Political Economy in Anthropology
Table of Contents
Michel Foucault, born Paul-Michel Foucault (15 October 1926 – 25 June 1984), was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas. He held a chair at the prestigious Collège de France with the title "History of Systems of Thought," and also taught at the University at
Buffalo and the University of California, . Berkeley
In his methodological work Archaeology of knowledge, Foucault begins by questioning the various categories that are commonly used to organise written material, namely the author, the ‘work’ and the book. These categories might appear to be obvious, but on closer examination, this is far from being the case. For instance, are novels, a mathematical text book, or a road map all the same kind of object? Can we simply lump together texts which have been published by an author under his own name, under a pseudonym, or his collected works published after his death, his laundry lists or his insane jottings after he has gone completely mad? By drawing attention to these kinds of uncertainties and the fluidity of categorisation, Foucault aims to demonstrate that the categories we take for granted could quite well be replaced by others based on different organisational principles and assumptions.
In this book, Foucault examines how it is that madness comes to be defined as an illness. He argues that organic pathology and mental pathology form two separate orders and the attempt to reduce them to the same thing poses a number of significant problems. He briefly examines the social functioning of madness in non-Western societies, and offers a historical account from the Middle Ages to the present of the Western view of madness. He also addresses the relation between madness and truth in Western history. The characterisation of madness as ‘mental illness’ is a phenomenon, he says, that dates only from the nineteenth century. In many ways Mental Illness and Psychology provides a very useful potted summary of Foucault’s much longer and more elaborate work on madness published in 1961.
Madness and civilisation:
Foucault examines the ways in which a certain experience of the limits of human experience – namely madness – has been given cultural form from the thirteenth century to the beginning of the nineteenth century in European history.
He deals with the economic, institutional, medical, philosophical, ethical, political, literary and artistic practices which have helped define madness as a cultural and social category and also as an object of knowledge and science.
Foucault argues that during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, madness formed a kind of general conduit for what he terms the ‘tragic experience’ (MC: 31) – namely an awareness of death, truth, other realms and the general fragility of ordinary everyday life. People who were mad were as a consequence granted a kind of grudging respect.
However, this was to change in the seventeenth century with what Foucault terms the ‘Great Confinement’, a movement across
Europe which saw the establishment of institutions which locked up people who were deemed to be ‘unreasonable’. This not only included mad people, but the unemployed, single mothers, defrocked priests, failed suicides, heretics, prostitutes, debauchees – in short anyone who was deemed to be socially unproductive or disruptive.
Foucault nominates 1656, the date of the decree which founded the Hôpital Général in
, as a symbolic landmark date to indicate this general movement of confinement. He then traces the gradual separation of mad people from other ‘unreasonable’ populations and the final emergence of madness as an object of science towards the end of the eighteenth century. By this stage, madness is no longer a voice reminding all people of the frailty of human existence, but is the silent object of medical science shut away and invisible in institutions. No longer madness, but mental illness. In Foucault’s account, if the avowed aim of psychiatrists and others was to render the treatment of mad people more humane, in removing the physical chains, they merely substituted the far more insidious chains of science and moral training. Paris
Like many of Foucault’s other writings on literature in the 1960s, it is more notable for its poetic rather than its explanatory value. The same themes emerge in The Birth of the Clinic (BC) and if this book on the whole lacks the gothic attractions of Madness and Civilisation, opting for a more restrained approach (notwithstanding a few notable literary outbursts), it has also become a standard text in the history of medicine.
The Birth of the Clinic traces the origins of modern clinical medicine in
at the end of the eighteenth century during the period 1769–1825. Traditional histories of medicine have argued that at this time dubious medical practices based on superstition, magic and a blind reliance on ancient texts were replaced by an enlightened empirical science based on the observation of the real world and data to hand. Foucault, however, provides a different account. What changed, he says, was both how illness and how the doctor were defined and how these two terms were related. It was not that the new doctor suddenly saw what had been invisible to those blinded by superstition and an over reliance on ancient texts, rather, the new doctor started looking in a different way at a differently constructed object of scientific knowledge, namely illness. France
If, in Madness and Civilization, Foucault focuses primarily on the changes in the way a particular object (madness) is historically constructed, in The Birth of the Clinic, he also focuses in addition on the way knowers (that is doctors) are constructed. He traces this transformation by examining medical theories and practices as well as political, institutional and social changes in Revolutionary France.
In parallel to his examination of the formation of medical knowledge, Foucault also looks at the political, social and institutional changes which occurred at the same time. It is important to emphasise that in Foucault’s analysis it is not a question of one set of changes ‘influencing’ or ‘causing’ others, but of a complex series of interactions which allow the production of possible objects of knowledge. For example, although institutional and funding structures might favour the development of a particular type of research, these structures in themselves do not determine the eventual research findings. The political and economic situation in
at the end of the eighteenth century produced a radical change in the general social and political status of medicine. From being ‘“The dry and sorry analysis of millions of infirmities” the dubious negation of the negative’ (BC: 34) medicine became linked to the positive political task of establishing a population and a nation State, healthy and productive in mind, body and behaviour. These were themes that Foucault was to develop at length in his work during the 1970s. France
Illness is a disorder, a dangerous limit to everyday orderly existence. Science attempts to deal with this disorder by making illness and those who are ill the object of orderly categories of knowledge. Foucault had earlier described an identical process in relation to madness which became the foundation of a new science of psychiatry which also sought to reduce the dangers such limit-experiences represented.
The key term that commentators and researchers have retained from The Birth of the Clinic is ‘the gaze’, a notion that resonates with Foucault’s later popular idea of a society centred around surveillance. In clinical medicine, knowledge was ordered around visible structures. Illnesses displayed themselves in concrete physical symptoms that could be observed and read by doctors who had been taught how to read them. ‘The gaze’ at the end of the eighteenth century was aimed at revealing what had hitherto remained hidden and unseen not only in the physical body but also in the social and political body. Visibility could dissipate both disease and political and social tyranny.
It emerges in a time when French structuralism is full fledged developed theoretical paradigm and this work is hailed by the media as a major contribution to that theory. Being one of the most difficult books by him, it deals with the history and pre-history of the modern disciplines of linguistics, biology and economics from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century, with a concluding chapter on the human sciences which include history, sociology, psychoanalysis and ethnology. Foucault was to say later that the book was aimed at a specialist audience of historians of science and scientists (1974e: 524. Cf. 1980e: 267, 270) and there is no doubt that it is hard going for non-specialists – but it was not his specialist findings that made the book famous.
Using historical analysis, he launched a full-scale attack on established post-war philosophies namely humanism, Marxism, phenomenology, existentialism and scientific rationalism. He caused a media storm by declaring that ‘man was dead’ and that Marxism was a mere storm in a children’s paddling pool (OT: 262). As a further aggravation, in the later foreword to the English edition, Foucault heaped scorn on those ‘half-witted “commentators”’ in France who had tried to explain his outrageous critiques of so many ideological icons as one of the hallmarks of ‘structuralism’ (OT: xiv).
In more specific terms, Foucault focuses on the historical transformations affecting three areas of knowledge which up until the end of the eighteenth century were described as general grammar, the analysis of wealth and natural history. He argues that in 19th century these areas were crystallised in philology, political economy and biology. These very diverse areas were organised in very similar ways at the same points in history, and also underwent major reorganisations at roughly the same points in history. Foucault argues that until the end of the sixteenth century in
Europe, it was the notion of resemblance that structured knowledge. So, in medicine for instance, if a plant (such as aconite) looked like an eye then this was a sign that it was good for diseases of the eye, just as walnuts which looked like brains were good for head wounds and the brain (OT: 27). All of nature was one huge book which could be read and interpreted by those who knew how to decipher the signs and marks God had left in nature. The scriptures and the books left by Antiquity were on an equal footing with the Book of Nature (OT: 33–4). This structure of knowledge which required people to seek out signs and resemblances and then to interpret them, was replaced by a different system in the seventeenth century which ordered things into tables and compared and measured them against each other. Identity and difference, rather than resemblance, became the way of relating different objects to each other.
If the Renaissance had seen the whole world as a kind of primary language which needed to be made to speak through the secondary languages of commentary and exegesis, the Classical Age which followed it, did away with this ‘massive and intriguing existence of language’ (OT: 79). Hence, argues Foucault, language is no longer a secondary commentary on a primary text, instead it becomes discourse, a way of speaking, arranging and presenting representations of the world in a logical order.
Another shift occurred at the beginning of the nineteenth century and history became the new principle of ordering knowledge, and ‘science’ started to come into its own. Foucault’s discussion of this new configuration is difficult and complex. Knowledge was organised on the principle of stripping away the history that hid its true origins. At the centre of this knowledge was the essence or nature of ‘man’ which could gradually be uncovered by science. The problem with this, Foucault says, is that the idea of a human nature or essence is a metaphysical one – a belief – yet at the same time it has been set up as the object of empirical knowledge – a fact. Foucault argues that because the human sciences rest on this shaky foundation, they are fundamentally flawed in their approach to knowledge. He maintains that another break in knowledge is occurring in the contemporary era and the essence of man as the centre and foundation of all knowledge is dissolving.
After Order of things Foucault produces his archaeology which is a must read for people interested in historiography and method. Foucault describes traditional ways of organising ‘discourse’ such as the work, the author, the great man, the unifying universal subject, cause and effect, and influence, and then systematically takes these categories apart and proposes alternative methods of organisation. He also advocates a principle of discontinuity, by which he means that difference at every level in history should always be drawn attention to, not explained away.
In 1970, upon appointed as a Chair to College de France, Foucault delivered his inaugural lecture, known as Order of Discourse, published in 1971. This short work is usually recognised as the text that marks the transition between Foucault’s works on ‘discourse’ and those on ‘power’. Once again, it is a methodological work and continues Foucault’s attack on traditional ways of writing history. It deals with the way discourse is controlled, limited and defined by exercises of power and draws attention to the way boundaries between the true and the false are erected within this context. The idea of a link between knowledge and power (or various political, economic and institutional arrangements) had always been a theme in Foucault’s work even if it is not overtly stated, but this text marks his first extended use of the word power.
His next major work Discipline and Punish (DP) draws indirectly on his experience in this domain and famously opens with a lurid account of the torture and execution of the regicide Damiens in 1757.
This is followed by a far more sedate description of a prison timetable in 1838. Foucault’s point is that in the intervening period, spectacular corporal punishment disappeared to be replaced by new forms of punishment in the shape of imprisonment and the deprivation of liberty. Traditionally, historians have argued that this change occurred because people and society had become more humane and ‘civilized’. Foucault rejects this kind of explanation and suggests instead that the old methods of punishment had simply become inefficient. Too many wrongdoer were escaping the arm of the law and public executions were no longer acting as a salutary warning to the rest of the populace. Instead public executions were actually inciting people to crime and public disorder, providing the occasion for riots, and all sorts of other minor crimes such as pick-pocketing.
Foucault argues that prison was chosen as the preferred method of punishment in Western Europe, not because it was the most effective means of punishment, but rather because it fitted in best with the emergence of what he describes as a ‘disciplinary society’. By this, he means a certain way of acting upon and training the body and behaviour so that the individuals who make up populations could be easily controlled. This training was enforced and practised through a number of institutions, many of which appeared at the same time as the prison – namely schools, military training institutions, factories, hospitals and so on. The smooth functioning and enforcement of this ‘disciplinary society’ was guaranteed by a system of social surveillance. Foucault uses Jeremy Bentham’s model prison, the Panopticon, to serve as a metaphor for the way this system of surveillance operated and continues to operate within the social body.
Foucault’s book appeared on the scene in the context of severe unrest in prisons in a number of countries, and also amidst intense theoretical discussion focussing on both power and the body – it made a key contribution to these debates. If the book concludes its history in 1840 with the official opening of the model prison camp of Mettray in
, it was read as a damning indictment of the contemporary social order. As Foucault said himself five years after its publication: ‘the research ends in the 1830s. Yet … readers, critics or not, saw it as a description of contemporary society as a society of confinement’ (1980e: 243–4 mod.). France
Political Economy in Anthropology
Political economy is characterised by an analytical approach which treats the economy from the point of view of production rather than from that of distribution, exchange, consumption or the market. It does not ignore distribution and exchange but analyses these in relation to the role they play in the production of the material needs of a society, including the need to reproduce and expand the means of production themselves (Dupré and Rey 1978). The field is a vast one and contains many disputes.
Before gaining an insight into the dynamics of political economy approach in Anthropology, it is important to recognise that political economy presents itself as a general theory of society, inequality, politics and culture. Some of the most significant work in political economy has been done in relationship to politics, for example the very important work of the late Eric Wolf (1999). Likewise, it is difficult to understand many of the current approaches to gender inequality in anthropology unless one understands the basis of this in theories of political economy. Here debates
around the earlier work of Lisette Josephides, which explains the inequality of women in Melanesia as deriving from the exploitation of women in the production process, have played critical roles (Josephides 1985; Strathern 1988).
The emphasis on production:
From the point of view of economics, the central concept in political economy is that of the ‘mode of production’. This focus on production is in sharp contrast to various forms of exchange theory, which characterised the work of both the formalist and substantivist schools of economic anthropology and which continues unabated in recent work on anthropological theories of value (Graeber 2001). The political economy approach is also part of a broad Enlightenment metanarrative of progress. At its core this is the question of the nature and significance of history in general and economic history in particular. Analyses of particular societies are placed within a broader schema of social evolution that strongly affects the specific study (Godelier 1978: 216–17). Critical issues which continue to preoccupy anthropologists are the significance of the non-Western economic experience in its own right and from the point of view of Western and world economic history, the related issues of Third-World development and of economic alternatives to globalisation. These issues are addressed in political economy from a distinctive point of view.
The articulation school: Structural Marxism and economic anthropology
The tradition of economic anthropology which falls within the purview of political economy has a Marxist inclination. This tradition of economic anthropology derives from the works of Georg Hegel, and from the critique of British political economy in the work of Karl Marx and of Friedrich Engels. However, there is a vibrant version of political economy which is the application of rational choice theory to political decision making at the collective level in both developed and underdeveloped economies. Practitioners of such brands of political economy, ultimately deriving from the work of Adam Smith, exist in anthropology (Bates 1987).The discussion begins with the themes raised in the work of the most influential group of political economists in the field of anthropology to date; the French structural Marxists, also known as the ‘articulation’ school. This trend arose in the late 1960s and exerted a major influence on economic anthropology and anthropology in general through the entire decade of the 1970s. Here the critical representatives were Claude Meillassoux, Maurice Godelier, Emmanuel Terray, Pierre-Phillipe Rey, Georges Dupré, Marc Auge as well as historians of Africa – Jean Suret-Canale and Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch – with whom they worked closely (Seddon 1978). Today all of these anthropologists have abandoned or substantially modified their theoretical outlook with the consequence that this once highly influential school of economic anthropologists is now largely defunct. Where their influence is still strongly felt is in South African anthropology and social science, where structural Marxism was one of the inspirations leading to the efflorescence of neo-Marxist political economy (Asad and Wolpe 1976). Structural Marxism was primarily an Africanist school, except for Godelier whose speciality is Melanesia. Their work was characterised in particular by a detailed empirical knowledge of the societies of West and Central Africa and Madagascar, which had been a part of the French African colonial empire. This was by no means the first application of a Marxist-influenced political economy in anthropology. The work of Godfrey Wilson and of Ronald Frankenberg, strongly influenced by the more processual functionalism of Max Gluckman, preceded that of the French by decades (Frankenberg 1978; Wilson 1939). This group of early British political economists was not theoretically oriented. They were primarily interested in analysing and documenting empirically the impact of British colonialism: the transformation of land tenure relations; the effects of copper mining in Zambia and of diamond and gold mining in South Africa; the breakdown of ‘tribal cohesion’ in the economies and societies of Central and Southern Africa; the rise of large-scale labour migration, forced or otherwise, leading to urbanisation and ‘detribalisation’. Their work in the application of political economy in anthropology, economics and history was pioneering. It provided an invaluable account of the dire economic and social impact of colonialism in the inter-war and early post-war years.
What was distinctive of the French school, however, was the combination of traditional ethnographic empiricism with a self-consciously theoretical orientation. Strongly influenced by the structuralism of Claude Lévi-Strauss and the highly abstract structural Marxism of Althusser and Balibar, their intervention was aimed at having a far-reaching impact on anthropological theory in general (Althusser and Balibar 1998). Whereas previous Marxist theoretical interventions tended to distort anthropological knowledge in order to force it into a preconceived schema, their approach was different. Their aim was to use fieldwork as a necessary point of departure for theory. They insisted on a detailed, fine-grained analysis of the economic, political and kinship relationships revealed in their data. On this basis, they approached theory as a construct that should respect and be supported by the data. Part of their influence on economic anthropology was due to this derivation of theory from the familiar fieldwork ethnography long characteristic of anthropology.
As a result of this approach, the French school raised fundamental challenges pertaining to the entire endeavour of economic anthropology. What were the relations of production characteristic of kinship societies? Did exploitation exist within them? What was the connection among production, exchange and the development of markets? How were the main concepts, in particular the central one of ‘mode of production’, to be understood and applied? What was the source of value in such economies and what was the relevance to other concepts of value in economic theory? How were such economies to be understood in the broad sweep of human history? Could the orthodox metanarrative of progress that had always characterised Marxist political economy satisfactorily resolve such issues?
Anthropological political economy in mainstream academia:
As the Structural Marxist approach dominated the economic anthropology in 1970s, anthropological political economy entered the academic mainstream at the same time. At that time two paradigms prevailed in the social sciences: the development and underdevelopment paradigm that emerged to challenge modernization theory, particularly in its focus on newly independent Third World nations; and the modern world-system model of sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein. Anthropological political economy defined itself in contradistinction to both. It would be unrealistic not to relate the emergence of these paradigms to the historical events of these years. Politically, in the Third World, this was an age of advocacy of armed revolution: Mao Tse-tung, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, Regis Debray, Che Guevara, Fanon. Peasant revolutions were clearly the order of the day rather than social science analyses of nation states. The work that most influenced anthropology was that of Samir Amin, Arrighi and Rodney in Africa; and Andre Gunder Frank and Cardoso in Latin America. Eric Wolfs Peasant Wars appeared in 1969.
The term ‘political economy’ became widely used in anthropology during the Vietnam War (1965–73). Teach-in movements in the universities, radical political economic and history journals and a campus movement, Students for a Democratic Society, spearheaded the emergence in the United States of a New Left. The critical thrust of these radical movements was applied to society at home, to the university system, and to anthropology itself in the United States, Britain and France. Critiques of structural anthropology’s representation of African societies, with its emphasis on kinship and its neglect of political economy, appeared in re-evaluations by Kathleen Gough, Peter Worsley and Talal Asad of classic ethnographies. These seminal studies stimulated more explicit discussion of the theories of political economy and their application in Third World countries, by Joel Migdon in Indonesia, for example, and Keith Hart in Africa. An entire cadre of French Marxist anthropologists and Africanists—among them Godelier, Meillassoux, Terray and Coquery-Vidrovitch—became prominent exponents of economic anthropology worldwide. With the emergence of a new group of radical Left scholars within the American academy, Marxism became academically respectable. Propagation by American publishers of the work of European Marxists led to the sequential introduction to anthropology of Lenin, Gramsci, and Althusser. Africanists, for example, drew on Lenin’s thesis of the uneven development of the capitalist economy in agrarian societies and emergent rural differentiation, documenting the increasing pauperization of the mass of the people in Africa’s so-called ‘development decade’. Marxist theories of petty commodity production were criticized by anthropologists, stimulating valuable historical ethnographies of petty commodity production in, for example, Minangkabau in Southeast Asia (Kahn 1980) and the Peruvian Andes in Highland South America (Smith 1989). An intellectual connection with Marxism has, at different times and in different places, both strengthened and undermined anthropological political economy. Yet, when political economy came of age in academic anthropology in 1978 in a special issue of American Ethnologist, it was apparent that there was no one unifying vision or discourse among its self-proclaimed practitioners. Thus when Wolf published a subaltern alternative to prevailing paradigms of expanding western capitalism, Europe and the People without History (1982), his book was subjected to keen debate among anthropological political economists, historians and social scientists. Criticisms of the paradigm it offered both consolidated anthropological political economy and moved it forward.
Studies at periphery:
The end of modernism in anthropology brought no resolution to the problem of employing universalistic analytic categories. What it did bring was a more explicit application of Marxism. The question in anthropological political economy remained one of the relationships between capitalism and those societies conceptually located on its periphery. Was capitalism to be understood as a single world-system or as a heterogeneous assemblage of subsystems which Western capitalism had penetrated to varying degrees? For such peripheral situations, Michael Taussig’s The Devil and Commodity Fetishism (1980) and Jacques Chevalier’s Civilization and the Stolen Gift (1982) provided key texts for a clear formulation of the issues involved. Both provided ethnographies of communities in highland South America. Chevalier found non-capitalist modes of production to be subsumed within the dominant framework of capitalism. Taussig described a cultural system that had internalized the contradictions of capitalism in several different ways but most notably through beliefs in ‘the devil’ as an indigenous critique of commodity forms of exchange and wage relations. In a critical review of the two books Terence Turner urged appreciation not simply of the possible integration of two systems of economic production but of the qualitative differences that might be attached to defining and articulating production itself. With absorption into capitalism, †indigenous peoples lost the ability to define themselves in their own way. Turner thus argued for moving beyond the analysis of economic production to social reproduction. This raised the question of whether on the periphery subsistence might not simply be an alternative mode of production to capitalism but a form of resistance to it. Analyses of such relations in the historically earlier peripheries of Northeast Scotland and colonial Africa had suggested that developing industrial capitalism required a peasant subsistence sector so that the costs of reproduction might be borne by the agrarian sector as both food resources and labour power. The South American peripheral situations suggested the very real need in anthropology to distinguish more precisely between mercantile, industrial and finance capitalism. Discussion of the peripheral situation opened up space beyond the debate between those who saw capitalism as largely determinate of local social systems and those asserting the relative autonomy of local peoples and their cultures. Appreciating that the periphery of capitalism is but the furthest extension of the core (Nugent 1988) is not unrelated to the growing corpus of political economic research carried out in modern Western cities and within the apparatus of the modern state. Thus anthropological political economy provides ethnographies of race in the inner cities, educational discrimination, poverty and the underclass. It has sometimes questioned the validity of sociological paradigms and, indeed, the very way in which phenomena have been defined as problems within complex societies. The current challenge of anthropological political economy is to interrogate its own intellectual equipment.
WHY DO WE NEED THEORIES?
This is one of the first and most pertinent questions an anthropologist should ask himself before reading the theories in details. Let me ask you, why do you study anthropology? The copybook answer is anthropology studies human beings. And I am by choice or by chance in to the discipline to study human beings. A more refined answer is "to study human beings from every possible angles is anthropology." The idea of ANGLES is important and often we tend to overlook. Whatever anthropology we do, no matter how fascinating it is we always need to explain a phenomenon from different dimensions. The dimensions that are available to us and the dimensions which we can generate and/or add to the existing dimensions. The research process starts with exploring dimensions and ends with dimensions. To understand social world from every possible angles we need to look in to the existing angles, and be aware of the lenses through which we can look into the social world. Theories is one such arena where you can earn an understanding of the existing angles. Lets look into the theories briefly.
19th Century Evolutionism:
The theory of Nineteenth-century Evolutionism claims that societies develop according to one universal order of cultural evolution. The theorists identified the universal evolutional stages and classified different societies as savagery, barbarian and civilization. The Nineteenth-century Evolutionists collected data from missionaries and traders and they themselves rarely went to the societies that they were analyzing. They organized these second-hand data and applied the general theory to all societies. Since Western societies had the most advanced technology, they put the societies at the highest rank of civilization.
The Nineteenth-century Evolutionists had two main assumptions that form the theory. One was that human minds share similar characteristics all over the world. This means that all people and their societies will go through the same process of development. Another underlying assumption was that Western societies are superior to other societies in the world. This assumption was based on the fact that Western societies were dominant because of their military and economic power against technologically simple societies.
The Nineteenth-century Evolutionists contributed to anthropology by providing the first systematic methods for thinking about and explaining human societies. Their evolutionary theory is insightful with regard to the technological aspect of societies. There is a logical progression from using simple tools to developing complex technology. In this sense, complex societies are more “advanced” than simple societies. However, this judgment does not necessarily apply to other aspects of societies, such as kin systems, religions and childrearing customs.
Contemporary anthropologists view Nineteenth-century Evolutionism as too simplistic to explain the development of various societies. In general, the Nineteenth-century evolutionists relied on racist views of human development, which were popular at that time. For example, both Lewis Henry Morgan and Edward Burnett Tylor believed that people in various societies have different levels of intelligence, which leads to societal differences. This view of intelligence is no longer valid in contemporary science. Nineteenth-century Evolutionism was strongly attacked by Historical Particularists for being speculative and ethnocentric at the early twentieth-century. At the same time, its materialist approaches and cross-cultural views influenced Marxist Anthropology and Neo-evolutionists.
Diffusionism as an anthropological school of thought, was an attempt to understand the nature of culture in terms of the origin of culture traits and their spread from one society to another. Versions of diffusionist thought included the conviction that all cultures originated from one culture center (heliocentric diffusion); the more reasonable view that cultures originated from a limited number of culture centers (culture circles); and finally the notion that each society is influenced by others but that the process of diffusion is both contingent and arbitrary (Winthrop 1991:83-84).
Diffusion may be simply defined as the spread of a cultural item from its place of origin to other places (Titiev 1959:446). A more expanded definition depicts diffusion as the process by which discrete culture traits are transferred from one society to another, through migration, trade, war, or other contact (Winthrop 1991:82).
Diffusionist research originated in the middle of the nineteenth century as a means of understanding the nature of the distribution of human culture across the world. By that time scholars had begun to study not only advanced cultures, but also cultures of nonliterate people (Beals and Hoijer 1959:664). Studying these very diverse cultures created a major issue among scholars, which was how humans progressed from primeval conditions to superior states (Kuklick 1996:161). Among the major questions about this issue was whether human culture had evolved in a manner similar to biological evolution or whether culture spread from innovation centers by diffusion (Hugill 1996:343).
Two schools of thought emerged in response to these questions. The most extreme view was that there were a very limited number of locations, possibly only one, from which the most important culture traits diffused to the rest of the world. Evolutionism, on the other hand, proposed the "psychic unity of mankind", which argues that all human beings share psychological traits that make them equally likely to innovate. According to evolutionists, innovation in a culture, was considered to be continuous or at least triggered by variables that are relatively exogenous. This set the foundation for the idea that many inventions occurred independently of each other and that diffusion had little effect on cultural development (Hugill 1996:343).
During the 1920's the school of cultural geography at the University of California, Berkeley purposely separated innovation from diffusion and argued that innovation was relatively rare and that the process of diffusion was quite common. It generally avoided the trap of Eurocentric notion of the few hearths or one hearth origination of culture traits. The school of cultural geography combined idealism, environmentalism, and social structural explanations, which made the process of diffusion more feasible than the process of innovation (Hugill 1996:344).
Boas (1938) argued that although the independent invention of a culture trait can occur at the same time within widely separated societies where there is limited control of individual members, allowing them freedom to create a unique style, a link such as genetic relationship is still suspected. He felt this was especially true in socities where there were similar combinations of traits (Boas 1938:211). Boas emphasized that culture traits should not be viewed casually, but in terms of a relatively unique historical process that proceeds from the first introduction of a trait until its origin becomes obscure. He sought to understand culture traits in terms of two historical processes, diffusion and modification. Boas used these key concepts to explain culture and interpret the meaning of culture. He believed that the cultural inventory of a people was basically the cumulative result of diffusion. He viewed culture as consisting of countless loose threads, most of foreign origin, but which were woven together to fit into their new cultural context. Discrete elements become interrelated as time passes (Hatch 1973:57-58).
The American Lewis Henry Morgan infuriated his British contemporaries, when his research demonstrated that social change involved both independent invention and diffusion. He agreed with British sociocultural anthropologists that human progress was due to independent innovation, but his work on kinship terminology showed that diffusion occurred among geographically dispersed people (Kuklick 1996:161).
During the mid-twentieth century studies of acculturation and cultural patterning replaced diffusion as the focus of anthropological research. Ethnological research conducted among Native American tribes, even though influenced by the diffusionist school of thought, approached the study of culture traits with a more holistic interpretation. The concept of diffusion still has value in ethnological studies, but at best plays a secondary role in interpreting the processes of culture change (Winthrop 1991:84).
Recently there have been theoretical developments in anthropology among those seeking to explain contemporary processes of cultural globalization and transnational culture flows. This "anthropology of place" approach is not an attempt to polarize autonomous local cultures against the homogenizing movement of cultural globalization. Instead the emphasis of this line of research is to understand and explain how dominant cultural forms are "imposed, invented, reworked, and transformed." In order to do this, an ethnographic approach must be taken to study the inter-relations of culture, power, and place: place making, identity, and resistance. Anthropologists have long studied spatial units larger than "the local" (Gupta and Ferguson 1997:6-7).
In spite of the fact that diffusion has its roots in anthropology, archaeology, and cultural geography, modern research involving the process of diffusion has shifted from these areas to agriculture business studies, education (Rogers and Shoemaker 1971), economic geography (Brown 1981), history (McNeill 1963), political science, and rural sociology. In all of these areas, except history, research involves observing societies, how they can be influenced to innovate, and predicting the results of such innovation (Hugill 1996:343).
Diffusion is well documented in the business and industrial world. The creation of copyright and patent laws to protect individual innovations, point to the fact that borrowing ideas is a decidedly human practice. It is often easier to copy an invention, than to create a new invention. Japanese business historians have been very interested in the role diffusion has played in the industrial development of
. Business historians give credit to the role diffusion has played in the development of industrial societies in the Japan and continental U.S. Europe. It is hard to justify the view that diffusion in preindustrial societies was any less prevalent than it is in the industrialized societies of today (Hugill 1996:344).
Acculturation Kroeber (1948) stated that acculturation comprises those changes in a culture brought about by another culture and will result in an increased similarity between the two cultures. This type of change may be reciprocal, however, very often the process is assymetrical and the result is the (usually partial) absorption of one culture into the other. Kroeber believed that acculturation is gradual rather than abrupt. He connected the process of diffusion with the process of acculturation by considering that diffusion contributes to acculturation and that acculturation necessarily involves diffusion. He did attempt to separate the two processes by stating that diffusion is a matter of what happens to the elements of a cultures; whereas acculturation is a process of what happens to a whole culture (Kroeber 1948:425).
Acculturation, then, is the process of systematic cultural change of a particular society carried out by an alien, dominant society (Winthrop 1991:82-83). This change is brought about under conditions of direct contact between individuals of each society (Winthrop 1991:3). Individuals of a foreign or minority culture learn the language, habits, and values of a standard or dominant culture by the cultural process of acculturation. The process by which these individuals enter the social positions, as well as aquire the political, economic, and educational standards of the dominant culture is called assimilation. These individuals, through the social process of assimilation, become integrated within the standard culture (Thompson 1996:112).
Milton Gordon (1964) proposed that assimilation can be described as a series of stages through which an individual must pass. These three stages are behavioral assimilation (acculturation), structural assimilation (social assimilation), and marital assimilation of the individuals of the minority society and individuals of the dominant society. Although this proposal has been criticized , it does indicate that there is a continuum through which individuals pass, beginning with acculturation and ending with complete assimilation (Thompson 1996: 113).
Complete assimilation is not the inevitable consequence of acculturation, because value systems of the minority or weaker culture are a part of the entire configuration of culture. It may not always be possible for the minority culture to take over the complete way of life of the majority culture. Often a period of transition follows where the minority society increasingly loses faith in its own traditional values, but is unable to adopt the values of the dominant culture. During this transition period there is a feeling of dysporia, in which individuals in the minority society exhibit feelings of insecurity and unhappiness (Titiev 1958:200).
Acculturation and assimilation have most often been studied in European immigrants coming to the
during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as minority groups already living in the United States . European "white ethnics" have experienced a higher rate of assimilation than nonwhite, non-European, and more recently immigrated groups. These studies have resulted in several important cross-cultural generalizations about the process of acculturation and assimilation (Thompson 1996:113). United States
According to Thompson (1996), these generalizations are as follows: First, dominant cultures coerce minorities and foreigners to acculturate and assimilate. This process is slowed down considerably when minorities are territorially or occupationally concentrated, such as in the case of large native minorities who often become ethnonationalistic. Second, acculturation must precede assimilation. Third, even though a minority may be acculturated, assimilation is not always the end result. Fourth, acculturation and assimilation serve to homogenize the minority group into the dominant group. The many factors facilitating or preventing this homogenization include the age of the individual, ethnic background, religious and political affiliations, and economic level (Thompson 1996:114).
Historical Particularism claims that each society has its own unique historical development and must be understood based on its own specific cultural context, especially its historical process. Historical Particularists criticized the theory of the Nineteenth-century Evolutionism as non-scientific and claimed themselves to be free from preconceived ideas. They collected a vast amount of first-hand cultural data by conducting ethnographic fieldwork. Based on these raw data, they described particular cultures instead of trying to establish general theories that apply to all societies.
The Historical Particularists valued fieldwork and history as critical methods of cultural analysis. At the same time, the anthropologists in this theoretical school had different views on the importance of individuals in a society. For example, Frantz Boas saw each individual as the basic component of a society. He gathered information from individual informants and considered such data valuable enough for cultural analysis. On the other hand, Alfred Kroeber did not see individuals as the fundamental elements of a society. He believed a society evolves according to its own internal laws that do not directly originate from its individuals. He named this cultural aspect superorganic and claimed that a society cannot be explained without considering this impersonal force.
Historical Particularism was a dominant theoretical trend in anthropology during the first half of the twentieth century. One of the achievements of the Historical Particularists was that they succeeded in excluding racism from anthropology. The Nineteenth-century Evolutionists explained cultural similarities and differences by classifying societies into superior and inferior categories. Historical Particualrists showed that this labeling is based on insufficient evidence and claimed that societies cannot be ranked by the value judgment of researchers.
considers a culture as an interrelated whole, not a collection of isolated traits. The Functionalists examined how a particular cultural phase is interrelated with other aspects of the culture and how it affects the whole system of the society. The method of functionalism was based on fieldwork and direct observations of societies. The anthropologists were to describe various cultural institutions that make up a society, explain their social function, and show their contribution to the overall stability of a society. At the same time, this functionalism approach was criticized for not considering cultural changes of traditional societies. The theory of Functionalism emerged in the 1920s and then declined after World War II because of cultural changes caused by the war. Since the theory did not emphasize social transformations, it was replaced by other theories related to cultural changes. Even so, the basic idea of Functionalism has become part of a common sense for cultural analysis in anthropology. Anthropologists should consider interconnections of different cultural domains when they analyze cultures. school of Functionalism
Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942, Poland-Britain-The United States)
Bronislaw Malinowski is credited with Functionalism, which explains a culture as an interrelated whole, not a collection of isolated traits. Based on his fieldwork in various areas of the world, particularly the
Trobriand Islands in , Malinowski established the theory of Functionalism. A culture is composed of many different elements, such as food acquisition, family relationships, and housing. Malinowski believed that all of these elements are connected and work together for one purpose, which is to meet the needs of individuals in the culture. In other words, culture exists to satisfy the basic biological, psychological, and social needs of individuals. New Guinea
Malinowski is known for his psychological analysis. A classic example is his analysis on magic. In
Trobriand Islands, magic was used for various purposes, such as to kill enemies and prevent being killed, to ease the birth of a child, to protect fishermen, and to ensure harvest. Malinowski hypothesized that magic is reliable in domains where there is a limited amount of scientific knowledge. Magic appears to work in these areas because people cannot handle situations with systematic knowledge. For example, the Trobriand Islanders did not practice magic when they fished inside a protected coral reef because they were able to predict catch and safety by weather and the conditions of the sea. In contrast, they did rely on magic when they went ocean fishing because it was difficult to predict unknown dangers and the amount of fish they might harvest. Based on this data, Malinowski argued that magic has a profound function in exerting human control over those dimensions that are otherwise outside of our element. The essential function of magic is to extend control over uncontrollable elements of nature and thereby reduce anxiety.
Malinowski is also known as a pioneer of fieldwork, which is intense and long-term research conducted among people in a particular community. He set criteria for fieldwork and brought this method to a fundamental element of the discipline. His criteria require anthropologists to actually live in communities and to acquire the language of the people among whom they are conducting their researches.
Alfred Radcliffe-Brown (1881-1955,
Alfred Radcliffe-Brown is credited with Structural Functionalism, which analyzes particular social systems in a wider context of many different societies. Radcliffe-Brown was concerned with what keeps societies from falling apart. He identified similar customs in different societies and compared them in order to discover the customs’ inherent functions. Through this comparative method, he attempted to explain underlying principles that preserve the structure of each society.
For example, Radcliffe-Brown analyzed exogamous moieties in aboriginal societies of
, Australia Melanesia and . An exogamous moiety is a custom in which a population is divided into two social divisions and a man of one group must marry a woman of another. Since these three different aboriginal societies had almost no contact in history, it is surprising that they shared the custom of exogamous moieties. How can this phenomenon be explained? Radcliffe-Brown found that the two social divisions of exogamous moieties within each culture were named after a pair of animals or birds which are similar, such as coyote and wild cat, or eaglehawk and crow. He argued that these animal pairs represent opposing characteristics of a society, for example, friendship and conflict, or solidarity and opposition. According to Radcliffe-Brown, those aboriginal societies incorporate the dual divisions in their kin systems in order to keep the balance between these opposing characteristics. This balance is important for the stability of the whole society. America
Radcliffe-Brown successfully explained many aspects of family structures that other anthropologists viewed as primitive customs. His analysis of social structure and function encouraged anthropologists to look at how a particular custom plays a role in maintaining social stability. At the same time, his analysis was criticized for not considering historical changes of traditional societies, especially those caused by Western colonialism.
CULTURE AND PERSONALITY
The theory of Culture and Personality explained relationships between childrearing customs and human behaviors in different societies. There were two main themes in this theoretical school. One was about the relationship between culture and human nature. The other was about the correlation between culture and individual personality.
The theory of Culture and Personality was based on Boas’ cultural relativism and Freud’s psychoanalysis about early childhood. If we premise that all humans are hereditarily equal, why are people so unique from society to society? The theoretical school answered this question by using Freud’s psychoanalysis: the differences between people in various societies usually stem from cultural differences installed in childhood. In other words, the foundations of personality development are set in early childhood according to each society’s unique cultural traits. Based on this basis, the theoretical
and Personality researched childrearing in different societies and compared the results cross-culturally. They described distinctive characteristics of people in certain cultures and attributed these unique traits to the different methods of childrearing. The aim of this comparison was to show the correlation between childrearing practices and adult personality types. school of Culture
The theory of Culture and Personality was on the cutting edge when it emerged in the early 20th century. Its analysis of the correlation between childrearing customs and human behaviors was, at that time, a practical alternative to using racism explanations for analyzing different human behaviors.
The theory of Neoevolutionism explained how culture develops by giving general principles of its evolutionary process. The theory of cultural evolution was originally established in the 19th century. However, this Nineteenth-century Evolutionism was dismissed by the Historical Particularists as unscientific in the early 20th century. Therefore, the topic of cultural evolution had been avoided by many anthropologists until Neoevolutionism emerged in the 1930s. In other words, it was the Neoevolutionary thinkers who brought back evolutionary thought and developed it to be acceptable to contemporary anthropology.
The main difference between Neoevolutionism and Nineteenth-century Evolutionism is whether they are empirical or not. While Nineteenth-century evolutionism used value judgment and assumptions for interpreting data, the new one relied on measurable information for analyzing the process of cultural evolution. The Neoevolutionary thoughts also gave some kind of common ground for cross-cultural analysis. Largely through their efforts, evolutionary theory was again generally accepted among anthropologists by the late 1960s.
The main difference between Neoevolutionism and Nineteenth-century Evolutionism is whether they are empirical or not. While Nineteenth-century evolutionism used value judgment and assumptions for interpreting data, the new one relied on measurable information for analyzing the process of cultural evolution. The Neoevolutionary thoughts also gave some kind of common ground for cross-cultural analysis. Largely through their efforts, evolutionary theory was again generally accepted among anthropologists by the late 1960s.
THE SYMBOLIC AND INTERPRETATIVE SCHOOLSThe major focus of symbolic anthropology is studying the ways in which people understand and interpret their surroundings as well as the actions and utterances of the other members of their society. These interpretations form a shared cultural system of meaning, i.e., understandings shared, to varying degrees, among members of the same society. (Des Chene 1996:1274). Symbolic anthropology studies symbols and the processes (such as myth and ritual) by which humans assign meanings to these symbols in order to address fundamental questions about human social life (Spencer 1996:535). According to Geertz, man is in need of symbolic "sources of illumination" to orient himself with respect to the system of meaning that is any particular culture (1973a:45). This shows the interpretive approach to symbolic anthropology. Turner states that symbols instigate social action and are "determinable influences inclining persons and groups to action" (1967:36). This shows the symbolic approach to symbolic anthropology.
Symbolic anthropology views culture as an independent system of meaning deciphered by interpreting key symbols and rituals (Spencer 1996:535). There are two major premises governing symbolic anthropology. The first is that "beliefs, however unintelligible, become comprehensible when understood as part of a cultural system of meaning" (Des Chene 1996:1274). The second major premise is that actions are guided by interpretation, allowing symbolism to aid in interpreting ideal as well as material activities. Traditionally symbolic anthropology has focused on religion, cosmology, ritual activity, and expressive customs such as mythology and the performing arts (Des Chene 1996:1274). Symbolic anthropologists also study other forms of social organization that at first do not appear to be very symbolic, such as kinship and political organization. Studying these types of social forms allows researchers to study the role of symbols in the everyday life of a group of people (Des Chene 1996:1274).
MALINOWSKI AND RADCLIFFE-BROWN: a comparative analysis of their functionalism
Definition (what is functionalism):
1. An ethnographic methodology distinctive of cultural anthropology.
2. A historical school of anthropology (also known as British school).
3. A school of sociology, which attempted to integrate sociology, psychology, and anthropology.
4. A philosophy of social sciences in the Anglo-American philosophical tradition.
Premises:Underlying functionalist theory is the fundamental metaphor of the living organism, its several parts and organs, grouped and organized into a system, the function of the various parts and organs being to sustain the organism, to keep its essential processes going and enable it to reproduce.
Similarly, members of a society can be thought of as cells, its institutions its organs, whose function is to sustain the life of the collective entity, despite the frequent death of cells and the production of new ones. Functionalist analyses examine the social significance of phenomena, that is, the purpose they serve a particular society in maintaining the whole (Jarvie 1973). It is one of the oldest and still dominant theoretical paradigm in many other social sciences. This perspective was built on twin emphasis: # application of the scientific method to the objective social world. ## the use of an analogy between the individual organism and society.Functionalists with the emphasis on the scientific method to the objective social world as “Objectively real”, “physical” as observable with such techniques as social surveys and interviews.FUNCTIONALISM IN BRIEF:Its legacies are now an everyday anthropological common source.# It asks how a particular institution/belief is interrelated to others, and to what extent #it contributes to the persistence of the system as whole. So, it focuses on theINTERCONNECTEDNESS between different institutional and discursive parts of society.##Doesn't look at evolution or history, but at what people do 'here and now' and describes the meaning of activities.##Even the strangest practices are rational in their own terms once the context and social function of them is properly discerned.##Informed by Durkheim who stated that the social could not be reduced to the motives of individuals and exerts pressure on them through collective representations.##Sustains a tension between  commitment to context (holism) and problem oriented comparison, and  focus on beliefs, motives and meanings [out of which came interpretative anthropology], and the impossibility to reduce social facts to ind. needs, cognition and desire [structuralism ]Best known for: Its fieldwork was its crucial discovery and key contribution. Functionalism emerged as a sharp methodological break with the facile and de-contextualised comparisons of evolutionary anthropology and grand narratives illustrating the progress of reason (Frazer).##Required a comparative method: looking at what institutions/beliefs mean for people in a socially interconnected way [e.g.how myth regulates and codifies behavior].##Commitment to sociologically contextualised comparisons and refusal to allow theoretical Categories of the West to pass as unexamined universal parameters.Two versionsfunctionalism was the name Adopted by Bronislaw Malinowski, A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, and their students. With Radcliffe-Brown, Malinowski pushed for a paradigm shift in British anthropology, a change from the speculative, historical to the ahistorical study of social institutions. This theoretical shift gave rise to functionalism and established fieldwork as the constitutive experience of social anthropology (Kuper 1973, Young 1991).Two versions of functionalism developed between 1910 and 1930: biocultural (or psychological) functionalism, the approach advocated by Malinowski, and structural- functionalism, the approach advanced by Radcliffe-Brown.
Biographies in briefRadcliffe-Brown(1881-1955) : Born 1881 # Educated at Cambridge #Fieldwork 1906 - 1908, Andaman Islands#Influenced by Durkheim--rewrote his thesis#Published The Andaman Islanders in 1922#1910 - 1912 Western Australia#1916 - 1919 Tonga, then South Africa and Australia#University of Chicago, 1931. B. Malinowski (1884 - 1942): Polish, intellectual, aristocratic family#Doctorate in math & physics 1908, age 24#Inspired by Frazer's Golden Bough#1910 London School of Economics#Ph.D. with C.G. Seligman (Torres Straits expedition)#1913, The Family Among Australian Aborigines#Age 30, 2 doctorates, a book--no fieldwork#1915 - 1918 Trobriand Islands.
BASIC APPROACHES TO THE THEORY OF FUNCTIONALISMA. R. Radcliffe-Brown: Radcliffe-Brown focused attention on social structure. He suggested that a society is a system of relationships maintaining itself through cybernetic feedback, while institutions are orderly sets of relationships whose function is to maintain the society as a system. Radcliffe-Brown, following Auguste Comte, believed that the social constituted a separate "level" of reality distinct from those of biological forms and inorganic matter. Furthermore, he believed that explanations of social phenomena had to be constructed within the social level. He believed that individuals were replaceable, transient occupants of social roles. Unlike Malinowski's emphasis on individuals, Radcliffe-Brown considered individuals irrelevant (Goldschmidt 1996:510).Bronislaw Malinowski: Malinowski suggested that individuals have physiological needs and that social institutions develop to meet these needs. There are also culturally derived needs and four basic "instrumental needs" (economics, social control, education, and political organization), that require institutional devices. Each institution has personnel, a charter, a set of norms or rules, activities, material apparatus (technology), and a function. Malinowski believed that uniform psychological responses are correlates of physiological needs. He argued that satisfaction of these needs transformed the cultural instrumental activity into an acquired drive through psychological reinforcement (Goldschmidt 1996:510; Voget 1996:573).
APPROACHES TO THE HISTORICAL DOCCUMENTSBoth Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown averse to “speculative history”. It was an attempt to move away from the evolutionism and diffusionism that dominated British anthropology at the turn of the century(lesser 1935, langness 1987). There was a shift in focus from the speculatively historical or diachronic study to of customs and cultural traits as “survivals” to the ahistorical synchronic study of social “institutions” within bounded, functioning, societies (young 1991:445).Radcliffe- Brown argued that “in the primitive societies that are studied by social anthropology there are no historical records. We have no knowledge of the development of social institutions among Australian aborigines for example. Anthropologista thinking of their studies as a kind of historical study, fall back on conjecture and imagination and invent “psudo historical” Or “psudo causal” explanations. We have had, for example innumerable and sometime conflicting Pseudo historical accounts of the origin and the development of the totemic institutions of the Australian aborigines. The view taken here is that such speculations are not mere useless but are worse than useless. This does not in any way imply the rejection of historical explanations but quite the contrary.For malinowski history of a particular custom not useful. He argued that myths reflect present more than past (justify present). Anoter important thing for him is function--What a custom does. And another vital thing is that he contend that“Primitives” act rationally.
POSITIVISTIC INFLUENCESBoth Malinowski and Radcliffe-brown shares interests and ideas developed by the positivistic methodologies especially the approaches suggested by Emile Durkheim. In 1895, Emile Durkheim's Rules of Sociological Method, argued that the function of a Social Institution is the correspondence between it and the needs of the social organism.Durkheim defined, and devised very many analytical concepts that was borrowed and viewed by these theorists. He defined Social structure as the network of existing relations between individuals. Function for Durkheim fulfills a need (bio & cultural) and humans have to organize to fulfill that function.(structural functional?).In order to provide for individual needs humans have to organise, so there are integrative functions for certain institutions which ensure that the society is able to fulfill individual needs. Radcliffe-Brown drawing influence from Durkheim sets his goal of investigation as Compare social structure cross-culturally. He investigated what principles account for different structures which in turn Leads to function which is to investigate How do structures maintain society? For him Function is the role of structure in social continuity. He stated that Social system (society) has a functional unity:All parts work together well enough to maintain society.Malinowski on the other hand does have this analogy implicitly by reference to the context [which requires certain institutions and functions, and how things are related functionally], but his is a more individualistic and utilitarian functionalism. Sees the basic function of culture and society as being the satisfaction of human needs (both material and spiritual) and suggests that individuals have physiological needs, and that social institutions develop to meet these needs. His interest is not limited to rules and norms but extended to individual responses to them. Thus, he makes a distinction between belief, words and action.APPROACHES TO THE ANTHROPOLOGYFurther differences between these two great functional theorists is in their approaches to the subject matter of social anthropology.Radcliffe-Brown argued that Social Anthropology should be a sub-discipline of comparative sociology. His approach was to search for general laws of society (nomothetic). He was of the opinion that the investigation must incorporate cross-cultural regularities between structure and function that relevant to all cases. Radcliffe-Brown’s concepts of Social unity, harmony, consistency is very much aligned to Durkheim's solidarity.For Radcliffe-Brown society takes precedence over economic, ideological (cultural) facts. Social systems are rational, logical (even “primitive” ones). He contended that Society is only an abstraction (organismic analogy).For Radcliffe-Brown spects of society can't be studied in isolation. He furthered his argument about the concept of structural functional analysis that when society is healthy, all functions well. Social structures however, are NOT abstractions they can be observed and include all interpersonal relationsMalinowski however, suggested to forget the abstract idea of overall social structure. His functionalism was to look for function in down-to-earth terms: Culture. He contend that people faced with fundamental problems of living, there fore it is more important and relevant to look at what people do to meet these basic human needs. He posed a greater interest on individuals and for him individuals are conscious of self-interested, not automatons. For Malinwoski Customs are rational, or they would disappear, and they are rational as they serve a function.In points
Radcliffe-Brown Malinowski Structural functionalism Functionalism Structural functions Bio-psycho-social needs Theory of society Theory of culture Society as a whole Individual needs Abstraction of society Real people & behavior Society takes precedence Ecology, psychologyEcology, psychologyAPPROACHES TO SOCIEY AND INDIVIDUALRadcliffe-Brown focused on social structure and saw anthropology as a global, cross-cultural comparative sociology, closely modeled upon natural sciences. He argued that social structure was the essential framework for social analysis. He suggested that a society is a system of relationships maintaining itself through cybernetic feedback, while institutions are orderly sets of relationships whose function is to maintain the society as a system. Following Comte, he believed that the social constituted a separate "level" of reality distinct from those of biological forms and inorganic matter. Furthermore, he believed that explanations of social phenomena had to be constructed within the social level. He believed that individuals were replaceable, transient occupants of social roles. Unlike Malinowski's emphasis on individuals, Radcliffe-Brown considered individuals irrelevant (Goldschmidt 1996:510).Malinwoski was quite different, for him Sees the basic function of culture and society as being the satisfaction of human needs (both material and spiritual) and suggests that individuals have physiological needs, and that social institutions develop to meet these needs. His interest is not limited to rules and norms but extended to individual responses to them. Thus, he makes a distinction between belief, words and action. He sees myth as bridging gap of uncertainty and legitimating magic. In describing the KULA,he sets his position vs. the utilitarian man (therefore contradicting his theory). He demonstrates: the sophistication and realism of the natives, difference in the exchange system, priority of social and cultural context to understanding any form of life and brings to forefront key political relations of hierarchy, honorific standing and social recognition. Unlike Durkheim's individual, Malinowski's was calculated and not robotic, weighting the options available to him within his culture.METHODOLOGIESRadcliffe-Brown and Malinowski formulated distinct versions of functionalism, yet the emphasis on the differences between them obscures their fundamental similarities and complementarity. Both viewed society as structured into a working unity in which the parts accommodate one another in a way that maintains the whole. Thus, the function of a custom or institution is the contribution it makes to the maintenance of the entire system of which it is a part. On the whole, sociocultural systems function to provide their members with adaptations to environmental circumstances and to connect them in a network of stable social relationships. This is not to say that functionalists failed to recognize internal social conflict or other forms of disequilibrium. However, they did believe that societies strongly tend to maintain their stability and internal cohesion as if societies had homeostatic qualities (Broce 1973:38-39). Malinowski made his greatest contribution as an ethnographer (studied around 30 societies); his work became a canon for continual reanalysis. He emphasized the importance of studying social behavior and social relations in their concrete cultural contexts. His ethnographies became new textual models with their realist style that unpacked the “native point of view” and involved the reader in an experience of “being there”. He considered it crucial to consider the observable differences between norms and action, that is, between what people say they do and what they actually do. It was his methodological argument that he devised as “participant Observation”. His detailed descriptions of Trobriand social life and thought are among the most comprehensive in world ethnography and his Argonauts of the Western Pacific is one of the most widely read works of anthropology. Malinowski's enduring conceptual contributions lay in the areas of kinship and marriage (e.g., the concept of "sociological paternity"); in magic, ritual language and myth (e.g., the idea of "myth as social charter"); and in economic anthropology (notably the concept of "reciprocity") (Young 1991:445). He envisaged a method of collecting data as vernacular in a community.CONCLUSIONS: both Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski made the paradigm shift in anthropology from Speculatively historical to ahistorical study. Both of them had a great fieldwork background. Their differences lies in their mutual exclusive backdrop of ideas. Both of them contended the natural science methodology and contended that social is a separate domain, but Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown have approached the society and individual with great deal of differences. Both settled on the centrality of comparative sociology.
Émile Durkheim (1858–1916) was the founder of theoretically grounded empirical sociology in
. He acknowledged the opacity of the social world and identified the ways in which an excessive reliance on experience tended to lead to a misrepresentation of its nature. He developed his own unique form of “scientific rationalism” in order to discover and clearly present its inherent properties, modes of existence, and forms of organization. France
Durkheim was born in a small town in Alsace-Lorraine, in a family of modest means; his mother supplemented their family income with her embroidery shop. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were rabbis, but Émile decided while still a schoolboy that this was not to be his vocation. After attending his local school, he went to
to study and at his third attempt, gained admittance to the École Normale Supérieure. While he found the style of education there too humanistic and literary, he gained immensely from working with the historian Fustel de Coulanges and with the neo-Kantian philosopher Émile Boutroux. At that time, and indeed subsequently, he was also strongly influenced by Charles Renouvier, another neo-Kantian philosopher. In 1885, he visited Paris for a year, and then on his return, he taught philosophy for a short time in the Lycée de Troyes. In 1887, Durkheim was appointed to a post as chargé de cours of social science and pedagogy at the Faculty of Letters at Germany , where he stayed for 15 years. In 1902, he returned to Bordeaux and was appointed as chargé de cours in the Science of Education at the Sorbonne. While he was made a Professor of Education in 1906, it was only in 1913 that he was given the title of Professor of Education and Sociology. Paris
METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES: The study of Social factsDurkheim was a positivist. In his work on The Rules of Sociological Method ( 1982), the French sociologist Durkheim defined social facts as ways of acting, thinking, and feeling that were external to individuals and exercised a constraint over them. Although the concept of social facts is closely identified with Durkheim, it is also relevant to the understanding of
any type of social theory that treats society as an objective reality apart from its individual members. In general, it can
be distinguished from theoretical paradigms that place a greater emphasis on social action or individual definitions of reality.
According to Durkheim, social facts are general to the whole society and have a distinctively collective character. They constitute the distinctive subject matter of sociology. They are often embodied in social institutions, such as religions, kinship structures, or legal codes. These institutions are the primary focus of sociology as a science. Durkheim stated that the sociologist should treat such social facts as things. The sociologist must study these social facts as realities in their own right, with their own objective laws of organization, apart from the representation of these facts in the individual’s consciousness. In
Durkheim’s view, if society does not exist as a distinct level of reality, then sociology has no subject matter. The social
and the psychological are distinguished as different and independent levels of analysis. For Durkheim and his followers,
this meant examining both the social substratum, or distribution of groups in space, as well as the collective representations
or collective psychology shared by most members of society.
Consider social facts as things
. . . . Social phenomena must be considered in themselves, detached from the conscious beings who form their own mental representations of them. They must be studied from the outside, as external things, because it is in this guise that they present themselves to us. . . .
At the moment when a new order of phenomena become the object of a science, they are already represented in the mind, not only through definite images, but also by some sort of crudely formed concepts. Before the first rudiments of physics and chemistry were known, men already had notions about physical and chemical phenomena which went beyond pure perception; such notions, for example, can be found intermingled with all religions. This is because reflection comes before science, which uses it more methodically. Man cannot live among things without developing ideas about them, according to which he regulates his behaviour. But, because these notions are closer to us and more within our grasp than the realities to which they correspond, we naturally tend to substitute them for the realities and even make them the subject of our speculation. Instead of observing, describing and comparing things, we are content to consider our ideas, and to analyse and compare them. Instead of creating a science concerned with realities, we merely carry out an ideological analysis. Certainly this analysis does not
Readings from emile durkheim 50 necessarily exclude all observation. One can appeal to the facts in order to confirm these
notions or the conclusions that are drawn. But the facts intervene only secondarily, as examples or confirmatory proofs: they are not the object of the science, which proceeds from ideas to things, not from things to ideas.[…]
All preconceptions must be systematically avoided.
Any scientific investigation is concerned with a specific group of phenomena that fall under the same definition. The first step of the sociologist must therefore be to define the things he is dealing with, so that we know, and he knows, what his subject matter is. This is the first and most necessary condition of any proof and verification; a theory can only be checked if one can recognize the facts of which it provides an account. Furthermore, since this initial definition determines the precise subject matter of science, whether or Readings from emile durkheim not this subject matter is a thing will depend on the way in which the definition is formulated.
In order to be objective, the definition must clearly express the phenomena as a function, not of an idea of the mind, but of their inherent properties.[…]
The subject matter of research should never be anything other than a group of phenomena that have previously been defined according to certain external characteristics, and all phenomena which fit this definition must be included.
But sense experiences can easily be subjective. Hence it is a rule in the natural sciences to discard sense data that are too subjectively dependent on the observer, retaining only those that present a suffi-cient degree of objectivity. Thus the physicist
substitutes for the vague impressions of temperature or electricity the visual representations of the thermometer or the voltmeter. The sociologist must take the same precautions.[…] In principle, one might say that social facts are more likely to be
objectively represented the more completely separated they are from their individual manifestations.[…]
We can then formulate the three following rules:
1 A social fact is normal for a given social type, viewed at a given phase of its development, when it occurs in the average society of that species, considered at the corresponding phase of its evolution.
2 The results of the preceding method can be verified by demonstrating that the general character of the phenomenon is related to the general conditions of collective life in the social type under consideration.
3 This verification is necessary when this fact relates to a social species which has not yet gone through its complete evolution.
Durkheim also distinguished between the normal and the pathological within the sphere of social facts. Phenomena such as crime and suicide are normal for a society if they correspond to its type of social organization and level of development. For example, crime is normal in a society that also prizes individual innovation, and no progress would be possible without the actions of those great criminals who represent in their individual person the new cultural tendencies and provide a focus for new outlets for emerging currents of public opinion.
THE DIVISION OF LABOUR IN SOCIETY
Durkheim's purpose inTheDivisionofLabor inSociety (1893, translated1984) was to show that the increasingrate of occupational specialization in Western societies is a social fact which can be explained, both causally and functionally, by followingthe principles just described. Beginningwith the functional explanation, Durkheimpointedout that, whilewe like thosewho resemble us, we arealsodrawn toward thosewhoaredifferent. But ifdifference is thusasmucha source ofmutual attraction as likeness, only certain kinds of differences attract, i.e. wherewe seek in otherswhat we lack in ourselves. Associations are formed wherever there is such a true exchange of services ± in short, wherever there is a division of labor. Durkheimthus argued that the economic services rendered by the division of labor are trivial by comparison with its moral effect. The true function of the division of labor is that feelingof solidarity in two or more persons which it creates, renderingpossible societies which, without it, would not exist.
To determine the extent towhichmodern societies depend upon this kind of solidarity, Durkheimclassified different types of lawaccordingto the sanctions associatedwiththem: repressive sanctions (characteristicof criminal law) consist of some loss or sufferinginflicted on the agent; restitutive sanctions (characteristic of civil, commercial, procedural, administrative, and constitutional law) consist only of ``the re-establishment of troubled relations to their normal state'' (Durkheim, 1984, p. 69). Durkheim was thus able to define two types of solidarity. The first was mechanical solidarity, that type of solidarity characterized by the repressive sanctions imposed upon crimes. Since all crimes have one element in common ± i.e. they shock sentiments which, ``for a given social system, are found in all healthy consciences'' ± Durkheim was led directly to his important concept of the conscience collective: ``the totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average citizens of the same society'' (Durkheim, 1984, p. 79).Durkheimendowed the conscience collectivewithquite distinctive characteristics: it forms a determinate systemwith its own life; it is ``diffuse'' in each society and lacks a ``specific organ''; it is independent of the particular conditions in which individuals find themselves; it is the same in different locations, classes, and occupations; it connects successive generations rather than changing from one to another; and it is different from individual consciences, despite the fact that it can be realized only through them.
Durkheim thus introduced an idea which would assume increasingimportance in his laterwork ± the duality of human nature. Briefly, in each of us there are two consciences: one containingstates personal to each of us, representing and constitutingour individual personality; the other containingstates common toall, representingsociety, andwithoutwhichsocietywouldnot exist.Whenour conduct is determined by the first, we act out of self-interest; but when it is determined by the second, we act morally, in the interest of society. Thus the individual, by virtue of his resemblance to other individuals, is linked to the social order. This ismechanical solidarity, which, aswe have seen, ismanifested through repressive law; and the greater the number of repressive laws, the greater the number of social relations regulated by this type of solidarity. The nature of restitutive sanctions, however, indicates that there is adifferent type of social solidaritywhichcorresponds tocivil law; for the restitutive sanction is not punitive, vengeful, or expiatory at all, but consists only of a return of things to their previous, normal state. This is the type of solidarity that Durkheim called organic, i.e.wheremechanical solidaritypresumes that individuals resemble one another, organic solidarity presumes their difference; again, where mechanical solidarity is possible only in so far as the individual personality is submerged in the collectivity, organic solidarity becomes possible only in so far as each individual has a sphere of action peculiar to him. For organic solidarity to emerge, therefore, the conscience collective must leave untouched a part of the individual conscience, so that special functions, which the conscience collective itself cannot tolerate, may be established there; and themore this region of the individual conscience is extended, the stronger is thecohesionwhichresults from this particular kind of solidarity. Durkheim thus postulated two distinct types of social solidarity (mechanical and organic), each with its distinctive form of juridical rules (repressive and restitutive). Todetermine their relative importance in any given societal type, he simply compared the respective extent of the twokinds of rules. The preponderance of repressive rules over their restitutive counterparts, for example, should be just as great as the preponderance of the conscience collective over the division of labor; inversely, in so far as the individual personality and the specialization of tasks is developed, the relative proportion of the two types of lawought tobe reversed.On thebasisof these comparisons,Durkheimwas then able to argue that primitive societies are held together primarily by the conscience collective, while more advanced societies enjoy that type of solidarity associatedwith the division of labor.
DURKHEIM and SUICIDE
Durkheim defined ``suicide'' as any death which is the immediate or eventual result of a positive or negative act accomplished by the victim himself, when the victim knows that death will be the result of his act (regardless ofwhether or not death is his goal). This definitionwas subject to two immediate objections. The first was that such foreknowledge is a matter of degree, varying considerably from one person or situation to another. At what point, for example, does the death of a professional daredevil or that of amanneglectful of hishealthcease to be an ``accident'' and start to become ``suicide''? But for Durkheim, to ask this questionwas less to raise anobjection tohis definition than to correctly identify its greatest advantage: that it indicates the place of suicidewithinmoral life as a whole. Suicides, accordingtoDurkheim, do not constitute a wholly distinctive group of ``monstrous phenomena'' unrelated to other forms of behavior; on the contrary, they are related to other acts, both courageous and imprudent, by an unbroken series of intermediate cases. Suicides, in short, are simply an exaggerated form of common practices.
Durkheimacknowledged that there were two kinds of extrasocial causes sufficiently general to have a possible effect on the social suicide rate: individual psychological factors (race, heredity, insanity, neurasthenia, alcoholism, etc.) which, varying from country to country, might explain variations in the suicide rates for those societies; and those aspects of the external physical environment (climate, temperature, etc.) which might have the same effect. When neither psychology nor the environment seemed to explain much of the social suicide rate, Durkheimturned to ``states of the various social environments'' ± religious confessions, familial and political society, occupational groups, etc. across which the variations in suicide rates occurred, and within which their causes might be found.
The four types of suicide and related social facts
low Egoistic suicide
high Altruistic Suicide
low Anomic suicide
high Fatalistic suicide
ELEMENTARY FORM OF RELIGIOUS LIFE
Durkheim's primary purpose in The Elementary Forms was to describe and explain the most primitive religion known toman, not for its own sake, but in order to better understand ``the religious nature of man'' (Durkheim, 1915, p. 13). As he had in Suicide, Durkheim began The Elementary Forms with the problemofdefininghis subjectmatter, includingarejectionof earlier attempts to
define religion as a belief in the ``mysterious,'' ``unknowable,'' ``supernatural,'' ``spiritual beings,'' etc.The difficulty with all suchattempts,Durkheimobserved, is that these ideas are frequently absent not only in primitive religions, but even in their more advanced counterparts. Emphasizingthat religion is less an indivisiblewhole thana complex systemof parts, and that magic though similar to religion in certain respects ± lacks a ``church,'' Durkheim arrived at his own definition: ``A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden±beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them'' (Durkheim, 1915, p. 62).
Durkheimthus considered totemism± theworship of animals and plants as the most elementary form of religion. The members of totemic clans consider themselves bound together by a special kindof kinship, basednot onblood, but on the mere fact that they share the same name. This name is taken from a determined species ofmaterial objects (an animal, less frequently a plant, and in
rare cases an inanimate object) with which the clan members are assumed to enjoy the same relations of kinship. But this ``totem'' is not simply a name; it is also anemblem,which is carved, engraved, or drawnuponother objects belonging to the clan, and evenupon the bodies of the clanmembers themselves. These designs seemtorenderotherwise commonobjects ``sacred,'' and their inscription upon the bodies of clanmembers indicates the approach of themost important religious ceremonies. Since the same religious sentiments aroused by these designs are aroused by the members of the totemic species themselves, clan members are forbidden to kill or eat the totemic animal or plant except at certain mystical feasts, and the violation of this interdiction is assumed to produce death instantaneously.
Emirbayer, M. (2003). Emile Durkheim: sociologist of modernity. Oxford: blackwell publishers
Thompson, K. (Ed.) (2004). Readings from Emile Durkheim. London: routledge
Simple intellectual integrity [involves giving
account to oneself] of the final meaningof
one's own actions.
Widely recognized as one of the major founding fathers of sociology, Max Weber (1864 - 1920) is perhaps today best known for his attempts todefine the uniqueness of the modern West and to provide causal explanations for its specific historical development. However, far fromofferinga justification for industrial societies, his sociological and political writings both evidence a profound
ambivalence toward them; although impressed by their capacity to sustain high standards of living,Weber feared thatmany of their foundational elements opposed the further unfoldingof human compassion, ethical action, and individual autonomy. At the dawningof the twentieth century, he asked ``where are we headed'' and ``how shall we live with dignity in this new age?'' He worried that it might become an ``iron cage'' of impersonal, manipulative, and harsh relationships lacking binding values and noble ideals.
Weber studied history and law at the universities of Heidelberg, Göttingen, and Berlin. His doctoral dissertation investigated how legal forms of partnership were developed to spread the risk on medieval trading ventures. His habilitation thesis, required for teaching in a German university, examined the changing forms of property ownership in ancient Rome. Both studies required an intensive involvement in primary materials (and so foreign languages and handwritten documents). Weber, in this and also his other intellectual interests, was a beneficiary of the research seminar, which had placed the German universities in the forefront of research in the study of cultures, history, theology, languages, and archaeology. One of Weber’s greatest achievements was the comparative study of the economic ethics of the world religions, an achievement made possible in large part by German scholarship and the techniques of interpreting documents. Nonetheless,Weber waged impassioned battles throughout his life on behalf of ethical positions and scolded relentlessly all who lacked a rigorous sense of justice and social responsibility. As his student Paul Honigsheimreports,Weber became a man possessed whenever threats to the autonomy of the individual were discussed (seeHonigsheim, 1968, pp. 6, 43) ±whether tomothers seeking custody of their children, women students at German universities, or bohemian social outcasts and political rebels. Not surprisingly, his concerns for the fate of theGerman nation, and for the future ofWesternCivilization, led himperpetually into the arena of politics. Vigorously opposed to the definitionof this realm as one of Realpolitik, ``sober realism,'' or wheelingand dealing, he called out vehemently for politicians to act by reference to a sternmoral code: an ``ethic of responsibility'' (Verantwortungsethik).
METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES: ANTI-POSITIVIST STANCE
Weber's rejection of values rooted in religions and quasi-supernatural ideas as the basis for his sociology, and his focus upon empirical reality and subjective meaning, led him to oppose unequivocally themany attempts at the end of the nineteenth century to define the aimof science as the creation of new-constellations of values appropriate to the industrial society.
He denied the possibility that science could serve as the source of values, for an ``objective science'' cannot exist. Even thehope for sucha science is adeception, one rooted ultimately in a bygoneworld of unified values. It has nowbecome clear,Weber asserts, that each epoch perhaps even every generation or decade calls forth its own``culturallysignificantvalue-ideas.'' Invariably,heinsists,our observations of empirical reality take place in reference to these. The empirical ground upon which science is based ``changes'' continually (seeWeber, 1949, pp. 72-8).
This unavoidable ``value-relevance'' (Wertbeziehung) of our observations always renders certain events and occurrences visible to us and occludes others. Only some ``realities'' are thrown intorelief by the culturally significant values of any specific age: those today, for example, are embodied by terms such as equality for all, freedom, individual rights, equal opportunity, globalization, etc., and dichotomies such as capitalism/socialism and First World/Third World. The specific vantage points dominant in any era allow its inhabitants to see only a selected slice of the past and present. Consequently, our search today for knowledge cannot take the same form ± as a search for concealed absolutes ± as in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, for the ultimate precondition for such a quest no longer exists: a widespread belief in a set of unified values. For the same reason, ourknowledge canno longerbeanchored in the quasi-supernatural ideas of the nineteenth century. Furthermore, owing to the invariably perspectival character of our knowledge, we can hope neither to find ``general laws'' in history nor to write history as Ranke proposed: ``as it actually occurred.'' Thus, in the famous ``debate over methods'' (Methodenstreit), Weber opposed both the ``nomothetic'' position held by Menger the formulation of general laws must be the task of the social sciences ± and the ``ideographic'' position held by Schmoller's ``historical school of economics'': to offer exact and full descriptions of specific casesmust be the goal. Weber admonished vehemently and repeatedly that all attempts to create values through science must nowbe seen as illusions.
The multi-causality stance:
The search for a single ``guiding hand,'' whether that of a monotheistic God, AdamSmith's ``laws of themarket,'' or KarlMarx's class conflict as the ``engine of history,'' remained anathema to Weber. He perceived all such overarching forces as residuals of now-antiquatedworldviews characterizedby religious and quasi-religious ideas. Indeed, Weber's adamant refusal to define the ``general laws of social life'' (Menger), the ``stages of historical development'' (Buecher, Marx), or Evolution4 as the central point of departure for his causal explanations paved theway for a focus upon empirical reality and subjective meaning; as importantly, it also provided the underlyingprecondition for his embrace of radicallymulticausal modes of explanation. Havingabandoned reference to all forms of ``necessity'' as history's movingforce, the innumerable actions and beliefs of persons rose to the fore inWeber's sociology as the causal forces that determine the contours of past and present. His empirical research c onvinced him that historical change required on the one hand great charismatic figures and on the other hand ``carrier'' strata and organizations.Moreover, these carrierswere, for example, at times political and rulership organizations, at other times status groups or economic organizations, and at still other times religious organizations. His investigations across a vast palette of themes, epochs, and civilizations yielded in this respect a clear conclusion: rather than a causal ``restingpoint,'' he found only continuous movement across, above all, political, economic, religious, legal, social strata, and familial groupings (see, for example, Weber, 1968, p. 341). Without powerful carriers, evenHegel's ``spirit'' or Ranke's ChristianHumanism could not move history; nor could ideas, world views, or the problemof unjust suffering.
The idea of social action (Not social fact): intended subjectification
Weber's sociologydeparts froma critiqueof all approaches that viewsocieties as quasi-organic, holistic units and their separate ``parts'' as components fully integrated into a larger ``system'' of objective structures. All organic schools of thought understand the larger collectivitywithinwhich the individual acts as a delimited structure, and social action and interaction as merely particularistic expressions of this ``whole.'' German romantic and conservative thought at the beginning of the nineteenth century, as well as Comte andDurkheim in France, fall within this tradition. Organic theories generally postulate a degree of societal integration questionable toWeber. He never viewed societies as clearly formed and closed entities with delineated boundaries. Seeingthe likelihood for fragmentation, tension, open conflict, and theuseof power,Weber rejects thenotion that societies can be st understood as unified. Moreover, accordingto him, if organic theories are utilized other than as a means of facilitatingpreliminary conceptualization, a high risk of ``reification'' arises: ``society'' and the ``organicwhole'' may become viewed as the fundamental unit of analysis rather than the individual (Weber, 1968, pp. 14±15). Thismay occur to such an extent that persons are incorrectly understood as simply the ``socializedproducts'' of societal forces.Weber argues, to the contrary, that persons are capable of interpreting their social realities, bestowing``subjective meaning'' upon certain aspects of it, and initiating independent action: ``[We are] cultural beings endowedwith the capacity andwill to take a deliberate stand toward theworld and to lend itmeaning (Sinn)'' (Weber, 1949, p. 81; translation altered, original emphasis). There is, to Weber, a realm of freedomand choice.
TERPRETIVE UNDERSTANDING AND SUBJECTIVE MEANING At the core of Weber's sociology stands the attempt by sociologists to ``understand interpretively'' (verstehen) the ways in which persons view their own ``social action.'' This subjectively meaningful action constitutes the social scientist's concern rather than merely reactive or imitative behavior (as occurs, for example, when persons in a crowd expect rain and simultaneously open their umbrellas). Social action, he insists, involves both a ``meaningful orientation of behavior to that of others'' and the individual's interpretive, or reflective, aspect (Weber, 1968, pp. 22±4). Persons are social, but not only social. They are endowedwith the ability to actively interpret situations, interactions, and relationships by reference to values, beliefs, interests, emotions, power, authority, law, customs, conventions, habits, ideas, etc. Sociology. . . is a science that offers an interpretive understanding of social action and, indoingso, provides acausal explanationof its courseand its effects.We shall speak of ``action'' insofar as the actingindividual attaches a subjectivemeaning to his behavior be it overt or covert, omission or acquiescence. Action is ``social'' insofar as its subjective meaningtakes account of the behavior of others and is
thereby oriented in its course. (Weber, 1968, p. 4; translation altered, original emphasis) This central position of meaningful action separates Weber's sociology fundamentally fromall behaviorist, structuralist, and positivist schools. Sociologists can understand the meaningfulness of others' action either through ``rational understanding,'' which involves an intellectual grasp of the meaningactors attribute to their actions, or through ``intuitive,'' or ``empathic,'' understanding, which refers to the comprehension of ``the emotional context in
which the action [takes] place'' (Weber, 1968, p. 5). Thus, for example, the motivation behind the orientation of civil servants to impersonal statutes and laws can be understood by the sociologist, as can the motivation behind the orientation of good friends to one another. To the extent that this occurs, a causal explanationof action,Weber argues, is provided. Because it attends alone to external activity, stimulus/response behaviorismneglects the issues foremost to Weber: the diversepossiblemotives behindanobservable activity, the manner in which the subjective meaningfulness of the act varies accordingly, and the significant differences that follow in respect to action.
THE FOUR TYPES OF SOCIALACTION AND SUBJECTIVE MEANING Social action can be best conceptualized as involvingone of ``four types ofmeaningful action'': means±end rational, value-rational, affectual, or traditional action. Each type refers to the ideal typical (see below) motivational orientations of actors. Weber defines action as means±end rational (zweckrational) ``when the end, the means, and the secondary results are all rationally taken into account and weighed. This involves a rational consideration of alternativemeans to the end, of the relations of the end to the secondary consequences, and finally of the relative importance of different possible ends.'' Similarly, persons possess the capacity to act value-rationally, even though this type of action has appeared empirically in its pure form only rarely. It exists when social action is ``determined by a conscious belief in the value for its own sake of some ethical, aesthetic, religious, or other formof behavior, independently of its prospects of
success. . . .Value-rational action always involves `commands' or `demands' which, in the actor's opinion, are binding(verbindlich) on him.'' Notions of honor involve values, as do salvation doctrines. In addition, ``determined by the actor's specific affects and feelingstates,'' affectual action, which involves an emotional attachment, must be distinguished clearly from value-rational and meansendrational action.Traditional action, ``determinedby ingrained habituation'' and age-old customs, and often merely a routine reaction to common stimuli, stands on the borderline of subjectively meaningful action. Taken together, these constructs ± the ``types of social action'' ± establish an analytic base that assists conceptualizationof diffuseaction-orientations.Rational action in reference to interests constitutes, toWeber, onlyonepossiblewayof orienting action (seeWeber, 1968, pp. 24±6). Each typeofmeaningful actioncanbe found inall epochs andall civilizations. The social action of even ``primitive'' peoples may be means±end rational and value-rational (see, for example, Weber, 1968, pp. 400, 422±6), and modern man is not endowed with a greater inherent capacity for either type of action thanhis ancestors.However, as a result of identifiable social forces, some epochs may tend predominantly to call forth a particular type of action. Weber is convinced that, by utilizing the types of social action typology, sociologists can understand ± and hence explain causally even the ways in which the social actionof persons livingin radically different cultures is subjectivelymeaningful.
Assuming that, as a result of intensive study, researchers have succeeded in becoming thoroughly familiarwith a particular social context and thus capable imagining themselves ``into'' it, an assessment can be made of the extent to which actions approximate one of the types of social action. The subjective meaningfulness of the motives for these actions ± whether means±end rational, value-rational, traditional, or affectual ± then becomes understandable.
Weber's ``interpretive sociology'' in this manner seeks to help sociologists to comprehend social action in terms of the actor's own intentions. This foundational emphasis uponapluralismofmotives distinguishes Weber's sociology unequivocally from all schools of behaviorism, all approaches that place social structures at the forefront (for example, those rooted inDurkheim's ``social facts'' orMarx's classes), andall positivist approaches that endownorms, roles, and ruleswithadeterminingpower over persons. Evenwhen social action seems tightly bonded to a social structure, a heterogeneity of motives must be recognized. A great array of motives within a single ``external form'' is, Weber argues, both analytically and empirically possible and sociologically significant. The subjective meaningfulness of action varies even within the firm organizational structure of the political or religious sect. Yet just this reasoning leads Weber toaconundrum: forwhat subjective reasonsdopersonsorient their social action in common, such that demarcated groupings are formulated? This question assumes a great urgency, for he is convinced that the absence of such orientations ± toward, for example, the state, bureaucratic organizations, traditions, andvalues ±means that ``structures'' cease toexist.The state, for example, in the end is nothing more than the patterned action-orientations of its politicians, judges, police, civil servants, etc.
Far from formal methodological postulates only, these foundational distinctions directly anchor Weber's empirical studies, as will become apparent. The investigation of the subjective meaning of action stood at the very center, for example, of his famous ``Protestant ethic thesis.''YetWeber engaged in a massive empirical effort to understand the subjectivemeaningof ``the other'' on its own terms throughout his comparative-historical sociology, whether, for example, that of the Confucian scholar, the Buddhist monk, the Hindu Brahmin, the prophets of theOld Testament, feudal rulers, monarchs and kings, or functionaries in bureaucracies. For what subjective reasons do people render obedience to authority? Weber wished to understand the diverse ways in which persons subjectively ``make sense'' of their activities. He argued that sociologists should attempt to do so even when the subjective ``meaning-complexes'' they discover seem strange or odd to them.
THE PROTESTANT ETHIC AND SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM
The Original cover of the book
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (PESC) ([1904-1905]1930) addressed an association that had been long recognized but hitherto unexplained. Capitalistic enterprises appeared to flourish in Protestant inhabited areas, more so than in Catholic areas. This statistical evidence was of the same nature as Durkheim’s observation that suicide rates were lower in Catholic areas and countries, compared with Protestant regions. Given these facts, how can the respective issues be explained? For Durkheim, the explanation resided in the suicidogenic forces that different levels of collective consciousness generated; forces generated at the level of society act as external forces on people’s individual lives. For Weber, the emergence of the distinctive form of modern capitalism, as systematically rational, is an effect or repercussion of individually held meanings. The everyday behaviour of Puritans is the outcome of a religiously determined psychology where individuals look inward to their conscience as a regulator of their actions. Puritanism, in its various forms—and Weber provides historical case studies of Calvinism, Pietism, Methodism, and the Baptist sects—is a religion of reform that constantly admonishes the individual to control and monitor his or her conduct. Puritanism abolished the mediation of church and confession, made accessible sacred texts in the vernacular language, and placed an enormous responsibility on each person to remain pure according to the salvation message of the sacred text. The case of Calvinism is psychologically more complex, for here, actions alone do not suffice to secure salvation and avoid damnation. Calvinist beliefs posited the idea of predestination: that an unknown and unseen god has already determined the salvation of each individual prior to his or her birth. The resulting salvation anxiety was allayed by acting as if one had been chosen (predestined) to go to heaven.
Weber’s social-cultural theory identifies an irrational belief held with great intensity as a crucial causal factor in the development of modern capitalism. These beliefs more generally, cultural meanings—result in a systematic style of life. The Puritans avoid pleasure, they work hard, they save their money. Weber refers to this as “inner-worldly” asceticism. A lifestyle as austere and pleasure averse as the Puritans involves training. In Christianity, as well as other religions, asceticism is practised by monks, usually within the closed community of the monastery. Weber terms this “other-worldly” asceticism. Monasteries are cut off from the rest of the world and follow their own regime of disciplined observance. The Puritan lives within the world, carrying out normal social and work activities. Strong religious meanings structure the personality of the Puritan, permitting an ascetic style of life carried on within the world with all its temptations of a more relaxed code of life. The Puritan always is aware of the salvation message. This is his or her “calling” or vocation. Religious beliefs become solidified in ascetic practice, and Weber terms this a style of life (Lebensstil) or a conduct of life (Lebensführung). In a further step in his argument, Weber holds that conduct of life is passed on as a social form, irrespective of its religious origins. He provides the example of the American entrepreneur, scientist, and diplomat, Benjamin Franklin, whose father was a Calvinist. Franklin was secular in his outlook but nevertheless retained the discipline of his upbringing. Indeed, he formulated a kind of lifestyle handbook that provided an instruction manual on how to get on in business and life by improving one’s ability to work. Once this attitude or mentality becomes generalized through a population (here a Protestant population), the social scientist can then frame the thesis that such a mentality will
have significant economic consequences. In causal terms, Weber frames this as codetermination. There already existed in Northwestern Europe fairly advanced forms of capitalist trade, banking, technology, and legal frameworks. Puritanism did not produce capitalism “out of a hat”;
Puritan sects that settled in Patagonia did not produce an economic miracle; they remained farmers. But where this systematic, sober, rational approach to life existed in conjunction with an already developing capitalism, then to use Weber’s phrase there was an “elective affinity” between the two. There occurred a sort of chemical bonding, to produce the distinctively new compound, modern rational capitalism.
DEAL TYPES AS ``STANDARDS'' As noted, the ideal types of E&S, as conceptual tools, ``document'' patterned social action and demarcate its ``location.'' In addition, when utilized as ``standards'' against which the patterns of action under investigation can be compared and ``measured,'' they enable the clear definition of this action. A vast diversity of ideal types of varying scope are formulated in this analytic treatise (for example, feudalism, patriarchalism,
missionary prophecy, priests, the Oriental city, natural law, canon law, asceticism, warriors). Perhaps most influential in sociology have been two of Weber's ideal types: ``types of rulership'' and ``status groups.'' Rather than a ``social fact,'' an expression of natural laws, or an inevitable
culmination of historical evolutionary forces, rulership implies for Weber nothingmore than theprobability that adefinablegroupof individuals (as a result of variousmotives)will orient their social action togiving commands, that another definable groupwill direct their social action toobedience (as a result of various motives), and that commands are in fact, to a sociologically relevant degree, carriedout. In his famous formulation, rulership refers ``to the probability that
a command with a given specific content will be obeyed by a given group of persons'' (ibid., p. 53). Itmay be ascribed to diverse individuals, such as judges, civil servants, bankers, craftsmen, and tribal chiefs. All exercise rulershipwherever obedience is claimed and in fact called forth (ibid., pp. 941, 948). Weber's major concern focuses upon legitimate rulership, or the situation in
which a degree of legitimacy is attributed to the rulership relationship. For this reason, obedience, importantly, acquires avoluntaryelement.Whether anchored in unreflective habit or custom, an emotional attachment to the ruler or fear of him, values or ideals, or purelymaterial interests anda calculationof advantage, a necessary minimum of compliance, unlike sheer power, always exists in the case of legitimate rulership (ibid., p. 212).
To Weber, the establishment of a rulership relationship's legitimacy through material interests alone is likely to be relatively unstable. On the other hand, purely value-rational and affectual motives can be decisive only in ``extraordinary'' circumstances. Amixture of customand ameans±end rational calculation of material interest generally provides the ``motive for compliance'' in everyday situations (ibid., pp. 213±14, 943).Yet, inhis analysis, thesemotives alonenever form a reliable and enduringfoundation for rulership. A further element at least aminimumbelief on thepart of the ruled in the legitimacyof the rulership is crucial: ``In general, it should be kept clearly inmind that the basis of every rulership, and correspondingly of every kindofwillingness toobey, is a belief, a belief by virtue of which persons exercisingrulership are lent prestige'' (ibid., p.263).26 In essence, rulers seek to convince themselves of their right to exercise rulership and attempt to implant the notion amongthe ruled that this right is deserved. If they succeed, awillingness to obey arises that secures their rule far more effectively thandoes force or power. The character of the typical belief, or claim to legitimacy, provides Weber with the criteria he utilizes to classify the major types of legitimate rulership into ideal-typical models (see ibid., p. 953).
Why do people obey authority? From the vantage point of his broad-ranging comparative and historical studies, Weber argues that all ruling powers, ``profaneor religious, political aswell asunpolitical,'' canbeunderstoodas appealing to rational-legal, traditional,orcharismatic principles of legitimation. What typical beliefs establish the ``validity'' of these three ``pure types'' of legitimate rulership?
1 Rational grounds ± resting on a belief in the legality of enacted rules and the right of those elevated torulershipunder suchrules to issue commands(legal rulership).
2 Traditional grounds ± resting on an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of those exercising rulership under them (traditional rulership). Charismatic grounds ± resting on devotion to the exceptional sanctity, heroism, or exemplarycharacterof an individual person, andof the orders revealed or ordained by him(charismatic rulership) (ibid., p. 215). Under the motto, ``it is written ± but I say unto you,'' this mission opposes all existingvalues, customs, laws, rules, and traditions (ibid., pp. 1115±17). These issues define the ``rulership'' domain and distinguish action oriented to it from action in the other domains.
Weber'swidelydiscussedmodel of ``rational-legal'' rulership is manifest in the bureaucratic organization. In industrial societies, heargues, this typeof rulership becomes all-pervasive. It is legitimated by a belief in properly enacted rules and ``objective'' modes of procedure, rather than by persons or reference to the legitimacy of traditions established in the past. Thus, bureaucratic administration stands in radical opposition to both charismatic rulership and all types of traditional rulership (patriarchalism, feudalism, patrimonialism). The subsumption of diverse social action under stable prescriptions, regulations, and rules accounts for its comparative technical superiority vis-aÁ-vis traditional and charismatic rulership. Rights andduties are defined and, by virtue of a position in a hierarchy, empower ``a superior'' to issue commands and expect obedience:
``Orders are given in the name of an impersonal norm rather than in the name of apersonal authority; andeven the givingof a commandconstitutes obedience toward a norm rather than an arbitrary freedom, favor, or privilege'' (Weber, 1946e, pp. 294±5; see also 1968, pp. 229, 945, 1012).
Moreover, in a systematic fashion, bureaucracies orient labor toward general rules and regulations.Work occurs in offices, on a full-time basis, and involves the formulation of written records and their preservation; employees are appointed and rewarded with a regular salary as well as the prospect for advancement. And work procedures maximize calculation: through an assessment of single cases in reference toa set of abstract rules or aweighingofmeans and ends, decisions can be rendered in a predictable and expedient manner. Compared to the traditional forms of rulership, such decisions occur with less equivocation: arenas of jurisdiction, task specialization, competence, and responsibility for eachemployeearedelimitedon the onehand by administrative regulations and on the other hand by technical training. This technical training
canbemost effectivelyutilizednot onlywhen realms of competence are defined, but also if an unquestioned hierarchy of command reigns inwhich ``each lower office is under the control and supervisionof ahigher one.'' Rulership, including a superior's access to coercive means, is distributed in a stable manner and articulated by regulations (Weber, 1968, pp. 223, 975). Weber's model emphasizes that a ``formal rationality'' reigns in bureaucracies: problems are solved and decisions made by the systematic and continuous means end rational orientation of action to abstract rules, which are enacted through discursively analyzable procedures and applied universally. Because decision-making and the giving of commands takes place in direct reference to these rules, bureaucracies typically imply compared to the traditional and charismatic types of rulership± the reduction of affectual and traditional action.
Many of Weber's ideal types not only facilitate the clear conceptualization of specific cases or developments, but alsodelineate hypotheses that canbe testedagainst specific cases and developments ± indeed, in such a manner that discrete and significant causal regularities of social action can be isolated. Ideal types are employed inE&S as hypothesis-formingmodels in fourmajor ways. Their dynamic character is the focus of Weber's first type of model. Rather than beingstatic, ideal types are constituted from an array of regular action orientations. Relationships ±delimited, empirically testable hypotheses among these action-orientations are implied. Second, contextual models that articulate hypotheses regarding the impact of specific social contexts upon patterned action are constructed in E&S. Third, when examined in reference to one another, ideal types may articulate logical interactions of patterned, meaningful action. Hypotheses regarding ``elective affinity'' and ``antagonism'' relationships across ideal types abound in E&S. Fourth, Weber utilizes ideal types to chart analytic developments. Each model hypothesizes a course of regular action, or a ``developmental path.''
He insists that the typical immersion of sociologists deeply in empirical realities requires such constructs if significant causal action-orientations are to be identified, all themore owingto the fundamental character of empirical reality ± for him, an unending flow of events and happenings ± and the continuous danger that all causal inquiry all too easily becomes mired in an endless description-based regression. By constructing arrays of models in E&S that conceptualize patterned, meaningful action, Weber aims to draw sociology away from an exclusive focus upon delineated social problems on the one hand and historical narrative on the other hand.Nonetheless, he steadfastly avoids the other side of the spectrum; groundedempirically, hismodelsnevermove to the level of broad, diffuse generalizations. Rather, these research tools offer limitedhypotheses that can be tested against specific cases and developments. ToWeber, unique to the sociological enterprise is always a back and forthmovement between conceptualization ± the formulation of models and theoretical frameworks ± and the detailed investigationof empirical cases anddevelopments. If thegoal of offering causal explanations of the ``historical individual'' is to be realized, both the empirically particular and conceptual generalization are indispensable.
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Hegel’s primary object in his dialectic is to establish the existence of a logical connection between the various categories which are involved in the constitution of experience. He teaches that this connection is of such a kind that any category, if scrutinised with sufficient care and attention, is found to lead on to another, and to involve it, in such a manner that an attempt to use the first of any subject while we refuse to use the second of the same subject results in a contradiction. The category thus reached leads on in a similar way to a third, and the process continues until at last we reach the goal of the dialectic in a category which betrays no instability (McTaggart and McTaggart, 1999) – the ultimate synthesis.
Hegel’s absolute idealism, his organicism, his concept of spirit and notion of God, are metaphysics on the grandest scale. Through pure thinking alone Hegel attempts to give us knowledge of reality in itself, the absolute or the universe as a whole. It was in just this sense, however, that Kant had attacked the possibility of metaphysics in the Critique of Pure Reason. Hegel had no choice, therefore, but to face the Kantian challenge. Hegel affirms what Kant denies: that it is possible to have knowledge through pure reason of the absolute or the unconditioned. He agreed entirely with Kant that one of the chief failures of past metaphysics was its dogmatism, i.e. its failure to investigate the powers and limits of reason. Hence Hegel fully endorsed the demands of Kantian criticism, insisting that ‘any future metaphysics that comes forward as a science alone’ would first have to pass the test of criticism. The old metaphysics was naive, because it simply assumed that we could know truth through thinking alone without having first investigated this possibility. There were two respects, Hegel further explained, in which the old metaphysics was uncritical: first, it did not examine the meaning of the concepts that it applied to the unconditioned; and, second, it did not investigate the limitations of the traditional forms of judgment in knowing the truth. He insisted that Kant had not gone far enough. In the Encyclopaedia he argued that Kant’s critique of metaphysics had been deficient on several counts. First, Kant did not investigate the inherent logic of concepts themselves, determining their precise meaning and powers. Rather, he just classified concepts as either subjective or objective according to his presupposed epistemological principles. Second, Kant insisted that we should have a criterion of knowledge before we make claims to knowledge; but this demand created an infinite regress, for the criterion of knowledge too amounts to a claim to knowledge, so that we need another higher criterion to test it. Third, Kant failed to see that we cannot criticize the forms of thinking without first using them. Hegel likened his attempt to know the logic of our concepts before using them to the efforts of the wise Scholasticus to learn to swim before jumping in the water. All these points came together in Hegel’s complaint that the method of Kantian criticism is external, presupposing the truth of some standard of criticism that does not derive from the concepts themselves. Against Kant, Hegel insisted that the criticism of knowledge must be internal, so that the subject matter is evaluated according to its own inherent standards and goals. It is for this reason that the method of the Phenomenology would be the self-examination or self-criticism of consciousness. The principle of self-thought of the critical philosophy – a principle that Hegel explicitly reaffirmed – demands that we accept only those beliefs that agree with the critical exercise of our own reason.
Dialectics: what is not? What is?
The very term ‘dialectic’ is redolent. No aspect of Hegel’s philosophy has been more interpreted, more misunderstood, and more controversial. Before we examine its precise structure, it is necessary to correct some misunderstandings and to sort through a few controversies.
Not a method:
It is important first to remove the most common misconception that considers dialectic a method. In the usual sense of the word, a ‘method’ consists in certain rules, standards and guidelines that one justifies a priori and that one applies to investigate a subject matter (Wood, 1990). But, in this sense, Hegel utterly opposed having a methodology, and he was critical of philosophers who claimed to have one. Hence he objected to Kant’s epistemology because it applied an a priori standard of knowledge to evaluate all claims to knowledge; and he attacked Schelling’s Naturphilosophie because it mechanically applied a priori schemata to phenomena. Against all such a priori methods, Hegel insisted that the philosopher should bracket his standards, rules and guidelines and simply examine the subject matter for its own sake. The standards, rules and guidelines appropriate to a subject matter should be the result, not the starting point, of the investigation. So, if Hegel has any methodology at all, it appears to be an anti-methodology, a method to suspend all methods. Hegel argues, and it is for this reason that he demands suspending all preconceptions. If the philosopher simply applies his a priori ideas to the subject matter, he has no guarantee that he grasps its inner form or the object as it is in itself; for all he knows, he sees the object only as it is for him.
Not simple thesis-antithesis-synthesis:
Although it is possible to talk about a dialectic, it is advisable to avoid the most popular way of explaining it: in terms of the schema ‘thesis–antithesis–synthesis’. Hegel himself never used this terminology, and he criticized the use of all schemata (Muller, 1958).
In its most general form in the Science of Logic the dialectic is a metaphysics whose main task is to determine the general structure of being. In his conception of metaphysics, he criticises traditional logic. Hegel rejects the claim that that we can completely determine substance, reality in itself, through one predicate alone because he thinks that reality in itself is the universe as a whole, which has to be described as both F and -F. Since, however, he holds that F and -F are true of distinct parts of the whole, there is no violation of the law of contradiction. Indeed, the point of the dialectic will be to remove contradictions by showing how contradictory predicates that seem true of the same thing are really only true of different parts or aspects of the same thing. What Hegel is criticizing, then, is not the law of identity as such but the confusion of this law with the metaphysical claim that reality in itself must have one property and not another. We naturally but fallaciously move from ‘No single thing is both F and -F at the same time’ to ‘Reality as a whole cannot be both F and -F at the same time’. Because it is true of each single thing that it cannot be both F and -F, we conclude that reality as a whole cannot be both F and -F. The problem is that we treat reality as a whole as if it were just another entity, another part of the whole.
The structure of dialectics:
Kant and Jacobi put metaphysics in three principles. First, understanding proceeds according to the principles of sufficient reason that is an attempt to find causes for all reasons. Second, understanding is an analytical power that takes a whole and divides it into several parts. Hence in the process of understanding, one has to divide the indivisible. Third, all concepts are finite or limited because they have their determinate meaning only through negation. Hegel finds a fundamental contradiction between the understanding and the subject matter of metaphysics, a contradiction made apparent to him through Kant’s and Jacobi’s critique of reason. The subject matter of metaphysics is the absolute, which is infinite, unconditioned and indivisible; but, since its concepts are finite, conditioned and divisive, the understanding destroys such an object in the very act of conceiving it.
The dialectic was Hegel’s response to these arguments. The basic strategy and idea behind the dialectic is simple, even if its application in specific cases is often very complex. The dialectic arises from an inevitable contradiction in the procedures of the understanding. The understanding contradicts itself because it both separates things, as if they were completely independent of one another, and connects them, as if neither could exist apart from the other. It separates things when it analyzes them into their parts, each of which is given a self-sufficient status; and it connects them according to the principle of sufficient reason, showing how each event has a cause, or how each part inheres in a still smaller part, and so on ad infinitum. Hence the understanding ascribes both independence and dependence to things. The only way to resolve the contradiction, it turns out, is to reinterpret the independent or self-sufficient term as the whole of which all connected or dependent terms are only parts. The chief result of the dialectic is that reason is not only a form of mechanical explanation, which shows how one finite thing depends upon another, but also a form of holistic explanation, which shows how all finite things are parts of a wider whole.
Hegel finds entire experience of the being form necessary parts of a single indivisible whole. It is necessary to show the noumenal is within the phenomenal, the unconditioned within the conditioned. In his Encyclopaedia Hegel states that there are three stages to the dialectic: the moment of abstraction or the understanding, the dialectical or negatively rational moment and speculative or positively rational moment.
The moment of abstraction
The understanding postulates something unconditioned or something absolute, which it attempts to conceive in itself, as if it were independent and self-sufficient. This is the moment of the understanding whose specific virtue is to make sharp and fast distinctions between things, each of which it regards as self-sufficient and independent. But, in insisting upon its hard and fast distinctions, the understanding is in fact making a metaphysical claim: it holds that something exists in itself, that it can exist on its own without other things.
The dialectical or negatively rational movement
This moment is the correlate of the Kantian antithesis. When the understanding examines one of its terms it finds that it is not self-sufficient after all, but that it is only comprehensible through its relations to other things. It finds that it has to seek the reason for its apparently self-sufficient terms, because it is artificial to stop at any given point.
This stage is dialectical because the understanding is caught in a contradiction: it asserts that the unit is self-sufficient or comprehensible only in itself, because it is the final term of analysis; and that the unit is comprehensible only through its relations or connections to other things, because we can always find some further reason outside itself. The contradiction is that we must affirm both thesis and antithesis: the unit of analysis is both unconditioned and conditioned, both independent and dependent.
The speculative or positively rational movement
This final stage is characteristically Hegelian, whereas the former stages had analogues in Kant. The understanding now finds that the only way to resolve the contradiction is to say that what is absolute or independent is not one thing alone, but the whole of that thing and all others upon which it depends. If we make this move then we can still save the central claim of the thesis – that there is something self-sufficient or unconditioned – and we can also admit the basic thrust of the antithesis – that any particular thing is dependent or conditioned We avoid the contradiction if we ascend a higher level, to the standpoint of the whole, of which the unit and that on which it depends are only parts. While any part of this whole is conditioned and dependent, the whole itself is unconditioned or independent with respect to them.
Of course, the dialectic must continue. The same contradiction arises for the whole, of which the unconditioned and conditioned are only parts. It claims to be unconditioned; but there is something else, on the same level, upon which it depends, so that it too is conditioned. The same thesis and antithesis work on the new level. The dialectic will go on until we reach the absolute whole, that which includes everything within itself, and so cannot possibly depend upon anything outside itself. When this happens the system will be complete, and we will have achieved knowledge of the absolute.
Baiser, F. (2005). Hegel.
: Routledge. New York
Houlgate, S. (Ed.).(1998). Hegel Reader.
: Blackwell. Malden, USA
Longueness, B. (2007). Hegel’s critique of metaphysics.
: Cambridge Press. Cambridge University
McTaggart, J and McTaggart, E. (1999). Studies in the Hegelian dialectics.
: Batoche. Canada
Muler, G. (1958). The Hegel Legend of “Thesis-antithesis-synthesis”, Journal of History of Ideas, XIX: 411 – 414.
Wood, A. (1990). Hegel’s ethical thought.
: Cambridge Press. Cambridge University
 Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms: "What is there?" and "What is it like?" The metaphysician attempts to clarify the fundamental notions by which people understand the world, including existence, the definition of Object (philosophy), Property (philosophy), space, time, causality, and possibility.
 Dogmatism: The tendency to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others.
 The noumenon (from Greek νοούμενoν, present participle of νοέω "I think, I mean"; plural: νοούμενα - noumena) is a posited object or event as it is in itself, independent of the senses. It classically refers to an object of human inquiry, understanding or cognition. Pertaining to the noumenon or the realm of things as they are in themselves
Functionalism and structural functionalism
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Functionalism is –
1. An ethnographic methodology distinctive of cultural anthropology.
2. A historical school of anthropology (also known as British school).
3. A school of sociology, which attempted to integrate sociology, psychology, and anthropology.
4. A philosophy of social sciences in the Anglo-American philosophical tradition.
Underlying functionalist theory is the fundamental metaphor of the living organism, its several parts and organs, grouped and organized into a system, the function of the various parts and organs being to sustain the organism, to keep its essential processes going and enable it to reproduce.
In trying to legitimate the new discipline of sociology, Auguste Comte (1830–1842, 1851–1854) revived analogies made by the Greeks and, closer to his time, by Hobbes and Rousseau that society is a kind of organism. In so doing, Comte effectively linked sociology with the prestige of biological science. For functional theory, then, society is like a biological organism that grows, and as a consequence, its parts can be examined with respect to how they operate (or function) to maintain the viability of the body social as it grows and develops. Functionalist analyses therefore, examine the social significance of phenomena, that is, the purpose they serve a particular society in maintaining the whole (Jarvie 1973). As Comte emphasized (1851–1854, p. 239), there is a ‘‘true correspondence between Statistical Analysis of the Social Organism in Sociology, and that of the Individual Organism in Biology’’ (1851–1854, p. 239). Moreover, Comte went so far as to ‘‘decompose structure anatomically into elements, tissues, and organs’’ (1851– 1854, p. 240) and to ‘‘treat the Social Organism as definitely composed of the Families which are the true elements or cells, next the Classes or Castes which are its proper tissues, and lastly, of the cities and Communes which are its real organs’’ (pp. 211–212). Yet, since these analogies were not systematically pursued by Comte, his main contribution was to give sociology its name and to reintroduce organismic reasoning into the new science of society.
Spencer used the organismic analogy to create an explicit form of functional analysis. Drawing upon materials from his monumental The Principles of Biology (1864–1867), Spencer’s The Principles of Sociology (1874–1896) is filled with analogies between organisms and society as well as between ecological processes (variation, competition, and selection) and societal evolution (which he saw as driven by war). Spencer did not see society as an actual organism; rather, he conceptualized ‘‘superorganic systems’’ (organization of organisms) as revealing certain similarities in their ‘‘principles of arrangement’’ to biological organisms (1874–1896, part 2, pp. 451–462). In so doing, he introduced the notion of ‘‘functional requisites’’ or ‘‘needs,’’ thereby creating functionalism. For Spencer, there were three basic requisites of superorganic systems: (1) the need to secure and circulate resources, (2) the need to produce usable substances, and (3) the need to regulate, control, and administer system activities (1874–1896, part 2, p. 477). Thus, any pattern of social organization reveals these three classes of functional requisites, and the goal of sociological analysis is to see how these needs are met in empirical social systems.
Later functionalists produced somewhat different lists of requisites. Émile Durkheim argued that sociological explanations ‘‘must seek separately the efficient cause [of a phenomenon]—and the function it fulfills’’ (1895, p. 96), but, in contrast to Spencer, he posited only one functional requisite: the need for social integration. For Durkheim, then, sociological analysis would involve assessment of the causes of phenomena and their consequences or functions for meeting the needs of social structures for integration.
The initial split between functionalists and structural functionalists began with two pioneering sociologist philosophers, viz. Herbert Spencer who adopted what is later termed as functionalism, and a second version by Emile Durkheim, later termed as structural functionalism. Two versions of functionalism developed between 1910 and 1930: biocultural (or psychological) functionalism, the approach advocated by Malinowski, and structural- functionalism, the approach advanced by Radcliffe-Brown. With Radcliffe-Brown, Malinowski pushed for a paradigm shift in British anthropology, a change from the speculative, historical to the ahistorical study of social institutions. This theoretical shift gave rise to functionalism and established fieldwork as the constitutive experience of social anthropology (Kuper 1973, Young 1991).
A functional explanation accounts for the existence of a phenomena or carrying out of an action in terms of its consequences – its contribution to maintaining a stable social whole.
Polish, intellectual, aristocratic family#Doctorate in math & physics 1908, age 24#Inspired by Frazer's Golden Bough#1910 London School of Economics#Ph.D. with C.G. Seligman (Torres Straits expedition)#1913, The Family Among Australian Aborigines#Age 30, 2 doctorates, a book--no fieldwork#1915 - 1918 Trobriand Islands.
Malinowski suggested that individuals have physiological needs and that social institutions develop to meet these needs. There are also culturally derived needs and four basic "instrumental needs" (economics, social control, education, and political organization), that require institutional devices. Each institution has personnel, a charter, a set of norms or rules, activities, material apparatus (technology), and a function. Malinowski believed that uniform psychological responses are correlates of physiological needs. He argued that satisfaction of these needs transformed the cultural instrumental activity into an acquired drive through psychological reinforcement (Goldschmidt 1996:510; Voget 1996:573).
Malinowski's functionalism is best discussed in relation to the Trobriand ethnography with the aid of which it was developed. One theme here was the distinction between magic, religion, and science, which Malinowski broadly took over from Frazer (1890). In this view, science was empirical, rational knowledge, while magic was reasoning from false premises, though both had instrumental purpose. Malinowski detected both in Trobriand society, a derogation from Frazer's placing of them at opposite ends of a simple evolutionary sequence that linked but did not unify different societal types. This is connected with Malinowski's further observation that while some rituals, such as healing, were means to an end, others, such as the festival of Milamala (when ancestral spirits return briefly from Tuma, the next world), were not. Further, the Trobrianders could give a clear reason for the former, but could only refer the latter to "custom." This also appears to be the distinction between magic and religion for Malinowski, though he also grouped them together as being miraculous, mythological, and linked with emotional stress. However, this was no picture of the Trobrianders being sunk in fear and awe for most of their lives. On the contrary, Malinowski regarded them as essentially practical and rational: it was only when reason, the empirical and scientific, could no longer provide an explanation that magic and religion was resorted to. Thus a Trobriander knew how to build a canoe technologically, but to cope with the emotional stress of going on a sea voyage into the unknown he needed magic and ritual. Similarly, inshore fishing was a purely technical matter of no great consequence, but open-sea fishing required magic. Religion, on the other hand, was essentially a response to the fear of annihilation through death (cf. Milamala above), while myth was important in providing a charter for present social norms and action, especially as regards the points of tension in society (e.g., the fact that the matrilineal rule of descent in Trobriand society meant that a man had to support his sister's children as much as his own).
Malinowski produced a similar psychological theory of needs in his treatment of kinship. Following Edward Westermarck (1891), one of his teachers at the LSE, he postulated the universal existence and primacy of the monogamous nuclear family, seeing it as the location of the satisfaction of human needs, such as food, shelter, and companionship. Further, he distinguished it from wider groupings, such as the clan, which he thought was never a domestic institution, a separation later articulated especially strongly by Meyer Fortes. The link between the two was provided by his theory of the "extension of sentiments," namely, that sentiments generated within the family were extended to more distant relationships within the clan. This theory reappears in respect of how terms for relatives are learned in infancy: the child learns to identify his relatives by starting from the nearest and proceeding to more remotely related ones, by an analogous process of extension from the nuclear family outwards here, of knowledge as much as sentiment. Generally, however, Malinowski was derisive of what he called "kinship algebra"; this was part of his reaction to Rivers's approach to kinship, which he felt was unduly reliant on the analysis of kinship terminologies as well as of clan systems. Instead, he postulated that kinship extensions were essentially metaphors, the real meaning being the primary one. The extensionist view was to bear fruit in the later American school of semantic analysis, led by Harold Scheffler and Floyd Lounsbury (1971).
SYNOPTIC SURVEY OF BIOLOGICAL AND DERIVED NEEDS AND THEIR SATISFACTION IN CULTURE
Basic Needs (Individual)
Direct Responses (Organized, i.e., Collective)
Responses to Instrumental Needs
Symbolic and Integrative Needs
Systems of Thought and Faith
Renewal of cultural apparatus
Transmission of experience by means of precise, consistent principles
Marriage and family
Domicile and dress
Characters of behavior and their sanctions
Protection and defense
Means of intellectual, emotional, and pragmatic control of destiny and chance
Systems of play and repose
Renewal of personnel
Set activities and systems of communication
Training and Apprenticeship
Organization of force and compulsion
Communal rhythm of recreation, exercise and rest
(SOURCE: Malinowski’s Basic Human Needs as presented in Langness 1987:80)
Malinowski's main work consists of his Trobriand ethnography, published piecemeal as a series of separate studies, each treating a different theme. The first, Argonauts of the western Pacific (1922), dealt with exchange through the Kula cycle and considerably influenced Marcel MAUSS (1954) (see SOCIAL EXCHANGE). The sexual life of savages (1929) contains his views on the family, kinship, and marriage (see also Malinowski 1930), and Coral gardens and their magic (1935) treats of the relationship between technique and ritual in Trobriand gardening. Also important is the self-explanatory collection Magic, science and religion (1948). The early The family among the Australian Aborigines (1913) is an application of Westermarck's theories of the FAMILY to published sources on
, whereas the posthumously published collection A scientific theory of culture (1944) is more explicitly theoretical. Mention should also be made of Malinowski's personal diaries (1967) from the years he was in the field, which were published posthumously by his second wife without his authority. They give considerable insight into his state of mind in this period and are frequently shocking because of his unsympathetic attitude toward the people with whom he was living, which is quite at variance with his published writings. Australia
Structural functionalism is one type of consensus theory it posits that society is based on mutual agreements. It sees the creation and maintenance of shared values and norms as crucial to society, and views social change as a slow, orderly process. Examples of prominent consensus theorists include Auguste Comte, Émile Durkheim, Radcliffe-Brown, Talcott Parsons, and Robert Merton. These theories stand in contrast to conflict theories, such as those of Karl Marx, that view the world as based on a system of oppressive hierarchies, social order at the whim of dominant groups, and social change as rapid and disorderly resulting from struggles between groups.
Although he had published The Structure of Social Action in 1937, it was not until The Social System (1951) and Towards a General Theory of Action (1951) were completed that Talcott Parsons (1902–1979) emerged as the most inﬂuential contributor to structural functionalism. There are important differences in Parsons’s major writings, but constant throughout his career was the ambition to formulate a systematic general theory that he described as “… a conceptual scheme for the analysis of social systems in terms of the action frame of reference” (Parsons 1951: 3). For Parsons, the fundamental starting point for constructing any scientiﬁ c theory is to establish an abstract frame of reference. In the scientiﬁ c study of social action, the empirical basis for the frame of reference is a group of interacting individuals (social actors). Social actors have particular goals that they wish to achieve, and to realize those goals they must take advantage of opportunities (means) that are available under a particular set of conditions (situations). Parsons was clear that none of these elements can be reduced to the others, and he sought to formulate an action frame of reference for the study of social action that was capable of accounting for the individual and situational factors motivating people to act in the ways that they do.
He answered this question from the viewpoint of structural functionalism and outlined what he believed are its major tenets:
(1) Systems are ordered and their parts are all interdependent.
(2) systems tend toward a goal of equilibrium or self-maintenance;
(3) systems may be either inert or change in an ordered manner;
(4) each part of the system has an effect on the forms the other parts can take;
(5) systems create and maintain boundaries separating them from their environments;
(6) allocation and integration are necessary for a system to reach a certain state of equilibrium; and
(7) systems will tend toward self-maintenance by maintaining their boundaries, the interdependent relationship among parts, and the relationship between parts and the whole; by controlling variations in the environment; and by controlling tendencies of the system to change from within.
In addition to structures, Parsons was also concerned with functions. Parsons saw functions as those activities that had the goal of fulfilling a need of the system. He believed that there were four necessary functional imperatives of all systems: [A] adaptation (how a system copes with its outside environment by both adapting to it and by adapting the environment to meet the needs of the system), [G] goal attainment (the definition and achievement of the primary goals of the system), [I] integration (how the system regulates the relationship of its various parts as well as the relationship among the other three functional imperatives), and [L] latency, or pattern maintenance (how the system provides, maintains, and rejuvenates the motivation of individuals and the cultural patterns that stimulate and maintain that motivation). These functional imperatives are known as Parsons’s AGIL scheme.
Functions become integrated with systems in Parsons’s theory as each component of the AGIL scheme is handled by a different system. Most generally, adaptation is handled by the behavioral organism that adjusts to and transforms the outside world. Goal attainment is handled by the personality system that defines the goals of the system and mobilizes he necessary resources to reach outlined goals. Integration is done by the social system that controls the various components of the system. Latency is performed by the cultural system that provides individuals with norms and values to motivate them to action.
Merton (1910–2003) became one of Parsons’s most influential collaborators in the structural functionalist orientation, but he also emerged as one of Parsons’s most important critics. Merton believes that Parsons’s emphasis on developing comprehensive theoretical systems did not facilitate the process of actually doing sociological research. In contrast to the abstraction and deduction that Parsons promotes, Merton argues that sociologists should work on testable and researchable hypotheses in specific situations. He also argues that sociologists should gradually develop theories from empirical evidence. What is lacking in functional analysis, insists Merton, is an integration of theory and research, a problem confounded by the failure in sociological discourse to distinguish progressively between “the history of theory” and “the systematics of theory.”
Merton defined functions as those consequences that lead to the adjustment or adaptation of a system. In addition, he argued that not all functions had positive consequences and that some, in fact, were better described as dysfunctions. In addition, nonfunctions are those consequences that have no effect at all on the system. The development of dysfunctions and nonfunctions to complement the existing theory of functions led Merton to develop the idea of a net balance. A net balance is an understanding of the relative weight of functions and dysfunctions in a given system. It is more of a theoretical orientation then an empirical tool because the magnitude and evaluation of what constitutes functions and dysfunctions are highly subjective. The issue of how to study a net balance led Merton to the idea of levels of functional analysis. He argued that society did not have to be studied as a whole but those organizations, groups, and other subcomponents of society were also valid as research topics. Merton, in fact, was a proponent of “middle-range” theories. Thus, what is the net balance of those functions, and dysfunctions, at one level may well be different at another level.
Another valuable contribution of Merton to the field of structural functionalism was the idea of manifest and latent functions. Manifest functions are those that are intended, whereas latent functions are those that are unintended yet still functional for the system. Closely related to the idea of latent functions is that of unanticipated consequences, although this term encompasses not only those unintended consequences that are functional for the system but also those that are dysfunctional and nonfunctional as well. In sum Latent functions are those objective consequences of a cultural item which are neither intended nor recognized by the members of a society. Manifest functions are those objective consequences contributing to the adjustment or adaptation of the system which are intended and recognized by participants in the system (Kaplan and Manners 1972:58).
In1945, they wrote what is perhaps the best-known piece of structural functional literature on the topic of social stratification. They argued that a system of stratification is not only functional but also necessary for societies to persist and remain healthy. This idea led them to argue that a classless society had never existed because the need for a system of stratification had always created such a system. They did not, however, believe that the creation of such a stratified system was always a conscious undertaking on the part of society but, rather, that it could be, and often was, an “unconsciously evolved device.”
Following their structural functional orientation, Davis and Moore saw stratification in society not in terms of people but in terms of positions. This meant that they were primarily interested in how certain positions came to be ranked higher or lower than other positions, not in how certain individuals came to fill those ranked positions. They did believe, however, that one of the biggest problems faced by society was how to get the right people to fill the right positions and then, more important, how to keep them there. Their argument was that some positions in society are more pleasant to occupy, some are more crucial for the health and continuity of the society as a whole, and different types of positions require different types of knowledge and skills. Those positions that are generally attributed with a higher social ranking (e.g., politicians, bankers, lawyers) are not as pleasant to occupy, are more important to the overall health of society, and require the highest level of skill and education. Consequently, it is these positions that must also carry the highest level of social prestige, monetary compensation, and available leisure time.
Born 1881 # Educated at Cambridge #Fieldwork 1906 - 1908, Andaman Islands#Influenced by Durkheim--rewrote his thesis#Published The Andaman Islanders in 1922#1910 - 1912 Western Australia#1916 - 1919 Tonga, then South Africa and Australia#University of Chicago, 1931.
Radcliffe-Brown focused attention on social structure. He suggested that a society is a system of relationships maintaining itself through cybernetic feedback, while institutions are orderly sets of relationships whose function is to maintain the society as a system. Radcliffe-Brown, following Auguste Comte, believed that the social constituted a separate "level" of reality distinct from those of biological forms and inorganic matter. Furthermore, he believed that explanations of social phenomena had to be constructed within the social level. He believed that individuals were replaceable, transient occupants of social roles. Unlike Malinowski's emphasis on individuals, Radcliffe-Brown considered individuals irrelevant (Goldschmidt 1996:510).
Drawing influence from Durkheim sets his goal of investigation as Compare social structure cross-culturally. He investigated what principles account for different structures which in turn Leads to function which is to investigate How do structures maintain society? For him Function is the role of structure in social continuity. He stated that Social system (society) has a functional unity: All parts work together well enough to maintain society. As the traditional societies studied by early anthropologists were generally without a written history, anthropologists were confronted with the problem of explaining the existence of activities and structures in these societies. The explanatory problem became particularly acute in the post–World War I period with the demise of evolutionism and diffusionism as deciphering tools (Turner and Maryanski 1979). Functional analysis provided a novel alternative: Analyze structures such as kinship or activities such as rituals in terms of their functions for maintaining the society. It was A. R. Radcliffe-Brown ( 1922, 1924, 1935, 1952) who sustained the Durkheimian tradition by emphasizing the importance of integrative needs and then analyzing how structures—most notably kinship systems—operate to meet such integrative requisites.
structural functionalism has also been critiqued by many in the field. A number of the more noteworthy critiques include (1) that it is ahistorical (it did in fact develop in reaction to the historical evolutionary approach of many anthropologists at that time); (2) it is unable to deal with contemporary processes of social change; (3) it cannot adequately deal with conflict (it is generally viewed as a consensus theory and hence in contradiction to conflict theory); (4) it has a conservative bias that maintains the status quo and the dominating power of the elite class; (5) it is generally too abstract, vague, and ambiguous to bear much relationship to the real world; (6) the theories are too grand and ambitious when more historically and situation relevant theories might be more appropriate; (7) there are inadequate methods to research the questions of interest; and (8) comparative analysis is virtually impossible.
Turner and Maryanski (1979) also saw the problems of teleology and tautology plaguing structural functionalism. More specifically, they saw illegitimate teleology as a problem. It is legitimate to assume that society has certain goals and that it brings certain structures and functions into creation to achieve these goals. What many structural functionalists do, however, that is illegitimate is to assume that the current structures and functions in society are the only ones that could have been created to achieve these goals. In addition, tautology is a problem because both the whole and its parts are defined in terms of the other. The whole is defined in terms of its parts and the various parts are then defined in terms of the whole. Hence, neither is truly defined at all.
ü Alexander, Jeffrey C., ed. 1985. Neofunctionalism.
: Sage. Beverly Hills, CA
ü Bourgatta, E.F. and
, R.J.V. (Eds.) (2000). Encyclopedia of sociology. (Vol – 2) Montgomery : McMillion New York
ü Camic, Charles. 1992. “Reputation and Predecessor Selection: Parsons and the Institutionalists.” American Journal of Sociology 57: 421–445.
ü Davis, Kingsley. 1959. “The Myth of Functional Analysis as a Special Method in Sociology and Anthropology.” American Sociological Review 24: 757–772.
ü Kroeber, Alfred L., and Talcoo Parsons. 1958. “The Concept of Culture and of Social System.” American Sociological Review 23: 582–583.
ü Ritzer, G. (Ed.). Encyclopaedia of social theory, vol – 2.
: Sage. Thousand Oaks
ü http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/functionalism/#WhaFun (Stanford encyclopaedia of philosophy)
ü http://www.as.ua.edu/ant/cultures/cultures.php?culture=Functionalism (Murphy’s collection of anthropological materials)
ü www.soci.canterbury.ac.nz/resources/biograph/parsons.shtml (Talcott persons biography)
ü www.2fmg.uva.nl/sociosite/topics/sociologists.html (Famous sociologists)
ü www.faculty.rsu.edu~felwell/Theorists/Merton (Merton’s functional analaysis)
ü www.bolender.com/Sociological%20Theory/Parsons,%20Talcoo/parsons,_talcoo.htm (all about parsons)
Phenomenology and Edmund Husserl
Brief views: 2
A simplified understanding of phenomenology: 2
Phenomenology of Edmund Husserl 4
Husserl’s central concern – consciousness. 4
Husserlian phenomenological method: 4
Presuppositionless starting point: 4
Getting towards Intuition – the pure form of knowledge. 5
The suspension of natural attitude: 5
Rethink the lifeworld: 6
Unearth the structure of intentionality: understanding the consciousness. 6
Principal concepts: 7
Life world: 7
Natural attitude: 7
Though there are a number of themes which characterise phenomenology, in general it never developed a set of dogmas or sedimented into a system. It claims, first and foremost, to be a radical way of doing philosophy, a practice rather than a system. Phenomenology is best understood as a radical, anti-traditional style of philosophising, which emphasises the attempt to get to the truth of matters, to describe phenomena, in the broadest sense as whatever appears in the manner, in which it appears, that is as it manifests itself to consciousness, to the experiencer. As such, phenomenology’s first step is to seek to avoid all misconstructions and impositions placed on experience in advance, whether these are drawn from religious or cultural traditions, from everyday common sense, or, indeed, from science itself. Explanations are not to be imposed before the phenomena have been understood from within.
Most of the founding figures of phenomenology emphasised the need for a renewal of philosophy as radical enquiry not bound to any historical tradition; and they advocated a rejection of all dogmatisms, a suspicion of a priori metaphysical premises and earlier accounts of the nature of knowledge, especially as found in Neo-Hegelianism and in positivism, and a steady directing of attention to the things themselves. Phenomenology was seen as reviving our living contact with reality, and as being remote from the arid and academic discussion of philosophical problems found in nineteenth-century philosophy, for example in the Neo-Kantian tradition.
Ø Husser’s Logical investigations – a fresh start of traditional logical problems
Ø Heidegger’s students of the 1920s claimed the experience of thinking came to life in their classes, as both Arendt and Gadamer have confirmed.
Ø This call to renew philosophy went hand in hand with an appeal to return to concrete, lived human experience in all its richness.
Ø In the 1930s, both Sartre and Merleau-Ponty saw phenomenology as a means of going beyond narrow empiricist, psychological assumptions about human existence, broadening the scope of philosophy to be about everything, to capture life as it is lived.
Ø Sartre sees phenomenology as allowing one to delineate carefully one’s own affective, emotional, and imaginative life, not in a set of static objective studies such as one finds in psychology, but understood in the manner in which it is meaningfully lived.
Ø Emmanuel Levinas’s phenomenology is closely attentive to the way in which other human beings inhabit the horizons of my experience and present themselves as a demand to me, a call on me to get outside the sphere of my own self-satisfaction, my own preoccupations.
A simplified understanding of phenomenology:
Husserl envisaged phenomenology as the descriptive, non-reductive science of whatever appears, in the manner of its appearing, in the subjective and intersubjective life of consciousness. He was fascinated by what he regarded as the 'mystery of mysteries': namely, the life of consciousness (Bewusstseinsleben), with its unique, inner temporal flow and its ability to gain objective knowledge of what transcends it. Phenomenology is therefore, the study of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view.
By etymology, phenomenology is the study of phenomena, in the root meaning of appearances; or, better, the ways things appear to us in our experience, the ways we experience things in the world around us. We practice phenomenology (with or without the name) whenever we pause in reflection and ask, “What do I see?,” “How do I feel?,” “What am I thinking?,” “What do I intend to do?,” answering in the first person, specifying the way I experience what I see, feel, think, and so on. We produce a phenomenological description of an experience as we declare, attending to our own experience, “I see that fishing boat in the fog,” “I feel angry about what was just said,” “I think that Husserl read Hume,” “I intend to sweep the patio tomorrow.” Phenomenology thus characterizes a given form of consciousness from the person’s own subjective, first-person perspective. By contrast, neuroscience studies how consciousness is produced in a person’s brain, characterizing his neural-mental state from an objective, third-person perspective. Thus, where a brain scan (an MRI image) shows which parts of the brain are most active (burning glucose), a phenomenological description characterizes what the person is experiencing (“I see a fishing boat” or “I feel a pain in my left foot”).
We practice phenomenology, most basically, when we give first-person descriptions of various types of conscious experience. Here are some elementary forms of such descriptions:
I see that fishing boat on the edge of the fog bank rolling in on the Pacific.
I hear that helicopter whirling overhead.
I think that the whales are migrating south along the coast.
I desire a warm cup of green tea.
I feel exhilarated at the sound of the aria I hear being sung in the opera.
I recall the look on her face – I can see it right now (in vivid memory).
I imagine driving into the traffic at the Etoile roundabout in Paris.
I intend to make that phone call in just a minute.
I am walking briskly up the stairs to get to the noon meeting.
I am hitting a spin serve to his backhand, springing upward with my legs.
Such characterizations of experiences we may call phenomenological descriptions. Each characterizes a particular act of consciousness from the subject’s point of view. If carefully crafted, as the subject attends to his or her own experience, the description captures the essence of that type of experience.
In practice, phenomenologists develop much more elaborate accounts of experience, analyzing complex structures of consciousness and interpreting their roles and significance in our experience. However, it is important to recognize the basic domain of study that is indicated by such simple descriptions of experience. Here our understanding of mind begins, and it is only by abstracting from such elementary phenomenological descriptions that we begin to develop the science of phenomenology as Husserl advocated it.
Phenomenology of Edmund Husserl
Husserl is considered by many as the founder of phenomenological movement. He was born is Prossnitz – then part of the Austro Hungarian Empire, now under Czech republic, on 8th April, 1859. His university education was done in Leipzig. His primary interest was is astronomy, mathematics, physics and philosophy.
Husserl’s central concern – consciousness
Consciousness is the basis of all experience and its mode of appearing seemed to be inextricably linked to the nature of time itself. Indeed, no experience would be possible without time consciousness; it enters into every experience. Somehow, out of this living flux of consciousness come the ‘achievements’ of ideal, timeless meanings, the graspings of transcendent objects and truths. For Husserl, objectivity was always a particular ‘achievement of consciousness’ and he was fascinated by the miracle of this process. Furthermore, consciousness was always particularised as someone’s consciousness and so the process of investigating this ‘originary sphere’ of meaning-origination must begin with oneself, with the rigorous self-examination which Husserl characterised as the standpoint of “transcendental solipsism” in the Cartesian Meditations.
Husserl’s central insight was that consciousness was the condition of all experience, indeed it constituted the world, but in such a way that the role of consciousness itself is obscured and not easy to isolate and describe. Husserl therefore constantly sought to explain how to overcome prejudices which stood in the way of the recognition of the domain of pure consciousness, leading to a new beginning in philosophy.
Husserlian phenomenological method:
in his mature years, Husserl thought phenomenological practice required a radical shift in viewpoint, a suspension or bracketing of the everyday natural attitude and all ‘world positing’ intentional acts which assumed the existence of the world, until the practitioner is led back into the domain of pure transcendental subjectivity. Without this leading back, this reduction, genuine phenomenological insight would be impossible in Husserl’s eyes; at best it would be no more than a naturalistic psychology of consciousness, which treated consciousness as just “a little tag-end of the world”.
Presuppositionless starting point:
Right from the outset, Husserl laid great stress on phenomenology’s principle of presuppositionlessness (Husserl, 1975). That is, the claim to have discarded philosophical
theorising in favour of careful description of phenomena themselves, to be attentive only to what is given in intuition. Phenomenology, at this stage, is a kind of conceptual clarification which is to form part of a wider ‘critique of reason’. But the key feature of this conceptual analysis was not that it engaged in an examination of the role of concepts in a language, but rather that it relied on the self-evident givenness of insights in intuition. The clarion cry of phenomenology, “back to the things themselves” (Husserl, 1975: 252) first announced in Husserl’s Logical Investigations, summed up this dependence on intuition. Indeed, this emphasis on the importance of ‘intuition’ in philosophy was, of course, in line with the mood of the times.
Getting towards Intuition – the pure form of knowledge
Husserl’s understanding of phenomenology grew out of his attempt to understand the nature of mathematical and logical truths, and from his more general concern with a critique of reason whereby all the key concepts required for knowledge would be rigorously scrutinised as to their essential meanings, their validity, and justification. Intuitions are the highest stage of knowledge and as such are hardwon insights, akin to mathematical discoveries. When I see that ‘2+2=4’, I have as clear an intuition as I can have. Husserl thought, however, that similar intuitive fulfilments occurred in many types of experience, and were not just restricted to the truths of mathematics. When I see a blackbird in the tree outside my window under normal conditions, I also have an intuition which is fulfilled by the certainty of the bodily presence of the blackbird presenting itself to me. There are a wide variety of different kinds of intuitive experience. Husserl was led by reflection on these kinds of experience to attempt to develop a classification of all conscious experiences, with an eye to considering their essential natures and the kinds of intuitive fulfilment which were proper to them.
In his mature works, Husserl called these intuitions ‘originary giving’ or ‘presentive’ intuitions. Thus, even after his transcendental turn, first publicly announced in Ideas I (1913), Husserl retained the primacy of intuition. In Ideas I, he announces his principle of all principles:
…that every originary presentive intuition is a legitimizing sourceof cognition, that everything originarily (so to speak in its “personal” actuality) offered to us in “intuition” is to be accepted simply as what it is presented as being, but also only within the limits in which it is presented there.
The suspension of natural attitude:
In works written subsequent to the Logical Investigations, Husserl came to believe that the scrutiny of the structure and contents of our conscious experiences was inhibited and deeply distorted by the manner of our engagement with experience in ordinary life, where our practical concerns, folk assumptions, and smattering of scientific knowledge all got in the way of a pure consideration of experience as it is given to us. In order to ensure against theoretical stances creeping back in to the phenomenological viewing of the phenomena, Husserl proposed a number of steps, most notably the phenomenological epoché, or suspension of the natural attitude, as well as a number of methodological reductions and alterations of viewpoint (including the so-called ‘eidetic’ and ‘transcendental reductions’), in order to isolate the central essential features of the phenomena under investigation. This bracketing meant that all scientific, philosophical, cultural, and everyday assumptions had to be put aside—not so much to be negated as to be put out of court (in a manner not dissimilar to that of a member of the jury who is asked to suspend judgements and the normal kinds of association and drawing of inferences in order to focus exclusively on the evidence that has been presented to the court). Thus, in considering the nature of our conscious acts, we should not simply assume that the mind is some kind of a container that memories are like picture images, and so on. Nor should we assume any scientific or philosophical hypothesis, for example that conscious events are just brain events. Indeed, in genuine phenomenological viewing, we are not permitted any scientific or philosophical hypotheses. We should attend only to the phenomena in the manner of their being given to us, in their modes of givenness.
Rethink the lifeworld:
Focusing on what is given intuitively in experience led Husserl, in his late writings such as Experience and Judgment (1938),20 to focus on what he termed “prepredicative experience” (die vorprädikative Erfahrung), experience before it has been formulated in judgements and expressed in outward linguistic form, before it becomes packaged for explicit consciousness. As Husserl put it, all cognitive activity presupposes a domain that is passively pregiven, the existent world as I find it. Returning to examine this pregiven world is a return to the life-world (Lebenswelt), “the world in which we are always already living and which furnishes the ground for all cognitive performance and all scientific determination” (Husserl 1938: 38). Husserl claims that the world of our ordinary experience is a world of formed objects obeying universal laws as discovered by science, but the foundational experiences which give us such a world is rather different: “This experience in its immediacy knows neither exact space nor objective time and causality” (Husserl, 1938 p. 41). Returning to the life-world is to return to experience before such objectifications and idealisations (Husserl, 1938, p. 44).
In attempting to rethink the life-world, one has to understand the impact of the scientific world-view on our consciousness. Phenomenology has to interrogate the supposedly objective view of the sciences, what has been termed the ‘God’s eye’ perspective, or the ‘view from nowhere’. Husserlian phenomenology did not dispute the possibility of our gaining a ‘view from nowhere’, understood as the aperspectival, theoretical, ‘objective’ understanding of things.
Unearth the structure of intentionality: understanding the consciousness
The basic insight which allowed Husserl to explicate this conception of objectivity-for-subjectivity was his radical understanding of the intentional structure of consciousness. sserl took this basic structure of intentionality and, having stripped it of its metaphysical baggage, presented it as the basic thesis that all conscious experiences (Erlebnisse) are characterised by ‘aboutness’. Every act of loving is a loving of something, every act of seeing is a seeing of something. The point, for Husserl, is that, disregarding whether or not the object of the act exists, it has meaning and a mode of being for consciousness, it is a meaningful correlate of the conscious act. This allowed Husserl to explore a whole new domain—the domain of the meaning-correlates of conscious acts and their interconnections and binding laws—before one had to face ontological questions concerning actual existence, and so on. Phenomenology was to be true first philosophy. While it is true, then, that phenomenology turns to consciousness, it is proposing above all to be a science of consciousness based on elucidating the intentional structures of acts and their correlative objects, what Husserl called the noetic-noematic structure of consciousness.
Of all the basic ideas that phenomenology developed, perhaps none is better known or widely appropriated across a number of disciplines than the concept of lifeworld. Most general sense of the word, lifeworld is itself derived from the problamitcs of a prior notion, that of the world. In fact Husserl had developed the notion of world in a transcendental register before he enriched it with his notion of the lifeworld. The life-world is a world as phenomenon, as correlative of our intentional experiences. Especially in his researches around Ideas II, Husserl gradually began to see the life-world as a layer to be inserted between the world of nature and the world of culture (or spirit). The life-world is the world of pre-theoretical experience which is also that which allows us to interact with nature and to develop our own cultural forms. Though, in the Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty presented the life-world as a turning in Husserl’s thought away from transcendental idealism, it is more accurate to view the layer of life-world as one more constituted layer of meaning uncovered by Husserlian reduction and itself constituted by the anonymous transcendental ego.
In his mature work, from 1905 onwards, Husserl distinguished between the 'philosophical' or 'transcendental' attitude and the 'natural attitude' (Husserl 1983: 17), according to which we accept the world and its forms of givenness as simply there, 'on hand' for us. The philosophical attitude arises when we recognize the natural attitude as one of naive. Borrowing from the Greek sceptics, Husserl terms this disruption or break with the natural attitude, epoche (literally 'check' or 'suspension', but used by ancient Greek philosophers to mean 'suspension of judgement'). He characterizes it as a 'certain refraining from judgement',12 an 'abstention' (Enthaltung), 'bracketing' (Einklammerung) or 'putting out of play7 (ausser Spiel zu setzen). According to this epoche, the objects and contents of our experience are now treated simply as phenomena: 'Thus to every psychological experience there corresponds, by way of the phenomenological reduction, a pure phenomenon that exhibits its immanent essence (taken individually) as an absolute givenness' (Husserl, 1983: 45).
 Bergson defines intuition in his Introduction to Metaphysics (1913) as “By intuition is meant the kind of intellectual sympathy by which one places oneself within the object in order to coincide with that which is unique in it and consequently inexpressible.”
Table of content:________________________________________________
Heidegger’s Being and time: 2
Heidegger’s rejection of traditional methods for the study of being: 2
Heidegger’s approach to study of being: 3
Journey to being: 3
The dimension of time: 4
Heidegger’s method: 4
A beginning with Husserl: 5
Against theoretical intuition: 5
Idea of Dasein: 5
Dasein in context: rediness to hand (Zuhandenheit) and presence at hand (Vorhandenheit). 6
Linguistic expression: 6
Phenomenology and hermeneutics – Heideggerian fusion. 7
Further reading: 7
Is is one of the most commonplace words in English language. It sleeps into sentences almost unnoticed. It is difficult to think, write or speak without it. But few people asks –
WHAT IS IS?
This negligence results in not just the neglect of a word but of every resonance that the word might have. Heidegger was an original phenomenologist of the highest rank, who attempted, in his own unique way, to carry out Husserl’s project of getting back to the ‘things themselves’. He spent ten years actively engaging with Husserl’s philosophy before his own Being and Time appeared, which at once claimed phenomenology to be much older than Husserl, as an essentially Greek way of thinking, and also, at the same time, pushed phenomenology beyond Husserl, in that it replaced the study of the intentional structures of consciousness with the more fundamental study of the relation between Dasein and Being itself.
Heidegger’s Being and time:
Heidegger’s main question begins with questioning “IS” or being. What is is? Is is a part of verb to be, the verb of being. That was Heidegger’s central occupation. He argued that Western thought has forgotten the question of being, not just recently but for more than 2500 years. Therefore, he returns to the question “how could being be understood?”
Being and time branches out the question of being in to two distinct tasks:
Part One: the Interpretation of Dasein in terms of temporality, and the explication of time as the transcendental horizon for the question of being.
Part Two: basic features of a phenomenological destruction of the history of ontology, with the problematic of Temporality as our clue.
Heidegger was of the view that a philosopher has only a single deep thought, which he or she constantly struggles to express. In his own case, his whole life’s work was a single-minded attempt to reexamine the question of Being, Thus, in Being and Time (1927) Heidegger announces that he proposes to investigate “the question of Being” that is the “question of the meaning of Being.” Heidegger argues:
If the question of Being is to have its own history made transparent, then this hardened tradition must be loosened up, and the concealments which it has brought about must be dissolved. We understand this task as one in which by taking the question of Being as our clue, we are to destroy the traditional content of ancient ontology until we arrive at those primordial experiences in which we achieved our first ways of determining the nature of Being—the ways which have guided us ever since (Being and time, 1927).
Heidegger’s rejection of traditional methods for the study of being:
Heidegger rejected traditional metaphysical approaches to the question of Being as having misunderstood the nature of beings by understanding them as ‘things’, as what is simply there, as occurrent, as ‘reality’, as present at hand. Traditional metaphysics, which thought it was simply describing things as they are, does not realise that it is constructed on the basis of a certain assumed attitude towards the world, which in fact is not fundamental, but belongs to a distorted way of experiencing due to the way humans are drawn down into everyday existing.
Heidegger’s central insight is that traditional metaphysical understanding is actually a sedimentation of a kind of everyday set of assumptions about reality, and this set of assumptions needs to be shown to be just that, through a deeper exploration of all the ways in which humans relate to the world. In particular the prioritisation of the theoretical, of theoria in the Greek sense, of the contemplative outlook so admired by Husserl, is shown to be a particular effect of tradition and not a fundamental feature of Dasein itself. This leads Heidegger to a radical questioning of the traditional metaphysical definition of human beings as rational animals as well as the traditional scriptural assumptions about human beings being made in the image and likeness of God.
Heidegger’s approach to study of being:
Heidegger argues that human existence must be thought radically in its own terms. There are two sides to this: one is an attempt at an existential analytic of Dasein; the other is an attempt to retrieve the essential meanings of key words expressing existence from beneath the weight of encrusted tradition. To highlight and expose this one-sided partiality of traditional metaphysical accounts (including the medieval Scholastic, the Cartesian, Rationalist, and Kantian approaches), Heidegger favours a new ‘fundamental ontology’, an enquiry into the manner in which the structures of Being are revealed through the structures of human existence, an enquiry, furthermore, which could only be carried out through phenomenology, now transformed into hermeneutical phenomenology, since the phenomena of existence always require interpretation, and hermeneutics is the art of interpretation. Human existence is not an entity which is simply there in the world, accessible from different points of view. Rather human existence is some specific person’s existence; it has the character of ‘specificity’ (Jeweiligkeit) or ‘mineness’ (Jemeinigkeit). So too an interpretation of human existence cannot be neutral, dispassionate, theoretical contemplation, but must take into account the involvement of the enquirer him- or herself in the undertaking.
Human beings are involved with their existence in such a way that hermeneutics must be able to accomplish this movement backwards and forwards between the existence to be examined and the nature of the examining enquirer. Heidegger’s fundamental ontology, in Being and Time, will try to map out the transcendental conditions which made human existence (Dasein) possible, while recognising that humans are individual existing beings whose Being is an issue for them. Heidegger has raised to an ontological level the essential role of humans as questioning beings. It is this fundamental questioning concern with Being which marks out human existence as such. Questioning is prioritised over all other forms of interacting. Understanding what it is to be a questioner reveals the purely human mode of ‘being-in-the-world’ (Inder-Welt-Sein) as a kind of projective caring and involvement in the world.
Journey to being:
Throughout his life, Heidegger restlessly pursued a problem: the term “Being” had meant many different things to those who used it. Out of this was later to arise his first formulation of the being-question: what was the meaning of being? He searched through three major epochs: those of the ancient Greeks, the Medieval Scholastics, and Modern Philosophy. Heidegger worked on all three, reading each in the light of the others.
For Plato, every being had an ideal existence, as a perfect, unchanging form. What we experience as visible, audible, tactile beings are merely imperfect reflections or copies of the ideal beings.
For Aristotle the realm of being would be divided into different types, categories of beings. In the first place being comes either as SUBSTANCES of as ATTRIBUTES. SUBSTANCE is what something is in itself, identifiable and separable from other substances. E.g. Animals and plants, stars and planets
An ATTRIBUTE is some kind of quality or characteristic that substances have. For example a substance may be poisonous, purple in colour, 18cm in length etc. etc. This schema is close to modern, empirically oriented commonsense.
But another statement is possible. THE THING IS… we announce that it exists, that it has its being. And being is neither a substance, nor an attribute. That was Heidegger’s problem.
Aristotle had categorized beings, but offered no satisfactory account of being. Each of the categories marks out a type of being, and how it can be known – but there was no single, unified concept of being as such.
For scholastics it was important HOW the various entities are known: HOW they are thought to exist. For them, Christian theologians’ concept of GOD as something all encompassing and generating all other beings – creating all substances and attributes becomes important. So, God’s being without substance – now became the ground of being, its ultimate origin and its explanation.
The dimension of time:
In Being and Time, Heidegger does not want merely to give an existential analysis of human being. His ultimate aim is to understand the meaning of Being and its relation to time. Heidegger rightly sees that traditional metaphysics and theology had an orientation towards thinking of true Being as timeless, eternal, unchanging. In the metaphysical tradition stemming from Plato and Aristotle, Being has been understood as presence (Anwesenheit, which contains the word ‘Wesen’ which means ‘essence’, the Greek ousia) as that which has some kind of static occurrence. Heidegger, on the other hand, sees human existence as essentially taking place in time, spread out between past and future and radically limited by death and so essentially incomplete. Being must be understood radically in terms of time. Unfortunately, the concepts of time available from the philosophical and scientific tradition are inadequate to the task. Heidegger thus proposes in the second half of Being and Time to run through various fundamental human experiences in terms of their temporal character to try to develop an authentic sense of temporality as a first step towards approaching the problem of time itself and its relation to Being.
Being and Time is a radical attempt to rethink traditional philosophical approaches to human beings, to Being, to time and history, and, of course, to the history of philosophy itself. The book aims to be both an a priori transcendental phenomenological description of the essential structure of human existence, Dasein, and an appreciation of the temporal, cultural, and the dispersed nature of human historicality. Somehow, Heidegger saw all of these problems as capable of being clarified through a phenomenological approach, although, now, an approach which he had to some extent forged by himself. For, by the time of writing Being and Time, he had come to view Husserlian phenomenology as yet another project of idealist philosophy which had got lost from the essential historicity of human nature.
A beginning with Husserl:
Being and Time first appeared to be a radical deviation from Husserl’s phenomenology, but the publication of the drafts of Heidegger’s lecture courses from 1917 to 1927 shows Heidegger working his way through phenomenology, employing a close reading of Husserl’s texts, and situating his own problematic as emerging from them.
For Husserl, phenomenology was the approach to locate “universally-true” consciousness. By phenomenological REDUCTION. First reduction is to Suspend any attention to mere particulars, “bracket” them out… remove from the scene, and what is left will be the essential, universal structures of the mind. For Husserl, the real objects are not objects in consciousness. Second reduction is the argument that objects to appear in our minds some kind of mental activity, or ACT must be performed, that too must be studied. In Reduction three he argues that objects and acts are of many different types – therefore, they come plural. Therefore, if we can bracket out even the objects and acts, the Transcendental Ego is what remains. This is what Husserl called ABSOLUTE BEING.
Clearly, Husserl, equates being with absolute consciousness. Heidegger was skeptical about this abstract, sovereign consciousness. Did it rule unchallenged? Entities might turn up… but did they turn up only for a purified, disembodied Ego?
He therefore, argues that, one can step in an arithmetic world, as long as one adopts the arithmetic standpoint, bu the ordinary, natural world is always there for me. If the ordinary practical world is there, always, it comes first. It has to be there for someone before they can launch into abstract calculations, theorizing about transcendental egos etc. Husserl, having noticed it, kept putting it back in brackets. But Heidegger set off dramatically new path – towards being as it was encountered and mand meaningful, in PRACTICAL EVERYDAY LIFE.
Against theoretical intuition:
In his lectures of the early 1920s Heidegger had criticised Husserl’s account of intuition as not sufficiently recognising that our original understanding is not theoretical, but grounded in our practical engagements (comportment, Verhalten) with the world. Our understanding is interpretative from the very start and that interpretative involvement with things need not be at a level of intellection or cognition, but more usually comes in concernful, practical dealings.
Idea of Dasein:
In Being and Time, Husserl’s notion of intentionality is replaced by a phenomenological account of Dasein’s practical comportments within the world of practical relations with things (Zuhandensein). This leads Heidegger to revise Husserl’s conception of intentionality and finally to drop it altogether in favour of the conception of Dasein’s transcendence. Heidegger promises to show how intentionality is grounded in the ec-static nature of Dasein, that is, the manner in which human existence always runs ahead of itself in expectation and lingers behind in memory.
Dasein… that entity in its being which we know as human life; this entity in the specificity of its being, the entity that we each ourselves are, which each of us finds in the fundamental assertion: I amDasein in context: rediness to hand (Zuhandenheit) and presence at hand (Vorhandenheit)
In Being and Time he first introduces Dasein in terms of his discussion of the formal structure of the question of Being:
Thus, to work out the question of Being adequately, we must make an entity—the inquirer—transparent in his own Being. The very asking of this question is an entity’s mode of Being; and as such it gets its essential character from what is inquired about— namely, Being. This entity which each of us is himself and which includes inquiring as one of the possibilities of its Being, we shall denote by the term “Dasein”.
Dasein is not an entity that stands on its own, like a stone or a chair; it is always caught up in a world. The fundamental nature of Dasein is always to be in a world. World here means a context, an environment, a set of references and assignments within which any meaning is located Human being is ‘Being-in-the-world’. Furthermore, it is not as if Dasein is somehow sitting side by side with the world. Dasein is world-involved, and as Heidegger will later argue, world-disclosing. Being-in-the-world is such a basic state of Being that it is through it that all the other ‘existentialia’ (Dasein’s equivalent of the categories which apply to inanimate things) of Dasein get determined.
Heidegger explicates this conception of Being-in-the-world through an account of our basic contacts with things in the environment. Traditionally, Heidegger feels, philosophy, including even Aristotle, has prioritised the theoretical encounter with things, things as they are to sight.
Sight stands at a distance and seeing does not tamper with the thing seen. Against this traditional metaphysical view, Heidegger emphasises that our initial contact with objects is in terms of their use and availability to us for certain assigned tasks, tasks generated by our interests. We tamper with and manipulate things as determined by our interests and our goals. Things initially present themselves with this kind of available being, what Heidegger calls Zuhandensein, ‘readiness to hand’, or what Hubert Dreyfus renders as ‘availability’.10 Normally we reach for an object to act as a hammer, we see a tree as a source of wood or shelter from the rain, and so on. Heidegger’s descriptions give a certain priority to these kinds of ‘workworlds’ —the work-world of the carpenter, for instance (BT § 26). Only subsequently, and by a separate act of intention—one which is much more theoretical—do we see the tools as things in themselves, as things standing on their own, available for inspection. This theoretical way of viewing things leads to science, to the pure interest in examining things as they are, bracketed from their connections and engagements with our interests. Things seen in this theoretical mode are vorhandene—present at hand, simply there.
According to Heidegger Husserl’s conception of intentionality is not sufficiently tuned in to express our practical engagement with the world. Much more than Husserl, Heidegger is interested in the linguistic dimension of intentionality. Our whole comportment towards things is expressive, and this expression can appear as linguistic assertion (Aussage).
It is not so much that we see the objects and things but rather that we first talk about them. To put it more precisely: we do not say what we see, but rather the reverse, we see what one says about the matter.
Understanding is not just a matter of having a sensory input, conceptualizing it, and reacting to it. The sensory dimension of the experience falls short of what the assertion says about it: I say the chair is yellow but I do not literally see the being-yellow of the chair. ‘Being’, ‘this’, and so on are not in the subjective reflection, but are correlates of the act. Heidegger develops Husserl’s notion of categorial intuition into his account of the experience of being and truth. Heidegger is coming to see that the essential disclosure of things takes place through Dasein’s concernful dealing with things in the environment, that it takes place essentially in expression. Relating to things, disclosing them, always relates to our concerns in advance, our relation is primarily interpretative, or hermeneutical.
Phenomenology and hermeneutics – Heideggerian fusion
Heidegger gives Husserl’s account of practical intentionality an entirely new shape by connecting it with the tradition of hermeneutics. Heidegger later recalled that he had first encountered hermeneutics as a branch of theological interpretation during his Catholic seminary days. By ‘hermeneutics’ Heidegger does not just mean the method specific to the historical and cultural sciences, but the whole manner in which human existence is interpretative. All our experience is interpreting and encountering what has already been interpreted by ourselves and by others.
Heidegger calls this way of approaching things the “existentialhermeneutical as”; it is a kind of approach which gets pushed into the background when we adopt the more neutral view of a thing as an entity with specific properties. All neutral understanding of things, for example scientific understanding, presupposes our existential encounter with things and our original interpretation of them in the light of our concerns and dealings with the world. If this is forgotten, according to Heidegger, we end up with a theory of truth as judgement instead of an experience of truth as revelation. Heidegger then is seeking to replace the traditional view of knowledge as a kind of intellectual representation with a new view which sees knowing as a sub-species of a kind of concernful dealing with the world. In Being and Time Heidegger struggles to develop a new vocabulary to express this kind of relating to the world, using terms like ‘Umsicht’ (circumspection) which suggest a connection with ‘Umwelt’ (environment).
Mortan, D. (2000). Introduction to phenomenology. London: Routledge
Macann, C. (1993). The four phenomenological philosophers: Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau – Ponty. London: Routledge
M.Heidegger, “A Dialogue on Language”, trans. Peter D.Hertz, On the Way toLanguage (New York: Harper and Row, 1971), pp. 9–10.
Dermot Moran, “The Destruction of the Destruction: Heidegger’s Versions of the History of Philosophy”, in K.Harries and C.Jamme, eds, Martin Heidegger. Politics, Art and Technology, op. cit., pp. 175–196.