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It was obvious that we were not breaking new ground. Others have made similar calls many times before, with greater visibility and sustenance. One of us recalled an exuberant conversation with Aage Sørensen in the mid-1980s, for example, when it seemed that a rejuvenated program of sociological inquiry into the dynamics of processes of various kinds might be coming together, with research programs in group process and network dynamics among the vanguard, and books such as Tuma and Hannan's Social Dynamics (1984) offering torchlight. It was clear, of course, that the program would be couched mainly, probably even entirely, in terms of standard analytic theory (there was still little conversation between it and either critical theory or, even less, theory built of dialectical as well as analytical logics), but such would be the necessary beginning of a rejuvenation. The impetus did not generalize as well as one would have liked, however. The editor of Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Dahms has repeatedly stressed in his works, including some that have appeared in past volumes of this series (Dahms, 2002, 2008), that greater concerted effort to install and nurture a systematic program of theory, most especially one of critical theory, that gives central emphasis to the dynamics of process is and will be vital to the future health of sociology in particular and of the social sciences in general. This volume was announced with that background in mind. The resulting contents offer a variety of responses to the call. At one time we were brash enough (or one of us was brash enough) to imagine that an outpouring of manuscripts would yield enough content for two volumes (27 and 28), not just one. Unfortunately, we must be content with a singleton, at least for now.
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…
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.
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.”
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.).
The discussion builds upon the work of many others, with first-person illustrations.
Purpose – We make a case for bridging two types of logics – analytic and dialectic – for explaining processes of social-historical change, and maintain that a successful…
Purpose – We make a case for bridging two types of logics – analytic and dialectic – for explaining processes of social-historical change, and maintain that a successful bridge between these two logics depends on a variety of conditions and most especially the type of analytic logic or model one employs for capturing dynamic processes.
Methodology/approach – Conventional models of social change processes typically presuppose ergodic social worlds and are problematic as analytic approaches generally and most certainly are not fertile grounds for feeding dialectic theorization. Instead, we propose modeling dynamic processes that begin by assuming a nonergodic social world – one in flux, one that is nonrepeating, one within which model process and parameter structures are historically contingent and change with time, one that is autocatalytic, creating and changing its own possibilities.
Findings – We develop the line of thinking adumbrated above and illustrate these modeling strategies with empirical examples from US labor movement history. Results from these examples lend much weight to our proposals. Thus, this chapter demonstrates that concerns about the use of ergodic assumptions and about greater use of dialectical reasoning when studying social processes are not idle speculations within theoretical commentaries but have practical consequences in the conduct of research and the building of better theory.
Research limitations/implications – To approximate such an approach, social scientists should avoid cross-sectionalist and longitudinal modeling strategies that presuppose stability and homogeneity in parameter and process structures. Homogeneity and stability in parameter and process structures should be demonstrated, not assumed.
Originality/value – Rather than accepting the alienated spheres of social science analytics and dialectic theory, our proposal presupposes nonergodic social worlds and takes pragmatic steps for estimating analytic models that are more amenable to dialectic reasoning. Models that take nonergodicity seriously not only have the potential to produce better, historically grounded analytics but are also best suited to bridge with dialectic logic, thus taking advantage of the strengths of both forms of logic.
The thing about naïveté is its hermetic tendency. One imagines having graduated out of it, but imagination proves only its own potentials. It is of course good to be held…
The thing about naïveté is its hermetic tendency. One imagines having graduated out of it, but imagination proves only its own potentials. It is of course good to be held to account by the question that circulates through so much of our belletristic literatures (as in, for instance, Edward St Aubyn's Bad News): How can one think one's way out of a problem, when the problem is the way one thinks? Yet an extra layer of diagnosis need not result in anything beyond itself. I can easily glimpse the chiaroscuro of another mind and thus know of the limits of my knowledge of its furnishings without knowing what they (the limits or the furnishings) are, or even whether the clarity is meant to be hidden by, more than hide, the dimness. But is inner presentation/apprehension of one's own self-portrait any more diamantine, any less naive, in its “obviousness”? And if it should be, at any moment, where/what are the reliably timely markers? When, therefore, I experience increasingly complex realities – layer upon layer, cut and recut and repackaged – without commensurate increases in production of value, am I experiencing a mind-blindness?– An out-take from “After Fin de partie”
Ridley Scott’s 1982 cinematic production of Blade Runner, based loosely on a 1968 story by Philip Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), is read within a general…
Ridley Scott’s 1982 cinematic production of Blade Runner, based loosely on a 1968 story by Philip Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), is read within a general context of critical theory, the purpose being twofold: first, to highlight the film’s fit with, and within, several issues that have been important to critical theory and, second, to explore some questions, criticisms, and extensions of those issues – the dialectic of identity/difference most crucially – by speculations within and on the film’s text. The exploration is similar in approach to studies of specific films within the context of issues of social, cultural, and political theory conducted by the late Stanley Cavell. Interrogations of dimensions of scenarios and sequences of plotline, conceptual pursuit of some implications, and assessments of the realism at work in cinematic format are combined with mainly descriptive evaluations of character portrayals and dynamics as these relate to specified thematics of the identity/difference dialectic. The film puts in relief evolving meanings of prosthetics – which is to say changes in the practical as well as conceptual-semantic boundaries of “human being”: what counts as “same” versus “other”? “domestic” versus “foreign”? “integrity” versus “dissolution”? “safety” versus “danger”? And how do those polarities, understood within a unity-of-opposites dialectic, change, as human beings are confronted more and more stressfully by their own reproductions of “environment” – that is, the perspectival device of “what is ‘text’ and what is context’?” – and variations of that device by direct and indirect effects of human actions, as those actions have unfolded within recursive sequences of prior versions of perspectival device, a device repeatedly engaged, albeit primarily and mainly implicitly, as a “prosthetic that could not be a prosthetic.”