Archive for December, 2011

Pierre Nora “Between Memory and History”

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Nora, Pierre 1989. Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire. – Representations 26: 7-25

With the appearance of the trace, of mediation, of distance, we are not in the realm of true memory but of history. […] Memory and history, far from being synonymous, appear now to be in fundamental opposition. Memory is life, borne by living societies founded in its name. […] History, on the other hand, is the reconstruction, always problematic and incomplete, of what is no longer. Memory is a perpetually actual phenomenon, a bond tying us to the eternal present; history is a representation of the past. Memory, insofar as it is affective and magical, only accommodates those facts that suit it […] (8) History, because it is an intellectual and secular production, calls for analysis and criticism. (8-9)

At the heart of history is a critical discourse that is antithetical to spontaneous memory. History is perpetually suspicious of memory, and its true mission is to suppress and destroy it. […] History’s goal and ambition is not to exalt but to annihilate what has in reality taken place. (9)

History’s procurement, in the last century, of scientific methodology has only intensified the effort to establish critically a “true” memory. Every great historical revision has sought to enlarge the basis for collective memory. (9)

With the advent of society in place of the nation, legitimation by the past and therefore by history yields to legitimation by the future. One can only acknowledge and venerate the past and serve the nation; the future, however, can be prepared for: thus the three terms regain their autonomy. No longer a cause, the nation has become a give; history is now a social science, memory a purely private phenomenon. The memory-nation was thus the last incarnation of the unification of memory and history. (11)

What we call memory today is therefore not memory but already history. What we take to be flare-ups of memory are in fact its final consumption in the flames of history. The quest for memory is the search for one’s history. (13)

Modern memory is, above all, archival. It relies entirely on the materiality of the trace, the immediacy of the recording, the visibility of the image. […] The less memory is experienced from the inside the more it exists only through its exterior scaffolding and outward signs – hence the obsession with the archive that marks our age, attempting at once the complete conservation of the present as well as the total preservation of the past. (13)

What we call memory is in fact the gigantic and breathtaking storehouse of a material stock of what it would be impossible for us to remember, an unlimited repertoire of what might need to be recalled. (13)

No longer living memory’s more or less intended remainder, the archive has become the deliberate and calculated secretion of lost memory. It adds to life – itself often a function of its own recording – a secondary memory, a prosthesis-memory. (14)

The passage from memory to history has required every social group to redefine its identity through the revitalization of its own history. The task of remembering makes everyone his own historian. The demand for history has thus largely overflowed the circle of professional historians. […] The decomposition of memory-history has multiplied the number of private memories demanding their individual histories. (15)

In the last analysis, it is upon the individual and upon the individual alone that the constraint of memory weighs insistently as well as imperceptibly. The atomization of a general memory into a private one has given the obligation to remember a power of internal coercion. It gives everyone the necessity to remember and to protect the trappings of identity; when memory is no longer everywhere, it will not be anywhere unless one takes the responsibility to recapture it through individual means. (16)

In addition to archive-memory and duty-memory, a third aspect is needed to complete the picture of this modern metamorphosis: distance-memory. […] our relation to the past, at least as it reveals itself in major historical studies, is something entirely different from what we would expect from a memory: no longer a retrospective continuity but the illumination of discontinuity. (16)

Just as the future – formerly a visible, predictable, manipulable, well-marked extension of the present – has come to seem invisible, unpredictable, uncontrollable, so have we gone from the idea of a visible past to an invisible one; from a solid and steady past to our fractured past; from a history sought in the continuity of memory to a memory cast in the discontinuity of history. (16-17)

But the loss of a single explanatory principle, while casting us into a fragmented universe, has promoted every object – even the most humble, the most improbable, the most inaccessible – to the dignity of a historical mystery. (17)

We could speak of mirror-memory if all mirrors did not reflect the same – for it is difference that we are seeking, and in the image of this difference, the ephemeral spectacle of an unrecoverable identity. It is no longer genesis that we seek but instead the decipherment of what we are in the light of what we are no longer. (17-18)

The historian’s is a strange fate; his role and place in society were once simple and clearly defined: to be the spokesman of the past and the herald of the future. […] But with the disintegration of history-memory, a new type of historian emerges who, unlike his precursors, is ready to confess the intimate relation he maintains to his subject. Better still, he is ready to proclaim it, deepen it, make of it not the obstacle but the means of his understanding. (18)

As historiography has entered its epistemological age, with memory ineluctably engulfed by history, the historian has become no longer a memory-individual but, in himself, a lieu de mémoire. (18)

Lieux de mémoire are simple and ambiguous, natural and artificial, at once immediately available in concrete sensual experience and susceptible to the most abstract elaboration. Indeed, they are lieux in three senses of the word – material, symbolic, and functional. (18-19)

Lieux de mémoire are created by a play of memory and history, an interaction of two factors that results in their reciprocal overdetermination. (19)

For if we accept that the most fundamental purpose of the lieu de mémoire is to stop time, to block the work of forgetting, to establish a state of things, to immortalized death, to materialize the immaterial […] all of this in order to capture a maximum of meaning in the fewest of signs, it is also clear that lieux de mémoire only exist because of their capacity for metamorphosis, and endless recycling of their meaning and an unpredictable proliferation of their ramifications. (19)

As for “great events”, only two types are especially pertinent, and not in any way as a function of their “greatness”. On the one hand, there are those minuscule events, barely remarked at the time, on which posterity retrospectively confers the greatness of origins, the solemnity of inaugural ruptures. On the other hand, there are those nonevents that are immediately charged with heavy symbolic meaning and that, at the moment of their occurrence, seem like anticipated commemorations of themselves; contemporary history, by means of the media, has seen a proliferation of stillborn attempts to create such events. (22)

The founding event or the spectacular event, but in neither case the event itself: indeed, it is the exclusion of the event that defines the lieu de mémoire. Memory attaches itself to sites, whereas history attaches itself to events. (22)

Contrary to historical objects, however, lieux de mémoire have no referent in reality; or, rather, they are their own referent: pure, exclusively self-referential signs. This is not to say that they are without content, physical presence, or history; it is to suggest that what makes them lieux de mémoire is precisely that by which they escape from history. In this sense, the lieu de mémoire is double: a site of excess closed upon itself, concentrated in its own name, but also forever open to the full range of its possible significations. (23-24)

History has become the deep reference of a period that has been wrenched from its depths, a realistic novel in a period in which there are no real novels. Memory has been promoted to the center of history: such is the spectacular bereavement of literature. (24)

Pierre Nora “General Introduction” [to “Rethinking France”]

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Nora, Pierre 2001. General Introduction. – Nora, Pierre (ed). Rethinking France: Les Lieux de Mémoire. Volume I – The State. Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press: vii-xxii

[…] the history of the present was not simply the temporal extension of traditional history but was governed by another system of historicity. This new form of history was dominated by the notion of the „present“, which called for different ways of connecting with and describing the past. (x)

Historical time of the revolutionary type is informed by the desire for rupture. The devaluation of the notion of rupture that accompanied the decline of the revolutionary idea [since 1970s] restored legitimacy to the idea of tradition. Not a tradition of which we would be the heirs and sustainers (as in the revolutionary mode), but a tradition from which we would be forever separated, one that would thereby become precious, mysterious, and imbued with an uncertain meaning, which was our task to recover. The meteoric rise of the cult of national heritage has no other source. Its secret? The disappearance of historical time dominated by the revolutionary idea restored to the past its freedom, its indetermination, its stature – both material and immaterial. (xiii)

In sum, there is a collective national history on the one hand, private memories on the other. […] It was on this division that traditional French identity was constucted and developed for a century, and this was the mold that cracked. It cracked under a double movement: the internal collapse of the myth that bore the national project and the emancipation that liberated the minorities.

This double movement burst forth in the crucial decade of the 1970s, when France experienced a key transformation. The emergence of a sovereign, tyrannical, and almost intrusive „national memory“ was tied directly to the transition from a historical consciousness of self to a social consciousness; national identity was replaced by social identities. (xiv-xv)

What in France is now called the „national memory“ is nothing other than the transformation of historic memory, which has been invaded, subverted, and flooded by group memories. (xv)

[…] our present is being enslaved to memory, that is to the fetishism of signs, an obsession with history, an accumulation of the material remains of the national past, and to the infinite ways of expressing the national life – not only its history, but also its landscapes, its traditions, its ways of eating, and its long-gone methods of production. Everything is historical, everything is worth remembering, and everything belongs to out memory. (xviii)

Ivan Illich “Deschooling Society”

December 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Illich, Ivan 2004 [1970]. Deschooling Society. London, New York: Boyars


Why We Must Disestablish School

The public is thereby „schooled“ to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is „schooled“ to accept service in place of value. (1)

[…] the institutionalization of values leads inevitably to physical pollution, social polarization, and psychological impotence: three dimensions in a process of global degradation and modernized misery. […] this process of degradation is accelerated when nonmaterial needs are transformed into demands for commodities […] (1)

Poverty then refers to those who have fallen behind an advertised ideal of consumption in some important respect. […] The increasing reliance on institutional care adds a new dimension to their helplessness: psychological impotence, the inability to fend for themselves. […] Modernized poverty combines the lack of power over circumstances with a loss of personal potency. (3)

[…] poverty – once it has been modernized – has become resistant to treatment with dollars alone and requires an institutional revolution. […] no amount of dollars can remove the inherent destructiveness of welfare institutions, once the professional hierarchies of these institutions have convinced society that their ministrations are morally necessary. […] Only by channeling dollars away from the insitutions which now treat health, education, and welfare can the further impoverishment resulting from their disabling side effects be stopped. (4)

But in both places [North and South America] the mere existence of school discourages and disables the poor from taking control of their own learning. All over the world the school has an anti-educational effect on society: school is recognized as the institution which specializes in education. The failures of school are taken by most people as proof that education is very costly, very complex, and frequently almost impossible task. (8)

Work, leisure, politics, city living, and even family life depend on schools for the habits and knowledge they presuppose, instead of becoming themselves the means of education. (8)

Obligatory schooling inevitably polarizes a society; it also grades the nations of the world according to an international caste system. (9)

Rather than calling equal schooling temporarily unfeasible, we must recognize that it is, in principle, economically absurd […] The ideology of obligatory schooling admits of no logical limits. […] Equal educational opportunity is indeed both a desirable and a feasible goal, but to equate this with obligatory schooling is to confuse salvation with the Church. School has become the world religion of a modernized proletariat, and makes futile promises of salvation to the poor of the technological age. (10)

Only by protecting the citizen from being disqualified by anything in his career in school can a constitutional disestablishment of school become psychologically effective. (11)

To detach competence from curriculum, inquiries into a man’s learning history must be made a taboo, like inquiries into his political affiliation, church attendance, lineage, sex habits, or racial background. Laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of prior schooling must be enacted. Laws, of course, cannot stop prejudice against the unschooled […] but they can discourage unjustified discrimination. (12)

The deschooling of society implies a recognition of the two-faced nature of learning. An insistence on skill drill alone could be a disaster; equal emphasis must be placed on other kinds of learning. But if schools are the wrong places for learning a skill, they are even worse places for getting an education. School does both tasks badly, partly because it does not distinguish between them. School is inefficient in skill instruction especially because it is curricular. In most schools a program which is meant to improve one skill is chained always to another irrelevant task. (16-17)

Schools are even less efficient in the arrangement of the circumstances which encourage the open-ended, exploratory use of acquired skills, for which I reserve the term „liberal education“. The main reason for this is that school is obligatory and becomes schooling for schooling’s sake: an enforced stay in the company of teachers, which pays off in the doubtfull privilege of more such company. Just as skill instruction must be freed from curricular restraints, so must liberal education be dissociated from obligatory attendance. (17)

Matching partners for educational purposes initially seems more difficult to imagine than finding skill instructors and partners for a game. One reason is the deep fear which chool has implanted in us, a fear which makes us censorious. The unlicensed exchange of skills […] is more predictable and therefore seems less dangerous than the unlimited opportunity for meeting among people who share an issue which for them, at the moment, is socially, intellectually, and emotionally important. (18)

Both the exchange of skills and matching of partners are based on the assumption that education for all means education by all. Not the draft into a specialised institution but only the mobilization of the whole population can lead to popular culture. The equal right of each man to exercise his competence to learn and to instruct is now pre-empted by certified teachers. The teacher’s competence, in turn, is restricted to what may be done in school. (22)

Contemporary society is the result of conscious designs, and educational opportunities must be designed into them. Our reliance on specialized, full-time instruction through school will now decrease, and we must find more ways to learn and teach: the educational quality of all institutions must increase again. […] It could also mean that men will shield themselves less behind certificates acquired in school and thus gain in courage to „talk back“ and thereby control and instruct the institutions in which they participate. (22-23)

The very existence of schools divides any society into two realms: some time spans and processes and treatments and professions are „academic“ or „pedagogic“, and others are not. The power of school thus to divide social reality has no boundaries: education becomes unworldly and the world becomes noneducational. (24)


Phenomenology of School

[…] I shall define „school“ as the age-specific, teacher-related process requiring full-time attendance at an obligatory curriculum. (25-26)

1. Age. School groups people according to age. This grouping rests on three unquestioned premises. Children belong in school. Children learn in school. Children can be taught in school. (26)

Until the last century, „children“ of middle-class parents were made at home with the help of preceptors and private schools. Only with the advent of industrial society did the mass production of „childhood“ become feasible and come within the reach of the masses. The school system is a modern phenomenon, as is the childhood it produces. (27)

  1. Teachers and pupils. By definition, children are pupils. The demand for the milieu of childhood creates an unlimited market for accredited  teachers. School is an institution built on the axiom that learning is the result of teaching. And insitutional wisdom continues to accept this axiom, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. (28)
  2. Full-time attendance. School, by its very nature, tends to make a total claim on the time and the energies of its participants. This, in turn, makes the teacher into custodian, preacher, and therapist. […] Children are protected by neither the First nor the Fifth Amendment when they stand before that secular priest, the teacher. The child must confront a man who wears an invisible triple crown […] the symbol of triple authority in one person. (30-31)


Ritualization of Progress

The modern university confers the privilege of dissent on those whi have been tested and classified as potential money-makers or power-holders. (34)

The university thus has the effect of imposing consumer standards at work and at home, and it does so in every part of the world and under every political system. (35)

This transfer of responsibility from self to institution guarantees social regression, especially once it has been accepted as an obligation. So rebels against Alma Mater often „make it“ into her faculty instead of growing into the courage to infect others with their personal teaching and to assume responsibility for the results. This suggests the possibility of a new Oedipus story – Oedipus the teacher, who „makes“ his mother in order to engender children with her. The man addicted to being taught seeks his security in compulsive teaching. The woman who experiences her knowledge as the result of a process wants to reproduce it in others. (39)

In school we are taught that valuable learning is the result of attendance; that the value of learning increases with the amount of input; and, finally, that this value can be measured and documented by grades and certificates. (39)

But personal growth is not a measurable entity. It is growth in disciplined dissidence, which cannot be measured against any rod, or any curriculum, nor compared to someone else’s achievement. In such learning one can emulate others only in imaginative endeavor, and follow in their footsteps rather than mimic their gait. The learning I prize is immeasurable re-creation. (40)

Once people have the idea schooled in them that values can be prouced and measured, they tend to accept all kinds of rankings. There is a scale for the development of nations, another for the intelligence of babies, and even progress toward peace can be calculated according to body count. In a schooled world the road to happiness is paved with a consumer’s index. (40)

Consumer-pupils are taught to make their desires conform to marketable values. Thus they are made to feel guilty if they do not behave according to the predictions of consumer research by getting the grades and certificates that will place them in the job category they have been led to expect. (41)

The Myth of Unending Consumption now takes the place of belief in life everlasting. (43)

But growth conceived as open-ended consumption – eternal progress – can never lead to maturity. Commitment to unlimited quantitative increase vitiates the possibility of organic development. (43)

But school enslaves more profoundly and more systematically, since only school is credited with the principal function of forming critical judgment, and, paradoxically, tries to do so by making learning about oneself, about others, and about nature depend on a prepackaged process. (47)

The discovery that most learning requires no teaching can be neither manipulated nor planned. Each of us is personally responsible for his or her own deschooling, and only we have the power to do it. (47)

If we do not challenge the assumption that valuable knowledge is a commodity whuch under certain circumstances may be forced into the consumer, society will be increasingly dominated by sinister pseudo schools and totalitarian managers of information. (50)

As long as we are not aware of the ritual through which school shapes the progressive consumer – the economy’s major resource – we cannot break the spell of this economy and shape a new one. (51)

Our present educational institutsions are at the service of the teacher’s goals. The relational structures we need are those which will enable each man to define himself by learning and by contrivuting to the learning of others. (71)


Learning webs

The educational institutions I will propose however, are meant to serve a society which does not now exist, although the current frustration with schools is itself potentially a major force to set in motion change toward new social arrangements. (73)

A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known. (75)

It must not start with the question, „What should someone learn?“ but with the question, „What kinds of things and people might learners want to be in contact with in order to learn?“ (77-78)

I propose […] to label four different approaches which enable the student to gain access to any educational resource which may help him to define and achieve his own goals:

1. Reference Services to Educational Objects – which facilitate access to things or processes used for formal learning. […]

2. Skill Exchanges – which permit persons to list their skills, the conditions under whic they are willing to serve as models for others who want to learn these skills, and the addresses at which they can be reached.

3. Peer-Matching – a communications network which permits persons to describe the learning activity in which they wish to engage, in the hope of finding a partner for the inquiry.

4. Reference Services to Educators-at-Large – whi can be listed in a directory giving the addresses and self-descriptions of professionals, paraprofessionals, and free-lancers, along with conditions of access to their services. Such educators […] could be chosen by polling or consulting their former clients. (78-79)

Within school, when used in the form of tournaments, games are not only removed from the sphere of leisure; they often become tools used to translate playfulness into competition, a lack of abstract reasoning into a sign of inferiority. An exercise which is liberating for some character types becomes a strait jacket for others. (82)

A truly public kind of ownership might begin to emerge if private or corporate control over the educational aspect of „things“ were brought to the vanishing point. (87)

A much more radical approach would be to create a „bank“ for skill exchange. Each citizen would be given a basic credit with which to acquire fundamental skills. Beyond that minimum, further credits would go to those who earned them by teaching, whether they served as models in organized skill centers or did so privatelt at home or on the playground. Only those who had taught others for an equivalent amount of time would have a claim on the time of more advanced teachers. An entirely new elite would be promoted, an elite of those who earned their education by sharing it. (90)

The operation of a peer-matching network would be simple. The user would identify himself by name and address and describe the activity for which he sought a peer. A computer would send him back the names and addresses of all those who had inserted the same description. It is amazing that such a simple utility has never been used on a broad scale for publicly valued activity. (93)

The right of free assembly has been politically recognized and culturally accepted. We should now understand that this right is curtailed by laws that make some forms of assembly obligatory. (93)

Also, there is an important sense in which people who have never lived together in a physical community may occasionally have far more experiences to share than those who have known each other from childhood. […] Peer-matching could significantly help in making explicit the many potential but suppressed communities of the city. (95)

Today’s educational administrators are concerned with controlling teachers and students to the satisfaction of others – trustees, legislatures, and corporate executives. (98)

But this would require that the educational revolution be guided by certain goals:

  1. to liberate access to things by abolishing the control which persons and insitutions now exercise over their educational valuse.
  2. To liberate the sharing of skills by guaranteeing freedom to teach or exercise them on request.
  3. To liberate the critical and creative resources of people by returning to individual persons the ability to call and hold meetings – an ability now increasingly monopolized by insitutions which claim to speak for the people.
  4. To liverate the individual from the obligation to shape his expectations to the services offered by any established profession – by providing him with the opporutnity to draw on the experience of his peers and to entrust himself to the teacher, guide, adviser, or healer of his choice. Inevitably the dechooling of society will blur the distinctions between economics, education and politics on which the stability of the present world order and the stability of nations now rest.

The creature whom schools need as a client has neither the autonomy nor the motivation to grow on his own. (104)

Todd May “Anarchism from Foucault to Rancière”

December 19, 2011 Leave a comment

May, Todd 2009. Anarchism from Foucault to Rancière. – Amster, Randall; DeLeon, Abraham; Fernandez, Luis A.; Nocella, Anthony J.; Shannon, Deric (eds). Contemporary Anarchist Studies: An introductory anthology of anarchy in the academy. London and New York: Routledge: 11-17

There is no analogy of the form the state: anarchism:economy:Marxism. We might define domination instead as referring more broadly to oppressive power relations. Since some people think of power and oppression as coextensive, we might be tempted to simplify the definition of domination to a reference to power relations. However, this will not do. For reasons we will see when we turn to Foucault, the existence of power by itself is no guarantee of oppression. (12)

If domination is elastic, then its different appearances are irreducible to a specific form of domination. (12)

First, if power is creative in the way Foucault describes, and if it arises in the welter of practices in which we participate, then there can be oppression without there being oppressors. Since power is not simply a matter of what A does to B, but can be a matter of who A is made to be by the practices in which she is engaged, then it is possible that A can be oppressed without there being a B that actually does the oppressing. (14)

The second conclusion, in a sense a complement to the first, is that there can be relationships of power that are not oppressive. […] Our practices, individually and in combination with others, are constantly creating us to be certain kinds of beings. And since power is pervasive, we cannot avoid asking which relations of power are oppressive and which are not. Looking at an arrangement of power, we must ask whether it is creating something that is bad for those who are subject to it. (14)

[For Ranciére] A democratic politics is ultimately a resistance against the mechanisms of an order that distributes roles on the basis of hierarchical presuppositions. (15)

What is key to understanding Rancière’s view is to grasp the role that the concept of equality plays. First and foremost, it is not a demand, but rather a presupposition. There may well be demands associated with a democratic politics; indeed, there usually are. However, what characterizes a political movement as democratic is not the demands it makes but the presupposition out of which it arises. (16)

In Rancière’s view, what arises out of a democratic politics is a political subject. In fact, he calls the emergence of a democratic politics  subjectification. Where there were once scattered individuals dominated by the mechanisms of a police order, with the appearance of a democratic politics there is a collective subject of resistance […] (16)

And just as Foucault shows how specific forms of domination arise within specific historical trajectories, Rancière conceives how resistance to those forms of domination can occur without resorting to any form of identity politics. (16)

We cannot resist now, and create equality later. (16)

Jurgen Ruesch “Social Process”

December 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Ruesch, Jurgen 1972 . Social process. – Ruesch, Jurgen. Semiotic approaches to human relations. The Hague, Paris: Mouton: 21-46

[…] „social process“, can be studied through the observation of four sets of phenomena. The actual events – that is, those that stand for themselves – can be divided into: (1) behavior, or the functioning of whole organisms or machines and (2) field, or the environment or situational structure in which this behavior takes place. The symbolic events – those that stand for other events – can be divided into: (3) communication, or the symbolic functioning of whole organisms or machines and (4) organization, or the social order (context) in which communication takes place. (21)

The purpose of social organization is to: define group tasks; delineate boundaries in time and space (to each his own); establish priority systems (value systems); provide emergencies (protective services); make new rules (legislature); interpret the rules (judiciary); reinforce the rules (law enforcement); allot positions within the organization (civil service); make decisions (executive); initiate and implement group action (exploration of outer space); and regulate exchange with other groups (competition, cooperation). (25-26)

Inside a social organization the position that an individual holds defines his tasks, his rights, and his obligations. With it goes power, or the ability to make other people act in certain ways. (26)

The role that a person assumes is determined by what he thinks, feels, and does. Role is independent of position and does not wield power. A role is nothing but a typology of expressing the mutual relationship of people: father-son, leader-follower. Role is self-chosen, and the public may show respect for certain roles (hero) and, conversely, contempt for others. (26)

In the first instance, the action serves need satisfaction; in the second instance, it may be perceived by self or by others, and at that moment it becomes a message. Intention, therefore, which plays such a role in legal procedures, cannot be used in communication, because unintentional messages may have as much impact as intentional messages. (28)


The operational disciplines thus are distinguished from the basic sciences in that they are more familiar with the specifics than with the general, more apt to  seize on the exceptionn than on the rule, more likely to be confronted with breakdown than with smooth procedures. […] the operations expert is called in when long-term predictability fails. (30)

But order can only be understood, explaine, and implemented through use of the symbolic process which enables a person or a group to represent events that have already occurred or will occur at another time or place. (32/34)

With the influence of cybernetics and social and behavioral science, there seems to emerge at the present in the managerial disciplines a general theory of social process suitable for a variety of purposes. It is based upon three verifiable assumptions: (1) that information controls action; (2) that feed-back of the effects of action changes the informational state of the cell, organ, organism, or group; and (3) that this new informational state becomes the base for the next action. (34)

To acknowledge and to be acknowledged are satisfactory to the individual, proving that he is connected with others in spite of being separate or different from them. Agreeing implies the isolation of a certain aspect within the universe of discourse, and the establishment of corresponding views or opions between two or more peope with respect to that aspect. To reach an agreement is a most satisfying experience and a prerequisiste for action. With these three processes, people regulate their social encounters and the tensions that these encounters produce. (36) [under and over-organization tensions]

[…] informal communication serves adaptation, while programming and organization aim at better control. Programming of an individual’s life or of a group’s activities contains the following ingredients: allotment of proper space; allotment of proper time; regulation of energy household; allotment of proper funds; allotment of proper technical resources; and integration of space, time, energy, funds, and resources into a pattern of living. (38)

The rules of the small group have in some ways to be coordinated with the laws of society at large, and the roles held in a small group must be familiar to members of other groups. (38)

Underlying all of the approaches to the study of man is his ability to interact and relate to others – a faculty which has been described as „social process“. (39)

Jerzy Pelc “Theory Formation in Semiotics”

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Pelc, Jerzy 1997. Theory Formation in Semiotics. – Posner, Roland; Robering, Klaus; Sebeok, Thomas A. (eds.), Semiotics: A Handbook on the Sign-Theoretic Foundations of Nature and Culture. Vol.1. Berlin: Walter De Gruyter: 617–643

[…] the phrase „the semiotics of expression E“ denotes, firstly, the semiosic properties, semiosic functions, and semiosic relations of expression E within the considered semiotic system. This involves (a) the structure of the expression and its connextion with the sign context, (b) its meaning and reference, and (c) its relations to the surrounding situation; the users, place, time, etc. (634-635)

Secondly, the word „semiotics“ is sometimes used as the name of a certain branch of knowledge, a science, discipline or interdisciplinary study having semiotics1 as its object. We shall denote this branch of knowledge, science, discipline or interdisciplinary study with „semiotics2“. In most of the cases this is a structure with at least two levels. On its lower level (semiotics2.1) it describes semiotics 1 in a metalanguage1, while on its higher level (semiotics2.2) it uses a metalanguage2 or metametalanguage, to describe and explain phenomena belonging to semiotics2.1. (635)

Distinguished within theoretical semiotics are pure semiotics and descriptive semiotics. The former „could be presented as a deductive system with undefined terms and primitive sentences which allow the deduction of other sentences or theorems,“ and its branches would be pure syntactics, pure semantics, and pure pragmatics. Descriptive semiotics on the other hand is the application of the metalanguage in discussions of concrete instances of sign situations. (635)

All methods of language analysis – bot the grammatical and the stylistic, rhetorical and versificational one, and the method of formalization – are semiotic methods. They are often called „semiotics“, but in a meaning different from those discussed so far. For the sake of distinction we will use the term „semiotics3“. […] semiotics3 contains research procedures typical for the humanities (e.g. stylistic analysis) alongside those widely used in mathematics and symbolic logic, namely the methods of formalization. (636)

„Semiotics4“ is applied semiotics, e.g. semiotics of culture, sociosemiotics, praxiosemiotics, psychosemiotics or zoosemiotics. […] Each semiotics4 is thus the result of a systematic application of semiotics3 to some complex of objects, events and phenomena comprising a certain whole […] (636)

As we see, obviousness and intuition accompany the construction of unformalized and unaxiomatized seimotic theories; in fact, intuition also guides scholars constructing axiomatized semiotic theories. The authors of both the unaxiomatized and the rare axiomatized theories make use of statements of other sciences (such as linguistics, psychology, sociology, acoustics or optics) as premisses of semiotic theories, and also employ terms of other sciences in constructing definitions of semiotic terms. (639)

Keeping in mind the distinction made between a theory characteristic of a given discipline and a theory occurring in a given discipline, we must note that in theoretical semiotics we usually deal with theories characteristic of semiotics, whereas in applied semiotics we have in most cases theories characteristic of a given domain of application. (640)

The semiotic theory, being empirical and humanistic, is usually closely connected to its author’s world view. In its semantic part it contains ontological commitments, and in its pragmatic part gnosiological assumptions. (641)

Categories: Jerzy Pelc, semiootika, teadus

Holy & Stuchlik “Actions, Norms and Representations”

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

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


5. Normative Notions

1. […] a norm, like any other notion of a similar kind, has to do with a type of situation, not with one particular situation; a particular social process evolves in a specific context, while the norm is context-independent. […] Therefore to assume a one-to-one relation between a norm and an action is erroneous.

2. […] any action is understandable to at least someone other than the actor, which means that it is performed according to some plan, rule or norm. To classify action as deviant or norm-breaking is not an absolute classification but a relative one: we are not saying that this action breaks all known norms but only the norm we assume should have applied. […] Deviance is explained in terms of so-called contingent factors, in other words by trying to find out why some norm other than the type-norm has been applied.

3. […] the very possibility of there even existing actions which the anthropologist can call deviant means that the actors can, in fact, invoke different norms for deciding on their actions. (82)

The basic question is not whether the action is norm-conforming or norm-breaking, but which norms, ideas and reasons were invoked by the actors for the performance of the action. (82)

We consider such a bridging concept [btw norms and actions] the goal of an action, that is some future state of affairs to whose attainment the action is oriented. A goal obviously presupposes the existence of an agent, which can only be a particular individual. (83)

Deliberation need not be a perpetually repeated process. For some actions, it can be done only once or a few times, after which the action becomes automatic. But this does not mean that it has no purpose or goal. (84)

What is important is that norms do not bring about behaviour by themselves but are brought to bear on actions by the actors in the course of their attainment of specific goals. (85)

[…] the most important factor shaping the actor’s decision about the course of his action is the impact on the world he attempts to make through his action, or, in other words, the goal which he aims to attain through it. (87)

[…] many actions an individual performs are aimed at attaining several goals, some of which are not only interdependent but quite often mutually conflicting. (88)

Explanation of the rules or principles whereby actual choices are made requires not only the identification of the goals which actors try to attain through their activities but also the enumeration of all the limiting factors which they have to take into consideration in their decisions on the course of actions, and the specification of the ways in which they interplay. (90)

In an empirical situation in which interactions in which people engage are justified by the actors themselves by reference to the existing norms, and these norms are quoted by the actors themselves as the inner motivation of their observed behaviour, the point that it is the interactional process which generates the norms and not vice versa can be argued only on logical grounds. (91)

Unless the norm is revalidated by being recognized as applicable to or as legitimately invoked in at least some other interactions, it gradually disappears as such from the notional repertoire of the actors. (93)

Since mutually incompatible norms, provided they are applicable to and can be invoked  in the same situation, obviously cannot exist side by side, it follows that not only the interactions in which people engage affect the norms which they conceive as determining, guiding or regulating these interactions but also that the norms as such will affect one another. (96)

6. Representational notions

Although people’s ideas about the social processes in which they are involved are an important part of every representational model, representations are not merely descriptive. People hold notions not only about what the state of affairs actually is: they also hold specific social theories which are statements of basic values and whose important components are ideas about what the state of affairs ought to be. Such notions are usually called ideologies. (100)

Due to their value-ideal character, the only manifestation of ideological notions are verbal statements. […] There is not a one-to-one relationship between people’s ideological assertions and the interactions or social processes in which they are engaged. (100)

The more general the notions are, the more complex and sinuous is their relationship to the social processes which have generated them, and the more complex and sinuous is the way in which they enter into the ongoing social interactions between individuals and groups. […] The notions constituting representational models have to be considered not only from the point of view of their relationship to the observable social processes but also from the point of view of their relationship to various notions contained in the actors’ operational models. (103)

The distinction between operational and representational models seems to derive not so much from the difference in their bearing on the domain of actions, or from their different function in relation to the actual social processes, as from their differing degree of generality or from their differing roles in legitimizing and interpreting the ongoing interactions. (104)

Empirically it seems that normative rules remain unquestioned as far as they do not disturb the actors’ representations, i.e. as long as their enactment does not contradict the notions of what things and relationships between things are. (104)

7. Actions, norms and representations

Just as it is absurd to assume that people enter a ready-made world, which is external to them and predetermines all they do, feel or think, it is equally absurd to assume that we can, as it were, stop the world to study it. People learn the world into which they were born and perform actions in it – thereby continually recreating it. (108)

[…] 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)