Let us pause to review where we are in our discussion of initial difculties in understanding poststructuralist approaches to the study of social reality. I have argued that despite what too many critics maintain, there is no single, identiable poststructuralism. Poststructuralist writings, like the being now pushing computer keys, have meanings and signicance that are forever unstable.
Indeed, I have even gone so far as to suggest that the desire to know in a nal and comprehensive way is itself a profoundly social, albeit long and complex, effect. This, then, is why, as a poststructuralist, I will not supply a simplistic, structuralist description of poststructuralist theory. It is also precisely this unwillingness to assume a structure in subjectivity or in the objects that knowing subjects encounter in life that renders poststructuralist thought difcult to read and comprehend.
It is what makes poststructuralism, as we heard Derrida say, a terrifying form of monstrosity. However, once one becomes comfortable with this poststructuralist sentiment, it is emancipating, both intellectually and politically. The initial obstacles to learning to think poststructurally are now on the table, but the claim of increased political efcacy remains to be considered.
Why Should Sociologists Care about Poststructuralism? Given all of this complexity and difculty, why should sociologists and our students care enough to dedicate the hours and effort needed to learn to think poststructurally? Above all, sociology should be socially and politically relevant. Sociology should equip one with tools for understanding and changing society. I believe this style of analysis to have the best chance of improving the lives of underprivileged, impoverished, and systematically abused human beings. Pursuing sociological understanding as if it were an ever-growing stockpile of truths quickly becomes politically debilitating.
Chasing truth has a tendency to remove sociologists from the always-evolving and contingent concerns of, for example, my eighty-three-year-old neighbor who struggled with the onset of Alzheimers disease, of the homeless Romanian immigrant whose son plays with my son at the community pool, or of the single mothers whose. In other words, the conviction that there is a more real world of the social that escapes the unscientic perspectives of my elderly neighbor, the immigrant, or the mothers, disconnects sociologists from those we know and care for.
It sets us up as distant experts who on the basis of our advanced degrees are charged with determining the levels of veracity contained in the perspectives of everyday folks. Furthermore, assuming we have a duty to pursue an overall and underlying structure in social reality to advance knowledge detracts from the moral pursuit of social justice that I see as the most important part of professional, sociological work.
Surely sociology is most relevant when people beyond the doors of our university ofces and professional meetings actually care about what sociologists say and think. It makes no political sense to carry on arguments with other sociologists about esoteric problems of theory or methodology while desperate political battles with immediate life consequences rage in the lives of oppressed human beings around the world. Because I do not dream of one day knowing existence as an extra-social structure, I do not spend time and energy chasing it nor engage in academic street ghts over the best way to approximate it.
As a poststructuralist, I understand existence to be a borderless realm of competing and overlapping organization schemes. For me, truth exists within narrations of reality. Truth is not something that exists independently of competing perspectives whose champions strive to isolate it and lay it bare.
Truth does not pre-date the rather emotional desire, if not fear-based need, for such certainty; things are quite the reverse. Truth has always been a wholly human destination. Once again, abandoning the pursuit of an ultimately veriable and structured existence is important for at least two reasons. First, it allows me to concentrate on improving the lives of those I care about. I get to write, speak, and teach about subjects that I nd meaningful because they are important to real people with real lives outside of exclusively academic discussions.
Second, I am free to explore how fellow human beings organize their lives without the rather egomaniacal expectation that I must eventually pass judgment on the accuracy and mistakes in their narrations. This is not to say that I refrain from making moral arguments. I absolutely do make and defend moral and political assertions. However, I do not claim to base my politics on an extra-social, metaphysical realm. This last term is one that you will hear throughout the rest of this book, so let us take a moment to discuss its meaning.
Meta means other, after, or beyond. Metaphysical, then, refers to that which is beyond or other than the physical. Prior to the nineteenth century, scholars assumed that some ultimate force usually God in the universe ordered and caused systematic movement in existence. Understanding this theological force that lay behind and beyond the physical world was the concern of metaphysicians. Metaphysics fell out of favor as the positivist science of the nineteenth century openly declared its separation from, and opposition. Science, positivists argued, should validate only what can be seen and positively measured sociologists still refer to this as the empirically available world.
Because God is not physically present for scientists to observe and measure, belief in the existence of God is a metaphysical assertion. Poststructuralists maintain that believing in essential qualities of objects objects that therefore have inherent meaning like my coffee mug or my self or a theoretical tradition requires defending metaphysical positions. Like attempts to describe God, every attempt to isolate and accurately depict a really real world must always fall short.
To continue to believe in a structured and ultimately knowable existence, then, is to do so solely on the basis of faith. Thus when I, as a poststructuralist, offer analyses, they are explicitly political interventions as opposed to attempts at impartial description and moral arguments. I do not claim that my narrations are based in an objectively structured reality that I can empirically verify. Indeed, I see such claims as akin to those of earlier generations of intellectuals who sought verication of Gods plan. Another example from daily life can add to our appreciation of this important poststructuralist sentiment.
How do Bob and Margaret, my elderly neighbors, understand themselves, me, my family, or our city and state? Before Margarets death and his subsequent move to a senior center, Bob often saw me leave home at noon on my way to teach a late afternoon seminar. Having trouble with his memory, he asked me on more than one occasion, do you go to work after noon everyday? From our conversations over cake and ice cream at the boys birthday parties, I know he believes that he pays too many taxes and that public employees deserve a large part of the blame.
He feels this way in part because he contextualizes the present using a past where he remembers feeling comfortable. He recalls a California with far fewer people, fewer public services, fewer laws, and from his perspective fewer social problems. He and Margaret talked fondly of the s and s. Things then were made by Americans for Americans; people shared values and community; and despite hardships, during the war years people were dedicated to the certainty and nobility of their purpose.
Margaret lost her rst husband in the Korean conict; Bob served in the Air Force and displayed a bumper sticker identifying his war-time unit on their car. When my family and I bought a Toyota car, Bob and Margaret were visibly annoyed.
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How could such nice young people not realize how important it was to buy American products? From the political conversations Margaret and I had over coffee and beer, I know that her perspectives on patriotism, immigration, education reform, and other important social issues were vastly different from my own.
For example, she saw that the United States had lost many young men and spent enormous amounts of money causing shortages, rationing, and heartache at home to defeat the Japanese not too many generations ago. Now, she and Bob believed, the United States has helped to rebuild a Japan so economically powerful that it threatens to overwhelm American productivity.
Whats more, she and Bob knew that I spend their. I knew Bob and Margaret to be wonderful human beings and dependable friends. I disagreed completely with the strength of their what I would call overzealous patriotism. I also shuddered at Margarets near blanket dismissal of any arguments she related to socialists. As I think back, I remember that Margaret used the word colored to refer to our African-American neighbors and looked cross-eyed at me when I told her that I agreed with President Bill Clintons attempt to modernize the status of gay men and lesbians in the armed forces.
Clearly our friendship existed despite having almost no agreement about the social and political issues that we each cared deeply about. As a sociologist, how am I to think about these potentially unsettling differences? As I have already admitted, my self-perception is fundamentally tied to my sociology. Thus I think that patriotism is a dangerous phenomenon that can allow people to avoid thinking and that can allow leaders to channel great rushes of emotional energy that too often end in unnecessary death and destruction.
I also tense with anger when I consider the amount of amassed wealth that exists alongside abject poverty, not only around the world but, here, in the enormously rich United States. Thus although not a Marxist, I routinely hear myself making arguments that most social scientists easily recognize as those of a socialist. I understand why African American is a much better term than colored, and I cringe when I hear reactionary AM talk radio hosts trivialize the difference as just more liberal P. I am also abhorred by the continuing open and ugly discrimination waged against homosexuals in the United States and around the planet.
So given that a great deal of my subjectivity is created in and by my expressions and feelings about these social problems, what are my options for handling Bob and Margarets also honestly believed opinions? If I believe that history and reality have essential and singularly truthful qualities, then I somehow have to reconcile the differences between my perspectives and those of my dear neighbors. For example, I remember that in the Smithsonian Institution proposed to display part of the Enola Gay airplane that dropped atomic bombs on Japan, ending the Second World War.
The display was to be part of a ftieth-anniversary-commemoration of the end of hostilities. However, almost immediately after the plan was announced, newspaper accounts began relating details of a growing controversy over how to narrate the display. Should the captions say that this plane symbolized a great victory in a just and necessary war fought at great human cost to defeat a maniacal enemy?
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Or should the plane be remembered as a symbol of a great human failure, of human cruelty to humans in abominable proportions, and as a warning to the youngillustrating past generations inability to solve their differences in less than barbaric ways? By the time of the controversy, I did not have to ask to know that Margaret would have strong feelings about these news-stories. What to do? Perhaps I should listen closely to her opinions, thinking that I might gain some insight. After all, I could have concluded, most of that generation was so shaped and formed by that era, by wartime propaganda, that they could never understand those events from a less-biased perspective.
I would glean her words for the value of her rsthand experience, all the while remembering that I understood things from a much wider and more objective viewpoint. But Margaret was smart. She would know immediately if she was being patronized. She had piercing blue eyes that would immediately convey that she knew I was merely listening politely while dismissing the real signicance that she assigned to each sentence rolling off of her tongue. Another option would be to do what I have all too often seen other academics do and insist on setting wrongheaded opponents straight by insisting on the facts.
Adopting a pose of displayed profundity, I could wow her into submission by reciting social scientic understandings of the events and their signicance leading up to the war. I could go on for some length about imperialism, colonialism, racism, and state-produced propaganda. I might even secure the victory by researching and presenting statistics illustrating differences between the reality of the American governments behavior and its propaganda claims.
There may be still more options we might admit that we are both partly correct or that we are both completely wrong , but my point remains, if we stick to a structuralist interpretation of existence, there is an essential reality to the events leading up to, and surrounding, the dropping of the bombs, and the argument is over whose account comes closest to truthfulness. There is more than enough room in life for Margaret who lived very different and longer years than myself and I to have completely different understandings, and even to celebrate these differences.
Understanding that things are more complex than quests for underlying structure can seriously allow for, provides us with a far richer basis for practicing sociology and for doing politics. Perhaps it also suggests the appropriateness and intelligence of genuine respect for the experiences and wisdom of an elder. Recall that our goal in this section is to illustrate why poststructuralist analyses provide for greater political efcacy than do more traditional social scientic quests to verify empirical reality.
We now need to add a few more analytic tools. This will take several pages, but by the end of the chapter we will come back to recollect Margarets sense of history within our poststructuralist analysis. De-centering Subjectivity Person-hood A few pages back, I argued that I as an author or a father lack structure. I maintained that my subjectivity is unstable and continuously reconstructed. Lets now extend this de-centering to our sociology courses and to the disciplinary training we receive there.
Essential personhood understood, e. Remembering that structuralists pursue exactness in what they surmise is an empirically available existence, it makes perfect sense that they should require some stable and central place from where to record their measurements. Knowledge understood as an accumulation requires a consistent foundation: a disciplined knower. Indeed the term epistemology which refers to the study of the bases, possibility, and limits of knowledge , is derived from the Greek epi upon and histemi I place.
Thus knowledge is the result of placing oneself upon, of adopting the correct posture and position. If the knower is untrained in the correct method of physical observation or is not steadfast in his intellectual composure, then his observations will lack reliability consistency and validity accuracy. As sociologists, we learn methods for avoiding systematic bias in our work. For example, we learn to be sure that our sample populations are randomly acquired, to be aware of our potential to inuence those we interview, and to understand the gravity of editing decisions as we work with ethnographic data.
This is epistemological training, and the self-discipline learned is what gives sociology its status as a science. In these courses, sociology students are taught to discipline their subjectivity, to put their mental and physical acumen into a correct knowledge-gathering posture. As we shall see in chapters 2 and 3, this discipline is rooted in a cultural despair over the inadequacies of the self that is a very old sentiment in European and European-derived civilizations.
We will spend many pages tracing sociologists modern style of subjectivity a learned version of being human to ancient Greece and Judeo-Christian theology, but for the moment I only want to reach back as far as the seventeenth century and the self-examinations of the French philosopher, Rene Descartes Like all of us, Descartes inhabited conditions of possibility. His interests, his work, and his selfperception reected his era, place, and culture. By his lifetime, Europe had seen recent and serious challenges to many old and established understandings.
For example, rsthand accounts of the strange and marvelous peoples, plants, and animals of the Americas were accumulating. Medieval understandings of natural history, based on a mixture of Christianity and the works of Aristotle, had assumed a systematic nality and closure in nature. Known as the Great Chain of Being, this ordering maintained that everything from angels to insects had a proper place and role in the cosmos.
Because God was perfect, he had created no more diversity than could precisely t within existence. This great chain, then, was a classication scheme that showed how all things were related, including hierarchically with God at the top and humans below angels but above other earthly life forms. The New World held countless marvels that severely disrupted this theretofore neatly cataloged, European existence.
Before the late fteenth and sixteenth centuries, no known European had ever seen a skunk, tasted corn, heard a Native American language, or smelled the many strange trees, plants, and owers of the Americas. Adding to this confusion, Galileo used his telescope to see beyond the known heavens, and Copernicus and Kepler had asserted that the earth and planets orbit the sun. Long relied upon imagery, including nothing less than the physical locations of heaven and hell, were thrown into doubt.
It is this environment of epistemological disarray as well as the resulting intellectual self-doubt that Descartes attempts to conquer.
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These medievals assumed that pieces of existence were meaningful because they t deductively within larger, older, and established understandings, and, surmised Descartes, it was their failure to adequately interrogate these grand systems that produced their horrendous errors. Although a devout Christian who was careful not to offend the Church Fathers, Descartes was also inuenced by Plato.
By his lifetime, Latin translations of long-lost Platonic dialogues were impacting the intellectual classes of Western Europe. In the pages of these dialogues, Descartes heard Plato call for systematic knowledge of the true forms of the things themselves. To free himself from the elaborate prejudices of the previous centuries, he must doubt everything.
Accurate understandings of larger existence depended upon disciplining the self. Students will recognize this sentiment in their professors encouragement to make a contribution to the discipline. It is difcult to overstate the impact that Descartes has had on modern, Western knowledge forms.
His self-interrogation in the discipline-enshrined pursuit of certainty was almost manic. In an all-out and self-torturing attempt to purify his mental capacity, Descartes says that he will stop his ears, shut his eyes, withdraw all senses, and eliminate all images of bodily things. As for those worldly understandings that he cannot nally purge, he will force himself to regard them as vacuous, false, and worthless Like glimpses into neuroses, for more than sixty pages Descartes treats us to a desperate self-abuse of his perceptions, at one point even contemplating whether he really exists, or whether some demon is at work making him think that he can think.
In the end, he falls back upon the only things he is sure of: his God and the goodness of his God. I know by experience that there is in me a faculty of judgment which, like everything else which is in me, I certainly received from. And since God does not wish to deceive me, he surely did not give me the kind of faculty which would ever enable me to go wrong while using it correctly So at the beginning of the modern scientic era, we nd Descartes God guaranteeing that he and all right-minded Christian intellectuals have a faculty which, if used correctly, places them in an epistemological relation to existence through which certainty can be discerned.
The mind, he says, was created by God. Thus it is separable from the lies often communicated by mere senses that are after all shared with lesser animals.
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This divinely awarded reasoning faculty is indivisible and unquestionably good, although, in humans it requires perfection and protection through technique and discipline. Descartes attempt at self-overcoming resolved nally and only by appeals to his God amounts to a metaphysical centering of a metaphysical subjectivity.
Neither the version of personhood he champions nor its position as the basis for all legitimate knowledge can be substantiated by anything greater than his religious faith. Descartes theology is the basis of his self-perception, and this theological subjectivity is the only possible center of correct knowing. Descartes knows what is true because God, who is unquestionably good and does not deceive, gave him this faculty for knowing. This circular reasoning is based in a faith that Descartes placed beyond his formidable power to doubt.
For Descartes, there was ultimately no way to justify his belief that this faculty or mind could be isolated and puried for the purpose of gleaning knowledge, except through the faith-based, theological reasoning he supplied. I do not mean to suggest that he found this reasoning to be insufcient. Descartes believed unquestionably in his God, and his science was theologically inspired. Although later generations of structuralists have abandoned Descartes theological language, the scientic subjectivity the scientic selves of modern, structuralist, sociologists remains Cartesian.
When sociologists attempt to control bias, when we insist upon discipline in our knowing procedures while pursuing objectivity even as we grudgingly admit the goal unattainable , when we strive for correspondence between our theoretical models and an objectively present social existence, we are acting in a Cartesian way.
Structuralist scientists, then, are trying to cleanse their knowing postures, struggling to place their subjectivity the Cartesian faculty in an epistemological stance that will, as Descartes said, not enable [them] to go wrong while using it correctly. Indeed Descartes helped institutionalize the subjectto-object binary that remains the basis for the scientic method.
Despite the impossibility of. Only in the last four decades of the twentieth century with the exception of Nietzsche who was horribly alone in his own era do we nd thinkers who seriously question the entirety of this metaphysical, theologically inspired, structuralist project. I have already said that poststructuralists understand subjectivity to be a complex effect. Our short discussion of the ongoing impact of Descartes project and the intellectual concerns of his time illustrate how and why this is the case. Descartes self-interrogation and attempt at self-discipline is one important part of the history of scientic subjectivity.
Modern subjectivity is, in part, a Cartesian effect. Yet, and as we will see in chapter 2, this notion that there exists an I a faculty, mind, ego, etc. One need only consider the Christian concept of eternal soul or read the words Plato placed in Socrates mouth to appreciate the ancient origins of what Derrida has for the past forty years called metaphysics of presence.
Thus the idea of empirical verication requires that the subject the knower be understood as a nonproduced presence. The scientic self must be whole and selfcontained before and after any particular context where it lives for a time. Her self is made of affairs that are not present in the instant when she seeks to do her science.
The episodes of her life are not physically or temporally present in her research settings, but they are the possibility of her understandings. The history and ongoing construction of her self is far too complex to be controlled for by any regimen of discipline, by any epistemological stance, or by any research design.
The Cartesian and scientic attempt to purify the faculty of judgment can never succeed because this faculty can never be simply present to itself, in all of its signicance, all at once. Subjectivity can never be centralized found whole in a comprehensive presence. Unless we too agree to believe in Descartes God, the self is not theologically awarded, and it can never succeed in making itself into a metaphysical essence.
My point is not that our scientist has rst of all a pure subjectivity and that life then colors this self in innumerable and unpredictable ways. This would only be a reiteration of the primacy of Descartes pure faculty that would allow us to hold out hope for one day arriving through discipline at a purity. Rather, the point is that social existence far beyond and before the birth of our scientist is the very possibility of her having any subjectivity. All of the things that have happened to her in life and that continue to make her who she is can have meaning only because of countless events that pre-date her existence including Descartes systematic self-disdain.
For example, lets suppose that she speaks English and is an American. Did you know that there was a war between the French and the English that resulted in British colonial control over important parts of North America? There is a good chance that our scientist would now speak French and be part of a United States with much closer cultural ties to France. How would another language and a different history of cultural afliation have played out through the generations between the French victory and the self of our scientist?
Would the form of her government and thus of her citizenship be other than they are today? Presumably, the framers of the American Constitution would have been French aristocrats and not men derived of wealthy British families. So would our scientist have been born into a nation where she acquired political perspectives that looked more French in heritage and less British?
How about her aesthetic tastes and her artistic sensibilities? Furthermore, given that our ctitious scientist was born into a United States that evolved much more French and much less British, what of the impact of the American military, economy, and cultural inuence on the rest of the world? Would the impact of the French language and French culture not be much greater the world over than it is today? What kind of impact might an increased French American hegemony in the world have on the selfunderstanding of our ctitious scientist? Of course, it is impossible to know.
My point is simply that a British victory over the French in this often forgotten some might even say obscure , mid-eighteenth century war is one condition of possibility of American subjectivity. Indeed, it is a condition of the very language that animates most Americans self-understandings.
We could go on with this what Nietzsche and Foucault called genealogy exercise indenitely. Since our scientist is a woman, we might ask about the many feminist battles of the past and even those yet to come. Would she even be a scientist if feminists of earlier generations had not done what they did? Does the fact that contemporary feminist leaders will surely continue to point out the inequalities in opportunities that exist between men and women in our society have anything to do with her chances of competing successfully because of legislated fairness with her male colleagues in some future research competition?
Indeed, if she is interested in feminist sociology, might the very possibility of the recognized relevance of such work be tied to the civil rights struggles of countless activists from many historical periods? Again, my point is that there is always much more to any subjectivity than anyone can be aware of in the present of a particular moment. Why then is it not a metaphysical belief to assume that I can have, all at once, in any single. The complexity that is the very possibility of any subjectivity is perhaps limitless. It is certainly more than any discipline or piety can hope to control and domesticate.
I sometimes relate this to my own students by telling them that they cannot push the same bus they are riding in. If disciplinary selfovercoming is to remain an ethos in European-derived civilizations for knowledge making or entrance to heaven or overcoming self-indulgence , then it is an unrealizable one. One cannot interrogate, evaluate, and subjugate the social origins of ones self from anyplace other than the unstable perspectives of that same self.
I can only evaluate my biases by invoking biases. Because the attempt to discipline ones scientic subjectivity for the purpose of gathering knowledge is already an effect, an outcome of quite researchable political disputes some of which can be revisited in the pages of Descartes works , then a truly diligent Cartesian is faced with trying to eliminate the prejudices that are the very possibility of the Cartesian project.
In other words, the Cartesian attempt to nullify historical contingency in the quest for epistemological certainty is, itself, a historical and cultural contingency. Appreciating Margaret on Terms Other than My Own Clay Dumont de-centered is a consciousness that recognizes the scattered, overlapping, mutating, unstable conditions of its possibility. A de-centered subjectivity understands the impossibility of self-possession and even learns to enjoy the feeling.
My father once told me that people are like the innity of reections that can be seen when we stand between two mirrors. I think that this is as good an analogy as any I have since come across. If we can imagine that each of the reections built upon the one prior to it are not exact replications but rather the variety and differences of perception one encounters in everyday living, then my fathers mirror illustration is a ne one.
I am a reection not just of my life but also of those lives who react to me, who mirror myself back to me. I am also the lineage of faded and difcult to see reections that originated long before I had life complex assemblages of reections that harbor no coherent theological or metaphysical pattern. Surely then it is folly to attempt to identify any center of my again I have to point out the mistake of claiming possession self. Margaret and I, as social and historical effects, shared much social genealogy. Like me, she spoke and read English; she was taught to pay attention to many of the same historical events, although from rather different history books; she watched some of the same television programs and often read the same newspapers; we shared an understanding of many customs, traditions, holidays, and of social etiquette.
Because we shared all of this, and were able. This common social genealogy, none of which had to unfold through the centuries as it eventually did that is to say not because of some metaphysical laws of history or divine plan , is the possibility of the conventions the social agreements that Margaret and I relied upon for our daily interactions. However, there was much to Margarets subjectivity that was nothing like the outcome of my own origins.
Margaret was a Virginian and a proud Southerner. I once made the mistake of suggesting that she was from West Virginia, which she promptly informed me was lled with Yankees. I am from Oregon. The narrations about being from the South that she grew up with were vastly different from the accounts of civil rights battles that I learned to associate with that part of the country.
Her father was a Southern minister; one of my fathers was an Indian boy in a Catholic boarding school. All of our understandings of these events and consequently of ourselves were made possible by other people and events far beyond the moments Margaret and I inhabited. Yet because I do not pursue nor believe in the possibility of some centered subjectivity, some extra-social, extra-cultural, un-arrived at, Cartesian faculty, I do not require reconciliation of the differences that these vast contingencies produced between Margaret and myself.
I have no metaphysical premise about my subjectivity to protect. I feel no need to deny living hers or mine to understand living. Inasmuch as Margaret and I are the consequences of ongoing narration and dispute she is still being constituted and re-collected after her death, even by this writing , we are political outcomes and continuing political events. My discussions with Margaret remained civil, respectful, and even productive for precisely this reason.
Because we were not arguing about Gods will, or Truth with a capital T, or any other metaphysical center and we both understood the excess of self-importance required for those sorts of discussions , we could appreciate each other on terms supplied by each other. I caused Margaret to rethink some of her political opinions, and she returned the favor. Our relationship and my understanding of history grew and ourished because I did not attempt to assume some central, foundational, epistemologically secure vantage from where I could assess the accuracy of her experiences.
My goal was to get Margaret to think about her political positions in different and I thought better ways and to allow her to do the same for me. I learned an immense amount and developed an intellectual cooperation that would have quickly disintegrated in an adversarial dynamic where the really real was under contestation. In fact, my understanding of us as contingent, contestable, and without. Defending a center always makes one less amenable to hearing the voices of those defending their own, alternative foundations.
After the Center Structuralism requires a center. We have just recounted Descartes attempt to cultivate a self through extreme discipline. We stressed this important cultural event as an attempt to forge an epistemological center. In the end, we noted, Descartes dream of a fully present faculty mind could only be sustained through his faith in his God. Structure can be imagined to be coherent only because it is thought to have a central framework that governs its outlying parts. For example, if I cannot center my reading of a map by locating myself relative to the center of the depicted area, the map is of little use to me.
Similarly, one cannot understand any particular Marxian perspective without rst understanding the central notions of dialectical change, materialism, and the labor theory of value. These concepts center Marxian thought.
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The quality of having structure requires a center. Otherwise in any analysis, the denitions that are insisted upon, the lines of logical reasoning that are sketched out, and the analytic divisions that are detailed have no common point of reference to substantiate their relations, each to the other.
Later critical theorists made a similar claim about the distortion of reason in modern society — the subjective experience of individuals was replaced with the objective and detached forms of reason. The latter come to establish social and ideological structures that dominate individuals, dictating how individuals are to think and perform, and destroying creative and emancipatory forms of reason.
These experiences come from a different standpoint than the formal systems of knowledge of organizations, ideology, and much social science. Relations of ruling. In particular, this approach includes gender relations as an integral part of the relations of ruling, with the dominant social relations being organized by men, ignoring or devaluing the standpoint of women. There appear to be two major aspects to the relations of ruling — a texts, communication, and discourse; and b the organizations and structures of modernity and capitalism.
Texts and discourse. The production of texts and their place in structuring social relationships is one way that relations of ruling dominate women. Even where they may not actually result in dominating, they act to conceal the relations of domination Adams and Sydie , p. While these are seemingly objective, they are used to record, direct, control, and manipulate people and the form of social relations people enter into. This leads to using their language to discuss what they term social problems, mental illness, crime, riots, terrorism. It is then these ruling concepts that frame and direct the discussion of issues, leading to the ruling organizations being able to organize, regulate, and direct contemporary society Adams and Sydie , p.
A further level at which these are produced is in policy discussion, government reports, task forces, Royal Commissions, censuses, and press releases. They abstract from the everyday and the local and are means of reproducing power relations. These fit the bureaucratic and administrative hierarchy rather than dealing with the subjective experiences of individuals. Smith notes that these texts often involve three methodological tricks Adams and Sydie , p.
After listening to what people have to say about a social issue, bureaucrats, planners, or researchers often restate what people say, putting it in a conceptual framework that may be different from the understanding of the person reporting. Researchers do this as well by structuring surveys, questionnaires, interviews, and other forms of data collection and production.
These demonstrate a particular order to the data, perhaps consistent with the knowledge of the researcher, but perhaps alien to the everyday understanding of the individuals from whom the data were obtained. The data are then presented as concepts, value patterns, norms, or belief systems that are presented as reality.
The result of these tricks is that the original subject, her experiences, her was of knowing, and her standpoint have all disappeared. They reappear in abstract form, perhaps as a social problem. For example, the conditions and difficulties of being a single mother may be presented as a social problem. In summary, the texts are the formal types of knowledge produced by social scientists, organizations, bureaucrats, and other dominant individuals, usually males.
Smith contrasts these to ways of knowing, emerging from the subjective experience of women. While Smith presents these in a different language from that of earlier sociology, the influence of Weber administrative dominance, management and critical theory media, totalization , and limited set of alternatives should be noted. However, Habermas does not appear to have introduced the concepts of ways of knowing or the standpoint and experiences of women and ordinary individuals.
Class and capitalism. While Smith presents an analysis of capitalism and modernization, it is not her central contribution. However, Smith presents concepts that are consistent with Marxian or critical theory, and her analysis of women, knowledge, and relations of ruling is within the context of modern capitalism. Adams and Sydie p. Similar to the differentiation and specialization of Parsons, but with a critical approach, and the changes in corporate organization identified by Wright.
Consistent with approaches of Parsons and Habermas. Also consistent with critical theory. The texts and discourse of the relations of ruling are part of these developments, proceed from these developments, and help reproduce the domination of these forces. While challenging the domination of these forces and changing them involves social class, the whole complex of systems of domination must also be challenged.
See quote at bottom of p. Smith ties this system or structural level analysis to the position of women within this system. This is done through work in the home, in the paid labour force, and in organizations formal and informal. This takes several forms. In home and in organizations. And the ways of knowing, experiences, and standpoint of women are erased and become invisible. Health and Physical Education, Foundation to Year Posthumanist performativity: Toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter.
Signs, 28 3 , Meeting the universe half way: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham: Duke University Press. Bennett, J. Vibrant matter: A Political ecology of things. Braidotti, R. The Posthuman. Wiley: Hoboken.
Book Series: Current Perspectives in Social Theory
Derrida, J. Spectres of Marx: The State of debt, the work of mourning, and the new international P. Kamuf, Trans. New York: Routledge. Dumont Jr. The promise of poststructuralist sociology: Marginalized peoples and the problem of knowledge. Epstein, D. Schooling sexualities. Buckingham: Open University Press. Family Planning Victoria.
Ferfolja, T. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 13 2 Lesbian and gay teachers: Negotiating subjectivities in fo er Sydney schools. In M-P Moreau Ed. In equalities in the teaching profession: A global perspective pp. United Kingdom: Palgrave- ot Pap Macmillan. Reframing queer teacher subjects: Neither in nor out but present.
Gray Eds. Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave- Macmillan. Levine, L.
Hill, Y. Cheong Cheng, S. Lindblom-Ylanne, E. Kim Lee Eds. London: Routledge. The complexities of workplace experience for lesbian and gay teachers. Critical Studies in Education, 54 3 Workplace experiences of Australian lesbian and gay teachers: findings from a national survey.
Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Practice. Sawyer Eds. International Journal of Progressive Education. Foucault, M. The history of sexuality. Volume 1: An introduction. Hurley, Trans. New York: Vintage Books.
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