Mediations of Social Life in the 21st Century: Volume 32

Subject:

Table of contents

(15 chapters)
Content available
Content available
Purpose

To elucidate issues involved in the problem of scale, in particular the relations, analytical and dialectical, among first-person experiences of theorist and theorist’s object-complex of individual actor, group, society, motives and causes, intended and unintended effects, and so forth, as these experiences are manifest in an aesthetics of the judicial moment of perception, and enunciated as first-person accounts directly or indirectly, of third-person accounts, sometimes via explicit but usually via virtual or even vicarious second-person accounting practices.

Approach

Discussion begins with some classical formulations by neo-Kantian theorists (Simmel, Durkheim, Weber) regarding relations of “individual and society.” Brief citations of various twentieth century responses to the problem of scale follow. Attention then becomes more intensively focused on the basic problem of first-person experience and accounts with respect to the problem of scale, using Coleman’s “foundations” work as guidepost for navigating issues of effects of cognition, consciousness, and action in still mostly obscure processes of aggregation. This leads to explication of the thesis of “impossible individuality,” in present-day theoretical contexts and in the context of post-Kantian romanticism, with special attention to Hölderlin and the feeling/knowing dialectic, Benjamin’s treatment of temporality with respect to metrics of history, and the question what it means to “theorize with intent.”

Findings

The discussion ends with some tentative resolutions and several lacunae and aporia which are integral to the current face of the problem of scale (i.e., processes of aggregation, etc.).

Originality

The discussion builds upon the work of many others, with first-person illustrations.

Purpose

An inquiry into the constitution of the experience of patienthood. It understands “becoming a patient” as a production of a subjectivity, in other words as a process of individuation and milieu that occurs through an ontology of production. This ontology of production can, of course, also be understood as a political ontology. Therefore, this is, first of all, an inquiry into a mode of production, and, secondly, an inquiry into its relation to the issue of social justice – because of effects of digital divisions. In these terms, it also reflects on how expert discourses, such as in medical sociology and science studies (STS), can (and do) articulate their problems.

Approach

An integrative mode of discourse analysis, strongly related to discursive institutionalism, called semantic agency theory: it considers those arrangements (institutions, informal organizations, networks, collectivities, etc.) and assemblages (intellectual equipment, vernacular epistemologies, etc.) that are constitutive of how the issue of “patient experience” can be articulated form its position within an ontology of production.

Findings

The aim not being the production of a finite result, what is needed is a shift in how “the construction of patient experience” is produced by expert discourses. While the inquiry is not primarily an empirical study and is also limited to “Western societies,” it emphasizes that there is a relation between political ontologies (including the issues of social justice) and the subjectivities that shape the experiences of people in contemporary health care systems, and, finally, that this relation is troubled by the effects of the digital divide(s).

Originality

A proposal “to interrogate and trouble” some innovative extensions and revisions – even though it will not be able to speculate about matters of degree – to contemporary theories of biomedicalization, patienthood, and managed care.

Purpose

This essay studies disconnections between the macrolevel societal problems of a state and more microlevel political alignments.

Design/methodology/approach

Using a dataset composed of macrolevel measures of state problems and microlevel responses to a 2008 election survey, this essay applies multilevel statistical models to explain the state-to-state variance between the states on anti-abortion and pro-gun sentiments. This analysis uncovers the macro- and microlevel factors that disconnect a state’s neglect-of-children indicators from its citizens’ sentiments about abortion, and the factors that disconnect a state’s crime indicators from its citizens’ sentiments about guns.

Findings

The initial associations between a state’s indicators of neglect of children and anti-abortion sentiments are explained by the state’s lower human development (HD) and social attributes, especially religious beliefs, which predict social conservatism. The initial associations between a state’s indicators of crime and incarcerations are also explained by a state’s lower HD and the social attributes, especially religious beliefs, which predict social conservatism. Considering both abortion and guns as key indicators of social conservatism, the voters’ political choices exhibit a moralistic axiological rationality rather than a more pragmatic instrumental rationality.

Originality/value

The moral absolutism associated with sentiments about abortion and guns suggests that social conservatism and authoritarianism are intertwined but separate conceptions, which have similar consequences and determinants. Both may be influenced by the same changes in social and educational policies, especially the quality of education.

Purpose

The paper argues for a comprehensive method of sociological deconstruction and reconstruction that includes: (i) de-subjectifying interpretation, (ii) re-subjectifying explanation, (iii) de-objectifying understanding, and (iv) re-objectifying conceptualization.

Design

Both methodological and substantive arguments are guided by the constructive principle of mediating interpenetration of polar opposites.

Findings

Status groups and class interests are conceived as major categories of sociological differentiation mediating between the abstractions of individuals and society. Three types of class formation are discovered in Weber’s legacy beyond Marx’s property one. Sorokin’s work in a two-dimensional social stratification and mobility is found to have major significance for developing the concept of social classes and for reconciling divergent ideas of social stratification. The principle of concept formation by mediation of interpenetrating polar opposites is found to be of greater complexity and effectiveness than Hegel’s logical principle of transcendental supersession.

Originality

The comprehensive method of sociological deconstruction and reconstruction seamlessly integrates qualitative and quantitative methods in sociology as well as concept formation and research.

Purpose

To defend the thesis that the base-superstructure hypothesis central to Marxist theory is also central paradigm of the tradition of Critical Theory. This is in opposition to those who see this hypothesis as determinist and eliminating the possibilities for the autonomy of social action. In doing so, it is able to retard and atrophy the critical capacities of subjects.

Design/methodology/approach

Emphasis on the return to a structural-functionalist understanding of social processes that places this version of Critical Theory against the more domesticated forms that consider “discourse ethics” and an “ethic of recognition” as the normative research program for Critical Theory. Also, an analysis of the purpose and logic of functional arguments and their relation to Marx’s concept of “determination” is undertaken.

Findings

The essence of Critical Theory hinges upon the ways that social structures are able to deform and shape structures of consciousness of modern subjects to predispose them to forms of domination and to view the prevailing hierarchical structures of extractive domination as legitimate in some basic sense.

Research limitations/implications

The foundations of Critical Theory need to be rooted in a renewed understanding of the relation between social structure and forms of consciousness. This means a move beyond theories of social practices into the realm of social epistemology as well as the mechanisms of consciousness and their relation to ideology.

Originality/value

Few analyses of the relation between the base and the superstructure or material organization of society and the social-epistemological layer of consciousness delineate the mechanisms involved in shaping consciousness. I undertake an analysis that utilizes insights from the philosophy of mind such as the theory of intentionality as well as the sociological approach to values through Parsons.

Purpose

To resurrect and renew the tradition of the early Frankfurt School, whose of Marxist–Hegelian dialectical approach to understanding the societal conditions of its emergence – post World War I Germany, the rise of fascism, New Deal politics, the defeat of fascism, and the subsequent rise of consumer society – remains relevant to studying present circumstances, stressing the cultural dimension of capitalism, the proliferation of alienation, ideology, and mass media, and, finally, the nature of the society-character/subjectivity nexus.

Methodology

Employing a comparative historical approach to the study of alienation, ideology, and character, to articulate social-theoretical standards for critical social research today.

Social implications

Global civilization faces an array of crises, beginning with economies whose lack of growth or stability the ability of a large segment of the world’s population to obtain jobs conducive to a decent standard of life. With governments’ inability to implement public policies to buffer instabilities, cultural values are in crisis as well.

Findings

Reviving the framework of early Frankfurt School Critical Theory is necessary to promote a better world.

Originality

Reconstructing key concerns of the Frankfurt School is conducive to critiquing this tradition’s recent preoccupation with communication and recognition, and demonstrates how the first generation’s legacy helps us understand contemporary social movements of the Right and the Left, in ways that are similar to the Weimar Republic in Germany. Both the Right and the Left being products of legitimation crises that trigger a desire for regressive or progressive social change – the Right would restore a mythical past, the Left would foster a new social order based on humanistic concerns.

Purpose

This paper attempts to rebut criticisms of, and give further clarifications to, arguments about the nature of sociological explanation previously made by Martin (2011).

Design/methodology/approach

Here, arguments initially derived through historical reconstruction of theory are instead drawn out from our common stock of experiences. Aspects of the argument that were complex as initially presented are simplified here, and the maximum contrast between this approach and the more conventional is made.

Practical implications

The implications for practice are many; most important, the claim of Martin (2011) – rejected by Bradford (2013), as critiqued herein – to offer a coherent alternative to our current understanding of the task of explanation, if successfully demonstrated, suggests a reorientation of sociological research toward the production of intersubjectively valid cartographies and away from causal or pseudo-causal accounts.

Findings

Social theorists who are willing to seriously think about what lies in between our practice and knowledge as sociologists and as actors – to do the research.

Originality/value

The value of the paper, therefore, derives from its capacity to dispel common misunderstandings of Martin (2011), and to allow social researchers as well as social theorists, to make use of a coherent vocabulary for the development of social research, which otherwise would remain inaccessible to them.

Purpose

To clarify and address questions that have arisen concerning John Levi Martin’s Explanation of Social Action (2011). I reply to some of Martin’s comments to my original review of his book (2012). In particular, this paper examines the distinction between first-person and third-person accounts of human action and whether third-person explanations of action are ever justified.

Findings

This paper concedes several of Martin’s points, but contra Martin, maintains that third-person accounts are sometimes valuable forms of explanation. This paper also concludes that the distinction between first-person and third-person explanations is relative to the actor.

Methodology/approach

A careful and close analysis of his reply is employed along with careful explication and exemplification of central concepts related to the study of human action.

Social implications

Martin has argued that third-person explanations of social action generate epistemological instability and hierarchical social relationships between researchers and those researched. This paper expresses doubts about the generalizability of these claims.

Originality/value of paper

To date, no extended discussion has been published pertaining to the social value of third-person explanations of social action.

DOI
10.1108/S0278-1204201432
Publication date
2014-10-31
Book series
Current Perspectives in Social Theory
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78441-223-4
eISBN
978-1-78441-222-7
Book series ISSN
0278-1204