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101. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Cornelius Castoriadis, Johann P. Arnason The Imaginary as Such
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This text is a draft introduction to a planned work on imagination in society and history. It begins with reflections on the abilities and activities that set human subjects apart from other living beings and thus at the same time enable the ongoing creation of society and history. This is to be understood as an exploration within the ‘order of facts’, on the level of anthropological preconditions. The most elementary precondition is the human capacity to add an ‘unreal extension’ to reality, and thus to put the latter at a distance; considered as an activity, this is what defines the imagination, but considered as a dimension of human existence, it is the realm of the imaginary. The two concepts are strictly complementary. To clarify their role in the proposed rethinking of social-historical being, we must link them to closer analysis of the latter’s two main components, representing and doing. On both sides, Castoriadis emphasises the imaginary element as a decisive point against empiricist and rationalist reductions. Representing is as irreducible to perception as it is to thinking, and taking the argument one step further, both perception and thinking can be shown to be dependent on the imaginary. Similarly, on the level of doing, human action can neither be understood as a response to given needs nor as an application of pre-given representations; its creative potential presupposes an imaginary horizon. Finally it is argued that language – closely related to both representing and doing – has an imaginary dimension, central to the emergence and the enduring innovative capacity of meaning. The basic flaw of structural linguistics was its refusal to take the imaginary source into account.
102. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Social Imaginaries Editorial Collective Editorial
103. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Johann P. Arnason, Suzi Adams The Imaginary Dimensions of Modernity: Beyond Marx and Weber
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This paper discusses the formation of Castoriadis’s concept of imaginary significations and relates it to his changing readings of Marx and Weber. Castoriadis’s reflections on modern capitalism took off from the Marxian understanding of its internal contradictions, but he always had reservations about the orthodox version of this idea. His writings in the late 1950s, already critical of basic assumptions in Marx’s work, located the central contradiction in the very relationship between capital and wage labour. Labour power was not simply transformed into a commodity, as Marx had argued; rather, the instituted attempt to treat it as a commodity was a contradiction in itself, between the subjectivity and the objectification of labour. Castoriadis then moved on to link this claim to Weber’s analysis of the interconnections between capitalism and bureaucracy. The main contradiction of modern capitalism, whether wholly bureaucratised as in the Soviet model or increasingly bureaucratised as in the West, now seemed to be a matter of incompatible systemic imperatives: the need to control and to mobilise the workforce. Finally, difficulties with this model – and with the revolutionary expectations based on it – led to a more decisive break with classical theories and to the formulation of a bipolar image of modernity, where the vision of an autonomous society is opposed to the logic of calculation and domination, embodied in capitalist development. On both sides there is an imaginary component, irreducible to empirical givens or systemic principles. In this regard, Castoriadis remained closer to Weber than to Marx, but he also anticipated, in a distinctive way, later emphasis on the cultural dimension of modernity, and more specifi cally the notion of modernity as a new civilisation.
104. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Marcel Gauchet, Natalie J. Doyle Democracy: From One Crisis to Another
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Democracy is in crisis. This crisis is the paradoxical outcome of its triumph over its erstwhile rivals. Having prevailed over the totalitarian projects of the first half of the 20th century it has developed in such a way that it is now undermining its original goals of individual and collective autonomy. Modern liberal democracy – the outcome of an inversion of the values of tradition, hierarchy and political incorporation – is a mixed regime. It involves three different dimensions of social existence, political, legal, historical/economic, and organizes power around these. A balance was achieved after the upheaval of World War II in the form of liberal democracy, on the basis of reforms which injected democratic political power into liberalism and controlled the new economic dynamics it had unleashed. This balance has now been lost. Political autonomy, which accompanied modern historicity and its orientation towards the future, has been overshadowed by economic activity and its pursuit of innovation. As a result, the very meaning of democracy has become impoverished. The term used to refer to the goal of self-government, it is now taken to be fully synonymous with personal freedom and the cause of human rights. The legal dimension having come to prevail over the political one, democratic societies see themselves as ‘political market societies’, societies that can only conceive of their existence with reference to a functional language borrowed from economics. This depoliticisation of democracy has facilitated the rise to dominance of a new form of oligarchy.
105. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Natalie J. Doyle Introduction to Marcel Gauchet’s ‘Democracy: From One Crisis to Another’
106. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Craig Calhoun, Dilip Gaonkar, Benjamin Lee, Charles Taylor, Michael Warner Modern Social Imaginaries: A Conversation
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The conversation seeks to extend and complicate Charles Taylor’s (2004) account of three constitutive formations of modern social imaginaries: market, the public sphere, and the nation-state based on popular sovereignty in two critical respects. First, it seeks to show how these key imaginaries, especially the market imaginary, are not contained and sealed within autonomous spheres. They are portable and they often leak into domains beyond the ones in which they originate. Second, it seeks to identify and explore the new incipient and/or emergent imaginaries vying for recognition and demanding consideration in the constitution (as well as analysis) of contemporary social life, such as the risk-reward entrepreneurial culture.
107. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Suzi Adams, John W. M. Krummel Introduction
108. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
George H. Taylor The Phenomenological Contributions of Ricoeur’s Philosophy of Imagination
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In his work on productive imagination, Paul Ricoeur reorients the imagination away from its reproductive side – as copy of an image, a copy of an existing reality – to its productive potential that can break through not only the prison house of language but the prison house of existing social and political structures. Using the lens of phenomenology, this article analyses the two deepest insights of Ricoeur’s theory of productive imagination. First, Ricoeur elevates application of the phenomenological theory of intentionality to decipher how it may create a space for productive imagination. The theory of intentionality requires consideration of consciousness as the consciousness of something where the ‘something’ is no longer real but the ‘absolutely nowhere.’ Ricoeur undertakes consideration of what this consciousness of may entail in his theory of fiction. He poses whether a theory of fiction can connect the unreal with the real by reshaping it intentionally.When the image has no original referent, then fictions may provide an original of their own. Second, Ricoeur shows us through his theory of iconic augmentation how the fiction can accomplish this remaking of our world. Here Ricoeur shows how phenomenology can engage in analysis of language as a form of productive imagination. The verbal icon as a productive image is the creation of a language that displays and so presents both a visual and a linguistic role. The icon augments in the sense that it is creative and increases reality. Fictions – including social-political utopias – may produce and display their own world, which may in turn enlarge our world.
109. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Adam Konopka Embodiment and Umwelt: A Phenomenological Approach
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This article reconstructs several aspects from Husserl’s phenomenology regarding the intentionality involved in embodied experience of a pre-given Umwelt. I argue that Husserl’s account of environed embodiment underlies and conditions his clarification of Natur (spatio-temporal materiality) and Geist (human cultural and historical achievements). This argument is situated in Husserl’s engagement of the 19th century debate between Wilhelm Dilthey and the Neo-Kantian Baden School concerning the methodological relationship between the natural sciences (Naturwissenschaften) and human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften). Husserl radicalized the debate between Dilthey and the Baden School by pluralizing Heinrich Rickert’s attitudinal characterization of concept formation andclarifying and developing Dilthey’s notion of a life-nexus. Husserl’s approach allows for an identification of the belief modalities of the natural attitude that are operative in feeling sensations oriented toward embodied resolutions involved in bodily regulation. The pre-reflective bodily self-awareness involved in feeling sensations correlated with an Umwelt as a horizon of relevancy and familiarity is the constitutive ground of both Natur (spatio-temporal materiality) and Geist (human cultural and historical achievements) investigated in the respective domains of modern scientific rationality. This reconstruction of Husserl’s approach shows that, despite criticisms to the contrary, Husserl overcame a dichotomy between Natur and Geist through an identification of their common ground in environed embodiment.
110. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Timo Helenius Between Receptivity and Productivity: Paul Ricoeur on Cultural Imagination
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This essay analyses Ricoeur’s notion of human being that is facilitated by cultural imagination (l’imagination culturelle). Following Ricoeur’s insight in his 1976 essay Ideology and Utopia as Cultural Imagination, this paper proposes that his more extensively examined notion of the mytho-poetic imagination, that extends to the social and practical imagination, is necessarily concretised as culture, or as human action that both receives and produces the cultural reality thatis the context of a subject’s action, in order to gain ‘a hermeneutics of the being-able-to-be (pouvoir-être)’. I maintain that Ricoeur’s phenomenological hermeneutics of ‘being able’ is ultimately based on the cultural imagination initiating tradition-conscious change in the social reality that then facilitates the post-critical appropriation of one’s self as capable. In short, I claim that l’imagination culturelle is the basis for a sociocultural poetics of human action and, therefore, a condition for the birth of a situated subject in the positive fullness of belonging.
111. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Bernhard Waldenfels The Equating of the Unequal
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Equality and inequality are basic elements of law, justice and politics. Equality integrates each of us into a common sphere by distributing rights, duties and chances among us. Equality turns into mere indifference as far as we get overintegrated into social orders. When differences are fading away experience loses its relief and individuals lose their face. Our critical reflections start from the inevitable paradox of making equal what is not equal. In various ways they refer toNietzsche’s concept of order, to Marx’s analysis of money, to Lévinas’s ethics of the Other, and to novelists like Dostoevsky and Musil. Our critique turns against two extremes, on the one hand against any sort of normalism fixed on functioning orders, on the other hand against any sort of anomalism dreaming of mere events and permanent ruptures. Responsive phenomenology shows how we are confronted with extraordinary events. Those deviate from the ordinary and transgress its borders, without leaving the normality of our everyday world behind. The process of equalizing moves between the ordinary and the extraordinary. What makes the difference and resists mere indifference are creative responses which are to be invented again and again.
112. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Ľubica Učník The Problem of Morality in a Mathematised Universe: Time and Eternity in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and the Concept of ‘Love’ in Patočka’s Last Essay
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In this paper, I will use Jan Patočka’s last written essay, ‘Notes on Masaryk’s Theological Philosophy’, to reflect on Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov. According to Patočka, in this novel, Dostoevsky offers an answer to Kant and his notion of immortality as a feature of practical reason only. Kant’s intervention in modern philosophy is well known. It is much less discussed that his influence was to reformulate not only metaphysics, but also theology. Dostoevsky takes upthe challenge of the Kantian solution and plays it out in his novels. His critique of science and utilitarian morality and his treatment of children, immortality and love will be the focus of this paper. I will suggest that the problem of a duality between rationality and divinity limits Dostoevsky’s critique of Kant.
113. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Kwok-ying Lau War, Peace and Love: The Logic of Lévinas
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In this article, I will show that behind Lévinas’s provocative interpretation of the whole history of Western ontology, as a state of war and its denunciation pronounced at the very beginning of Totality and Infinity, there is an internal logic. It is first of all a logic of negation: negation of the rationalization of war and violence committed in the name of the highest truth. It is also a logic of affirmation: affirmation, through love and justice, of plurality and infinity incarnated by the face of all figures of alterity. It is an affirmation of a utopia too: the utopia of an ethical politics aiming at restoration of justice by taking up the absolute responsibility towards the other as non-indifference to the suffering and the death of the Other. This utopia also aims at repairing the wound inflicted to the world by all forms of violence. So, Lévinas’ logic is a logic of politics of non-violence, accompanied by a continuous pathétique cry for love and peace.1
114. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Fred Dallmayr ‘Man against the State’: Community and Dissent
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The relation between individual freedom and social community or solidarity is always tenuous and fraught with many possible conflicts or derailments. The essay examines two main forms of such conflicts: the first where individual pursuit of private self-interest completely overrules social solidarity; the second where individual freedom and even radical dissent serve to promote justice and a more ethical mode of solidarity. The formula ‘Man against the State’ goes back toHerbert Spencer and his advocacy of a radical laissez-faire liberalism. Relying on Hobbes and Locke, Spencer argued that in the ‘state of nature’ individuals are endowed with complete liberty, especially the freedom to acquire property - whose protection is the sole objective of government. In some formulations this argument gave rise to the doctrine of ‘social Darwinism’ and the motto of the ‘survival of the fittest’. In opposition to this ‘possessive’ or egocentric form of liberty the essay turns to more ethically grounded conceptions of individual freedom, civil disobedience and dissent, conceptions articulated especially by Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Camus, and also evident in the conduct of Socrates and some members of the German resistance movement. Here the conflict between individual freedom and solidarity serves as the lever to raise community to a higher level of ethical life.
115. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Johann P. Arnason Elias and Eisenstadt: The Multiple Meanings of Civilisation
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The works of Norbert Elias and Shmuel Eisenstadt represent different versions of civilisational analysis. Elias focused on a long-term transformative process, more precisely on state formation and its ramifications in the course of Western European history, and neither he nor his disciples showed much interest in a broader comparative approach. Eisenstadt defined the civilisational dimension of human societies as a configuration of cultural and institutional patterns; he emphasised the plurality of such formations, but had little to say on the specific processual paths taken by each of them. So far, there has been no significant discussion of ways to bring the two approaches into closer contact. Such attempts can start with a brief examination of the common background in classical sociology: the notion of civilisation adumbrated by Durkheim and Mauss anticipated both Eliasian and Eisenstadtian lines of argument. Drawing on this source, it can then be shown that each of the two authors implicitly poses problems related to key concerns of the other. Elias’s account of the ‘long middle ages’ that gave rise to the early modern European state presupposes the overall civilisational context of Western Christendom as well as specific cultural-institutional shifts within it, especially those of the high middle ages. Eisenstadt’s interpretation of the Axial Age calls for further development through analyses of the historical processes unfolding in the wake of the axial turns.
116. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Miki Kiyoshi, John W. M. Krummel Myth
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“Myth” comprises the first chapter of the book, The Logic of the Imagination, by Miki Kiyoshi.In this chapter Miki analyzes the significance of myth (shinwa) as possessing a certain reality despite being “fictions.” He begins by broadening the meaning of the imagination to argue for a logic of the imagination that involves expressive action or poiesis (production) in general, of which myth is one important product. The imagination gathers in myth material from the environing world lived by the social collectivity. Its formation of images (Bilder) expresses the pathos of a people vis-a-vis their environment, but myth also contains elements of logos in the form of intellectual representations and figures. And their combination becomes expressed externally by stimulating and guiding action. In this way Miki argues that myths contain both emotive and kinetic elements, which by moving people to action, are capable of making history. Thus rooted in the symbiosis between individual and social and between society and environment, myth possesses a “historical creativity.” And he also argues that myths can be present with a sense of reality at any epoch in history, even today, wherever and whenever their primeval power is felt to function, “drawing out” a new reality, a new world, out of the natural world.
117. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
John W. M. Krummel Introduction to Miki Kiyoshi and his ‘Logic of the Imagination’
118. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Suzi Adams, Johann P. Arnason Sociology, Philosophy, History: A Dialogue
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The dialogue focuses on the sources, contexts, and configuration of Johann P. Arnason’s intellectual trajectory. It is broadly framed around the interplay of philosophy, sociology, and history in his thought. Its scope is wide ranging, spanning critical and normative theory, phenomenology and hermeneutics, and contemporary and classical sociology. It explores the importance of Castoriadis, Merleau-Ponty and Patočka for Arnason’s understanding of the human condition from a comparative civilizational perspective; his engagement with Habermas and Eisenstadt for the development of his hermeneutic of modernity and multiple modernities; his ongoing, albeit subterranean, dialogue with Charles Taylor; and concludes with a discussion of his recent focus on the religio-political nexus.
119. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Craig Browne Critiques of Identity and the Permutations of the Capitalist Imaginary
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In their elucidations of the capitalist imaginary, Castoriadis and Adorno emphasize the significance of identity thinking to this social-historical constellation. Adorno contends that the principle of identity constitutes the nucleus of the capitalist imaginary, because it underpins commodity exchange and the formal rationality of bureaucratic administration. Castoriadis associates the logic of identity with the same tendencies, but accentuates the horizon of meaning that animates the deployment of this logic. However, Castoriadis and Adorno recognise that the critique of identity logic confronts a genuine antinomy. Although it is integral to the capitalist imaginary, the logic of identity is present in every institution of society. I show how these critiques of identity pose questions about the ontological underpinnings of capitalism’s value system. After explicating variants of identity logic and its critique, I explore different interpretations of the permutations of the capitalist imaginary. These accounts of conflict, innovation and individualism diverge from Adorno and Castoriadis’s assessments of organised capitalism. Similarly, Arnason’s civilizational perspective situates the capitalist imaginary’s permutations in a longer-term historical perspective and suggests a revised core signification of unlimited accumulation. Finally, my analysis outlines some highly significant, though arguably often neglected, current capitalist instantiations of identity logic.
120. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Guanjun Wu The Lacanian Imaginary and Modern Chinese Intellectuality
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Jacques Lacan’s theorization of the imaginary has been regarded generally as an organic part of the crucial development of psychoanalytic theory in its post-Freudian stage. This article situates the Lacanian imaginary in the context of contemporary discussions of ‘theory after poststructuralism’, arguing that it moves radically beyond the poststructuralist terrains of deconstruction and discourse-analysis, and is able to off er new insights on various studies. Especially, it can help (re)examine some aporias in the field of Sinology. This article devotes its main body to demonstrating that the Lacanian account of the imaginary is powerful in exploring the assumptions and expectations of modern Sinophone intellectual discourse. Deconstructive discourse-analysis alone is insufficient for understanding the underlying forces that have been fundamentally shaping the contours of modern Chinese intellectuality, and attention needs to be paid to the psychological dimension of Chinese thought. With the aim of tracing and interrogating these underlying forces, this article seeks to show how the fervor for discussing the ‘problem of China’ reveals a hidden psychical mechanism.