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61. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
George H. Taylor Delineating Ricoeur’s Concept of Utopia
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This article elaborates the continuing significance of Ricoeur’s development of utopia. Ricoeur develops two not necessarily exclusive aspects of the utopia in its positive sense. First, it acts as an imaginative variation on existing reality, and second, it can act to ‘shatter’ and hence recast existing reality. While Ricoeur himself did not tend to distinguish rigorously between these two senses of the utopia, the article seeks to provide that delineation. Imaginative variation opens the sphere of human possibility but remains hypothetical, while the utopia as that which shatters can introduce a new reality into social existence. In the utopia that shatters, the social imagination can be constitutive of social life. The article situates Ricoeur’s discussion of utopia in his Lectures on Ideology and Utopia in relation to other relevant texts in his corpus, principally The Rule of Metaphor and the forthcoming Lectures on Imagination. The argument locates Ricoeur’s treatment of utopia within the broader field of his work on the symbolic structure of action and social imagination.
62. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Suzi Adams, Paul Blokker, Jeremy CA Smith Editorial
63. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Chiara Bottici From the Imagination to the Imaginal Politics, Spectacle and Post-Fordist Capitalism
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According to Rorty, philosophy is most of time the result of a contest between an entrenched vocabulary, which has become a nuisance, and half-formed new vocabulary which vaguely promises great things. In this paper, I will explore the contest between the entrenched vocabulary of imagination (and ‘the imaginary’ as its necessary counterpart) and a half-formed vocabulary that promises a lot of interesting things: the vocabulary of the ‘the imaginal’. After introducing the concept of the imaginal, I will move on to show its force and, in particular, the role it plays in contemporary politics and in so-called post-Fordist capitalism.
64. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Elsje Fourie The Intersection of East Asian and African Modernities: Towards a New Research Agenda
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This article identifies strands of literature across several disciplines that seek to explore the ideational impact of the proliferating linkages between East Asian and African societies. It argues that these debates could more fruitfully engage with one another if their common concern is understood to be the intersection of modernities—broadly defined as societal self-understandings that wish to provide answers to collective economic, political and epistemic problems. These discussions are well-placed to further explore these intersections by understanding how processes of policy transfer and policy assemblages link various East Asian and African modernities, while reflexive and transnational methodologies such as multi-sited ethnographies may provide innovative methodological tools. A case study of recent attempts to construct Chinese-inspired industrial parks across Ethiopia provides an example of intersecting modernities in practice.
65. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Erin Carlisle On the Possibilities of Political Action in-the-World: Pathways Through Arendt, Castoriadis and Wagner
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This paper clears a path toward an understanding of political action in-the-world. It does so by reconstructing Hannah Arendt, Cornelius Castoriadis, and Peter Wagner’s respective political social theories with a view to the hermeneutic-phenomenological problematic of the world. The analysis begins from the recognition of the human condition as always-already situated in-the-world: both within meaningful and shared world contexts, and within an overarching yet underdetermined world horizon. Two inherently interconnected notions of political action emerge from the reconstruction. The first, as world-disclosing or world-interpreting doing, refers to the political critique that arises through the conflict of interpretations of the world, which reveals the world as a context of unity in a plurality. Connectedly, world-forming or world-making action relates to the introduction of novelty into the socio-cultural and historical field. From this view, political projects rearticulate the world following the interpretative critique of the instituted pattern of socio-cultural reality. As I argue, the openness of the underdetermined, overarching world-horizon provides the precondition for political projects that seek to critically reinterpret and rearticulate the socio-cultural institution of the world. Still, the approach to political action in-the-world offered in this paper remains open for development; the thematics of power and the temporality of doing are avenues for further consideration.
66. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Natalie J Doyle The United States in the Work of Marcel Gauchet: A Critical Introduction to ‘Populism as Symptom’
67. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Marcel Gauchet, Natalie J. Doyle Populism as Symptom
68. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Mikhail Maslovskiy Brazil, Russia, and the Multiple Modernities Paradigm
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The article focuses on analyses of transformation processes in Brazil and Russia from the viewpoint of the multiple modernities theory. Shmuel Eisenstadt’s study of the Latin American version of modernity is characterised along with interpretations of his ideas in the works of contemporary sociologists. The peculiarities of modernisation in Brazil are singled out including the impact of orientation to external centres of liberal modernity. The modernising dynamics of Russian society are discussed on the basis of Johann Arnason’s sociological theory. It is argued that Arnason’s analysis of intercivilisational encounters and imperial modernisation is essential for understanding transformation processes in Russia. A comparative analysis of Brazil and Russia should take into consideration the impact of religious traditions and institutions on social and political changes, the unequal length and intensity of imperial experience and the degree of openness towards western liberal modernity. The legacy of the Soviet period is regarded as the main difference of contemporary Russia from Latin American societies.
69. 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.
70. 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’.
71. 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.
72. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Johann P. Arnason Introduction
73. 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.
74. 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.
75. 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
76. 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.
77. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Alain Caillé, Natalie J. Doyle, George Renuka New Theses on Religion
78. 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
79. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Marcel Gauchet, Natalie J. Doyle The Political and Religion: Twelve Propositions in Reply to Alain Caillé
80. 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.