

https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/aesthetics-and-ethics/44B8E5696692AEEEF09A034CFDE57B8C

Problems at the Intersection of Aesthetics and Ethics

Seth Vannatta (Morgan State University)

https://responsejournal.net/issue/2016-08/article/problems-intersection-aesthetics-and-ethics

‘ETHICS AND AESTHETICS ARE ONE’

Diané Collinson

The British Journal of Aesthetics, Volume 25, Issue 3, SUMMER 1985, Pages 266–272, https://doi.org/10.1093/bjaesthetics/25.3.266Published: 01 March 1985

Aesthetics and Ethics in Gadamer, Levinas, and Romanticism: Problems of Phronesis and Techne

David P. Haney

PMLA Vol. 114, No. 1, Special Topic: Ethics and Literary Study (Jan., 1999), pp. 32-45 (14 pages) Published By: Modern Language Association 

The Marriage of Aesthetics and Ethics

Series: Critical Studies in German Idealism, Volume: 15

Editor: Stéphane Symons

https://brill.com/view/title/31979

Ethics as Aesthetics: Foucault’S Critique of Moralization of Ethics

October 2019

Project: Ethics as Aesthetics: Foucault’s Critique of Moralization of Ethics

Erwin Arellano Mallo

University of Southern Mindanao

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336242982_Ethics_as_Aesthetics_Foucault%27S_Critique_of_Moralization_of_Ethics

“One and the Same? Ethics, Aesthetics, and Truth.” 

Eaglestone, Robert.

Poetics Today 25, no. 4 (2004): 595-608. muse.jhu.edu/article/177238.

Notes on Ecological Aesthetics and Ethics

By David George Haskell

Aesthetics & Ethics: Otherness and Moral Imagination from Aristotle to Levinas and from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to House Made of Dawn

Thomas Claviez

Aesthetics & Ethics: Otherness and Moral Imagination from Aristotle to Levinas and from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to House Made of Dawn

(Heidelberg: Winter, 2008) 

http://www.claviez.de/?page_id=41

Wittgenstein’s Aesthetics

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wittgenstein-aesthetics/

Aesthetics and Ethics

Aesthetics and Ethics  

Richard Eldridge

The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics

Edited by Jerrold Levinson

The Ethics of Aesthetics

Don Ritter Berlin, Germany

“Ethics and Aesthetics are One”: The Case of Zen Aesthetics

Bai, H. (1997).

Canadian Review of Art Education, 24(2), 37-52.

Ethics as Style:
Wittgenstein’s Aesthetic Ethics and Ethical Aesthetics

Kathrin Stengel

Independent Scholar, New York

Maha Vakyas: Great Aphorisms in Vedanta

Maha Vakyas: Great Aphorisms in Vedanta

 

I have always been fascinated by terse short aphorisms of Non dual Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism.

It took me several years to understand meaning of each based on my understanding of several scientific concepts

  • Recursion or Recursiveness
  • Fractal Geometry
  • Cybernetics and Systems Theory
  • Subject Object split to Subject Subject
  • There is no objective reality
  • Part and Whole Relationship
  • Microcosm and Macrocosm
  • Pinde and Brahmande
  • Interconnectedness of all
  • Hierarchy Theory
  • Networks Theory

 

 

Key Words

  • Non Dual Vedanta
  • Dualistic Vedanta
  • Advaita Vedanta
  • Brahman
  • Atman
  • Brahman and Maya
  • Real and Apparant
  • Jivatma and Paramatma
  • Sankhya
  • Yoga
  • Buddhism
  • Tantra

 

 

http://lb.geek.rs.ba/oldstuff/swamij-mirror/mahavakyas.htm

Mahavakyas: The Great Contemplations

Contemplation on the Mahavakyas
gradually reveals their truth
in direct experience.

Introduction

The Great Utterances: The Mahavakyas are the Great Sentences of Advaita Vedanta and Jnana Yoga, and are contained in the Upanishads. Maha is Great, and Vakyas are sentences, or utterances for contemplation. They provide perspective and insights that tie the texts together in a cohesive whole. The contemplations on the Mahavakyas also blend well with the practices of yoga meditation, prayer, and mantra, which are companion practices in Yoga. The pinnacle of the wisdom and practices of the ancient sages is contained in the terse twelve verses of theMandukya Upanishad, which outlines the philosophy and practices of the OM mantra.

See also these articles:
Song of the Self (Atma Shatkam)
Mandukya Upanishad

These make the wisdom more accessible: Seven Mahavakyas are described below. By focusing on these seven Mahavakyas, the rest of the principles of self-exploration described in Vedanta and the Upanishads are more easily accessible. Included with the descriptions below are suggestions on what to do with these seven Mahavakyas.

Validation in the inner laboratory: To truly understand the meaning of the Mahavakyas it is necessary to practice contemplation and meditation in your own inner laboratory of stillness and silence. It means doing a lot of self observation, including the four functions of mind. You may find it useful to learn both the Sanskrit and the English of the Mahavakyas. They are not practiced as blind faith beliefs, but rather are reflected on, so that their meaning is validated in direct experience.

Start by hearing the insights described: Some methods of contemplation give you a principle, a word, on which to reflect, but give no clues of the insights that will come. For example, if you contemplate on the word Truth, that is very broad, and may have many meanings. It might take a long time to even come to a core principle. Sometimes, in school or elsewhere, you have probably seen a study guide that has a list of questions that also includes the answers, in a Q&A format. With the Mahavakyas, it is somewhat like that, in that the Mahavakyas provide the answers, already written down. You still have to do the contemplations, but the journey is much more direct.

Direct experience, not mere belief: In contemplating the Mahavakyas, it is not a matter of merely accepting that the statements are true. In the oral teachings of the sages, it is said that you should never merely believe what you are told or what you read in a book. Rather, it is suggested that you should check it out for yourself in the inner laboratory of direct experience. It also seems true that, while ultimate oneness is the same for all, there is also a coloring of cultural and religious influences that determine the way in which different people will experience the early, or unfolding stages of insight.

Dig deep into the well
of only a few such Mahavakyas.

Dig deep in only a few wells: It can appear that exploring only a few sentences, like these seven, is a mere beginning point, and that one must subsequently learn hundreds or thousands of other sentences. This is definitely not the case. Although in academic circles one may do complex intellectual analysis of many scholarly commentaries, comparing and contrasting viewpoints, the seeker of direct experience digs deep into the well of only a few such contemplations.  In the monastic traditions of the swami order, a monk may contemplate exclusively on a single Mahavakya or maybe several of them. The practice bears fruit by deeply going into one, or a few, rather than memorizing many, or doing only intellectual analysis of the many.

Over and over and over: The passionately dedicated practitioner will contemplate on one or more of the Mahavakyas repeatedly, often, over a long period of time. Mind gradually comes to have a greater understanding, and then becomes still as the contemplation shifts from an observing, reflective process into a deep contemplative meditation. Reflection transforms into insight, which again transforms into the direct experience of the underlying truth or reality of the Mahavakya.

Companion practices: In the oral tradition of the Himalayan sages, the Yoga Sutras, Vedanta, and internal Tantra are companions on the journey to Self-Realization. The practices of the Yoga Sutras stabilize and clear the clouded mind. The Vedanta practices form a philosophical basis and means for discovering the underlying unity of the different aspects of our being. Internal Tantra provides the means for awakening the spiritual energy, so that the absolute, unchanging reality at our core is realized.

Mahavakyas are at the heart of Vedanta: These seven principles below are practices at the heart of the Vedanta part of the triad. Actually, all of these emerged out of the one source of teachings, and now appear to be three separate practices. The higher understanding and direct experience comes from person-to-person listening (written and oral), followed by deep reflection, contemplation, and deep contemplative meditation.

Advaita or Non-Dual Reality: It is popular to speak of Advaita as if it were a brand name of spirituality. It is not. Advaita is exactly what it says, Advaita, which means non-duality, not-two. If this little planet were to fall into the sun and burn up, there would no longer be any religionists or philosophers, but that which truly “is” still “is.” Advaita is exactly what it says it is, Advaita, not-two, which stands alone. Any suggestion that there are things such as Hindu Advaita or Buddhist Advaita or Anything-Else Advaita are games of the mind. To transcend all of the levels of false identity so as to “Be” that Reality of Advaita is the Knowledge or Jnana that is sought. It is only the most sincere and longing of aspirants who seek and Know this in direct experience. For others, it is merely an arena of philosophical and religious debate. For those who Know, Advaita stands alone.

 Stages of Yoga Vedanta Meditation and Contemplation
Swami Rama

Meditation and contemplation are two different techniques, yet they are complementary to each other. Meditation is a definite method of training oneself on all levels – body, breath, conscious mind, and unconscious mind – while contemplation builds a definite philosophy. Without the support of a solid philosophy, the method of meditation does not lead to higher dimensions of consciousness.

Contemplation makes one aware of the existence of the Reality, but Reality can be experienced only through the higher techniques of meditation. In the Vedanta system, meditation and contemplation are both used. When an aspirant tires of meditation because of lack of endurance, then he contemplates on the mahavakyas [great contemplations] and studies those scriptures that are helpful in the path of Self-realization and enlightenment. Contemplation, vichara, complements the Vedantic way of meditation, dhyana.

In Vedanta philosophy, there is a definite method used for contemplation. Ordinarily, the mind remains busy in self-dialogue, entangled in the web of its thought patterns. Because of desires, feelings, and emotions, unmanageable conflicts are created in one’s mental life. But the Vedanta way of contemplating transforms the entire personality of the aspirant, for the statements, mahavakyas, imparted by the preceptor create a dynamic change in the values of his life. These statements are compact, condensed, and abstruse srutis and cannot be understood without the help of a preceptor who is fully knowledgeable of the scriptures and these terse texts. Only a realized teacher can impart the profundity of such knowledge in a lucid language.

The thoughts, feelings, and desires which were once important to the aspirant lose their value, for he has only one goal to attain. The glory of contemplation brings a dynamic transformation to the internal states of the aspirant. This seems to be very necessary, because that which creates a barrier or becomes an obstacle for students loses its strength due to the power of contemplation, which transforms all his internal states.

First, an aspirant attentively listens to the sayings of the Upanishads from a preceptor who is Brahman-conscious all the time.

In the second step, he practices vichara (contemplation), which means that he goes to the depths of the great sayings and determines to practice them with mind, action, and speech.

One-pointed devotion, full determination, and dedication lead him to the higher step called nididhyasana. Here he acquires comprehensive knowledge of the Ultimate Truth. But he has not yet attained the final step of consciousness that leads him to the direct realization of the one self-existent Truth without second.

The highest state of contemplation is called saksatkara. In this state, perception and conceptualization are in complete agreement, and all the doubts from all levels of understanding vanish forever. At this height of knowledge, truth reveals itself to the aspirant, and perfect realization is accomplished, “I am Atman – I am Brahman.” This state of advaita is attained by the process of contemplation. Meditation plays an entirely different role and helps the aspirant make his mind one-pointed, inward, and steady.

Steadiness and stillness are practiced from the very beginning in this meditational method. The method of sitting, the method of breathing, the method of concentration, and the method of allowing a concentrated mind to flow uninterruptedly are subsequent steps that help the aspirant to expand his capacity so that he can contemplate without distraction.

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Meaning of the word brahman

Root of the word: The word brahman comes from the root brha or brhi, which means knowledge, expansion, and all-pervasiveness. It is that existence which alone exists, and in which there is the appearance of the entire universe.

Not subject to change: Brahman means the absolute reality, that which is eternal, and not subject to death, decay, or decomposition. In English, we speak of omnipresence or oneness. This is the principle of the word brahman.

Not a proper name: Brahman is not a proper name, but a Sanskrit word that denotes that oneness, the non-dual reality, the substratum underneath all of the many names and forms of the universe. Brahman is somewhat like the difference between the word ocean, and the specific ocean called Pacific Ocean. The word brahman is like ocean, not Pacific Ocean. Brahman is not a name of God. These contemplations neither promote nor oppose any particular religious concept of God.

Immanance and transcendence: One may also choose to think of brahman in theological terms, though that is not necessary. Within that perspective, the scholars speak of two principles: immanence and transcendence. Immanence is described as the divinity existing in, and extending into all parts of the created world. In that sense, the Mahavakyas can be read as suggesting there is no object that does not contain, or is not part of that creation.

It’s really indescribable, as it is beyond form: However one chooses to hold the word brahman, it is very useful to remember that brahman is often described as indescribable. For convenience sake, it is said that brahman is the nature of existence, consciousness, and bliss, though admitting that these words, too, are inadequate.

Seek direct experience: The real meaning comes only in direct experience resulting from contemplation and yoga meditation.

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1. Brahma satyam jagan mithya
Brahman is real; the world is unreal
(The absolute is real; the world is unreal or only relatively real)

Brahman is real: The way in which brahman is real is like saying that the clay in a pot is real, or the gold in a bracelet is real (metaphorically speaking). The idea is that first there was clay and gold, and when those changed form, there now appears to be a pot and a bracelet.

The world is unreal: However, when the pot is broken, or the bracelet is melted, there is once again only clay and gold. It is in that sense that the pot and the bracelet are not real; they come and go from manifestation. They are not as real as are the clay and the gold. (Remember that these are metaphors, and that obviously, we could also say that clay and gold also come and go, such as when planets are born and die from the nuclear fire of suns. Also, note that using the English words real and unreal for the Sanskrit words satyam and mithya, are not perfect, but they are the best we have to work with.)

Something is more real than the temporary: In saying that the world is unreal, it means to say that literally everything we experience in the external world is, like the pot and the bracelet, in a process of coming, being, and going (so too with all of the objects of the subtle realm). If the Mahavakya stopped there, this might appear to be a negative, or depressing comment. But it does not stop there. It makes the added comment that this absolute reality is, in a sense, more real than the temporary appearances.

Two points: Thus, the Mahavakya does two major things:

  • Reminder of the temporary: First, it serves as a reminder of the temporary nature of the worldly objects.

  • Reminder of the eternal: Second, it serves as a reminder that there is an eternal nature, that is not subject to change.

An invitation to know: In these reminders there is an invitation to come to know, in direct experience, the existence, consciousness, and bliss that is this eternal essence of our being.

Don’t stop living in the world: When practicing contemplation with this, and the other Mahavakyas, it is important to not allow the reflection that the world is unreal to stop you from doing your actions in the external world. To think that the world is unreal, and therefore we need not do anything is a grave mistake. The realization of the unreality of the world and the reality of the essence behind the world brings freedom, not bondage or lethargy.

1. Brahma satyam jagan mithya
Brahman is real; the world is unreal
(The absolute is real; the world is unreal or only relatively real)

What to do: The purpose of contemplation and yoga meditation exercises is to attain Self-realization, or enlightenment, which has to do with knowing or experiencing the deepest, eternal aspect of our own being. By working with this Mahavakya, one increasingly sees the difference between what is temporary and what is eternal.

  • Be mindful of the passing objects: One way to work with this Mahavakya, is to simply be mindful of the world around you. Gradually, gently, and lovingly observe the countless objects that are ever in a process of coming and going.

  • Remember the eternal: Allow yourself to also remember the eternal nature that is always there, enjoying the beauty of how this process ebbs and flows through that unchanging, eternal essence.

Be mindful of your own temporary and eternal: As you witness the external world in this way, allow your attention to shift to your own physical, energetic, and mental makeup. Gradually comes the insight that these more surface aspects are also temporary, and in a sense, are also unreal, or only relatively real. It increasingly allows the mind to see that there is an eternal aspect of our being, and that this is actually the source of the mind itself. The mind comes to see that it must, itself, let go, so as to experience the eternal that is within.

Practice this at daily meditation time: By observing the world in this way, it is then easier to do the same kind of silent observation and contemplation while sitting in the stillness of your meditation time. Over time, the depth of the insights increase, as an inner expansion comes.

The different Mahavakyas work together: In practice, the Mahavakyas work together. This becomes evident by exploring the others, such as the ones that follow below.

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2. Ekam evadvitiyam brahma
Brahman is one, without a second
(There is one absolute reality, without any secondary parts)

No object is truly independent: As our attention goes from object to object, image to image, we keep finding that those objects and images are only relatively real (as discussed above). Gradually, we come to see that no object exists independently from brahman, the whole. Hence, it is said there is one, without a second. Wherever we look, whatever we think or feel, try as we will, we can find no second object or part. Everything is seen as a manifestation of something else.

The objects are made of the same stuff: To speak of one, without a second, is like thinking of thousands of pots or bracelets made from clay or gold. As you look at each of the pots and bracelets, one at a time, you conclude that this pot, and this bracelet is not separate from the whole field of clay and gold. Suddenly you come to the insight that there is not a single pot that is separate from clay, and there is not a single bracelet separate from gold. In other words, you see that there is one field, without a second object, or simply stated, there is one, without a second.

Once again, this can also be viewed in a theological way, wherein immanence(versus transcendence) means the divinity existing in, and extending into all parts all parts of the created world. Thus, there is no object that does not contain, or is not part of that creation.

2. Ekam evadvitiyam brahma
Brahman is one, without a second
(There is one absolute reality, without any secondary parts)

What to do: Keep exploring the latter part of the sentence, the part of being without a second. Consciously look at the objects of the world, and the thoughts that arise in the mind. Observe whether it has independent existence and permanence. It is like asking, “Does this object or thought exist on its own? Does it stay in this form, or does it go away? Is it, therefore a second object in comparison to the whole?”

  • Try to find a second object: One practice is to repeatedly look for some second object, which has independent existence from the whole, from brahman.

  • You’ll find there is none: The aspirant will repeatedly find that there is no second object, which has independent existence, but that all objects derive from some other, like the pots from clay, or bracelets from gold. This brings the increasing awareness of underlying wholeness.

See the beauty of oneness in diversity: If this is approached as a mere philosophical opinion, if we merely believe the principle, then the deep insight that comes from exploration will be missed. Each time that some new object or thought is seen to not be a second in relation to the whole, the personal realization of the truth of the principle will become deeper and more profound. We come to see the beauty in this, to see the joy of wholeness, of the unity within the diversity. The interrelationship between the Mahavakyas will also become clearer.

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3. Prajnanam brahman
Brahman is the supreme knowledge
(Knowing the absolute reality is the supreme knowledge)

Knowledge out of which other knowledge arises: There are many types of knowledge one can attain. However, they all stem from, or are a part of, a higher knowledge. There is one exception, and that is the absolute knowledge, which is the highest. It is called absolute because it is not stemming from something else. Supreme knowledge is the ground out of which the diversity of knowledge and experience grows. The plant, though appearing separate, is made of the stuff of the ground.

Many metaphors for higher knowledge: It is just about impossible to write words describing this notion of supreme knowledge, which is part of the reason that there are so many different descriptions given by many people. Thus, we use metaphor after metaphor trying to capture and communicate the essence of the meaning. This Mahavakya is saying that as you climb the ladder of knowledge, this higher knowledge is to be found at the level of brahman, the oneness of universal consciousness.

Reflect on lower knowledge to find the higher: Reflecting on lower knowledge might give some idea. The knowledge of how to ride a bicycle is a form of knowledge, but it is based on the higher knowledge of how to move your body. The knowledge of complex mathematics is based on the higher, more foundational, prerequisite knowledge that allows the thinking process itself. When you see a person that you recognize as your friend, there was first an ability to see and conceptualize, which is a higher knowledge.

Find the foundation: Intuitively, you come to see that there is consciousness, or whatever term you would like to use, that is higher, more foundational, or prerequisite to the lower knowledge in all of its other forms. The highest rung of the ladder is called supreme knowledge, prajna, and this is said to be one and the same with brahman, the oneness.

Knowing is not mere intellectualizing: It is extremely important to note here, that this is not a process of intellectualizing. Knowledge refers to knowing or awareness, not just a linear, cognitive thinking process. The knowledge here, is more like the knowledge of recognizing an object as a tree, than the process of adding up a list of numbers. There is simply no more straightforward way of saying it, than to say it is a matter of knowing the tree.

Knowing applies to both head and heart people: Also, it is not that some people are intellectual, or head people, while others are emotional, or heart people. While these differences between people might be real, this Mahavakya is talking about a universal principle that applies to all people. The practices themselves are applicable to all people, whether inclined towards the head or the heart, though different people will quite naturally have different experiences leading to the same ultimate realizations.

3. Prajnanam brahman
Brahman is the supreme knowledge
(Knowing the absolute reality is the supreme knowledge)

What to do: In trying to reflect on the nature of supreme knowledge, the eternal substratum of all other knowledge, the mind will present many memories, images, impressions, thoughts, sensations, and emotions. All of these are some form of knowledge, that’s for sure. However, they are not the highest knowledge.

Ask yourself if a knowledge is lower or higher: Simply allow these thought patterns to arise. Then ask yourself, “Is this the higher knowledge?” Repeatedly you will find that the answer is no, that it is not the higher, but is a lower form of knowledge.

Remember there is higher knowledge: This kind of reflection leaves a quietness in which the intuition of the existence of the higher knowledge starts to come. The intuition deepens with practice. This quietness is not one of lethargy or laziness, but rather of clarity and openness. It brings a smile to the face and to the heart, as the field of knowing gradually expands towards the wisdom of the Mahavakya.

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4. Tat tvam asi
That is what you are
(That absolute reality is the essence of what you really are)

That is what YOU are: This Mahavakya is stated as if one person is speaking to the other, saying, “That is what you are!” when referring to brahman. The person speaking is the teacher, and person being spoken to is the student.

It is YOU at the deepest level: Imagine that the teacher has explained to you all of the above Mahavakyas, that you had reflected on these, and that you started to have some sense of the meaning of the oneness called brahman. Imagine that the teacher then pointed a finger at you and explained, “That brahman, that oneness, is who you really are, at the deepest level of your being!” It is like telling a wave in the ocean that it IS the ocean.

You are the person underneath the personality: Often, we hold on to our personal identities, such as being from this or that family, organization, or country. We take on the identity of our roles in our jobs or in our families, such as father or mother, sister or brother, son or daughter. Or, we come to believe that who we are, is our personality traits that have developed through living. We forget our true nature, that is underneath all of these only relative identities.

We continue our duties, holding identities loosely: The realization of this Mahavakya, Tat tvam asi, leads us to see that the relative identities are not who we really are. It does not mean that we drop our duties in the world, or stop acting in service of other people because of this realization. Rather, we become ever more free to hold those identities loosely, while increasingly being able to act in the loving service of others, independent of attachment to our false identities.

4. Tat tvam asi
That is what you are
(That absolute reality is the essence of what you really are)

What to do: As if talking to yourself, direct your attention inward, possibly towards the heart center. Say to yourself, “That is who you are!”

Point a finger at yourself: You might want to even point your index finger at your own chest, the place from where you experience, “I am.” As you hold in awareness the essence of the truth that this brahman, this oneness, is who you reallyare, also observe how you can gently let go of the false identities, seeing that they are only temporary and relativelyme.

Say to yourself, “That is who you are”:When reflecting on the other Mahavakyas, such as brahman is the supreme knowledge, then shift the observation from that truth, directing attention to your own inner being and say, “Tat tvam asi; That you are!”

Remember the inner feeling: Notice the inner feeling that comes from the statement and the realization of your spiritual nature, rather than your more surface level of mental or physical identity.

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5. Ayam atma brahma
Atman and Brahman are the same
(The individual Self is one and the same with the absolute)

The wave and the ocean are one: Is the wave separate from the ocean? Not really, but sometimes we lose sight of that. Imagine that you are standing by the ocean, watching the vastness of the ocean. Imagine that a really big wave starts to come ashore, and that your attention comes to this one wave. You intently notice it, becoming absorbed in the crashing of the surf, and the feel of the salt spray. In that moment, you are only aware of the immensity of this one wave. The ocean itself is forgotten during that time. Then, an instant later, you recall with an inner “Aha!”, that the wave and the ocean are one and the same.

  • Atman refers to that pure, perfect, eternal spark of consciousness that is the deepest, central core of our being.

  • Brahman refers to the oneness of the manifest and unmanifest universe.

It is like saying that atman is a wave, and brahman is the ocean. The insight of Ayam atma brahma is that the wave and the ocean are one and the same.

Atman seems to be here, and brahman there: Notice how the statement Ayam atma brahma (Atman and Brahman are the same) is framed as if you are a separate observer of both Atman and Brahman. It is like standing at the beach, looking out at both the wave and the ocean, and declaring that the wave an the ocean are one. You are observing from a witnessing stance, outside of both of them . Notice how this perspective contrasts with Aham brahmasmi (I am Brahman), which declares that “I am!”, an inner experience, rather than from an observing standpoint (like being on the beach).

Different perspectives for the underlying reality: In this way, each of the Mahavakyas gives a different perspective of the same underlying Reality. Gradually, they are seen as mirror reflections of the same Absolute Reality. That integrated flash of insight touches on the true meaning of the word brahman. It is like gaining different points of view from different viewing points. Together, they converge in a complete understanding.

5. Ayam atma brahma
Atman and Brahman are the same
(The individual Self is one and the same with the absolute)

What to do: Sit quietly and reflect on the inner core of your being, such as by placing your attention in the space between the breasts, the heart center.

Be aware of your center: Don’t visualize anything, but allow your awareness to touch the feeling aspect of the center of your being. Or, if you like to visualize internally, imagine a tiny spark of light that represents the eternal essence your own self, the atman. Hold this attention for a few seconds or minutes.

Shift to awareness of the universe: Then, shift your attention in such a way that you are imagining the breadth of the entire manifest and unmanifest universe, the gross, subtle, and causal realms. Imagine the oneness that permeates all, and is all. Do this in a way that you are aware of the essence in which all exists, like being aware of the gold or the clay described above.

Then be aware of both as separate: Then, allow your attention to hold both the awareness of the spark that is atmanand the universal essence that is brahman. Be aware of atmanalso being within that oneness of brahman. Allow this to bring insight and peace. You might want to internally think the words of the Mahavakya, “Ayam atma brahma; atman and brahman are the same.”

Be aware of both as one: It is a beautiful practice to do the same thing in relation to other people. Think of the people who are closest to you, including family, friends, and coworkers. Allow yourself to notice the surface levels of their actions and speech, their physical features, and their personalities. Be aware of the subtle aspects of their makeup, and of the spark of the eternal that is the center of their consciousness. Be aware of how that spark, atman, is one with the oneness, brahman.

Different insights from different Mahavakyas: Notice the different insights and feelings between the Mahavakyas. The insight from Tat tvam asi (That is who you are) is experienced differently from Ayam atma brahma (This individual Self is one with the absolute). The two simply feel different internally, yet they work together, describing the same fundamental truth about about who we are. By experiencing the separate vantage points, the whole is more completely experienced.

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6. Aham brahmasmi
I am Brahman
(Who I really am, is that absolute reality.)

If a gold bracelet could speak: Imagine two possibilities of what a gold bracelet might say, if it could speak. It might say one of these two things:

  1. “I am a bracelet!”
  2. “I am gold!”

Bracelet is temporary: Which is more true, more everlasting? We might be tempted to say that #1 is more accurate, in that bracelet seems more encompassing, being both bracelet and gold at the same time. However, the bracelet aspect is not eternal. It is temporary. It is only a matter of the particular shape in which the gold was molded. Is bracelet what it really is?

Gold is everlasting: What is always true, is #2, that “I am gold,” everlasting, ever pure, and not subject to death, decay, and decomposition. (One might argue that gold is not everlasting either, but in the metaphor, gold is being only used as an example.)

Bracelet is gold; I am gold: Note that this metaphor may sound similar to the ones above, regarding the impermanence of a bracelet and the permanence of the gold (metaphorically speaking). This is not the case. The realization that, “I am gold!” or “I am brahman!” is an internal experience compared to the statement, “The bracelet is gold!” (which sounds like the bracelet over there). The two insights are separate, though they also come to be the same.

Similarly, it is very different to realize, in direct experience, “I am brahman!” than one of the statements such as, “Brahman alone is real!”:

  • Out there: “Brahman alone is real!” seems to be about the world out there. It is a valid perspective.

  • In here: “I am brahman!” is an inner declaration of who I am, in here. This is also a valid perspecive.

Truth comes in the stillness of intuitive flash: The truth of a Mahavakyacomes through intuitive flash, that is progressively deeper as one practices. It is not merely an intellectual process, as it might appear to be by explaining the gold metaphor. The metaphors are used as a means of explaining the principle, but this is not the end of the process. In a sense, such explanations are only the beginning of the process. The key is in the still, silent reflection in the inner workshop of contemplation and yoga meditation.

After thinking, let go into contemplative insight:The initial insights come somewhat like the creative process when you are trying to solve some problem in daily life. You think and think, and then finally let go into silence. Then, suddenly, the creative idea just pops out, giving you the solution to your problem. The contemplation on the Mahavakyas is somewhat like that at first. Later, it goes into deeper meditation.

Insight comes within your own context: One may experience himself or herself as being like the gold or the clay, or like a wave in an ocean of bliss, that realizes the wave is also the ocean. With all these metaphors used only as tools of explanation, the insight of each person will come in the context of their own culture and religion, and will not seem foreign or unnatural. One’s religious values are not violated, but rather, are affirmed.

6. Aham brahmasmi
I am Brahman
(Who I really am, is that absolute reality.)

What to do: Reflect on the oneness, or brahman, and the meaning, as suggested in the practices above. Allow your attention to focus on the insights from those Mahavakyas, such as Brahman is one, without a second.

Literally ask questions of yourself: Ask yourself, internally, “Who am I? Am I this body, or do I have a body? Am I this breath, or is this breath just flowing? Am I this mind, or is this mind a manifestation of some deeper truth? Who am I, really? Who am I?”

Make your own declarations: Inside the chamber of your own being, declare to yourself, “I am brahman. I am not only a wave, I am made of ocean. I am ocean!” Allow the truth of the statements to expand. Be sure to practice such affirmations only if you have reflected on them, and find truth in them. This is not about selling yourself, but on affirming what you know.

In daily life, when sitting, or resting: As you do these contemplations, you might be right in the middle of your daily life. Or, you might be sitting straight in a formal yoga meditation posture. Or, you might be resting comfortably in a chair, on a sofa, or lying down in a relaxed position. There is a great diversity of settings in which you can do this type of contemplation.

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7. Sarvam khalvidam brahma
All of this is Brahman
(All of this, including me, is that absolute reality)

The various insights are revealed: Gradually, one comes to understand and increasingly experience the deeper aspects of the other Mahavakyas (the six described above):

  • Brahman is real; the world is unreal.
  • Brahman is one, without a second.
  • Brahman is the supreme knowledge.
  • That is what you are.
  • Atman and brahman are the same.
  • I am brahman.

They sing a song together: As one comes to experience the truth of the individual Mahavakyas, it seems they come together in a song, that cries out in joy, “All of this is brahman!” As was said in the beginning, it is a process that comes from person-to-person listening (written and oral), followed by deep reflection, contemplation, and meditation.


(Perspective on “Sarvam khalvidam brahma”)

Realization comes in stages:

  • First, there is cognitive understanding of the meaning.
  • Second, intuition rolls down, revealing deeper meanings.
  • Finally, it is as if the one doing the practice travels upwards to merge in the direct experience, even though there was never any division in the first place.

7. Sarvam khalvidam brahma
All of this is Brahman
(All of this, including me, is that absolute reality)

What to do: Allow your awareness to try to encompass, at one time, the entire manifest and unmanifest universe, the objects and people in the world around you, as well as your own body and mind. Hold these together, as one whole, and reflect on the words, “All of this is brahman! All of this is one!” This builds on the other practices, and expands in its experience.

Mind is set aside in an explosion of awareness: Eventually, in the depth of meditation and contemplation, the entire mind is set aside in an explosion of awareness, in which the truth of the Mahavakyas comes forward, and is seen to have been there all along, ever still, waiting to be discovered in direct experience.

Four traditional Mahavakyas

Four of the Mahavakyas above are most traditional to Vedanta. Some 1200 years ago Adi Shankaracharya assigned one Mahavakya to one of four monastic teaching centers or mutts in India.

Mahavakya Source Mutt/Center

Prajnanam brahman
Brahman is supreme knowledge
Aitareya Upanishad
3.3, of Rig Veda
Puri/Govardhana
East

Tat tvam asi
That is what you are
Chandogya Upanishad
6.8.7, of Sama Veda,
Kaivalya Upanishad
Dwaraka/Sarada/Gujrat
West

Ayam atma brahma
Atman and brahman
are the same
Mandukya Upanishad
1.2, of Atharva Veda
Jyoti/Badrinath
North

Aham brahmasmi
I am brahman
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
1.4.10, of Yajur Veda,
Mahanarayana Upanishad
Sringeri/Mysore
South

 

 

Please see my related posts

The Pillar of Celestial Fire

The Great Chain of Being

Indra’s Net: On Interconnectedness

On Holons and Holarchy

Recursion, Incursion, and Hyper-incursion

Third and Higher Order Cybernetics

 

 

 

Key sources of Research:

 

Arsha Vidya Gurukulam

arshavidya.org

Talk on The Essence of Vedanta

 

Talk on Vedanta by Swami Sarvpriyananda

Boundaries and Distinctions

Boundaries and Distinctions

 

 

Distinctions create cultural diversity.

If you value diversity, you value distinctions

If you value networks, you value boundaries

 

 

Key Terms

  • Social Class
  • Social Status
  • Distinction
  • Boundaries
  • Borders
  • Difference
  • Division
  • Diversity
  • Power
  • Inclusion and Exclusion
  • Networks as Boundaries
  • Inequality
  • Taste
  • Symbolic Boundaries
  • Social Boundaries
  • Spatial Boundaries
  • Social Processes
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Confrontation
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Samaj
  • Community
  • Social Stratification
  • Identity
  • Emile Durkheim
  • Max Weber
  • Pierre Bourdieu
  •  Fredrik Barth
  • Charles Tilly
  • Harrison White
  • Michèle Lamont
  • Relational Sociology
  • Cultural Sociology
  • Many Levels of Development
  • Spiral Dynamics
  • Values
  • Culture
  • Holons
  • Holarchy
  • Integral Theory

 

Symbolic Boundaries

 

Symbolic Boundaries (General)

Michèle Lamont
Department of Sociology
Princeton University
Princeton New Jersey 08540
U.S.A.

Article #: 20851A4/8/007
Symbolic Boundaries (General)

1. Definition and Intellectual Context

“Symbolic Boundaries” are the lines that include and define some people, groups and things while excluding others (Epstein 1992, p. 232). These distinctions can be expressed through normative interdictions (taboos), cultural attitudes and practices, and more generally through patterns of likes and dislikes. They play an important role in the creation of inequality and the exercise of power. The term “symbolic boundaries” is also used to refer to the internal distinctions of classification systems and to temporal, spatial, and visual cognitive distinctions in particular (Wagner-Pacifici 2000; Zerubavel 1997; see the entry cognitive schemata and expressive forms). This article focuses on boundaries within and between groups.It discusses the history, current research, and future challenges of work on this topic.

The literature on symbolic boundaries has gained importance since the sixties due to a convergence between research on symbolic systems and indirect forms of power. Writings by Pierre Bourdieu, Mary Douglas, Norbert Elias, Erving Goffman, and Michel Foucault on these and related topics have been influential internationally across several disciplines, but particularly in anthropology, history, literary studies, and sociology. In North America, a renewed cultural sociology has produced wide-ranging empirical research agendas on symbolic boundaries and inequality. In other fields including community, cognition, deviance, gender, immigration, knowledge and science, nationalism, professions, race and ethnic studies, and social movements, issues of boundaries have gained analytical prominence, although some authors analyze boundary work without using the language of symbolic boundaries.

2. History

Two of the founding fathers of sociology played central roles in shaping the literature on symbolic boundaries: Emile Durkheim and Max Weber. I review their contributions before turning to the “neo-classical” writings of Mary Douglas, Norbert Elias, and Thornstein Veblen, which illustrate the lasting influence of Durkheim and Weber on this literature up to the sixties. While Durkheim brings attention to classification systems and their relationship with the moral order, Weber is more concerned with their impact on the production and reproduction of inequality. (For a more encompassing historical overview which includes a discussion of the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Victor Turner, see Schwartz 1981).

One of the most widely used examples of symbolic boundaries is taken from Durkheim’s later work, Les formes élementaires de la vie religieuse (The Elementary Forms of Religious Life 1965[1911]).In this book, Durkheim arguesthat the distinctiveness of the religious experience from other types of experiences rests in the fact that it involves a symbolic distinction between the realms of the sacred and the profane (p. 234, 250). The meanings of these realms are mutually exclusive and are defined relationally, through interdictions and rituals that isolate and protect the former from the latter (e.g., a Roman-Catholic sinner cannot receive communion until he is purified through confession) (p. 271).

The distinction between the sacred and the profane extends to the whole universe of objects and people in which it takes place. For instance, the status of members of a community is defined by the types of relationship they have with sacred objects (e.g., Roman Catholic women cannot celebrate mass). In this sense, religious systems provide a cosmology, i.e., a general interpretation of how the world is organized and how its elements relate to one another and to the sacred. This cosmology acts as a system of classification and its elements are organized according to a hierarchy (counterpoising for instance the pure with the impure). The belief invested in this “order of things” structures people’s lives to the extent that it limits and facilitates their action. In Durkheim’s words, “the power attached to sacred things conducts men with the same degree of necessity as physical force.” (p. 260).

Moving beyond the religious realm, Durkheim points to the existence of a moral order, i.e., a common public system of perception of reality that regulates, structures, and organizes relations in a community. This system operates less through coercion than through inter-subjectivity (p. 238). In fact, Durkheim defines society by its symbolic boundaries: it is the sharing of a common definition of the sacred and the profane, of similar rules of conducts and a common compliance to rituals and interdictions that defines the internal bonds within a community. Hence, he posits that the boundaries of the group coincide with those delimitating the sacred from the profane.

Unlike Durkheim, Max Weber is more concerned with the role played by symbolic boundaries (honor) in the creation of social inequality than in the creation of social solidarity. In Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (Economy and Society, 1978[1922]), he describes human beings as engaged in a continuous struggle over scarce resources. In order to curb competition, they discriminate toward various groups on the basis of their cultural characteristics, such as lifestyle, language, education, race, or religion (chap. 2). In the process, they form status groups whose superiority is defined in relation to other groups. They cultivate a sense of honor, privilege relationships with group members, and define specific qualifications for gaining entry to the group and for interacting with lower status outsiders (e.g., opposing miscegenation). They invoke their higher status and shared rules of life to justify their monopolization of resources. Hence, cultural understandings about status boundaries have a strong impact on people’s social position and access to resources.

Thornstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class (1979[1899]) parallels Weber’s writings on status group. Veblen is also concerned with the mechanisms that produce boundaries between status groups. This American economist suggests that habits of thought (“classifying and demarcating”) are central to these mechanisms and are often organized around notions of superiority and inferiority concerning employment, consumption, and leisure. In his words, “the concept of dignity, worth, or honor, as applied either to persons or conduct, is of first-rate consequence in the development of class and class distinctions” (p. 15). For instance, idleness symbolizes status because it signifies pecuniary status. It is a way for “successful men to put their prowess in evidence”. Evidence of non-productive consumption of time includes “quasi-scholarly or quasi-artistic accomplishments”. Also, “refined tastes, manners, and habits of life are useful evidence of gentility because good breeding requires time, application, and expenses” (p. 49) and are therefore not available to those “whose time and energies are taken up with work.”

Veblen also developed the concept of “conspicuous consumption” in the context of an acerbic critique of the excesses of the business class. He argues that the possession and display of wealth confers honor: as an invidious distinction, it symbolizes ranking within a group. This way of manifesting superiority is more common when predatory aggression or war are less frequent. Veblen’s analysis assumes that there is a usual tendency to change standards of sufficiency as one’s pecuniary situation improves, so that one becomes restless with creating “wider and ever-widening distance” between herself and the average standard.

Also paralleling Weber’s work, is the work of German sociologist Norbert Elias, Uber Den Prozess der Zivilisation (The Civilizing Process, 1982[1939]). Elias analyzes the historical emergence of a boundary between civilized and barbarian habits by using evidence from Western manner manuals written between the late middle ages and the Victorian period. His attention centers on “natural” bodily functions such as spiting, defecating, eating, and blowing one’s nose to show an “advance in the threshold of self-control,” over time. He demonstrates the growing centrality of shame and embarrassment in instituting norms of behavior in public and private. At a more general level, he shows transformations in standards of behavior and feelings and in personality structures (what he calls “habitus,” or habits emerging from social experience). He argues that these vary across hierarchical groups in society and that these variations are key to pacification and the exercise of power.

Elias’ The Established and the Outsiders (1994[1965], with John L. Scotson) is another benchmark in the study of boundaries. This community study analyzes the causes for the difference in status between residents of two parts of a town (“the Village” and “the Estate”). The former group has more cohesion, in part because it is older and more established than the latter. Its residents see themselves as having higher status because they have been able to gain control of strategic positions and channels of communication over time, which allows them to stigmatize the outsiders and impose their own definition of self. Conversely, the “outsiders” are not in a position to impose an alternative self-definition.

To turn now to the lasting influence of Durkheim’s work, in Purity and Danger(1966), Mary Douglas is concerned with the order-producing, meaning-making and form-giving functions of classification systems and the role of rituals in creating boundaries grounded in fears and beliefs. In Natural Symbols (1970), she takes on the idea of a correspondence between classification systems and social organization advanced by Durkheim and Mauss (1963[1903]). She describes the structure of binary symbolic systems as “reflecting” that of group structures. Like Elias, she is also concerned with the moral order and centers her attention on the system of social control as expressed through the body and through the observable artifacts of everyday life (food, dirt, and material possessions). She argues that the very basis of order in social life is the presence of symbols that demarcate boundaries or lines of division.

One of Douglas’s main concerns is how communities differentiate themselves from one another and how they are internally differentiated. She distinguishes groups on the basis of their degree of social control and of the rigidity of their grid (by which she means the scope and coherent articulation of their system of classification or the extent to which it is competing with other systems). In societies with high social control and great cultural rigidity (i.e. what she calls high grid and group), there is a concern to preserve social boundaries; the role structure is clearly defined; and formal behavior is highly valued and well-defined in publicly insulated roles. Through “the purity rule“, formality screens out irrelevant organic processes, “matters out of place”. Douglas suggests that “the more complex the system of classification and the stronger the pressured to maintain it, the more social intercourse pretends to take place between disembodied spirits” (1966, p. 101), i.e., the more the purity rule applies.

3. Current Theory and Research

In the contemporary literature on symbolic boundaries, both the neo-Weberian and neo-Durkheimian heritage remain strong. The question of how boundaries intersect with the production of inequality has attracted great interest in recent years, following the publication of Pierre Bourdieu’s impressive corpus. In the United States in particular, cultural sociologists have been working to assess some of Bourdieu’s theoretical claims and to use his work as a stepping stone for improving our understanding of the cultural aspects of class, gender, and racial inequality. Other important developments concern the study of identity through boundary work, and research on moral order, community, and symbolic politics. As I argue in the final section of this article, social scientists will soon face the challenge of integrating work from a wide range of fields that have used the concept of boundaries to various ends.

3.1 Culture and Inequality

In the last twenty years, a large neo-Weberian literature emerged around the study of processes of closure, as illustrated most notably by the work of Frank Parkin and Randall Collins. Parkin (1979) drew on Weber to propose an analysis of class relationship that focuses on the distributive struggle for monopolizing or usurping resources within and across classes – with an emphasis on the right of ownership and credentialism, i.e., the use of educational certificates to monopolize positions in the labor market. Equally inspired by Durkheim, Collins (1998) extended his earlier work on credentialism and interaction rituals to analyze how intellectuals compete to maximize their access to key network positions, cultural capital, and emotional energy, which generates intellectual creativity. These authors’ contributions intersect with those of Pierre Bourdieu and his collaborators, although their ideas followed an independent path of development.

In Reproduction (1977[1970]), Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron proposed that the lower academic performance of working class children cannot be accounted for by their lower ability but by institutional biases against them. They suggest that schools evaluate all children on the basis of their familiarity with the culture of the dominant class (or cultural capital), thus penalizing lower-class students. Extensive vocabulary, wide-ranging cultural references, and command of high culture are valued by the school system and students from higher social backgrounds are exposed to this class culture at home. Hence, children of the dominated classes are over-selected by the educational system. They are not aware of it, as they remain under the spell of the culture of the dominant class. They blame themselves for their failure, which leads them to drop out or to sort themselves into lower prestige educational tracks.

This work can be read as a direct extension of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ (1979) “dominant ideology thesis”, which centers on the role of ideology in cementing relations of domination by camouflaging exploitation and differences in class interests. However, Bourdieu and Passeron are more concerned with classification systems than with representations of the social world itself, i.e., with how representations of social relationships, the state, religion, and capitalism contribute to the reproduction of domination. Implicitly building on Gramsci (1971), they made inroads in analyzing the subjective process of consolidation of class domination, focusing on the shaping of cultural categories. The control of subjectivity in everyday life through the shaping of common sense and the naturalization of social relations is the focus of their attention. They broaden Marx and Engels by suggesting that crucial power relations are structured in the symbolic realm proper, and are mediated by meaning. They de facto provide a more encompassing understanding of the exercise of hegemony by pointing to the incorporation of class-differentiated cultural dispositions mediated by both the educational system and family socialization.

In Distinction (1984[1979]), Bourdieu applies this analysis to the world of tasteand cultural practice at large. He shows how the logic of class struggle extends to the realm of taste and lifestyle, and that symbolic classification is key to the reproduction of class privileges: dominant groups define their own culture and ways of being as superior. Thereby they exercise “symbolic violence,” i.e., impose a specific meaning as legitimate while concealing the power relations that are the basis of its force (Bourdieu and Passeron 1977[1970], p. 4). They define legitimate and “dominated” cultures in opposition: the value of cultural preferences and behaviors are defined relationally around binary oppositions (or boundaries) such as high/lower, pure/impure, distinguished/vulgar, and aesthetic/practical (p. 245). The legitimate culture they thereby define is used by dominant groups to mark cultural distance and proximity, monopolize privileges, and exclude and recruit new occupants to high status positions (p. 31). Through the incorporation of “habitus” or cultural dispositions, cultural practices have inescapable and unconscious classificatory effects that shape social positions.

A large American literature applying, extending, assessing, and critiquing the contributions of Bourdieu and his collaborators developed in the wake of their translation in English (for a review, see Lamont and Lareau 1988.) For instance, DiMaggio (1987) suggests that boundaries between cultural genres are created by status groups to signal their superior status. DiMaggio and Mohr (1985) found that levels of cultural capital significantly influence higher education attendance and completion as well as marital selection patterns in the United States. Lamont (l992, chap.7) critiqued Bourdieu (1984) for exaggerating the importance of cultural capital in upper-middle class culture and for defining salient boundaries a priori, instead of inductively. By drawing on interviews with professionals and managers, she showed that morality, cultural capital, and material success are defined differently and that their relative importance vary across national contexts and by subgroups. Lamont also showed variations in the extent to which professionals and managers are tolerant of the lifestyles and tastes of other classes, and argued that cultural laissez-faire is more important feature of American society than French society. High social and geographic mobility, strong cultural regionalism, ethnic and racial diversity, political decentralization and relatively weak high culture traditions translate into less highly differentiated class cultures in the United States than France.

Other sociologists also argue that cultural boundaries are more fluid and complex than cultural capital theory suggests. In particular, in his study of group variation in home decoration, Halle (1993) suggests that art consumption does not necessarily generate social boundaries. He finds that the meaning attached to living room art by dwellers is somewhat autonomous from professional evaluations, and is patterned and influenced by a wide range of factors beyond class — including neighborhood composition. He also finds that cultural consumption is less differentiated than cultural capital theory suggests – with landscape art being appreciated by all social groups for instance. Finally, he suggests that “the link between involvement in high culture and access to dominant class circles . . . is undemonstrated.” (p. 198). For his part, Hall (1992) emphasized the existence of heterogeneous markets and of multiple kinds of cultural capital. He proposes a “cultural structuralism” that addresses the multiplicity of status situation in a critique of an overarching market of cultural capital. Finally, Crane (2000) analyzes how social change disrupts the relationship between cultural capital and social class strata during nineteenth and twentieth century France and the United States.

Bryson (1996), Erikson (1996), and Peterson and Kern (1996) suggest that cultural breadth is a highly valued resource in the upper and upper-middle classes, hence contradicting Bourdieu’s understanding of the dominant class which emphasizes exclusively the boundaries they draw toward lower class culture. Bryson (1996) finds that musical exclusiveness decreases with education. She proposes that cultural tolerance constitutes a multicultural capital more strongly concentrated in the middle and upper classes than in the lower classes. Erikson (1996) suggests that although familiarity with high status culture correlates with class, it is useless in coordinating class relations in the workplace. She writes that the “Culture useful for coordination is uncorrelated . . . with class, popular in every class.” (p. 248) and that “the most useful overall cultural resource is variety plus a well-honed understanding of which [culture] genre to use in which setting.” (p. 249). For their part, Peterson and Kern (1996) document a shift in high status persons from snobbish exclusion to “omnivorous appropriation.” These studies all call for a more multidimensional understanding of cultural capital as a basis for drawing boundaries, and counter Bourdieu’s postulate that the value of tastes is defined relationally through a binary or oppositional logic.

3.2. Identity and Boundary Work

The growing literature on identity is another arena where the concept of symbolic boundaries has become more central. In particular, sociologists and psychologists have become interested in studying boundary work, a process central to the constitution of the self.

Social psychologists working on group categorization have been studying the segmentation between “us” and “them”. Brewer’s (1986) social identity theorysuggests that “Pressures to evaluate ones’ own group positively through in-group/out-group comparison lead social groups to attempt to differentiate themselves from each other.” This process of differentiation aims “to maintain and achieve superiority over an out-group on some dimension.” (Tajfel and Turner 1985, pp. 16-17). While these authors understand the relational process as a universal tendency, sociologists are concerned with analyzing precisely how boundary work is accomplished, i.e. with what kinds of typificationsystems, or inferences concerning similarities and differences, groups mobilize to define who they are.

The concept of boundary work was proposed originally by Gieryn in the early eighties to designate “the discursive attribution of selected qualities to scientists, scientific methods, and scientific claims for the purpose of drawing a rhetorical boundary between science and some less authoritative residual non-science.”(1999, pp. 4-5). In recent years, sociologists have become interested in analyzing this process by looking at self-definitions of ordinary people, while paying particular attention to the salience of various racial and class groups in boundary work. For instance, Newman (1999) analyzes how poor fast-food workers define themselves in opposition to the unemployed poor. Lamont (1992) studies the boundary work of professionals and managers while Lamont (2000) examines how workers in the United States and France define worthy people in opposition to the poor, “people above”, blacks, and immigrants, drawing moral boundaries toward different groups across the two national context. Lichterman (1999) explores how volunteers define their bonds and boundaries of solidarity by examining how they articulate their identity around various groups. He stresses that these mappings translate into different kinds of group responsibility, in “constraining and enabling what members can say and do together.” Binder (1999) analyzes boundaries that proponents of Afrocentrism and multiculturalism build in relation to one another in conflict within the educational system. Becker (1999) studies how religious communities build boundaries between themselves and “the public.” Finally Gamson (1992) analyzes how the injustice frames used in social movements are organized around “us” and “them” oppositions.

Jenkins (1996)’s study of social identity provides useful tools for the study of boundary work. He describes collective identity as constituted by a dialectic interplay of processes of internal and external definition. On the one hand, individuals must be able to differentiate themselves from others by drawing on criteria of community and a sense of shared belonging within their subgroup. On the other hand, this internal identification process must be recognized by outsiders for an objectified collective identity to emerge. Future research on the process of collective identity formation may benefit to focus on the dynamic between self-identification and social categorization.

3.3. Moral Order, Community, and Symbolic Politics

A third strand of work on symbolic boundaries presents more palpable neo-Durkheimian influences. Several empirical studies have centered on moral order and on communities. Wuthnow (1987, p. 69) writes “Order has somehow to do with boundaries. That is, order consists mainly of being able to make distinctions-of having symbolic demarcations – so that we know the place of things and how they relate to one another.” A recent example of this neo-Durkheimian line of work is Alexander’s (1992) semiotic analysis of the symbolic codes of civic society. The author describes these codes as “critically important in constituting the very sense of society for those who are within and without it.” He also suggests that the democratic code involves clear distinctions between the pure and the impure in defining the appropriate citizen. His analysis locates those distinctions at the levels of people’s motives and relationships, and of the institutions that individuals inhabit (with “honorable” being valued over “self-interested” or “truthful” over “deceitful” in the case of the democratic code).

It should be noted that the last decades have produced several studies of status politics that documented precisely how groups sharing a lifestyle made such distinctions, engaged in the maintenance of the moral order, and simultaneously bolstered their own prestige. Particularly notable is Gusfield (1963) who analyzed the 19th century American temperance movement in favor of the prohibition and the Eighteenth Amendment to the constitution. Gusfield understands this movement as a strategy used by small-town Protestants to bolster their social position in relation to urban Catholic immigrants. Along similar lines, Luker (1984) describes the worldviews of anti-abortion and pro-choice activists. She shows that they have incompatible beliefs about women’s careers, family, sexuality, and reproduction, and that they talk passed one another and define themselves in opposition to one another. More recently, Beisel (1997) has studied Anthony Comstock’s 19thcentury anti-pornography movement to protect the morality of children in the context of important social changes that threatened the reproduction of upper class privileges. However, she argued against the distinction between symbolic and class politics and showed how the two often operate hand in hand, particularly in the drawing of moral boundaries. The literature on social movements includes numerous additional studies that focus on the process by which categories of people are turned into categories of enemies (Jasper 1997, chap. 16).

4. Challenges and Future Directions

Two main challenges concerning the study of boundaries are pointing at the horizon of sociological scholarship. They concern 1) a necessary synthesis of the various strands of work that speak to boundary issues across substantive areas; and 2) the study of the connection between objective and subjective boundaries.

The concept of boundaries is playing an increasingly important role in a wide range of literatures, beyond those discussed above. For instance, in the study of nationalism, citizenship, and immigration, scholars have implicitly or explicitly used the boundary concept to discuss criteria of membership and group closure within imagined communities (e.g., Anderson 1983; Brubaker l992; Somers 1993; Zolberg and Litt Woon l999). Some of these authors are concerned with the established rules of membership and boundary work.. Yet others study national boundary patterns, i. e., the ways in which nations define their identity in opposition to one another (Lamont and Thévenot 2000; Saguy 2000).

The concept of boundary is also central in the study of ethnicity and race. The relational process involved in the definition of collective identity (“us” versus “them”) has often been emphasized in the literature on these topics. The work of Barth (1969) and Horowitz (1985) for instance concerns objective group boundaries and self-ascription, and how feelings of communality are defined in opposition to the perceived identity of other racial and ethnic groups. Along similar lines, Bobo and Hutchings (1996), understand racism as resulting from threats to group positioning. They follow Blumer (1958) who advocates “shift[ing] study and analysis from a preoccupation with feelings as lodged in individuals to a concern with the relationships of racial groups . . [and with] the collective process by which a racial group comes to define and redefine another racial group” (p. 3).

Finally, gender and sexual boundaries are also coming under more intense scrutiny. For instance, Epstein (1992) points out that dichotomous categories play an important part in the definition of women as “other” and that much is at stake in the labeling of behaviors and attitudes as feminine or masculine (also Gerson and Peiss 1985). Those who violate gender boundaries in illegitimate ways often experience punishment in the workplace. Stein (1997) analyzes how the boundaries around the lesbian category changed over the course of the feminist movement. More recently, Tilly (1997) argues that dichotomous categories such as “male” and “female” (but also “white” and “black”) are used by dominant groups to marginalize other groups and block their access to resources. He extends the Weberian scheme by pointing to various mechanisms by which this is accomplished, such as exploitation and opportunity hoarding. He asserts that durable inequality most often results from cumulative, individual and often unnoticed organizational processes.

Because these various literature all deal with the same social process, boundary work, it may be appropriate at this point to begin moving toward a general theory of boundaries by, for instance, identifying similarities and differences between boundaries drawn in various realms — moral, cultural, class, racial, ethnic, gender, and national boundaries. This could be accomplished by focusing on a number of formal features and characteristics of boundaries, such as their visibility, permeability, boundedness, fluidity, and rigidity. We may also want to compare embedded and transportable boundaries; explicit and taken-for-granted boundaries; positive and negative boundaries; and the relationship between representations of boundaries and context. Social scientists should also think more seriously about how different types of boundaries can combine with one another across local and national contexts (e.g., how cultural or moral boundaries combine with race, gender, or class boundaries) (Lamont and Thévenot 2000).

A second challenge will be to understand the connection between objective boundaries and symbolic boundaries. Students of objective boundaries have focused on topics such as the relative importance of educational endogamy versus racial endogamy among the college-educated (Kalmijn 1991); racial hiring and firing (Silver and Zwerling 1992); the extent of residential racial segregation (Massey and Denton 1993); the relative permeability of class boundaries (Wright and Cho 1992); and the process of creation of professional boundaries (Abbott 1988). Lamont (1992) has argued that symbolic boundaries are a necessary but insufficient condition for the creation of objective boundaries. More empirical work is needed on the process by which the former transmutes into the latter.

Other relevant entries include: expressive forms as generators, transmitters, and transformers of social power; culture and resistance; networks and linkages; collective identity and expressive forms; discourse and identity; class and expressive forms; gender and expressive forms; race and expressive forms; community and locality, nationalism and expressive forms; leisure and cultural consumption.

References

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Michèle Lamont

Department of Sociology

Princeton University

 

 

Click to access m.lamont-v.molnar-the_study_of_boundaries.pdf

 

Boundaries as Social Processes: Territoriality in the World of Flows

Anssi Paasi

Click to access 54eb963f0cf2ff89649dfd55.pdf

 

Boundaries and connections

 

 Fredrik Barth

 

Click to access Kog_Ant_11_B.pdf

THE ROLE OF IDENTITIES AND BOUNDARIES IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD

Prof. Anssi Paasi

http://www.geo.ut.ee/nbc/paper/paasi.htm

 

HOW STRATIFICATION WORKS

 

Click to access Massey_Chap1_2.pdf

Boundary processes: Recent theoretical developments and new contributions

Mark A. Pachucki *, Sabrina Pendergrass, Michele Lamont (Guest Editors)

 

Click to access Pachucki%20Pendergrass%20Lamont%202007%20Boundary%20Processes.pdf

Status distinctions and boundaries

Murray Milner, Jr.

 

Click to access MilnerOnStatusDistinctionsandBoundariesPUBVERS.pdf

 

Moments of Boundary Research: A Long-Term Perspective

 

Jean Terrier

Click to access 43730496-d82a-4a70-b788-a891d52832e0.pdf

Social Distinction and Symbolic Boundaries in a Globalized Context:

Leisure Spaces in Istanbul

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.424.9863&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Rural America in an Urban Society: Changing Spatial and Social Boundaries

Daniel T. Lichter1,2 and David L. Brown3

Click to access 0deec522689d8d5926000000.pdf

Cultivating Differences: Symbolic Boundaries and the Making of Inequality

edited by Michèle Lamont, Marcel Fournier

 

 

 

FLOWS, BOUNDARIES AND HYBRIDS: KEYWORDS IN TRANSNATIONAL ANTHROPOLOGY

Ulf Hannerz

Click to access s04_faist.pdf

 

 

 

Symbolic Boundaries

Michèle Lamont

 http://educ.jmu.edu/~brysonbp/symbound/papers2001/LamontEncyclo.html

Multilevel Approach to Research in Organizations

Multilevel Approach to Research in Organizations

 

  • Micro approach
  • Macro approach
  • Micro-macro approach
  • Hierarchy
  • Multi Scale
  • Multi Level
  • Heterarchy
  • Holarchy
  • Holonomic
  • Holons
  • Networks
  • Agents
  • Interaction
  • Aggregation
  • Disaggregation
  • Emergence
  • Complexity
  • The Fractal Company (Book)
  • The Fractal Organization (Book)
  • Viable Systems Model (Stafford Beer)
  • Self Similarity
  • Power Laws

 

 

From Multilevel Theory, Research, and Methods in Organizations

Foundations for Multilevel Theory in Organizations

Conceptual Underpinnings: General Systems Theory

General systems theory (GST) has been among the more dominant intellectual perspectives of the twentieth century and has been shaped by many contributors (e.g., Ashby, 1952; Boulding, 1956; Miller, 1978; von Bertalanffy, 1972). Systems concepts originate in the “holistic” Aristotelian worldview that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, in contrast with “normal” science, which tends to be insular and reductionistic. The central goal of GST is to establish principles that generalize across phenomena and disciplines-an ambitious effort that is aimed at nothing less than promoting the unity of science.

Systems principles are manifest as analogies or logical homologies. Logical homologies represent identical concepts (that is, isomorphism), and parallel processes linking different concepts (that is, homology), that generalize to very different systems phenomena (von Bertalanffy, 1972). For example, it is noted that open systems counteract the second law of thermodynamics-entropy-by importing energy and information from the external environment, and transforming it, to maintain homeostasis.

Feedback and servo- mechanisms are the basis for the purposive responses of cybernetic systems. Organizational systems are proposed to have analogous structures and processes (e.g., Katz & Kahn, 1966; Miller, 1978).

Whether one takes a more macro (Parsons, 1956, 1960) or micro (Allport, 1954) perspective, the influence of GST on organizational science has been pervasive. Unfortunately, however, that influence has been primarily metaphorical. The bureaucratic-closed systems-machine metaphor is contrasted with a contingent-open systems-living organism metaphor. Although metaphor has important value-virtually all formal theory is rooted in underlying metaphor (Morgan, 1983)-lack of specificity, formal identity, and precise definition can yield truisms that mislead and fail the test of science (Pinder & Bourgeois, 1982; Bourgeois & Pinder, 1983). GST has exhibited heuristic value but has contributed relatively little to the development of testable principles in the organizational sciences (Roberts et al., 1978). It is to this latter concern that the multilevel perspective is directed.

As social systems, organizations are qualitatively distinct from living cells and other concrete physical systems. The goal of the multilevel perspective is not to identify principles that generalize to other types of systems. Although laudable, such an effort must often of necessity gloss over differences between qualitatively different systems in order to maintain homology across systems (compare Miller, 1978). The primary goal of the multilevel perspective in organizational science is to identify principles that enable a more integrated understanding of phenomena that unfold across levels in organizations.

Macro and Micro Perspectives

Fundamental to the levels perspective is the recognition that micro phenomena are embedded in macro contexts and that macro phenomena often emerge through the interaction and dynamics of lower-level elements. Organizational scholars, however, have tended to emphasize either a micro or a macro perspective. The macro perspective is rooted in its sociological origins. It assumes that there are substantial regularities in social behavior that transcend the apparent differences among social actors. Given a particular set of situational constraints and demographics, people will behave similarly. Therefore, it is possible to focus on aggregate or collective responses and to ignore individual variation. In contrast, the micro perspective is rooted in psychological origins.  It assumes that there are variations in individual behavior, and that a focus on aggregates will mask important individual differences that are meaningful in their own right. Its focus is on variations among individual characteristics that affect individual reactions.

Neither single-level perspective can adequately account for organizational behavior. The macro perspective neglects the means by which individual behavior, perceptions, affect, and interactions give rise to higher-level phenomena. There is a danger of superficiality and triviality inherent in anthropomorphization. Organizations do not behave; people do.  In contrast, the micro perspective has been guilty of neglecting contextual factors that can significantly constrain the effects of individual differences that lead to collective responses, which ultimately constitute macro phenomena (House et al., 1995; Klein et al., 1994; Roberts et al., 1978; Rousseau, 1985).

Macro researchers tend to deal with global measures or data aggregates that are actual or theoretical representations of lower-level phenomena, but they cannot generalize to those lower levels without committing errors of misspecification. This renders problematic the drawing of meaningful policy or application implications from the findings.  For example, assume that we can demonstrate a significant relationship between organizational investments in training and organizational performance. The intuitive generalization-that one could use the magnitude of the aggregate relationship to predict how individual performance would increase as a function of increased organizational investments in training-is not supportable, because of the well-known problem of ecological inference. Relationships among aggregate data tend to be higher than corresponding relationships among individual data elements (Robinson, 1950; Thorndike, 1939). This fact continues to be a significant difficulty for macro-oriented policy disciplines-sociology, political science, economics, education policy, epidemiology-that attempt to draw individual-level inferences from aggregate data.

Micro researchers suffer from an obverse problem, which also makes the desire to influence human resource management policy difficult. We may, for example, be able to show that individual cognitive ability increases individual performance. However, we cannot then assert that selection systems that produce higher aggregate cognitive ability will necessarily yield improved organizational performance. Perhaps they will, but that inference is not directly supported by individual-level analyses. Misspecifications of this sort, however, are not unusual (Schmidt, Hunter, McKenzie, & Muldrow, 1979). Such “atomistic fallacies,” in which organizational psychologists suggest team- or organization-level interventions based on individual-level data, are common in our literature.

A levels approach, combining micro and macro perspectives, engenders a more integrated science of organizations. House and colleagues (1995) suggest the term meso because it captures this sense that organizational science is both macro and micro. Whatever it is called, we need a more integrated approach. The limitations that the organizational disciplines suffer with respect to influencing policy and applications can be resolved through the development of more complete models of organizational phenomena-models that are system-oriented but do not try to capture the complexity of the entire system. Instead, by focusing on significant and salient phenomena, conceptualizing and assessing at multiple levels, and exhibiting concern about both top down and bottom-up processes, it is possible to build a science of organizations that is theoretically rich and application-relevant.

https://goal-lab.psych.umn.edu/orgpsych/readings/2.%20Multilevel%20and%20Methods/Kozlowski%20&%20Klein.pdf

 

A multilevel approach to theory and research in organizations: Contextual, temporal, and emergent processes

Steve W, J. Kozlowski

Katherine J. Klein

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232580888_A_multilevel_approach_to_theory_and_research_in_organizations_Contextual_temporal_and_emergent_processes

 

 

Multilevel Theory and Research

 

Stan Gully

Click to access StanGully_%20Spring2013_%20MultilevelSyllabus.pdf

 

 

THEORETICAL AND METHODOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS OF MULTILEVEL RESEARCH

Gilad Chen

 

Click to access SWARM-Syllabus-2017.pdf

 

 

 

Multilevel Issues in Supply Chain Management

 

Marian Oosterhuis, Eric Molleman, Taco van der Vaart

Click to access ch_3.4_01.pdf

 

 

 

 

Modeling consensus emergence in groups using longitudinal multilevel methods

 

Jonas W. B. Lang

 

Paul D. Bliese

Alex de Voogt

 

Click to access 8562633.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

BUILDING THEORETICAL AND EMPIRICAL BRIDGES ACROSS LEVELS: MULTILEVEL RESEARCH IN MANAGEMENT

 

MICHAEL A. HITT

PAUL W. BEAMISH

SUSAN E. JACKSON

JOHN E. MATHIEU

Click to access 20150528101003_4659.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Micro/Meso/Macro Levels of Analysis

Joshua B. Barbour

 

Click to access 2017_levels.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

‘Multi-level research into the social: An old wine in an old forgotten bottle?’

Harwood, S

2016

Click to access 16_01.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Multilevel Theory, Research, and Methods in Organizations: Foundations, Extensions, and New Directions

Katherine J. Klein (Editor),

Steve W. J. Kozlowski (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-787-95228-0Aug 2013, Pfeiffer

https://www.wiley.com/en-us/Multilevel+Theory%2C+Research%2C+and+Methods+in+Organizations%3A+Foundations%2C+Extensions%2C+and+New+Directions-p-9780787952280

 

 

 

 

 

Complexity Theory and Organization Science 

 Philip Anderson

Source: Organization Science, Vol. 10, No. 3, Special Issue: Application of Complexity Theory to Organization Science, (May – Jun., 1999), pp. 216-232 

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PARADIGM SHIFT IN THE CORPORATION: THE FRACTAL COMPANY

  Dr.-Ing. Wilfried Sihn

 

https://ac.els-cdn.com/S1474667017422889/1-s2.0-S1474667017422889-main.pdf?_tid=a61a6be3-a25d-41ee-a602-e38da9115fd0&acdnat=1528492319_cae660ddbcbdbe1961f63d4469a43489

 

 

 

 

 

Analysing Enterprise Models from a Fractal Organisation Perspective – Potentials and Limitations

Kurt Sandkuhl and Marite Kirikova

 

https://hal.inria.fr/hal-01572393/document

 

 

 

 

 

 The Theory of the Organization and the New Paradigms

Aquiles Limone, Milan Marinovic

 

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1018.6354&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

 

 

 

 

The Fractal Company: A Revolution In Corporate Culture

by H.J. Warnecke

Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1993, 228 pp.,

 

 

 

 

The Fractal Organization: Creating sustainable organizations with the Viable System Model

2009

by Patrick Hoverstadt

 

 

 

 

 

Multi Level Analysis

Joop J Hox

Theoretical approaches to managing complexity in organizations: A comparative analysis

Luz E. Bohórquez Arévaloa,∗, Angela Espinosa

THE HOLONIC PERSPECTIVE IN ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT

 

 

 

 

 

From Micro to Meso: Critical Steps in Conceptualizing and Conducting Multilevel Research

KATHERINE J. KLEIN

STEVE W. J. KOZLOWSKI