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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)

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

November 25, 2011 Leave a comment

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)