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  • Mark 2:53 pm on October 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: essays, , ,   

    How to get started on a sociology essay 

    1. Are you clear about what the question is asking? If you’re uncertain about what the terms mean or how they fit together then it’ll be difficult to know how to start writing. Try and clarify issues like these before you start planning the essay.
    2. Try getting everything you think about the topic down on paper before you start working on the essay. Don’t self-censor, just write down everything that comes to mind in relation to the question. Try doing this with pen and paper or with a whiteboard if you have access to one. Afterwards think about how these points fit together & hopefully the structure of the essay will become a little clearer.
    3. If you’re struggling with expressing yourself in writing, find someone else from the module to discuss the question with. If you’re able to discuss the topic then you’re able to write about it, even if talking about it comes more easily than writing. You could even try recording the conversation to play back when you’re planning the essay.
    4. Is there a particular point you want to make? Even if it’s just one small thing, finding an argument you’re committed to making can help give you a route into writing the essay.
    5. Don’t feel you need to write in a linear way from start to finish. If there are particular points you want to make then try writing these as individual fragments. It’s probably easier to start with the aspects of the essay that are clearest to you. If you are able to write a few hundred words each for two or three points that you want to make then you’ll have made a good start on the essay. Try combining the fragments at this stage and then start thinking about the essay as a whole piece of writing.
    6. Writing introductions can be hard! If you’re struggling with this then just move straight on to the main body of the essay and go back to write the introduction once you’ve got a big chunk of the essay written. This makes it easier to know what you’re introducing exactly.
     
  • Mark 1:30 pm on October 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Graham Scambler on an interdisciplinary approach to the ‘structuring of agency’ – November 11th @SocioWarwick 

    In the third Centre for Social Ontology seminar of 2014/15, Graham Scambler (Emeritus Professor of Medical Sociology at UCL) discusses reflexivity and an interdisciplinary approach to the ‘structuring of agency’:

    Margaret Archer’s recent contributions to our understanding of reflexivity in late capitalist society provide useful resources for theorizing across the substantive domains of sociology. Using illustrations from my own work on the sociology health inequalities in general, and my ideal type of the ‘vulnerable fractured reflexive’ in particular, I examine some of the pros and cons of adopting an interdisciplinary approach to the structuring of agency. I conclude with a skeletal research programme involving interdisciplinary collaboration.

    All welcome! The seminar will take place on November 11th, from 5pm to 6:30pm in S0.13 (Social Science Building) on the University of Warwick campus. See here for help getting to the campus. Feel free to contact Mark Carrigan with any questions.

     
  • Mark 7:06 pm on October 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Rom Harré,   

    Rom Harré talking @WarwickBSchool on Positioning Theory (CC @SocioWarwick) 

    I’m rather frustrating that I can’t make this:

    We are pleased to announce a visiting lecture by Professor Rom Harré (Distinguished Research Professor in the Psychology Department of Georgetown University and former director of the Centre for Philosophy of Natural & Social Science at LSE) that may be of interest to members of your group & PhD students.  Full details and registration instructions are attached.

    Professor Harré will be giving a lecture on  Positioning Theory

    Synopsis

    Positioning theory is a recently developed branch of the philosophical arm of social psychology. It is based on the thesis that much of social life is influenced, even controlled, by actors’ beliefs about the patterns of rights and duties that obtain in many real life situations. A position is a cluster of rights and duties, either as understood by the actor or by those around. These may be on a large scale with a formal edge and then position becomes role. On a small scale they are often the result of conversational processes by means of which rights and duties are assigned, rejected, disputed, and claimed and so on. As a simple rule a duty is what one owes (or believes one owes or is forced to acknowledge one owes) to someone else and a right is what one might claim from someone else. The scale may even be intrapersonal and may be as broad as political movements.

    Positioning Theory

    Friday, 28th November 2014

    14:00 – 16:00hrs (2 – 4pm)

    Venue: B0.01 (WBS Scarman Road Building)

    Please book your attendance at the lecture in advance via the WBS Research Office (email research@wbs.ac.uk) as this lecture is likely to be over-subscribed.

     
  • Mark 9:20 am on October 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Centre for Social Ontology seminars (2014/15) @SocioWarwick 

    All welcome! There’s information here about getting to the University of Warwick. Contact socialontology@warwick.ac.uk if you have any questions or want help finding your way to the campus. We’ll be recording the talks subject to the speaker’s permission.

    November 11th: Graham Scambler (University College London)

    S0.13

    ‘Margaret Archer, reflexivity and an interdisciplinary approach to the ‘structuring of agency’

    Margaret Archer’s recent contributions to our understanding of reflexivity in late capitalist society provide useful resources for theorizing across the substantive domains of sociology. Using illustrations from my own work on the sociology health inequalities in general, and my ideal type of the ‘vulnerable fractured reflexive’ in particular, I examine some of the pros and cons of adopting an interdisciplinary approach to the structuring of agency. I conclude with a skeletal research programme involving interdisciplinary collaboration.

    December 9th: Alistair Mutch (Nottingham Trent University) 

    S2.81

    Routines and reflexivity: consequences of developments in organizations for morphogenesis

    Much of the debate occasioned by the development of ideas about reflexivity and morphogenesis has turned on the status of habit. Whilst recognising the importance of this debate, this seminar takes an alternative tack. Returning to Bhaskar’s formulation of ‘position-practices’, it reviews recent work on organizational routines. Developing a position which sees routines as a key emergent property of organizations, recent developments in information technology are seen to cement autonomous reflexivity. Accompanied by an increasing discourse of ‘strategizing’, this might limit the development of meta reflexivity.

    January 27th: Dave Elder-Vass (Loughborough University)

    R1.15

    Prosumption, appropriation and the ontology of economic form

    Prosumption – the unpaid performance of productive work by ‘consumers’ who thus help commercial businesses to generate a profit – is perhaps the most studied of the many hybrid forms of economic practice that have proliferated in the digital economy. A number of critical accounts have analysed prosumption in terms of Marx’s labour theory of value, suggesting for example that as prosumers do useful work for free they are infinitely exploited by the firms that profit as a result. But such accounts analyse the digital economy in terms that were derived from the nineteenth century factory – and terms that were highly questionable even in that context.

    The spectacular mismatch between this model of capitalism and the case of prosumption exposes the inadequacy of the standard monolithic conception of capitalism as a homogeneous and universal contemporary economic form – a conception that at a certain level is also shared by the marketised discourse of mainstream economics. We need a new ontology of economic form that goes beyond the totalising concepts of mode of production and market economy and instead provides us with tools for understanding the sheer diversity of forms of economic practice in the contemporary economy. This paper offers the concept of appropriative practicesas a contribution to such an ontology and applies it to the case of prosumption.

    February 3rd Beth Weaver (University of Strathclyde)

    R1.15

    The Relational ‘We’ in Social Morphogenesis

    This paper discusses my empirical application of a relational realist analytic framework to illuminate the role of social groups or collectives, as social relations, in shaping and affecting outcomes for individuals and for groups. Using the morphogenetic sequence developed by Archer, to illustrate the conceptual schema progressed by Donati (2011), this framework affords equal recognition to individual actions, social relations and social systems. To empirically capture the relational ‘we’ in social morphogenesis, however, requires taking the social relation as a central unit of analysis. This means empirically conceptualising the social relation as both context and as interaction, and it means analysing the shifting dynamics and influences on the form and shape of a given social relation. Such an analysis can reveal what triggers reflexivity, what different forms of reflexivity entail, and how social relations can shape and influence outcomes for individuals and groups as well as how such processes shape and alter the relations themselves. Using examples from my own research examining the dynamics of desistance from crime, I will show how both individual and relational contributions are interconnected, and how the manner of relating and the reciprocal orientation of individuals-in-relation towards the maintenance of a given social relation are significant in understanding the relational ‘we’ in social morphogenesis.

    February 17thBalihar Sanghera (University of Kent)

    R1.04

    Lay ethics, distortions and charitable giving

    This paper examines how the nature of lay normativity can involve both disinterested judgements about moral commitments and distortions by social inequalities and discourses. Lay ethical practices are always contradictory and confusing, largely as a result of mixed moral sentiments, incommensurable moral concerns and fallible evaluations of human needs and situations. The social ontology of human being offered in this paper goes beyond the liberal view of an actor as rational, self-interested and autonomous. The paper will particularly focus on how charities are embedded in people’s lives with different degrees of meaning and importance, and how individuals over- and under-value charitable causes and practices in their struggle for symbolic dominance. Individuals’ evaluations of what is worth giving to can be inflected by social divisions, including class and ‘race’, resulting in bias and non-giving.

    March (Day TBC): Bob Carter (University of Leicester

    Title and abstract TBC

    March (Day TBC): Michelle Farr (University of Bath)

    Title and abstract TBC

     
  • Mark 2:34 pm on October 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    I am trying to be heroic because all around me history sings 

    I am trying to be heroic in an age of modernity
    I am trying to be heroic, because all around me history sings

    So I enjoyed and I devoured flesh and wine and luxury
    But in my heart I am lukewarm nothing ever really touches me

    At Les Trois Garçons
    We meet at precisely
    9 o’clock.
    I order the foie gras and I eat it with complete disdain

    Bubbles rise in champagne flutes,
    But when we kiss I feel nothing

    Feasting on sleeping pills and Marlboro Reds
    (So busy, won’t save you)
    Oho, How our, how our parents they suffered for nothing
    Live the dream, live the dream, live the dream
    Like the 80’s never happened
    People are afraid, are afraid
    To merge on the freeway
    Disappear here

    Stroll the pier
    Into the magazine launch party
    I am handed a pill, and I swallow with complete disdain
    Kick-drum bangs off the high-hat; remembered to look bored
    We suck each others’ faces and make sure we are noticed
    (Cocaine won’t save you)
    Because East London is a vampire
    It sucks the joy right out of me
    How we look for corruption in these golden years

    Oho, How our, how our parents they suffered for nothing
    Live the dream, live the dream, live the dream
    Like the 80’s never happened
    People are afraid, are afraid
    To merge on the freeway
    Disappear here.
    Disappear here.
    Disappear here.
    Disappear here.
    Disappear here.

     
  • Mark 12:04 pm on October 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Roy Bhaskar explains critical realism, dialectical critical realism, and metareality in less than 6 minutes 

    Via the ICCR blog

     
  • Mark 8:31 am on October 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Call for papers: Critical Realism, Gender and Feminism 

    I’m not sure what I’d write but I’d really like to contribute to this:

    Critical Realism, Gender and Feminism

    Special Issue of the Journal of Critical Realism (15:5, 2016)

    Edited by Angela Martínez Dy, Lena Gunnarsson and Michiel van Ingen

    Email: lena.gunnarsson@oru.se

    An increasing number of gender scholars have become familiar with critical realism, finding it a robust alternative to the poststructuralist perspectives that currently dominate gender studies and feminism. This trend has coincided with an increased interest among feminist theorists in the issues of ontology, materiality and nature, which have always been at the heart of critical realist interventions. However, despite these thematic alignments, and despite the fact that both critical realism and feminist theory are inherently critical-emancipatory, the critical realist approach continues to occupy a marginal role within both feminist and gender studies debates. Concurrently, the field of critical realism is decidedly ‘masculine’ in nature, both in the sense that men dominate the field, and in terms of the issues with which critical realists have most commonly concerned themselves. Recent critical realist feminist work, the International Association of Critical Realism’s adoption of a proactive policy to enhance the representation of women in its organs and activities, and the growing critical realist preoccupation (particularly in Bhaskar’s philosophy of metaReality) with historically ‘feminine’ topics such as love, mark a potential shift away from these unfortunate trends.

    In order to encourage the development of this emerging field of critical realist feminism and gender studies, as well as critical exchanges between the respective branches of critical realism (including dialectical critical realism and metaRealism) and feminist theory/gender studies, we are happy to invite submissions for a special issue ofJournal of Critical Realism on Critical Realism, Gender and Feminism. We welcome not only contributions that draw on critical realism in studying gender relations and/or engaging with feminist concerns but also critiques of critical realism from feminist or gender-based points of view.

    Topics of interest include, but are by no means limited to, the following:

    • Critical realism and poststructuralist feminism/gender studies
    • Critical realism and socialist/eco/radical/black/postcolonial feminism
    • Critical realism and the ontological/materialist/naturalistic turn in feminist theory
    • Critical realism and intersectionality
    • Critical realism, metaRealism, love and gender
    • Critiques/auto-critiques of existing critical realist work from a feminist/gender studies perspective
    • Feminist epistemology, standpoint theory and critical realism
    • Critical realism and feminist critiques of (social) science
    • Examinations/critiques of feminist taboos on realism, nature and causality
    • Critical realism and post-feminist culture
    • Critical realism, dialectics and feminist deconstruction
    • Revitalizing the explanatory feminist tradition: what is patriarchy?
    • Critical realism and sexuality
    • Critical realism and queer studies
    • Critical realism and men/masculinity studies
    • Critical realism, sex and gender identity
    • Critical realism and gendered/sexual violence
    • Critical realism, feminism, gender studies and war/conflict
    • Critical realism and feminist ethics
    • Critical realism and pornography
    • Critical realism and feminist methods/methodology
    • Agency, gender and critical realism
    • Critical realism and feminist activism/politics
    • Feminism, gender studies, critical realism and other realisms (Barad’s agential realism, post-positivist realism etc.)
    • Critical realism as underlabourer for applied work in feminism/gender studies
    • Critical realism, interdisciplinarity, gender and feminism
    • Feminist spirituality and metaRealism
    • Critical realism and feminist economics

    Instructions for authors

    Papers should be no more than 8,000 words (not inclusive of references). In all other respects, our instructions for authors apply. Please consult these at http://www.maneyonline.com/ifa/rea or use one of our recently published articles as a guide in setting out your work. Articles (as distinct from pieces for our Perspective and Debate sections) will be subject to external peer review.

    Submissions need not be exclusively concerned with critical realism or its critique, but should relate their arguments in some significant way to critical realism. For instance, the main focus of an article could be Karen Barad’s feminist appropriation of Bohr’s agential realism, but it should include consideration of critical realism.

    Important dates

    October 1, 2015: deadline for first drafts

    February 26, 2016: reviewers’ reports and editors’ decision provided

    May 23, 2016: deadline for final drafts

    June 30, 2016: final copy due with the publisher

    October 2016: publication of the special issue online and print

    Enquiries and submissions

    Please send any enquiries to lena.gunnarsson@oru.se Please upload articles for peer review to our online system, http://www.editorialmanager.com/rea/default.asp. When uploading you will be asked if your paper is for a themed issue. Please answer ‘Yes, the special issue on Critical Realism, Gender and Feminism’. If your paper is accepted but not included in the special issue, it will appear in a subsequent issue. Please send any other material for the special issue to lena.gunnarsson@oru.se.

    About the Journal

    Journal of Critical Realism is the journal of the International Association for Critical Realism (IACR), established in 1997 to foster the discussion, propagation and development of critical realist approaches to understanding and changing the world. It provides a forum for scholars wishing to promote realist emancipatory philosophy, social theory and science on an interdisciplinary and international basis, and for those who wish to engage with such an approach.

     
  • Mark 3:04 pm on October 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , emma uprichard, ,   

    TOMORROW @SocioWarwick: Emma Uprichard on Complex Temporal Ontologies and Method 

    In the second Centre for Social Ontology seminar of 2014/15, Emma Uprichard(Associate Professor at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies) discusses Complex Temporal Ontologies and Method:

    This paper reflects on the methodological challenge of applying complexity theory to study social systems. More specifically, the focus is on the problem of capturing complex patterns of time and temporality empirically. The onus of the talk will be: a) to problematize existing longitudinal qualitative and quantitative social research approaches, which fail to capture complex temporal ontologies, and b) to suggest some tentative methodological alternatives which focus on capturing temporal patterns of change and continuity from a complex systems perspective. A particular concern throughout the discussion is how to study complex change and continuity empirically, whilst also ensuring that notions of agency and the reflexive ageing actor remain central.

    All welcome! The seminar will take place on October 28th, from 5pm to 6:30pm in R1.15 (Ramphal Building) on the University of Warwick campus. See here for help getting to the campus. Feel free to contact Mark Carriganwith any questions.

     
  • Mark 2:49 pm on October 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , linguistics, ,   

    Call for papers: gender, language and sexuality 

    This looks like a great idea. Despite having decided I don’t want to do asexuality research anymore, I’m rather tempted to have a serious go at setting out my idea about the historical emergence of the sexual assumption in the hope I can get some corpus linguists interested in helping me investigate it:

    We are Mandy, Katharina and Federica writing on behalf of RiGLS, the research group in gender, language and sexuality at Lancaster University (UK), founded by Dr Jane Sunderland. For more information on RiGLS, please visit our page: http://www.ling.lancs.ac.uk/groups/rigls/index.htm

    We would like invite researchers interested in sexuality and/or gender in conjunction with language and/or a linguistic approach to come to any number of our sessions and/or to give a talk themself.
    The sessions usually take place on Wednesdays, from 2 to 3.30pm (within term-time). Please find attached our programme for the current term.
    Please do not hesitate to contact us with a suggestion for a talk in the future. We would be happy to accommodate your needs in terms of time and day of the week.

    The Department of Linguistics and English Language is a very vibrant one in terms of both teaching and research and we are only one among many research groups active in the department. You can have a look at all the Research Groups here: http://www.ling.lancs.ac.uk/research/index.htm. We also at times team up with some of these groups to provide joint talks, for example this term with UCREL (Computer Corpus Research on Language) and LIP (Language, Identity and Power) on automatically detecting gender bias in media coverage (http://www.ling.lancs.ac.uk/groups/lip/current.htm).
    Interdisciplinary work in general is very welcome. We also encourage presentations on work in progress. One of our aims is to facilitate constructive criticism and exchange of expertise between researchers in the wide field of gender, language and sexuality.

    We have a small fund available to help with external speakers’ expenses such as train journeys within the UK.

    If you are interested in giving a talk at RiGLS or you would like to come to a talk and would like further information please get in touch with us:
    Mandy Yu: h.yu7@lancaster.ac.uk
    Katharina Wind: k.wilhelm@lancaster.ac.uk
    Federica Formato: f.formato@lancaster.ac.uk
    We also have a facebook page “RiGLS” and our Twitter account is @RiGLS.

    We hope to hear from you.

    The RiGLS coordinators

     
    • Federica 1:47 pm on December 11, 2015 Permalink

      Hi, I am one of the RiGLS coordinators (Federica), I just found your page. I was wondering whether you have made progress with the project you had in mind! I also happen to be a corpus linguist (in the broad sense, as my main expertise is gender). Let us know and maybe you can present it at RiGLS.

    • Mark 2:00 pm on December 14, 2015 Permalink

      unfortunately not! I ended up changing focus and don’t think I’ll ever pursue it, which is a shame because I think it would be really interesting to try and track the emergence of asexuality in this way.

  • Mark 11:22 am on October 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Emma Uprichard on Complex Temporal Ontologies and Method – October 28th @SocioWarwick 

    In the second Centre for Social Ontology seminar of 2014/15, Emma Uprichard (Associate Professor at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies) discusses Complex Temporal Ontologies and Method:

    This paper reflects on the methodological challenge of applying complexity theory to study social systems. More specifically, the focus is on the problem of capturing complex patterns of time and temporality empirically. The onus of the talk will be: a) to problematize existing longitudinal qualitative and quantitative social research approaches, which fail to capture complex temporal ontologies, and b) to suggest some tentative methodological alternatives which focus on capturing temporal patterns of change and continuity from a complex systems perspective. A particular concern throughout the discussion is how to study complex change and continuity empirically, whilst also ensuring that notions of agency and the reflexive ageing actor remain central.

    All welcome! The seminar will take place on October 28th, from 5pm to 6:30pm in R1.15 (Ramphal Building) on the University of Warwick campus. See here for help getting to the campus. Feel free to contact Mark Carriganwith any questions.

     
  • Mark 6:31 am on October 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Time and Reflexivity 

    In Margaret Archer’s work on Reflexivity, this faculty is seen as mediating between structure and agency. Our capacity to ‘bend back’ upon ourselves, considering our circumstances in light of our commitments and vice versa, constitutes the point at which structural powers operate upon individual lives. On this view, structures don’t operate automatically, they only exercise causal power vis-a-vis the attempting doings of agents, even if the implications of the former for the latter are utterly opaque for the people concerned. In contrast Harmut Rosa sees time structures as the mediating factor, providing “action with normatively binding force, largely stable expectations, and an orientating frame this is experienced as if it were a natural fact” (pg. 225). His argument is basically a functionalist one, with the structuring of time horizons constituting the process through which “systemic requirements” are ‘translated” into “individual action orientations”:

    our sense of who we are (hence of our identity) is virtually a function of our relationship to space, time, fellow human beings, and the objects of our environment (or to our action and experience). (pg. 224)

    The phrase ‘virtually a function’ is rather ambiguous to say the least*. Clearly, he wishes to recognise some independent variability to identity in relation to what may otherwise be convergent circumstances. However he also dismisses this variability, describing it as ‘virtually a function’, such that this variability comes to be seen as peripheral to the subject matter of our investigation. In essence Rosa treats this as if it were not variable, continually describing uniform responses to social change. He occasionally acknowledges that these claims are empirically questionable but this is seen as something secondary to the theoretical inquiry, as opposed to an important matter that should be incorporated into its terms of reference. Unfortunately this variability matters because if we believe action has (any) efficacy vis-a-vis structure then variable individual responses feed back into the social changes that are reshaping time horizons. If we don’t recognise this variable component of feedback then acceleration comes to seem entirely systemic, revolutionising social life but unfolding by its own logic independent of the actions of individuals or groups.

    It’s for this reason that I feel the need to very cautious when engaging with Rosa. The critical theory he espouses is close enough to my own theoretical position (probably because of the legacy of Marxism feeding into both critical realism and critical theory) that much of what he says immediately resonates with me. But there are also these massive points of disagreement that can seem rather small until I stop and think about them. However he does have rather a lot to say about time which fascinates me. What’s particularly relevant for my own work is his account of structural changes to biography:

    the predominance of individualization in the transformation of relationships to self and world in classical modernity leads to a temporalization of life, i.e., to a perspective on one’s own life as a project to be given shape in time, while the same process of dynamization in the late modern phase of its development effects a “detemporalized,” situational definition of identity. (pg. 226)

    His point concerns the temporal dimension to “socially dominant forms of self-relation” (pg. 224). Though she’s retreated slightly on this point, Archer’s early work on reflexivity was concerned with the spatial dimension of dominant forms of self-relation. In Making Our Way Through The World in particular, there was a focus on the way in which patterns of mobility in early life have implications for the forms of self-relation upon which individuals can come to rely as they go through adolescence. Rosa’s quasi-functionalism notwithstanding, I don’t see any reason why we can’t sustain an interest in both: the spatial and temporal  dimensions to socially dominant forms of self-relation, as well as the relational dimension to personally dominant forms of self-relation (with the macro operation of the former being mediated through the micro operation of the latter).

    Rosa sees a mode of biography as “the directed movement of life along alternative development paths” operating in modernity, dependent upon “the liquefaction of forms of life and community, which reached epoch-making levels during the industrial revolution” being “steered onto relatively fixed, institutional rails in the increasingly ‘organized modernity’ of the welfare state” (pg. 228) He cites Martin Kohli’s work here, who argues that

    a life course divided into temporal sequences has a double function: on the one hand, it undergirds the institutional order of the welfare state (the educational system, the social insurance system, the pension system, etc.) and conversely becomes a socially obligatory standard through this system of institutions; but, on the other hand, it establishes an identity-guiding, orientating schema in the concept of the ‘normal biography,” which allows of respective three-stage ‘schedules’ in professional life (education, gainful employment, retirement) and the familial structuring of life (childhood in the ancestral family, own family with kids, older phase after the kids move out) (pg. 228)

    The transition from tradition to modernity is seen as one from a static and situational identity to one that is dynamic and trans-situational. In late modernity this in turn becomes dynamic and situational. This renewed status of being situationally bound is not a function of spatio-temporal immobility as in traditional society but rather a consequence of the breakdown of stable temporal horizons. Identity implies evaluative and action orientations towards our circumstances. Rosa’s claim is that social acceleration creates a tendency to compress those orientations ever further into the boundaries of situations because the context in relation to which we evaluative and act increasingly changes with such speed that our orientations towards it have no trans-situational durability.

    He contrast this to the tempo of modernity in which “the horizons of expectations remains stable enough to allow long-run, time-resistant life perspectives to develop, the gratification of needs to be systematically postponed, and the completion of the biographical pattern to be patiently awaited.” (pg 230). On his view, the identity-constituting task facing adults in modernity was to “find your own place in the world”: “choose a career, start a family, decide on a religious community, and find a political orientation.” (pg 229). While people did revise these choices, these revisions were relatively marginal and incorporated into a life narrative in terms of progress towards authenticity i.e. my previous choice was wrong, I realised and thus I revised it. In the absence of these stable time horizons, Rosa argues that this orientation towards biography becomes untenable and thus far we are left with a situational identity. This means that chronological phases of life are losing their internal coherence and external interrelatedness: the ‘building blocks’ out of which biographies are built become less clearly distinguishable and the sequential relationships between them become less linear

    Key to Rosa’s analysis is the notion that we’ve moved from an intergenerational to an intra-generational rate of social change. This entails an “escalation of contingency and instability” which serves to render identities relative to situations: “it is not one is a baker, rather one works as one (for two years now); not that one is the husband of X, rather one lives with X; not that one is a New Yorker and conservative, rather one lives in New York (for the next few years) and votes for Conservatives (pg. 147).  His argument rests on the sense in which “self-relations have an insolubly temporal structure in which the past, present, and future of a subject are connected”: “Who one is always also defined by how one became it, what one was and could have been, and what one will be and wants to be” (pg. 146). It is through this situatedness vis-a-vis temporality that social change exercises causal power in relation to individual lives. While Rosa systematically underemphasises the role of reflexivity in mediating this process, making universal claims about the consequences for individuals while ignoring the variability of responses by individuals, he is surely correct that intra-generational social change “will have far-ranging consequences for the possibilities and forms of social integration and cultural reproduction” (pg. 114).

    Another important aspect of Rosa’s analysis is his account of how “the temporal regulation and deinstitutionalization of numerous fields of activity in late modernity society has massively heightened the cost of planning and thus the time required to coordinate and synchronise everyday sequences of action” (pg 126). As the rapidity of social change leads to the progressive dissolution of collective time structures, as well as a recognition of how fleeting those that remain must be, cultural synchronisation devices that could once be taken for granted instead “have to be repeatedly planned, negotiated , and agreed upon with cooperation partners all over again” (pg.  126). We can’t take for granted when others will do things or the order in which they will do them and hence there’s an additional cognitive burden involved in day-to-day social life. This also leads to a situation in which we come to be expected to justify our temporal decision making, as socially accepted standards of temporal rationality break down and the consequence for each individual of other’s temporal decisions become more pronounced: the range of ways in which my, say, failing to send an e-mail in time may impact upon a colleague increase because the significance of that e-mail vis-a-vis their own sequence of work commitments has become less standardised. Standards and expectations diverge when collaborative work is no longer embedded within shared horizons and converging circumstances.

    This is partly a consequence of the diversification of system environments, “Since, from the internal perspective of a given system or interaction context, all other activities represent only disruptive delays and eliminable empty times” (pg. 191). This leaves conflicts over time occurring between people when operating across system boundaries (e.g. when I am preparing for teaching, the demands of a research commitment made by a collaborator seem secondary and vice versa) but also within the context of an individual’s life as they’re forced to negotiate the competing demands of divergent contexts. Rosa identifies a trend towards time management as “microtemporal oscillation between the demands of distinct functional spheres that are all running as ‘non-stop’ enterprise” (pg. 192) (which incidentally is a fantastic description of how and why Omnifocus works so effectively once you get the hang of it) – the disjuncture between spheres becomes too rigid for time managements, sometimes leaving too little time for ‘home’ commitments when at ‘work’ (and vice versa) but also sometimes leaving too much time, confining one to working commitments in absence of impending deadlines or anything approaching real urgency.

    These circumstances pose a profound challenge to our capacity to direct our “energy towards a fixed, constant, subjectively worthwhile goal and to express it in action” (pg. 249). In other words, commitment becomes difficult when the things to which we might commit ourselves change so rapidly. This is the part of Rosa’ s argument that really fascinates me and I think he gets more directly to the heart of this issue then any of the other authors who address it. I’m interested in empirical detail about the life strategy through which people negotiate the moral logic of this situation. Where Rosa’s account fails dramatically, surprisingly so given his deep conversance with the thought of Charles Taylor, stems from his lack of appreciation for how ultimate concerns can function as meta-commitments: fleeting things in our lives take on mean relative to higher commitments which can transcend situational change. Certainly, this is not true of all commitments and I agree that sustaining commitments becomes much harder when social change reaches an intra-generational tempo. But I nonetheless think Rosa’s point is a dramatic overstatement and that the reasons for this hyperbole stem directly from his inadequate concept of reflexivity.

    *It’s possible this may be an issue with the otherwise excellent translation, as Rosa is a wordy but precise author.

     
  • Mark 12:35 pm on October 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: gun culture,   

    The rituals of gun culture 

     
  • Mark 12:12 pm on October 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    An introduction to blogging and twitter for social researchers 

    My course at Nat Cen has been moved to December. You can book online here.

    Given the increasing pressure to demonstrate the impact of social research, it is inevitable that researchers are looking towards the opportunities offered by social media. This one day course offers an accessible introduction to the use of blogging and twitter, encompassing the possibilities they offer for social researchers and walking you through best practice.

    You will learn through a combination of presentations, informal discussions and practical sessions, including pre-course reading.

    Course content covers:

    • An introduction to blogging
    • An introduction to twitter
    • Making an impact with blogging and twitter
    • Integrating blogging and twitter into your working life

     Who is it aimed at?

    This is an entry level course, which assumes no familiarity with blogging or twitter.

    You will find this course useful if you:

    • conduct social research
    • have responsibility for impact and public engagement
    • communicate findings to policymakers and practitioners

    Learning outcomes:

    By the end of the programme you will be able to:

    • understand the characteristics of blogging and micro-blogging
    • get started in a practical and engaged way with Twitter and WordPress formulate your own strategic plan to use these services effectively
    • connect effectively with others online in a way which serves these ends measure the impact of your online engagement
    • participate enjoyably in the emerging academic blogosphere and twittersphere
     
  • Mark 12:11 pm on October 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Very interesting workshop someone is organising in my department: Everyday Market Lives 

    Call for a papers for a Workshop in the Sociology Department at the University of Warwick,  February 13th 2015

    Everyday Market Lives

    Organised by Lynne Pettinger (Sociology, Warwick) and Liz Moor (Media & Communications, Goldsmiths)

    Deadline for abstracts: 31st October  2014

    Capitalist societies routinely ask people to make judgements of value and worth, and to decide between an array of competing choices, as part of their everyday lives. Economic knowledge and expertise is thus not something that resides only with bankers, financial journalists and government accountants; it exists in a tacit form within the routines of daily life in capitalist society, and is a key part of people’s experiences at work, in consumption, in leisure, in media use, in practices of caring for children and elderly relatives, or in financial planning and household management.  The kinds of resources (economic, social, intellectual and imaginative) that people are able to marshal, and how they understand what they want to, and are able to, make happen with these resources has profound implications for overall wellbeing, and for people’s sense of themselves as parents, workers, citizens, patients, and so on.

    Current scholarship in the areas of economic sociology, valuation studies and consumption studies is typically very good at articulating either the calculations, measurements and commensuration practices undertaken by institutional actors (such as those working in financial services), or the personal meanings and values attached to consumption practices in everyday life. It has not yet been so good at elaborating the economic skills and calculative practices, or the forms of working knowledge that people develop as part of everyday life in market societies. The value of making this connection, we propose, is to expand the intellectual frameworks through which we approach economic knowledge and action.

    The workshop therefore aims to bring together scholars from diverse fields to explore the ways in which people come to understand themselves as economic actors, and the kinds of knowledge about markets that they deploy, develop or acquire in doing so. Everyday economic activity involves people in making sense, making decisions and making meaning through the possibilities and limitations that income affords them: desires are tempered, the judgements of others are felt, and new expertise may need to be acquired. We invite papers with an explicit focus on ordinary, routine, banal, or everyday forms of economic action. We are open-minded about the empirical focus through which such issues might be explored, but possible questions that papers might address include:

    • What kinds of (economic) knowledge and expertise are used in everyday economic action? What are the sources of this knowledge?
    • How do people think about, and what do people learn about money and the workings of markets through everyday economic activities such as shopping, negotiating a pay rise, saving, allocating pocket money, making a will, or finding childcare?
    • How do people make judgements of worth in everyday situations? What kind of underlying ethics or values can be traced in people’s decisions in these areas?
    • What effect does poverty (or wealth) have on people’s sense of themselves as social/ economic actors? Conversely, how is people’s understanding of their economic choices or situations (including awareness of their position within hierarchies) shaped by public/media discourses about what counts as a ‘good’ economic subject?
    • How do people retrospectively account for or justify the choices they have made in these areas? Or how do they account for having made ‘bad’ decisions in their economic lives? Under what circumstances do they feel obliged to make such justifications?
    • What kinds of feelings are evoked when people engage in market/economic activities? How are fears and desires managed? Are there ‘prototypical’ affects or emotions associated with certain kinds of economic activities?
    • How do people produce narratives about themselves and their lives/relationships in relation to money and economic decision making?

    Abstract submission

    Please submit an abstract of 300 to 500 words by email to L.pettinger@warwick.ac.uk or L.moor@gold.ac.uk by 31st October 2014.  A limited budget to help with travel expenses is available. Lunch will be provided. Invited presenters will be notified by Nov 15th 2014. Please be prepared to share your paper by February 2nd 2015. Papers will be circulated before the workshop. The workshop will be reserved for intensive discussion of papers.

    • in association with the Social Theory Centre, Warwick University and the Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London.

     

     
  • Mark 12:10 pm on October 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: lesbian, ,   

    CfP: special issue on trans* and lesbian communities 

    This looks interesting:

    Call for Papers*

    *”The Intersections of Trans* and Lesbian Identities, Communities, and
    Movements”

    *A Special Issue of the Journal of Lesbian Studies*

    *Genny Beemyn and Mickey Eliason, Guest Editors*

    *Deadline for proposals: November 1, 2014*

    The *Journal of Lesbian Studies*, a peer-reviewed academic journal
    published by Taylor and Francis, invites essay submissions for a special
    issue on “The Intersections of Trans* and Lesbian Identities, Communities,
    and Movements,” guest edited by Genny Beemyn and Mickey Eliason.

    Possible topics include, but are not limited, to:

    ·        The identity development processes of trans* lesbians

    ·        The experiences of trans* lesbians in different communities and
    societies

    ·        Trans* lesbians in popular culture, the media, literature, or
    history

    ·        Sexual and gender fluidity in the lives of younger people today

    ·        Trans* and cisgender lesbian political coalitions

    ·        Butch and FTM struggles and solidarities

    ·        Efforts to include trans women in “women-only” spaces

    Please send a 500-word abstract of the work you have written/would like to
    write to genny@umass.edu by *November 1, 2014*.  The editors will respond
    to proposals by December 1.  Completed articles of approximately 15-20
    pages (5,000-7,500 words) will be due by *March 31, 2015* (submitted
    articles will undergo a peer review process).

    For more detailed information about submission guidelines, including
    copyright requirements and the preparation of tables, figures, and images,
    please see the homepage for the *Journal of Lesbian Studies *at

    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~db=all~content=t792306903~tab=submit~mode=paper_submission_instructions

     
  • Mark 11:39 am on October 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: comunication, , workshop,   

    Free online writing and communication workshop for community organisations 

    Along with Rochelle Sibley I’m doing a free online writing & communication workshop for community organisations as part of the ESRC Social Science Festival. It’s on Friday 14th November in Coventry. Here’s a flyer: ESRC Festival Writing Workshop Flyer

    Please circulate to anyone you think might be interested!

     
  • Mark 11:22 am on October 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags:   

    Emma Uprichard on Complex Temporal Ontologies and Method – October 28th @SocioWarwick 

    In the second Centre for Social Ontology seminar of 2014/15, Emma Uprichard (Associate Professor at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies) discusses Complex Temporal Ontologies and Method:

    This paper reflects on the methodological challenge of applying complexity theory to study social systems. More specifically, the focus is on the problem of capturing complex patterns of time and temporality empirically. The onus of the talk will be: a) to problematize existing longitudinal qualitative and quantitative social research approaches, which fail to capture complex temporal ontologies, and b) to suggest some tentative methodological alternatives which focus on capturing temporal patterns of change and continuity from a complex systems perspective. A particular concern throughout the discussion is how to study complex change and continuity empirically, whilst also ensuring that notions of agency and the reflexive ageing actor remain central.

    All welcome! The seminar will take place on October 28th, from 5pm to 6:30pm in R1.15 (Ramphal Building) on the University of Warwick campus. See here for help getting to the campus. Feel free to contact Mark Carriganwith any questions.

     
  • Mark 8:40 am on October 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Endings, Graham Crow, ,   

    Towards a sociology of endings 

    There’s a particular kind of sociological theorising which I’ve always been drawn to that concerns itself with the identification of epochal shifts in social life. When I was an intellectually frustrated philosophy student, the work of Giddens on Late Modernity and Bauman on Liquid Modernity seemed to hold the promise of intellectual work that addressed something far greater than the technical problems of philosophy: what is it like to be a person now? I tried to argue in my PhD thesis that this aspect of their work, simultaneously profound yet also slightly asinine, surely accounts for part of the appeal which a sprawling body of work has held for many in spite of its many defects. I wondered recently if it could be seen as a kind of (historicised) sociological anthropology, inquiring into the phenomenology of the person in a way that refuses the possibility of abstracting the core questions from the particular time and place in which they are being asked. However I do think this work is deeply flawed and one of the most incisive ways to analyse these flaws is to consider the claims about transitions from ‘old’ to ‘new’ which are made within it. This is how Paul Heelas describes the transitions that are implicitly and explicitly asserted within the literature on detraditionalization:

    [F]ate (or the pre-ordained) v. choice (or reflexivity); necessity v. contingency; certainty v. uncertainty; security v. risk. Differentiated (or organised) culture v. the de-differentiated (or disorganised); the embedded (situated or socio-centric) self v. the disembedded (de-situated or autonomous); self under control v. self in control; and virtues v. preferences (with values coming in between)

    Paul Heelas, Detraditionalization, Pg 3

    Once you set things up in this way, it’s hard not to see radical change everywhere. The underlying dichotomies operate as an interpretive framework which highlights discontinuities and obscures continuities. This is why, as Graham Crow puts it, a “more nuanced account of the processes involved in beginnings and endings needs to be developed”. He identifies a large number of phenomena of which it has been declared that we are witnessing the end:

    • family relationships
    • community relationships
    • politics
    • poverty
    • capitalism
    • slavery
    • masculinity
    • privacy
    • work
    • unemployment
    • the nation-state
    • organised capitalism
    • socialism
    • history
    • class
    • heterosexuality
    • photography

    The identification of ‘endings’ is more methodologically complex than someone like Giddens seems willing to admit:

    Endings, and the opportunities for new beginnings for which they open the way, thus merit some attention because they are so frequently a point of reference. Claims to have identified the emergence of a new social phenomenon and the end of an existing one are rhetorically powerful, but assessing them is by no means straightforward. To begin with, there are varying interests at stake in the promotion of certain social phenomena as ‘new’ and others as ‘dead’ or ‘dying’. Most social transformations have ‘losers’ as well as ‘winners’ (Crow and Rees 1999), even though the voices of the former tend to be drowned out by the latter. Secondly, the momentousness of social changes is not always apparent to the people living through them and, as a result, interpretation of their perceptions of continuity needs to be undertaken with caution. Conversely, developments that can seem momentous as they unfold can come to be regarded as less so with the passage of time

    http://www.socresonline.org.uk/10/3/crow.html

    In fact it’s very easy to relativise the account offered by Giddens in terms of both his own life and the unfolding of history. He was (anecdotally) going through major changes in his personal life and, it seems with hindsight, moving away from social theory and towards politics. His main three books on this subject were published after the fall of the Berlin Wall, as either history itself or at least one era seemed to be falling away, with market capitalism triumphant and the key question facing the centre-left seemingly being one of how to tame capitalism from within. Given his subsequent trajectory and reinvention as a political guru for New Labour, it’s hard not to see a potentially self-interested dimension to this as well: in identifying the end of the old he positioned himself as an interpreter of the new. This sense of new times, to which we must adapt through ‘modernising’ or risk becoming antiquated, should be understood as crucial to the cultural politics of New Labour as well: in recognising the ‘new’, we claim a temporal identity for ourselves, one superior to that we impose on the ‘old’. Furthermore, as Crow notes, it’s difficult to find empirical grounds for these considerations in everyday life. People often don’t recognise momentous change (for reasons I describe here as the epistemology of collapse) or they experience as momentous things that later come to seem much less so.

    The risk is that, as Crow puts it, we lose sight of “underlying continuities by focusing only on those elements in a situation that have changed”. If we develop concepts of social change (e.g. detraditionalization, individualization, globalization) that foreground those elements in a situation that have changed and fail to contextualise them in terms of those elements that have not, we’re led to pronounce epochal shifts (with all their rhetorical and political temptations). In his paper he offers ten propositions concerning the sociology of endings. His point is that if we come to understanding endings better then we’ll be less inclined towards “the premature identification of endings and new beginnings”:

    Processes of decline are responded to in various ways.

    Long-term decline is not necessarily perceived as such by those living through it, because of imperfect information, self-persuasion, denial, nostalgia, or addiction.

    People may be persuaded to remain loyal to existing arrangements even when they are undeniably in decline because they are convinced by one or more strands of The Rhetoric of Reaction, the argument that efforts to change a situation are bound to fail or to bring even more undesirable consequences.

    The sociology of emotions and rational choice theory both provide plausible starting points for the analysis of the decision to cut one’s losses by ending involvement in existing relations that are in decline, if and when it is taken.

    The social context of decision-making concerning endings is crucial.

    The process of moving towards and beyond endings is rarely a smooth, linear progression through a succession of stages.

    Accounts of change after the event are vulnerable to post-hoc rationalizations in which the confusion and indeterminacy of events as they unfolded is played down and inevitability emphasised.

    The popular metaphors through which ideas about endings are expressed have a bearing on how people respond to them.

    Sociological analysis is weakened when framed in terms of over-arching processes of social change that are presented as irresistible at the level of individuals, communities, or wider societies and socio-economic systems.

    The analytical problems presented by the processes whereby social arrangements come to an end have very wide relevance.

    http://www.socresonline.org.uk/10/3/crow.html

    Many of these points concern agency. People respond differently to endings. People often fail to recognise endings or refuse to recognise them. People may continue to invest themselves in something that is ending because they’re scared of what might come next. People are influenced by each other and by their wider context in how they respond to endings. These factors mean that we should avoid conceiving of endings in a way that treats them as the irresistible force of social change. If we fail to do this, we tend to see a linear transition from ‘old’ to ‘new’, in the process missing the complexity of social change and how its unfolding was shaped by the variable responses of the people on the ground.

    It’s a very interesting paper. I find it hard to see how anyone could disagree with Crow’s recommendation that “the temptation to tell an attention-grabbing story should be resisted in favour of a more balanced assessment of change and continuity”. This is his closing statement:

    Finally, we might note that sociologists have a mixed record in relation to realising this potential in the analysis of change, not least in terms of the premature identification of endings and new beginnings. Much is lost when complex analyses are reduced to the stark opposition of change or continuity, as is demonstrated in those more subtle analyses that highlight the ways in which change in one facet of a social phenomenon can contribute to the reproduction of other aspects. But caution about oversimplification regarding social change reinforces the case for a sociological approach to the study of endings. This is not least because there is so much more to be said than economists’ focus on the moment when profit turns to loss, and psychologists’ focus on motivation and individual adjustment. People’s perceptions about whether they stand to gain or lose from the substitution of a new social arrangement for an old one are more complex than the former and more volatile than the latter, and this has major implications for the prediction of their individual and collective behaviour and of longer-term social change.

    http://www.socresonline.org.uk/10/3/crow.html

     
  • Mark 8:34 pm on October 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: atari teenage riot, , existential, , , meaning of life, , ,   

    An existential analytics of speed 

    Integral to Harmut Rosa’s Social Acceleration (all references are to this book) is an understanding of cultural responses to acceleration and the role they play in intensifying the acceleration of the pace of life. This is not simply a matter of the valorisation of speed; in fact being satisfied with the identification of such a sentiment would be to restrict our analysis to the most superficial level. Instead what makes social acceleration so culturally loaded is the implications it has for the temporal horizons of human existence. Rosa is concerned with the “motives of action and cultural development”, specifically that of fear and promise, which Weber identified with the Protestant ethic: while he sees these motives as universal, in that they instantiate basic motivational categories of pain and pleasure, he nonetheless holds that “the characteristic feature of modern culture is the connection of those motives with the principles of time efficiency and the related expectations of acceleration” (pg. 178). He identifies what he takes to be a basic fear in modernity:

    The generalised unease … namely, that of standing in all realms of existence, as it were, on slipping slopes, i.e., of being irrevocably suspended in a world of growing contingencies, of missing decisive opportunities, or of falling hopelessly behind, operates as the basic fear in the dynamized, mobile society of modernity. Time thus remains existentially scarce even after specifically religious foundations of meaning “die off”. (pg. 178)

    The “strict, fastidious time discipline” identified by Weber as the “innerworldy asceticism” of the Protestant ethic was preoccupied by “the imperative of time efficiency, of the intensive usage and valorisation of every minute” (pg 176). To waste time risked one’s possible salvation, a fear that responded to the “torturous question of whether one was chosen and in a state of grace” – given the impossibility of knowing if one was predestined for salvation, particularly given the absence of reassurance from religious authority, arduous time discipline embodied in lifestyle came to function as a proxy for the identification of the elect.  Time discipline came to function as a way of dissipating the fear of damnation. But it also held the promise of salvation, with the imperative to trust in one’s own virtue (coupled with the growing belief in lifestyle as a proxy for virtue) functioning to bridge the gap between a putative predestination and a sense of moral agency in one’s own life.

    Under present circumstances, notes Rosa, “there is no longer a promise of peace of mind in the turn to a powerful, reassuring God who is ready to intervene with respect to the contingencies of life” (pg. 178). However he argues that wealth serves as a functional equivalent. Much as the turn to God was motivated by fear of contingencies, the unavoidably uncertain horizons that emerge with the intensification of social change, so too does money come to be seen as a means through which to equip oneself for a future which we by definition cannot know: “In the form of capital, money has taken on the task of transforming indeterminable into determinable complexity” (pg. 179). Money holds out the promise of helping us master contingency. As Rosa puts it, we see the rise of a belief that “having the largest possible amount of money, and hence options, will allow one to appropriately react to future contingencies” (pg. 178).

    What has changed is that this newer sense of salvation is imminent rather than transcendent. It promises a mastery of contingency within earthly time rather than a salvation that lies beyond it. This emphasises the continuity of the earth beyond the point of our own death: social life continues after we are gone. This can be responded to in a variety of ways. We might seek to cultivate a stoical equanimity such that we live our lives without attachment and thus lose nothing when we meet our end. We can identify with some greater continuity, seeing ourselves as connected to our broader movement through history as a consequence of our participation in something greater than ourselves: “individual life takes meaning and consolation from conceiving of itself as a link in a long chain that, even if does not amount to a new form of sacral time, at least bridges the gap between a lifetime and the time of the world” (pg. 181). We might also seek to immortalise ourselves through the production of works that survive us: “to leave behind a trace that extends the span of effects one’s own life has far beyond its own duration” (pg. 181).  However the response that Rosa sees as coming to predominate with the transition to late modern times is that of salvation through acceleration:

    the idea that an accelerated enjoyment of worldly options, a “faster life,” will once again allow the chasm between the time of life and the time of the world to be reduced. In order to understand this thought one has to keep in mind that the question concerning the meaning of death is indissolubly tied to the question of the right or “good life.” Thus the idea of the good life corresponding to this answer, which historically became the culturally dominant idea, is to conceive of life as the last opportunity, i.e., to use the earthy time span allotted to humans as intensively and comprehensively as possible before death puts a definitive end to it (pg. 181)

    On this view the good life is the full life. To live well is to live maximally in relation to social and cultural variety: doing as many things, with as many people, in as many places as we can. This can take a more humanistic form in which “the good life consists first and foremost in the most comprehensive possible development of the talents and potentials of a subject” (pg. 182). However I think there’s a further dimension to this which Rosa oddly seems to ignore in this section despite recognising it in other parts of his analysis: the embrace of speed as a response to a collapse of horizons, the fulfilment that can come from movement without any belief in where we are going, not concerned with self-cultivation or with maximisation but simply with embracing the present and grasping the moment. I think Atari Teenage Riot express this incredibly forcefully in the track I included at the start of this post:

    Tomorrow, tomorrow, always tomorrow
    There is no future in the weastern dreamin’!
    We feel it, we must beat’em !
    It’s too late to create a new world!
    Alternative living it must be given a chance!
    Water the problem’s solution! No solution if you can’t use it!
    And then I heard the siren of the police!
    My blood went up to 90 degrees!
    You can’t see white cats in the snow
    Oh human being, how low can you go?
    Risin’, risin’ to the top
    the pills are ready to be dropped
    1, 2, 3 and 4
    Got the joker shoot the score!

    Speed! Just wouldn’t believe it!
    Speed! Just wouldn’t believe it!
    Speed! Just wouldn’t believe it! Speed!
    Speed! Just wouldn’t believe it!
    Speed! Just wouldn’t believe it!
    Speed! Just wouldn’t believe it! Speed!
    Speed! Speed! Speed! Speed! Speed! Speed! Speed! Speeeed!

    Another example of this ethos can be found in the film Spring Breakers. As I wrote about it at the time, “the private catharsis of drinks, drugs and sex is made public during ‘spring break’ and the film portrays the nihilistic collapse into a perpetual present which ensues when these are pursued as ends in themselves”. Atari Teenage Riot present an escape from a world they disdain through drugs and movement. Spring Breakers presents an embrace of that world through drugs and movement. What both have in common is an exploration of the perpetual present which ensues when people respond to social acceleration with neither an orientation to self-cultivation (in order to maximise possibilities) or to seek to maximise possibilities in order evade the damage to the self that would be seen to ensue from missing out.

    Rosa’s important point about the limitations to self-cultivation and self-maximisation is that the options we forego will tend to increase faster than the ones we choose. As he puts it, “the very same inventions, techniques and methods that permit the accelerated realisation of worldly possibility and hence the increase of the total sum of options realised in a life also multiply the number and variety of realisable options” (pg. 185). In other words, the opportunity costs multiply with the opportunities: in selecting from our available choices, we miss out on the things we do not choose. However where I think Rosa goes wrong is in the assumption that an ethos of maximisation demands mastery – it doesn’t follow that a concern to live maximally necessitates an inability to tolerate the fact that the possibilities we seek to master always grow faster than our actualisation of them. This is where the notion of self-cultivation could be key: could we not conceive of a way of living maximally which seeks to cultivate equanimity in the face of the logic of escalation that Rosa identifies? We might strive to live more richly rather than fully, concerned with the poise which allows us to weave together a maximally diverse life from the endless threads available to (some of) us, not orientated towards a final resolution but instead seeking to let the process unfold more artfully and more dextrously with time.

     
    • Emily 6:36 am on October 25, 2014 Permalink

      You know..I was talking to someone about this…how do we go about finding our purpose in life when the more we find it the more we confused we are that there are so many options? You add an interesting angle..thank you.

    • Mark 2:52 pm on October 27, 2014 Permalink

      and the options always grow faster than our capacity to select from them!

  • Mark 9:46 am on October 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Queerly Theorising Higher Education & Academia: Symposium Registration 

    This looks interesting:

    Queerly Theorising Higher Education & Academia: Interdisciplinary Conversations

    Half-day International Symposium

    Monday 8th December 2014, 12 noon – 7:30pm, followed by a drinks reception

    Room 802, Institute of Education (IOE), 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL

    This half-day international symposium brings together queer theorisations of higher education and academia that are currently developing within discipline-specific contexts. At this symposium, we will explore the ways that academia and higher education are being queerly theorised, and discuss how these theorisations are situated within and yet pushing against disciplinary settings. With an emphasis on conversation and discussion, the event will provide a platform for the collaborative development of ideas over the course of the day. Contributors to the round table and discussion-presentations range from established scholars to doctoral students, and are from a variety of disciplinary locations and institutional settings.

    Round table participants:

    Oliver Davis – University of Warwick

    Michael O’Rourke – ISSH, Macedonia & Global Center for Advanced Studies

    Nick Rumens – Middlesex University

    Yvette Taylor – Weeks Centre, London South Bank University

    Kathryn Medien – University of Warwick (Chair)

    Presenters:

    James Burford – University of Auckland, New Zealand/Aotearoa

    Jennifer Fraser – Birkbeck

    Vicky Gunn – University of Glasgow

    Emily F. Henderson – Institute of Education

    Genine Hook – Monash University, Australia

    Z Nicolazzo – Miami University, Ohio, US

    Sean Curran – Institute of Education (Chair)

    Emma Jones – Institute of Education (Chair)

    Discussants:

    Elliot Evans – King’s College London

    TBC

    The event will be hosted by CHES (Centre for Higher Education Studies) and is funded by the Bloomsbury ESRC Doctoral Training Centre.

    Registration is free, but places are limited so booking is essential.

    To book, or for further information, contact Emily Henderson:ehenderson01@ioe.ac.uk

     
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