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21. 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.
22. 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.
23. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
John W. M. Krummel Introduction to Miki Kiyoshi and his ‘Logic of the Imagination’
24. 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.
25. 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.
26. 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.
27. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Suzi Adams, Paul Blokker, Natalie J. Doyle, John W. M. Krummel Editorial
28. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Werner Binder Shifting Imaginaries in the War on Terror: The Rise and Fall of the Ticking Bomb Torturer
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Th is analysis employs the concept of social imaginary to account for recent shifts in the imagination, discourse and practice of torture. It is motivated by a broader ambition to highlight the importance of the imaginary vis-a-vis the symbolic, which still dominates theoretical debates in cultural sociology. Culture does not only consist of codes and symbols, but also encompasses collectively shared imaginary significations. Only by paying tribute to the imaginary dimension of culture, we are able to understand how codes and symbols work. The importance of the social imaginary will be demonstrated through an analysis of the impact of 9/11 and the Abu Ghraib scandal on the American torture discourse. The terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers did not bring up new arguments in favor of torture, but changed the social imaginary by turning the so-called ‘ticking bomb scenario’ from a mere thought experiment into a real possibility. The publicized abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison had an opposite effect: The infamous photographs changed the imagination of torture which in turn strengthened its critics.
29. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Jacob Dlamini, Aurea Mota, Peter Wagner Trajectories Of Modernity—Towards A Renewal Of Historical-Comparative Sociology: An Introduction
30. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Gerard Delanty A Transnational World?: The Implications Of Transnationalism For Comparative Historical Sociology
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The essay seeks to explore the implications of transnational and global history for comparative historical sociology, especially in light of notions of entangled history, postcolonial critiques, theories of the ‘Global South,’ and new interpretations of empire. It offers an assessment of the implications of the transnational turn for comparative history, arguing that, despite some of the claims made, this should largely be seen as a shift rather than a turn and as a corrective rather than a fundamentally new paradigm. Following from a discussion of some of the issues that have arisen from the transnational turn, in particular with respect to the work of a new generation of global historians, such as Bayly, Osterhammel and Pomeranz, the essay then considers the different contribution of comparative historical sociology, including civilizational analysis, as in the work of Eisenstadt and Arnason. The argument is advanced that while comparative historical sociology is today in crisis as a result of being overtaken by developments within transnational and global history, it offers much promise. The two fields cannot be entirely separated, but comparative historical sociology has a strong tradition of comparative analysis that is different from historiographical analysis and which remains undeveloped. The specificity of the sociological dimension is urgently in need of renewal. It is argued that this largely resides in an interpretative approach to social inquiry. However, this has not yet been fully exploited in relation to transnationalism.
31. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Ingerid S. Straume Challenges of the Anthropocene: Between Critique and Creation
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The Anthropocene refers to the geological epoch where human activities have turned into a geological factor. The paper discusses some of the questions that emerge with this concept, related, especially, to antireductionism, transdisciplinarity and the modern notion of freedom. An important dimension is the eco-philosophical critique of modern knowledge systems and what is seen as exploitative and dominating forms of knowledge. In this literature, capitalist expansion, colonization and fossil fuel consumption are seen as historically connected and supported by scientific forms of rationality that have proven to be harmful. While sharing many of these eco-philosophical concerns, I argue that the sciences may still harbour the resources necessary to recreate themselves in response to contemporary challenges. One example is Terrence Deacon’s autogenic theory of life, where the relationship between life and non-life is seen as continuous and historical, not abstract and metaphysical. The notion of Anthropocene has also inspired many artists who work, sometimes together with scientists, at creating new forms and significations. Taking this as an opening for greater social transformations, the paper discusses how the Anthropocene can become part of a social movement while maintaining creativity, complexity and commitment to reason.
32. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Said Amir Arjomand State Formation In Early Modern Muslim Empires: Common Origin And Divergent Paths
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Chinggis Khan’s empire of conquest unified much of the Eurasian ecumene in the thirteenth century. A constitutional reading by sedentary Persian bureaucrats of the Mongol empire is used as the background for contrasting the divergent developmental paths of imperial autocracy in the three early modern Muslim successor empires. This developmental path was historically contingent upon the transformation of ascetic Sufism into a millenarian mass movement against Turko-Mongolian domination among the subject population of its compound societies. The paradoxical impact of popular Sufism on the legitimacy of kingship was also contingent upon either the success of the aspiring millenarian challengers, as was the case with the Safavid case, or the pre-emptive appropriation of the claim to the union between apparent and real monarchy by Turko-Mongolian rulers, as with the Timurids who ruled Mughal India, or, pre-emptive construction of a counter-model, as with the Ottomans.
33. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Peter Wagner World-Sociology: An Outline
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The objective of a world-sociology is to elaborate an understanding of the present socio-political constellation that is global in its outlook but sensitive to differences in specific spatio-temporal circumstances and that is based on insights into how this present constellation has been brought about through transformations of preceding socio-political constellations. This is a time-honoured task addressed in ‘classical’ historical sociology, but largely abandoned today because of theoretical and methodological criticism of earlier attempts. This article tries to show how a new approach to this task can be developed: by identifying the elements for such work in recent debates; by outlining the conceptual steps necessary for reconstruction; and finally by sketching the contours of such a new world-sociology in some substance.
34. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Aurea Mota Uncivilised Civilisations: Reflections On Brazil And Comparative History
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Drawing on archaeological findings about individuals of the archaic Brazilian ‘hunter-gatherer’ societies and on the life and work of a contemporary Brazilian artist, Paulo Nazareth, this paper argues for the use of a timeless history in which chronological historical time will be less important in sociological comparative analyses. There are processes that belong to a significant past which still inform how societies imagine themselves and which cannot be understood from the established perspective of a divided human and natural history. These processes can only be interpreted by overcoming disciplinary constraints and by assuming that history goes beyond the systematic organisation of the facts and historical evidence. There are aspects of American archaic history that are not only completely unknown to us, but they also inform societal practices and imaginary significations of the past, present and future in many New World societies. The paper critically discusses historical-sociological literature on Brazil. Based on a number of perspectives developed in the fields of philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and archaeology, it will be argued that the division of the world into ‘civilisation’ and ‘other simplistic social-historical-economical-cultural groups’ is incompatible with a comparative historical sociology that does not aim to hierarchise diff erent societal forms.
35. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Jakub Homolka Elaborating the Philosophical Dimensions: The Development of Historical-Comparative Sociology in Johann Pall Arnason’s Civilizational Analysis
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This article deals with the work of the Icelandic sociologist and philosopher Johann Pall Arnason (1940–) and with his concept of ‘civilizational analysis’. More precisely, I want to show that Arnason’s original interpretation of civilizational analysis goes beyond the mainstream understanding of historical sociology as a dialogue between history and sociology in favour of philosophical approaches. By outlining the three levels of Arnason’s civilizational analysis—(I.) the reconstruction of the concept of ‘civilization’, including its history, (II.) the link to philosophical sources and (III.) the theoretical development of Eisenstadt’s heritage—the article shows that, according to Arnason, the concept of ‘civilization’ is understood as amenable to the historical-sociological concepts of ‘culture’ (Max Weber, Shmuel N. Eisenstadt) on the one hand, and the philosophical concepts of the ‘world’ (Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jan Patočka, Cornelius Castoriadis) on the other. Arnason thus, defining ‘culture’ as the so-called ‘interpretive articulation of the world’, emphasizes the motif of ‘cultural creativity’, which is present, yet theoretically underdeveloped, both in Weber’s and Eisenstadt’s work. In this light, the article finally focuses on Arnason’s most recent attempts to discuss Eisenstadt’s concept of the ‘civilizational dimension’ of modernity. It deals primarily with the terms ‘cultural ontology’ and ‘civilizational paradox’, in which the need to link historical sociology to philosophical perspectives is most evident. The civilizational approach is thus introduced as the crucial framework of Arnason’s elaboration of the philosophical dimensions in sociological analysis.
36. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Suzi Adams On Johann Arnason and the Religio-Political Nexus: Some Preliminary Reflections
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This essay focuses on Arnason’s most recent work, and reconstructs his developing account of the religio-political nexus. Arnason’s elaboration of the religio-political nexus aims to extend ‘the civilizational dimension’ beyond the Axial Age to archaic civilizations. He situates the religio-political nexus within the Durkheimian-Maussian current of civilizational thought, and fortifies it through engagement with debates in historical anthropology (Gauchet, Clastres, Godelier) and Castoriadis’s notion of power and religion. The second part of the essay discusses Arnason’s articulation of the sacred, and argues that consideration of Ricoeur’s work on the ‘symbolic function’, in dialogue with Castoriadis and Arnason, would enrich our understanding of the interplay between the imaginary, symbolic, and the sacred.
37. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Jacob Dlamini Shame and the Imaginary Institution of Society
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This essay is about the role of shame in the institution of society. Drawing on the work of Cornelius Castoriadis and Louis Hartz, I argue for the presence and importance of shame in even the most racially violent and stratified of societies. Using an example of extreme racial violence from apartheid South Africa, I also argue that shame mediates in profound ways the ideas and practices of the individuals who make up settler societies. This is because shame is by definition relational and social in its operation. For one to feel shame, there needs to be another or the consciousness of another. We feel ashamed in the world, even though our feeling of shame might feel like a primal, private emotion. This has a profound effect on how individuals act, even in racially stratified societies.
38. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Eduardo A. Rueda Anti-Antimodernity: Understanding Modern Narratives in (of ) Latin America
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Latin American narratives constitute ways of interpreting sociohistorical processes both in the past and the present. These narratives have appropriated either the normative aspirations which modernity opened two centuries ago or a critical perspective that opposes those aspirations by taking modernity itself as a source of domination. This article explores how these narratives indeed have interpreted current or past sociohistorical processes through the lens that normative accounts of modernity have provided and, against that background, it questions whether antimodern critiques of the modern normative core are acceptable or not and make a point against understanding ‘antimodern’ narratives as such. The idea that antimodern narratives reveal the ugly face of modernity itself is contested by showing how such narratives are also deeply seated in the modern aspiration to authenticity. This anti-antimodern treatment of antimodern narratives shows the extent to which modernization has failed in satisfying modern normative aspirations—authentic self-realization. Th e implications that this analysis might have for reshaping the framework in which emancipation is thought in Latin America are explained briefly in the last section of the article.
39. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Maxim Khomyakov Mastering Nature: A Russian Route into Modernity?
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The paper is devoted to the analysis of Russian ‘experience and interpretation’ (P. Wagner) of the situation of modernity. The author considers the time of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as especially important for understanding Russian modernity and chooses to demonstrate complexities and contradictions of this understanding by the example of Nikolay Fedorov’s Philosophy of Common Task. The paper starts with a characterisation of modernity (according to Castoriadis) as the double signification of autonomy and rational mastery of the world. Then it proceeds to the description of the circumstances of Russian society of the nineteenth century, which, according to the author, were defined by the opposition of ‘the people’ (narod) and ‘intelligentsia’. It is in this situation, he argues, Russian society had to autonomously interpret its position in the world. In the majority of the cases, according to the author, it chose precedence of the mastery and control over autonomy and freedom. The author analyses Fedorov’s projectivist philosophy of resurrection as one of the most striking interpretations ever given to the ideas of autonomy and rational mastery of the world. He argues that Philosophy of Common Tasks incorporated the trends and ideas inherent in Russian understanding of modernity. These features made it an ideology equally popular both among Orthodox Christian thinkers of the time and among communists of the 1920s.
40. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Ken’ichi Mishima The Long Shadow of European Self-interpretation in Another Modernity
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Despite their variety, most paradigms for theories of modernity have for a long time been convinced that European and American modernisation establish a standard. This is no longer acceptable. The situation we are theoretically facing is rather more adequately captured by terms such as ‘multiple’, ‘selective’ and ‘entangled’ modernities. The task is to precisely follow the dynamism of transnational influence and the interference of modernisation-related discourses, which are always selective and entangled. Proceeding from these assumptions, I discuss in this essay various aspects of the transnational entangledness of discourses, especially focusing on the long shadow which European self-interpretations of history, above all the Hegelian one, have cast over public discussions in Japan.