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Ladislav Holy & Milan Stuchlik “Actions, Norms and Representations”

Holy, L.; Stuchlik, M. (1983). Actions, norms and representations: foundations of anthropological inquiry. Cambridge University Press.

[…] though a given society might be conceived of as consisting of permanent discrete groups, such a conception represents the notional level of reality: it is a model the members (or the anthropologist) have of their society. The manifestation of the groups in actual interactional situations cannot be assumed to follow automatically from their existence at the notional level; to present it as such would lead to a considerable simplification of our explanatory models. (113)

[…] the relation between social facts and the actions of individuals is not intrinsic and logical and hence it is problematic. We conceive of the social world not as composed of ’things’, as being an ’objective’ reality sui generis, but as a set of intersubjectively shared notions. Since individuals are at the same time assumed to behave in such a way as to attain their specific goals, the problem is that of how the purposive, or goal-oriented activities lead to the emergence and recreation of this intersubjectively shared world. (116)

The assumption of the intentionality of behaviour is not then an obstacle to studying the social consequences of this behaviour. Quite the contrary, it makes it possible to give meaningful accounts of how these consequences emerge, how they are combined into sets of limiting conditions for subsequent actions and how they become perceived by the actors themselves as being external to them and having an existence independent of them. (117)

[…] any analysis of social life has to begin by studying specific social encounters from the viewpoint of how they are constituted and how, as a result, social reality is created. (119)

In a way, social structure is a foreign element in the world we are studying, insofar as no member of society indulges in statistical descriptions, but it is legitimate since we do not propose that is should be used either as explanatory or as an analytical tool: merely as a description of the field of study. (120)

[…] this concept of social structure has several important advantages. In the first place, it permits us to conceive a multitude of concrete social encounters as a field with a non-random distribution of elements. In the second place, it permits us to locate encounters, and thereby the corresponding knowledge, in which the degree of consent, or of sharing of the knowledge, is less intensive and therefore the scope of individual manipulation easier. […] And in the third place, since such social structure is always anchored in time, i.e. describes the social world as it is at the moment when the statistics were made, it permits us to identify specific changes. (120)

[…] the anthropologist is not explaining social reality as it exists in the only meaningful possible sense, but through his explanation creating it. Since social reality exists only as a meaningful reality, it is through creating meaning that social reality itself is created. (121)

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