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121. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Paul Blokker The Imaginary Constitution of Constitutions
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The modern constitution is predominantly understood as a way of instituting and limiting power, and is expected to contribute to (societal) stability, certainty, and order. Constitutions are hence of clear sociological interest, but until recently they have received little sociological attention. I argue that this is unfortunate, as a sociological approach has much to offer in terms of a complex and historically sensitive understanding of constitutions and constitutionalism. Constitutional sociology has particular relevance in contemporary times, in which the meaning of constitutions and constitutionalism is uncertain, and subject to contestation, and possible transformation. The constitutional sociology developed here is phenomenologically inspired and stresses the importance of understandings of the modern constitution as ‘embedded’ in constitutional imaginaries. Rather than as a visible and rationally designed construct, constitutional sociology understands constitutionalism as ultimately a ‘field of knowledge’. The suggestion is that this field of knowledge or ‘modern constitutional horizon’ is characterized by a tension between two ultimate markers, in terms of what Castoriadis has identified as the social imaginary significations of mastery and autonomy. Mastery and autonomy form prominent constitutional orientations, historically taking the form of solidified, instituted meanings, identified here as the modernist and the democratic imaginaries. In the last section, the two instituted constitutional imaginaries will be ‘unpacked’ in specific components (state sovereignty, absoluteness, fabrication, endurance, and distrust regarding the modernist imaginary; indeterminacy, creativity, dynamism, self-government and popular sovereignty regarding the democratic one). In conclusion, I suggest that constitutional sociology might significantly help elucidating the potential losses and heteronomous tendencies that may result from the contemporary uncertainty and possible metamorphosis that affects the modern constitution.
122. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Jörg Rupke ‘Religion’ as Conceptualised in a Roman Perspective
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Definitions and theories of religion have been developed and discarded in an ongoing debate, which has been fuelled as much by post-colonial critique, theories of modernity, and postmodernist positions, as by new foci on old and new media. By starting from the challenges to adequately describe historical phenomena that could be fruitfully compared to religious action in other geographical and chronological settings, methodological options are developed and theorised with regard to an adequate, that is, fruitful model and theory of religion. More concretely, it is proposed to analyse ancient Roman religion as ‘lived ancient religion’ and to conceptualise this religion as religious agency, communication, and collective identity. The basis for this analysis is a recollection of the critique raised against an approach that had reduced ancient religion to ideological and ritual systems bolstering political and (in the context of Greek and Roman cities) ‘civic’ identities. Instead, I argue that the ancient evidence demands an approach that focusses on individual actors and their situational and strategic uses of religious communication. ‘Traditions’ are shaped and modified in such acts of ‘appropriation’.
123. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Joel S. Kahn The Inner Lives of Javanese Muslims: Modern Sufi Visions in Indonesian Islam
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This paper draws on fieldwork in Indonesia and uses its findings to clarify questions about the differentiation of trends in contemporary Islam. Modernist and reformist currents are commonly distinguished from the Islamist revival that finds expression in political and sometimes violent activism; but a closer look at the field suggests a more diversified picture. A current of inner-oriented piety, akin to the Sufi tradition but also responsive to modern conditions and challenges, is documented through interviews with Javanese spiritual leaders. The methodological issues raised by this approach are not unrelated to those accompanying the ‘ontological turn’ in anthropology; in this case, they have to do with an esoteric Islam oriented towards the sacred and the secular worlds at the same time, critical of the legalism too often identified with Islam, and open to dialogue with other religions. On the historical level, the roots of this religious orientation should be sought in the mystical traditions that grew out of Islam’s encounter with Hinduism and Buddhism in the Indonesian archipelago.
124. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Johann P. Arnason Introduction
125. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Matthias Riedl Terrorism as ‘Apocalyptic Violence’: On the Meaning and Validity of a New Analytical Category
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This article discusses the category of ‘apocalyptic violence’, which has been frequently applied in recent studies of terrorism. It shows that the category is not self-explanatory because apocalyptic literature is traditionally determinist and rather dissuades their readers from taking action. A historical overview demonstrates that revolutionary forms of apocalypticism emerge only in early modernity, when mystical and humanist influences undermined the determinist creed. A more differentiated concept of ‘apocalyptic violence’ is then tested using the example of several cases of modern terrorism. The result is that the category is meaningful for understanding certain trends within modern terrorism, especially as it captures the symbolic self-interpretation of terrorist groups more adequately than the categories extremism and fundamentalism. However, the article also shows that the category has clear limits and is not suitable for a comprehensive understanding of the motivational and ideological grounds behind terroristic violence.
126. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Martin Fuchs ‘Hermeneutik des Neuen’. Ruptures and Innovations of Religious Interpretation—Reflections from Indian Religious History: The Case of Bhakti
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This paper discusses the Indian religious current known as bhakti, a cluster of movements and ideas with a long history traced back at least to the Bhagavad Gita, and confronts this case with problems debated in Western cultural hermeneutics. Bhakti is commonly seen as a devotional type of religiosity, opening up new dimensions of religious experience and inventing unconventional, even antinomian forms of expression; more recently, it has also been studied as a vehicle of religious individualization. The hermeneutical questions posed by this historical phenomenon have to do with both sides of the constellation known to social theorists as the double hermeneutic of social life, i.e. the meanings involved in and developed through the initiatives and exchanges of social actors, as well as the interpretive frameworks applied in scholarly analyses. The idea of social imaginaries constitutes a link between these two aspects. On both levels, the case of bhakti raises specific and central problems. It represents a particular pattern of orthodoxy and dissent, unfolding in contact and contest, and very different from the Western-based models of such configurations. For further hermeneutical reflection on this field, Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy—with its emphasis on translation and “oneself as another”—seems better equipped than Gadamer’s work, which in the last instance subordinates understanding of the other to self-understanding.
127. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Natalie J. Doyle Critical Introduction to Alain Caillé and Marcel Gauchet: An Exchange on the Place of Religious Meaning in the Self-Institution of Human Societies
128. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Johann P. Arnason Theorizing the History of Religions: The Weberian Agenda and its Unresolved Issues
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The paper begins with a brief discussion of French approaches to religion, with particular emphasis on interpretations of and responses to Durkheim’s work. This survey of the French tradition then serves as a background to more detailed analyses of Max Weber’s work on the historical sociology of religions. Specific features of the Weberian project stand out in contrast to French conceptions; but to gain an adequate grasp of his problematic, it is necessary to think beyond his incomplete arguments and spell out the underlying or adumbrated themes. Although Weber’s civilizational studies are at first sight centred on ‘economic ethics’, it can be shown that the perspective shifts towards the question of religion and politics. Closer examination of theocracy, a marginal notion in Weber’s writings, but open to more complex interpretations, and of sacral rulership as a more general category, throws light on the religio-political nexus and its civilizational contexts. A further issue, less explicitly present in Weber’s writings, but relevant to his main concern, is the relationship between religion and philosophy. All these aspects should be discussed in more concrete historical terms than Weber could do a century ago, and the processes that led from archaic civilizations to the axial age are of particular importance.
129. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Alain Caillé, Natalie J. Doyle, George Renuka New Theses on Religion
130. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Alain Caillé, Natalie J. Doyle On the Politico-Religious: Seventeen Embryonic Theses (Plus One) Written in the Spirit of Sociological Topics
131. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Marcel Gauchet, Natalie J. Doyle The Political and Religion: Twelve Propositions in Reply to Alain Caillé
132. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Robert Legros, Steve Rothnie Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort: The Question of Autonomy
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The author compares the different interpretations by Castoriadis and Lefort of democratic autonomy. For both, autonomy involves questioning all pregiven meaning. Castoriadis, while rejecting any law of historical progress, regards the history of autonomy as the development of a movement which commenced in a limited political domain in ancient Greece and expanded in other domains in Western Europe from the 11th century on. In theory, it has eliminated pregiven meaning, but has remained stuck in a liberal oligarchy, bogged down by a tide of insignificance. It remains to further the project of autonomy to the point where a truly autonomous society will be able to accept as such the “Abyss” (the “Chaos”) it experiences without hiding behind replicas such as those provided by religion. Lefort, on the other hand, while similarly accepting democracy’s desire for autonomy, believes the source of its principles are enigmatic and it will continue to remain open to the authentic human experience of radical transcendence even without God. He believes that the threat of relativism can be avoided as democracy is more just since it allows its members to be more open to this radical transcendence than other forms of society.
133. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Roger Savage Emancipatory Alternatives, Sites of Resistance: Social Subversion, Political Contestation, and Dystopic Imaginaries
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Social opposition to instituted policies and practices marks the sites of resistance that populate the contemporary political landscape. Animated by the prospects of a better and more just world, the emancipatory ambitions of social and political movements bring to the fore discrepancies between ideologically congealed power relations and habits of thought and the subversive function of utopian expectations. Paul Ricoeur reminds us that our participation in society is invariably punctuated by our experiences of reality’s noncongruence with imaginative alternatives we can project and upon which we can act. After explaining how literary fictions open spaces for reworking reality, I set out the imagination’s analogous power on the political plane. The struggles with which social and political movements are engaged seek to transform established conventions. Hence, like literary works, these movements aim at refashioning the existing order of reality from within. Protest movements attest to how struggles for recognition combat systemic injustices by holding out the prospect of a different and better future. Consequently, these movements exemplify the power that springs from individuals acting in consort, as evidenced by recent protests against the Trump administration. Conversely, violence destroys power. In view of the way that future expectations animate the force of the present, I therefore argue that dystopic representations of authoritarian regimes in Margret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and George Orwell’s 1984 fulfill a critical, social function as apocalyptic harbingers of political corruption and deceit. As such, these dystopian novels intensify the force that the present has as a time of crisis and decision.
134. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Chiara Bottici Who Is Afraid of The Myth of the State?: Remarks on Cassirer’s Unpublished Manuscript
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Now that we possess the Nachlass version, we can finally state it: Cassirer’s The Myth of the State has been massacred, large parts have been omitted; entire sections moved around, the fundamental thesis deeply altered. Instead of the neo-Enlightenment intellectual who, when faced with the Nazi’s recourse to myth, had started to question the very idea of a Western road from mythos to logos, the 1946 edition transmitted to us the text of a self-confident intellectual carrying the torch of the Enlightenment even in front of an event that could have potentially extinguished it forever. Why has the text been massacred? When? And by whom? The main suspect cannot but be Charles Hendel, who published it posthumously in 1946 by stating: ‘I hope I have not altered anything that would have mattered to him.’ By perhaps it was not a murder, but rather a suicide: perhaps Cassirer’s himself has killed his own self-criticism. In both cases, the motive could have been the desire to preserve Cassirer’s intellectual coherence, and thus reiterate that opposition of mythical versus rational consciousness upon which both Cassirer’s philosophy and philosophical self-narrative of the West ultimately rests. But if that is the case, then it does not matter who actually assassinated the text, because we are all, in a way or another, accomplices.
135. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
À. Lorena Fuster, Gerard Rosich Mapping an Intellectual Trajectory: From Modernity to Progress via World-Sociology
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This article aims to offer an interpretation of the work of Peter Wagner based on a genealogical reconstruction of his intellectual trajectory. It aims at opening routes for future mappings of his impressive work. Firstly, it addresses the main elements of his theory of modernity, which reached its definitive form during the work he carried out in the research programme Trajectories of modernity initiated in 2010. Secondly, an interpretation of his recent shift of focus from modernity to world-sociology is proposed. At the beginning of the 21st century, social theory faces the same kind of problems that at the beginning of 19th led to a particular way of investigating the social realm through the invention of the concept of ‘society’. The main difference between both situations is the extraordinary increase in the degrees of global interdependence, which situates the concept of ‘world’ in the same methodological position that the concept of ‘society’ had in the 19th century, once the contours that justified the methodological use of this concept were completely transformed by the events of the 20th century. Finally, how to interpret his more recent work on the notion of progress against the background of this shift of focus from modernity to world-sociology will be discussed. The task of reconstructing an idea of progress suitable for our times is analogous to his work on providing an interpretation why the ‘world’ has become the main structuring dimension of our social life.
136. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Gerard Rosich, Angelos Mouzakitis Introduction
137. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Luc Boltanski Historical Sociology and Sociology of History
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Reading A Sociology of Modernity made me turn again towards history and encounter the path of a historical sociology. One can say that Peter Wagner´s work opens up particularly rich perspectives towards a new consideration of the complex relations between sociology and history and on the consequences that the internal movements within each discipline have had on the other. I shall approach some issues regarding these relations by looking, first, at the theme of temporality and at the distinction between the past and a present (often turned towards the horizon of the future) and, second, at the theme of the events and their frequent contradistinction to structures.
138. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Svjetlana Nedimović To Restore the Sense of Future: ‘Street-reading’ of Peter Wagner’s understanding of the present and how things (are to) start making sense
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Contemporary socio-political praxis has an ambivalent relationship with scholarly pursuits in social sciences. On the one hand, there has been a considerable increase of (institutional) pressure upon scientists to produce models and recommendations over the second half of the 20th century. On the other, transformations of the world have proved resilient to modelling as well as to grand theoretical narratives, to the point which rendered them conceptually unintelligible and normatively overwhelming to social sciences. This has had various consequences in different spheres. For those involved in direct transformative action across the world, it often spells lack of interpretative tools, measuring instruments and normative orientation beyond the framework of their immediate experiences and action. The paper will seek to uncover how historical-interpretative engagement with the present, which Peter Wagner undertakes in his book on progress (2016), coincides with an experience and interpretation of ‘street politics’ from one corner of the world at a moment of the present. By mapping this coincidence, voyaging most arbitrarily through academic and non-adacemic writings as well as the accounts of contemporary practice of various new movements in post-2008 world, I will try to demonstrate how Wagner’s work at conceptual reconstruction and historical sociology of the present can help understand and situate immediate and localized human efforts towards the reconstitution of the world. It is a testimony to the possibilities of developing anew a vibrant relationship between contemporary academia and praxis far beyond the vulgar automatic translation of conceptual narratives into daily policies or ideological programmes.
139. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Ivor Chipkin Sovereignty and Government in Africa after Independence
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This essay is a contribution to the field of institutional studies in that it treats the State as a substantial phenomenon, composed of institutions that require analysis in their own right. Here, the focus is on the political form of African states from the 1960s to the 1980s. On the one hand, I will follow Bourdieu here in insisting that the study of government demands that we know something of the history of political thought (la pensée politique). This simple observation is seldomly applied when it comes to politics in postcolonial Africa. On the other, I use Peter Wagner´s concept of modernity to show that struggles against colonialism and Imperialism and the pursuit of self-determination for African and Asian peoples are unambiguously struggles against domination and for autonomy. The emergence of Third World nationalism (and the Non-Aligned Movement) is an event, therefore, firmly in modernity. So too is the phenomenon of the One-party state in Africa.
140. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Aurea Mota World-Sociology Beyond Eurocentrism: Considerations on Peter Wagner’s Theory of Modernity
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In his recent work Peter Wagner has dealt with understandings of modernity in different world regions. He has expanded the analysis of modern transformations in Europe to parts of the Southern world. This turn in his work has been a response to challenges about the development of Western modernity, including his own earlier arguments. This article explores some features of Wagner’s recent research on the Brazilian, European and South African trajectories of modernity and his proposal for a world-sociology. The aspects of his work that I am especially interested in are: i) the establishment of the Atlantic connection for the ‘enablement’ of the modern transformation in the nineteenth century; ii) the question about the spaces where experiences happen and the interpretation of temporal transformations and historical continuities. As a sociologist who takes a classical approach to the analysis of historical transformations, Wagner has developed a conception of trajectories of modernity using the notion of societal self-understanding to challenge both conceptually and empirically the presuppositions of communality and continuity assumed as guiding ideas to account for difference in the modern world. I explore in this article the advantages of Wagner’s unorthodox sociological perspective that is to propose both a general understanding of autonomy as key features to comprehend historical transformation and to show how reflexivity opens up a variety of ways of being in the world.