Some notes on social generativity

I recently encountered the concept of ‘social generativity‘ which Eric Lybeck characterises as a post-critical move responding to a dead end in critical social theory during the earliest 21st century. He organised a session at the University of Manchester with Mauro Magatti, Chiara Giaccardi, Paolo Pezzana, Patrizia Cappelletti and Elvira Uyarra. These are some rough notes on the discussion which I’m listening to remotely:

  • This approach regards consumption as a deep anthropological activity in the sense that human beings have always consumed. But we live in a consumer society which makes it important to recover generativity as something with a comparable anthropological death.
  • Social generativity is something which already exists in society. It is a term which helps us recognise this aspect of social life and recover it as something susceptible to analysis and intervention. It is concerned with how social relationships may be realised. It is concerned with the qualities of social relationships which we enact in the world. It is not based on an idea of what is good but reflects the implicit logic of the social relationship.
  • Action is never possible in isolation. This means it’s less a matter of self-expression but rather something which we create with others. I like the word co-individuation which is used to describe this. These are opportunities to contribute to the context and the capacitation of others.
  • There’s a distinction between social generativity as an open process in which actors let go of what they have created, as opposed to the collapse into a closed loop based on possessive relations between actors. This means making space for others to participate in social generativity rather than claiming ownership over the process in a way which shuts people out. It is a dynamic which develops in a spiral movement with a sequence of new stages which each provide opportunities for new generative processes.
  • There’s a distinction here between domination and capacitation as different outcomes to relational processes. If I understand correctly the point is that relations either close down or open up, with the former constraining self-action and the latter enabling it.

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