Tag Archives: sociology

Pecking Order


I likely was around the age of ten–1964–when my friends and I started playing kick ball on the asphalt diamond at Coventry School during the summer. This gave me the opportunity to be a self-assessor, and, also to step back a bit from process of making teams, to wonder why my above average performance never was reflected in where I was chosen in the picking of players. I asked my dad. I forgot what he told me.

A few years later, and for a few years, I played baseball on the long gone diamond at Fairfax School. Because I had a good arm, I played third base. But, I was a terrible hitter. I usually was picked in the first third of picks.

Eventually, one leaves the world of pick up ball behind. I played for Roxboro Junior High’s football team. Mike Baum and myself were the blocking fullbacks, opening holes for the storied Tom Olmstead and Victor Wong. We collapsed a Wiley Jr High team’s rushers in the last series of the last quarter of the 1968 season. This helped Olmstead score the team’s first touchdown of the soon-to-be realized 0-5 season. The coaches were idiots.

In high school, I proved mediocre at: football, cross-country*, and made one appearance as a side-arming reliever on the JV baseball team in the spring of 1970:

walked the first batter
hit the second batter
walked the third batter
gave up a three run triple to the fourth batter

Infinite ERA, right? That’s something!

The next year a classmate Jonathan Bass created an intramural softball league (at Hawken School) and enlisted me to help organize it and promote it to my fellow juniors. Somehow he got the Head of the Upper School and Athletic Director to approve it as an alternative to playing a varsity sport or PE class. Participation skyrocketed diue to this late breaking development.

I played first and third base and because I was the team captain, batted myself in the top third of the order. I kept the statistics for the entire league. Somewhere is the record of my performance in every season I’ve played softball since the spring of 1971.

In 1975 I played with the Wizard of Oz team in Vermont. It was the team’s inaugural season. I know I batted ninth and played short outfield, and sometimes pitched, and sometimes played catcher. I was twenty and two years away from my first really enjoyable sportsman’s experience.

Many American men have a sense of what is a pecking order. It might be interesting to ask him how early in their athletic career did this sense begin to be developed.

*My senior year, I recollect that the cross country team had a record of 14-1. I was roughly the eighth or ninth runner on the team, and injured my self in a meet at University School. This led to the single mention of my athletic performance in the yearbook: Stephen Calhoun ran well with the cross country team until he got smart and broke his ankle.

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Icelandic Exceptionalism

Who Gets It

Self-explanatory. via Let’s Talk About Evolution Guardian.UK; in turn via the essential research blogging’s GirlScientist. Video

Fill in blank: “so much for _________________”

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Seeing Red



1 in 4 Americans censoring thoughts under Obama

Confidence in constitutional liberties plunges further still
Posted: March 27, 2010
11:50 pm Eastern
By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily 
Editor’s note: This is another in a series of monthly “Freedom Index” polls conducted exclusively for WND by the public opinion research and media consulting company Wenzel Strategies. 
Nearly one American in four routinely censors his or her own thoughts “much” or “always” under President Obama’s administration, and those who believe their personal liberties have plunged since inauguration day have grown significantly from 49 percent to more than 55 percent in just one month. 

This month, of course, was when Democrats rammed through a bill that essentially nationalizes health care, creating new requirements for consumers to purchase a government-chosen plan or face penalties. 
The WND Freedom Index poll from Wenzel Strategies shows even one in 10 Democrats – whose party controls both the White House and Congress – believes there’s been a big decrease in freedoms. 

“Largely on the negative reaction by men to the actions of Obama and Democrats in Washington, the Freedom Index has dipped again to its near all-time low, sitting at 46.7 on a 100-point scale,” said Fritz Wenzel in his analysis of the results. 
“Simply put, Americans are growing by the month more pessimistic about their freedoms and their fear that government is trying to take them away.” 
He continued, “In the 10 months since the inauguration of the WorldNetDaily.com Freedom Index, it has dropped nearly 11 points on the 100-point scale, and has dropped from a decidedly positive position last spring to a decidedly negative position today.” 

The WND/Wenzel Poll was conducted by telephone from March 22-24 using an automated telephone technology calling a random sampling of listed telephone numbers nationwide. The survey included 30 questions and carries a 95 percent confidence interval. It included 792 likely voters. It carries a margin of error of 3.46 percentage points.

Man, talk about priming a poll result!

This raises lots of questions aside from those about polling methodology.

Do you suppose some people would report feeling really free and thoroughly liberated irrespective of anything the U.S. government has done, say in the last 37 years since such a person first voted at 18?

How would one account for this, account for a person impervious to the tug of that which denies one their freedoms?

How would the internalized sense of one’s being free to some degree be indexed? I’m reminded there was no cogent psychology Locke could utilize. (Romantic!) notions about property and happiness, be they of Hayek or Nozick, cross over into what reasonable domain of psychology? You couldn’t go there with those fellows if you wanted to!

For example, Libertarian thought leader David Boaz:

Libertarians believe that there is a natural harmony of interests among peaceful, productive people in a just society. One person’s individual plans — which may involve getting a job, starting a business, buying a house, and so on — may conflict with the plans of others, so the market makes many of us change our plans. But we all prosper from the operation of the free market, and there are no necessary conflicts between farmers and merchants, manufacturers and importers. Only when government begins to hand out rewards on the basis of political pressure do we find ourselves involved in group conflict, pushed to organize and contend with other groups for a piece of political power. (Libertarianism: A Primer)

The leap from ‘no necessary’ to ‘only when’ hammers home the naivete. The absence of socio-psychological understanding is, obviously, implicit.

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Burning Man


In the Oaxaca Valley of Mexico, the archaeologists Joyce Marcus and Kent Flannery have gained a remarkable insight into the origin of religion.

Universal Religion has been found in societies at every stage of development. Catholic Bishops as they filed into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 2008, and at a temple in South Korea, Buddhist monks paid homage to the Buddha.

During 15 years of excavation they have uncovered not some monumental temple but evidence of a critical transition in religious behavior. The record begins with a simple dancing floor, the arena for the communal religious dances held by hunter-gatherers in about 7,000 B.C. – The Evolution of the God Gene, Nicholas Wade, New York Times, Nov.18,2009

Of the several biases I’m happily locked into, this one is second to no other: as the one steps back through time and its human events and facts, eventually, each and every event and fact falls away. In effect, it “all” disappears.

The brightest ideas go poof! Religion? Poof!

I came to this bias when I—one day— realized that the sophist’s stock response to the foundationalist of any kind, was true. To whit:

What came before your first principle?

The downside to comprehending the slow stripping away of the accretion of all things human is having to expend effort to suppress my urge to remind any and every holder of a-historic and universalist and foundationalist and natural law fundamentalism that if you walk back far enough not even a single prototype for any of it exists.

(How far back? Probably 75,000 years is more than enough.)

“The replacement model of Christopher Stringer and Peter Andrews proposes that modern humans evolved from archaic humans 200,000-150,000 years ago only in Africa and then some of them migrated into the rest of the Old World replacing all of the Neandertals and other late archaic humans beginning around 60,000-40,000 years ago. If this interpretation of the fossil record is correct, all people today share a relatively modern African ancestry. All other lines of humans that had descended from Homo erectus presumably became extinct. From this view, the regional anatomical differences that we see among humans today are recent developments–evolving mostly in the last 40,000 years.” Evolution of Modern Humans – See also C.D.Kreger, Homo Sapiens

Questions about what early humans believed, are encumbered at such point when the mental functions having to do with the human organization of human experience can’t certainly be spoken of as including—what we understand to be—belief itself.

The general problem is knotty. Although it could be a concern of regular philosophy to consider what is the historical prototype for a specific attribution of mental function that is itself the prerequisite for an actual philosophical concept, in fact this lies almost entirely in the portfolio of philosophical anthropology, or, meta-anthropology. In other words, what was ‘belief’ before it was ‘belief’ is a practical question, is a question about human practice.

For very roughly 245,000 years, NO philosophers. However, it’s rather difficult to extract, using cultural forensics, cogent knowledge about both what was the epistemic repertoire of early humans, and, what were the milestones in the available (so-to-speak,) terms via which those same humans came to conceptualize this repertoire.

Still, it cannot be the case that one day, somebody said, in effect, “Oh, what we’re doing is religion!”

John Hart’s B.C. (and Wizard of Id,) are essential.

This is an ontological problem too. What exists as a description of human function, and when did it come into existence? When did religion-as-a-function fade to black?

Nicholas Wade, who authored the short news piece excerpted above, also wrote The Faith Instinct.

The Faith Instinct presents a novel approach to religion. It explores the evolutionary origins of religious behavior in early humans, and traces the cultural development of religion from its origins up until to the present day.

The book does not challenge the central belief of either atheists or people of faith, since it offers no opinion as to whether or not God exists. It’s about religious behavior and its value to the first human societies and their successors.

Based on evidence from anthropologists’ studies of religion, and new findings from genetics and archaeology, The Faith Instinct concludes that religious behavior was favored by natural selection because of the survival advantage it conferred on early human groups.

The religion of early peoples, who lived as hunters and gatherers, underwent a profound cultural transformation as the hunter gatherers formed the first settled societies. The form of religious observance shifted from all-night communal dances, to the spring and harvest festivals of early agricultural societies, to the forms of religion more familiar today. The Faith Instinct retraces the historical context in which Judaism, Christianity and Islam arose, and analyzes how religion has retained many of its ancient roles even in modern secular societies.

I haven’t read Wade’s book. I will; it’s on the short list. But, this description showcases the basic problem of employing modern conceptions retrospectively. We will not ever know what conceptions would have been contemporaneous with proto-religious behavior. It was case that the most primitive social organization elicited as a consequence of human ‘being’ came about prior to language, thus came about prior to the ability to name and articulate what was ‘coming about.’ In light of this, it is, I feel, an error to speak of gestural, danced, rhythmic expression as “religious observance.” Better: ecstatic communion?

It may turn out to be the case that evolutionary advantage accrues only to communal music, movement, and other communal behaviors, and, that religion may be an inessential overlay–kind of the evolutionary ‘psychological’ equivalent to epiphenomena.

But, all this is something more than proto-structures, something more, and enough upon which, to hang later behavioral (and adaptive,) artifactual acquisitions.

* Originally God Moved, collage S.Calhoun 11-2009

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Affectual Politics

Glenn Beck: “I really like our Constitution, I’d like to see it enacted. Let’s fix it and get back to where our founding fathers are.”

Loony, yet, “crazy ass sh*t, but. But, more than a few people do agree with Beck. This is so even if such people couldn’t tell you anything intelligent about what the founding fathers actually thought; what they contested among themselves; and what were their various radically liberal principles.

Here’s a conjecture (of mine) about ideology and history. There is no extant or past example of a form of governance for which it could be demonstrated that it’s procedures of governance wholly and absolutely are realized solely as a matter of adherence to ideological principles. This is falsifiable if it can be shown that there exists or has existed a form of governance for which, in its application of its principles, every instance was/is entirely consistent with principle.

Let’s imagine there are people who are committed to some set of principles in the following, narrow way:

Our endeavor is to instantiate a set of principles. We believe this for two reasons. First, because this set of principles is the best of all possible set of principles. Second, that the principles are best, is verified by the fact that their truth is the most reasonable truth upon which any possible set of principles could be based.

News for social, fiscal & national security conservatives who believe in God, family & country. We seek to uphold the rights of citizens under the U.S. Constitution, traditional family values, Republican principles / ideals, transparent & limited government, free markets, liberty & individual freedom. The ARRA News Service is an outreach of the Arkansas Republican Assembly. However, all content approval rests with the ARRA Editor. While numerous positions are reported, our beliefs & principles remain fixed. mission

Our political climate in the U.S. is very interesting in this year, unfolding now, after the election of Mr. Obama. Several developments have taken me by surprise. Obama surprised me by not partnering his financial system bailout policies with policies aimed to help right the economy of main street from the bottom up. It was also surprising that he didn’t articulate in concrete, instrumental, terms what kind of reform he would endorse, and insist upon, to end the depredations of the speculation-driven shadow economy.

Then, he moved to reform health care and laid it in the laps of his congressional majorities.

In light of these developments, I’m not in any way surprised that people have been stirred to reactionary and (called by me,) restorative activism. Nor was it surprising that they oriented their dissent positively around their patriotism, and, negatively, around their primal fear that the government is posed to strip from him or her so-called freedoms.

I’ll let Missy, writing on her blog at TCUNation, the Social Network for Conservatives, explain:

But the worst part? It allows the federal gov’t to be in charge of every aspect of your life. Every decision you make on a daily basis can be linked to “healthcare.” You drive an SUV? You’re contributing to pollution & that increases asthma…..you need to pay more! Since we have direct access to all of your accounts we know you own a 4-wheeler. That’s dangerous………you need to pay more! We see that you eat at McD’s twice a week. That’s bad for you……you need to pay more! YOU OWN A GUN??? THAT’S DANGEROUS! YOU NEED TO PAY ALOT MORE!!

These liberal fanatics will most DEFINITELY use the federal gov’ts financial stake in your everyday lifestyle choices to CONTROL THEM. Your decisions will no longer be your own, they will be decisions that will be for the “collective good.” And they will be MANDATED & CONTROLLED by the gov’t. And in order to “nudge” you into compliance with their ideology of how you should live your life, they will simply put a financial burden on you if you choose differently.

The paranoia surprised me. How does one square paranoia with a normative conservative ethos that holds its funding principles to be both first, and, last, and to be foundational, and also holds these principles are the only possible enlightened goal granted by reasoning through the problem of governance? Where does paranoia fit in? Is it possible that such foundational principles are, in fact, extremely fragile?

I don’t think so. President Obama has offered a mild liberalism. The bank bailout was extraordinary, yet a Republican would have had to have done the same thing. (Creative destruction is a notion one can practically hold only when the bombs aren’t falling on your own head.) All such bailouts tend to occupy uncertain spots in any ideology. A bailout is above all expedient and unhooked from conventional, ideological morality. They’re grotesque too.

So far Obama’s maneuvering hasn’t been much like anything we associate, historically, with truly radical presidents; especially those with very novel views of the Constitution—such as Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, Reagan, and Bush II. Nevertheless, the ideological principles survive, and this suggests underlying principles, aren’t at all fragile. This includes freedom given to be a result of, contingent upon, application of, ideological principles.

So why is paranoia evoked?

My tentative view is: affect is consequential in the current ‘social psychological framed’ ecology. Forged in the magical bake shop of projective identification, specific affect-laden estimations are on offer. So: a messianic leader is scapegoated so as to be the cause of knowing (i.e. unconsciously feeling,) that what is possessed, “freedom,” is to be stolen by the conspiratorial Other, (i.e. an alter.) This inflated threat is to be met and defeated by, ironically enough, the collective personal power of freedom-loving individualists. It’s worth noting that in some quarters, this evil goat is assumed to have super powers, or, alternately, is assumed to be the servant of hidden masters.

Putting the participation mystique aside–may Levi-Strauss rest in peace–what are the embedded chain-of-being regimes supposed in a clash between the red-in-blood red-tending-to-blue meme, and, the blue-tending-to-orange meme. These, given by Grave’s Spiral Dynamics, and, given by me in my deployment of a shadow dynamics* supposing the red shadow of blue conservatism’s ‘traditionalistic’ paternal chain of being comes to clash with the neoliberal paternal chain-of-being of Orange. Pre-modern, the red shadow of blue, collides here with the post-modern orientation toward technocratic problem-solving.

(Or, the atavistic self and identity, is felt to be threatened by the spectral, post-modern selves and identities. Perhaps, were one to dig into the narratives, one would find at their core a clash between the production of certainty and productions of uncertainty.)

Among many curious aspects of this clash, is the gravity given to an emotionalized, largely unconscious, sense of freedom. (I’ve written about this before.) What is it about a notional freedom that one can be dispossessed of, versus, other less vulnerable notions about freedom? Isn’t it interesting that the conservative concept of freedom-under-constraint, a necessary consequence of the pessimistic view of human nature, is subsumed in the shuffle through the emotionally-charged libertarian bake shop!

Then there is the conspiratorial tenor of magical narratives. Of course, it’s long-standing that the government is anthropomorphized to be a kind of beast, capable of devouring freedom. In this respect the conspiracy mongering of Ron Paul, or Michelle Bachman, comes to be of a piece with the extreme supernaturalized conspiracy advocates, David Ickes, Alex Jones, and Michael Tsarion. In turn, the current extremes are merely the contemporary waves of olden conspiracy theories. And, heck, why not share some air time with the truly deluded?

“they’ve been positioning…” they, theY, thEY, THEY!

*I have yet to go into this in detail. However, roughly, my proposal is that the vertical scale of Spiral Dynamic is configurable as a dynamic, oppositional scale. This is able to depict how higher and lower memes serve as descriptive categories, and schema, for shadow dynamics. For example, by such a dynamic scale, the shadow dynamics for the Blue Meme are discoverable as aspects of Red (below) and Orange (above). In my novel (or idiosyncratic,) view, the shadow dynamics then tend to fall (or regress,) toward the lower, more archaic order, while this unconscious propensity is galvanized by fear of the upward pull toward the newer, more complex order.

My notion here supposes that a concept of Blue freedom, will come to be defended at the lower, unconscious level of Red. Similarly, this defense is waged against a super-charged (by way of ‘social cognitized’ projection,) ‘controlling’ Orange. Grant this phenomenology, and the result is that fear of bureaucracy regresses to fear of collective control, control formulated to the scale conspiracy; “conspiracy” being the shadow concretization of Orange—in its worst form.

This is consistent—well, at least it is to me—with the mental procedures via which contested, soft conceptions–such as freedom–are reduced, reified and objectified. Then the reified conception’s opposite, in this case anti-freedom, is realized and nailed to the alter. Thus, a collective complex is constellated.

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Filed under Kenneth Warren, social psychology, organizational development, sociology

Abe Lincoln & Edmund Burke Rolled In Their Graves

GOP.com—“Not a web site but a platform!” said Michael ‘How did I get this job?’ Steele. Well, head on over! It seems a no brainer in more ways than one to go check out the new citadel of conservatism, GOP.COM.

In an earlier post, C.I.N.O., I had reason to post Russell Kirk’s 10 Principles of Conservatism. For comparison purposes, here’s the link to the source. Ahhh, comparison to what you mutter. How about the principles Republicans believe in, live by?

(1) We’re fortunate to live in America

(2) The Republican Party believes that the United States has been blessed with a unique set of individual rights and freedoms available to all.

(3) You can be what you are, and become what you are capable of becoming.

(4) The Republican Party is inspired by the power and ingenuity of the individual to succeed through hard work, family support and self-discipline. Helping those around you is worthwhile

(5) The Republican Party believes in the value of voluntary giving and community support over taxation and forced redistribution.
Small government is a better government for the people

(6) The Republican Party, like our nation’s founders, believes that government must be limited so that it never becomes powerful enough to infringe on the rights of individuals. You know what to do with your money better than government.

(7) The Republican Party supports low taxes because individuals know best how to make their own economic and charitable choices.
Free markets keep people free.

(8) The Republican Party is supportive of logical business regulations that encourage entrepeneurs to start more businesses so more individuals can enjoy the satisfaction and fruits of self-made success.

(9) Our Armed Forces defend and protect our democracy

(10) The Republican Party is committed to preserving our national strength while working to extend peace, freedom and human rights throughout the world.

(11) The Republican Party is guided by these principles as it develops solutions to the challenges facing America.

These principles, vis a vis conservatism, are mostly puerile, in comparison to the mature articulation provided by the example of Mr. Kirk. There seem to be omissions, since there’s no talk of the founders, or about Judeo-Christian values, of abortion.

I note this and think to myself how it is often presumed by conservatives of a certain didactic bent that if a person can deploy sound rationality to the problem of governance, the person will inexorably be led by the power of reason to ‘conservative’ principles. However, I don’t see how this same procedure could lead to these particular principles.

For example, one can experience the problem in any attempt to reason through how it could be that conservatism is the natural result of deeply apprehending the ethic and philosophy of all those Christ-centered, tradition-embracing, founding fathers. After all, such a working-through is only made problematic by the bald fact of those same founders—for the most part—not being conservative, and, being instead, revolutionaries. Heck, some were Unitarians!

To travel through GOP.com was for me split between the feel of being a tourist in a strange land, and, being nominated to be a member of one of the oddest focus groups imaginable. The most startling pitch found there is directed at bringing African-Americans back into the folds of their ‘natural home,’ the party of Lincoln.

On the Republican Heroes pages, 18 such ‘American Heroes-Patriots’ are highlighted. They are:

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)
Pinchney Pinchblack (1837-1921)
Jose Celso Barbosa (1857-1921)
Clara Barton (1821-1912)
Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)
Joseph Rainey (1832-1887)
Octavius Catto (1839-1871)
Jackie Robinson (1919-1972)
Hiram Revels (1827-1901)
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)
Edward Brooke (1919- )
Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969)
Everett Dirkson (1896-1969)
Frank Johnson (1918-1999)
Mary Terrell (1863-1954)
John Langston (1829-1897)
Ellen Foster (? – ?)

Six white guys. Four patriots born in the 20th century. No Jesse Owens! It’s hard to figure out what the criteria was, EXCEPT, the obvious and cynical criteria hitched to the GOP being the party of Lincoln—who freed the slaves—jumps out. Factoid: John F. Kennedy won 60% of the black vote in 1960; Truman 67% in 1948; Obama 96% in 2008. (See also Nancy Weiss, Farewell to the party of Lincoln: Black politics in the age of FDR, for the relevant earlier history.

Republican thought leaders have offered a variety of crude explanations of why African-Americans vote Democratic, even though the Democratic Party was the home of most white racists for almost a century after the civil war. These explanations echo the ur-standard supposition: that if only one has the chops to think it through, one would embrace the natural ‘rightness’ of the Republican cum conservative creed.

(See Francis Rice in Human Events, Why Martin Luther King was A Republican He writes there:

Today, Democrats, in pursuit of their socialist agenda, are fighting to keep blacks poor, angry and voting for Democrats.”

Let’s be good empiricists and wonder about what would be the result were we to investigate the quantification of poverty rates among African-Americans over the various Democratic and GOP administrations, starting from the post-war era. What do you guess you would find? Do you imagine increases in black poverty tracks more closely to Democrats being in power, or more closely to business cycles? How; what, do business cycles track?

Here’s Rice, again, writing in February, on the web site of the National Black Republican Association:

The euphoria over the election of Michael Steele as the head of the GOP came from the fact that he was elected as chairman of the Republican Party because of the content of his character, not the color of his skin.

His historic election makes him the rightful inheritor of the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party’s first president, and the realization of the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Republican and our nation’s most revered civil rights leader.

It is only fitting that Steele’s election as the head of the Republican Party took place during the bicentennial of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln and the year of the assumption of power by President Barack Hussein Obama, a black liberal Democrat who falsely portends to be the inheritor of Lincoln’s Legacy and the realization of Dr. King’s Dream.

For the first time in the history of our Republic — since our founders established this nation on Judeo-Christian values anchored on a fundamental truth that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — the fate of our nation rests in the hands of two black men.

We are in a battle for the soul of America. Which black leader will determine the future of America? Will we follow Obama and the Democratic Party down the path of failed socialist policies that promote urban decay and generational poverty, or will we heed the call of Steele and the Republican Party to continue embracing our traditional values that have made this country great? The choice is ours.

Will we choose freedom or Uncle Sam’s Plantation?

I think it fair enough to use Rice’s wingnutty ideation as context for GOP.com’s cynical and hopeless appeal to African-American voters. The point is: the confabulation of this alternative history is not in the slightest manner reasonable, or conservative; nor does it correspond to the actual voting record and policy commitments of the Republican Party after 1964. It would take a sea-change in the GOP to re-associate itself with the ethos and radical figure of Abraham Lincoln.

Ironically, the Republican attempt to re-associate the Democrats with their past also wishes to co-opt the radical liberal principle that ‘all men are created equal.’ That this comes during an era when the Republican Party has boiled itself away to the dregs of white privilege makes the alternative universe of GOP.com a place where such hideous and cynical appeals are framed to be de rigueur.

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Negative Omega

[Liberalism] knows that an individual is nothing fixed, given ready-made. [Individuality] is something achieved, and achieved not in isolation but with the aid and support of conditions, cultural and physical–including in “cultural,” economic, legal and political institutions as well as science and art. Liberalism knows that social conditions may restrict, distort and almost prevent the development of individuality. It therefore takes an active interest in the working of social institutions that have a bearing, positive or negative, upon the growth of individuals who shall be rugged in fact and not merely in abstract theory. It is as much interested in the positive construction of favorable institutions, legal, political and economic, as it is in removing abuses and overt oppressions. John Dewey – The Future of Liberalism (1934) *

Until now, capitalism has always seemed to be inextricably linked with democracy; it’s true there were, from time to time, episodes of direct dictatorship, but, after a decade or two, democracy again imposed itself (in South Korea, for example, or Chile). Now, however, the link between democracy and capitalism has been broken.

This doesn’t mean, needless to say, that we should renounce democracy in favour of capitalist progress, but that we should confront the limitations of parliamentary representative democracy. The American journalist Walter Lippmann coined the term ‘manufacturing consent’, later made famous by Chomsky, but Lippmann intended it in a positive way. Like Plato, he saw the public as a great beast or a bewildered herd, floundering in the ‘chaos of local opinions’. The herd, he wrote in Public Opinion (1922), must be governed by ‘a specialised class whose personal interests reach beyond the locality’: an elite class acting to circumvent the primary defect of democracy, which is its inability to bring about the ideal of the ‘omni-competent citizen’. There is no mystery in what Lippmann was saying, it is manifestly true; the mystery is that, knowing it, we continue to play the game. We act as though we were free, not only accepting but even demanding that an invisible injunction tell us what to do and think.

In this sense, in a democracy, the ordinary citizen is effectively a king, but a king in a constitutional democracy, a king whose decisions are merely formal, whose function is to sign measures proposed by the executive. The problem of democratic legitimacy is homologous to the problem of constitutional democracy: how to protect the dignity of the king? How to make it seem that the king effectively decides, when we all know this is not true? What we call the ‘crisis of democracy’ isn’t something that happens when people stop believing in their own power but, on the contrary, when they stop trusting the elites, when they perceive that the throne is empty, that the decision is now theirs. ‘Free elections’ involve a minimal show of politeness when those in power pretend that they do not really hold the power, and ask us to decide freely if we want to grant it to them. Alain Badiou has proposed a distinction between two types (or rather levels) of corruption in democracy: the first, empirical corruption, is what we usually understand by the term, but the second pertains to the form of democracy per se, and the way it reduces politics to the negotiation of private interests. This distinction becomes visible in the (rare) case of an honest ‘democratic’ politician who, while fighting empirical corruption, nonetheless sustains the formal space of the other sort. (There is, of course, also the opposite case of the empirically corrupted politician who acts on behalf of the dictatorship of Virtue.)

‘If democracy means representation,’ Badiou writes in De quoi Sarkozy est-il le nom?, ‘it is first of all the representation of the general system that bears its forms. In other words: electoral democracy is only representative in so far as it is first of all the consensual representation of capitalism, or of what today has been renamed the “market economy”. This is its underlying corruption.'[*] At the empirical level multi-party liberal democracy ‘represents’ – mirrors, registers, measures – the quantitative dispersal of people’s opinions, what they think about the parties’ proposed programmes and about their candidates etc. However, in a more radical, ‘transcendental’ sense, multi-party liberal democracy ‘represents’ – instantiates – a certain vision of society, politics and the role of the individuals in it. Multi-party liberal democracy ‘represents’ a precise vision of social life in which politics is organised so that parties compete in elections to exert control over the state legislative and executive apparatus. This transcendental frame is never neutral – it privileges certain values and practices – and this becomes palpable in moments of crisis or indifference, when we experience the inability of the democratic system to register what people want or think.
Slavoj Žižek – Berlusconi in Tehran, London Review of Books,July 23, 2009

Žižek’s article bores deeply into the contradictions triangulated between democratic participation, the manipulations of ideology and the hegemonic turn of the profit motivation. It is a measure of social consequences of acting out and through those contradictions, that somebody such as Sarah Palin can be promoted to any consideration at all.

But, given the case that Palin actually presents, and too the instance of her celebration, it is enough to suggest that there exists a shared sense among some–if not many–of her celebrants that freedom might better be secured via a theocratic design rather than a democratic one. This isn’t to say Plain is a theocrat, its to say that she captures something of the theocratic projection, and of the countervailing current that poses idealized order against the sparking chaos of modernity and markets.

*hat tip to George Scialabba, who presented this excerpt in his article, Only Words, The Nation, May 11, 2009

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Filed under Kenneth Warren, sociology


Free time is tending towards its own opposite, and is becoming a parody of itself. Thus unfreedom is gradually annexing ‘free time,’ and the majority of unfree people are as unaware of this as they are of the unfreedom itself. –Theodore Adorno

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I’ll be rationalizing the sq1:explorations blogroll for a few months, starting with this first installment. This means ejecting the defunct and injecting new blogs from my diigo archive. I also hope to seed some traffic my way since it has dropped 75% in six months. I’ve always aspired to make the blogroll a great one, yet this will be the first time I’ve gone back to each and every outpost.

And, I’ll narrate this process. For example, jeff Larsen’s Dried Sage blog made the roll under sociology, but it turns out Larsen blogged at his Dried Sage for all of 3 months in 2007! Sayonara.

The South African Blog, specializing as it does on Capetown, is active and remains pegged to special places. Table Mountain is the number one mountain I wish to visit.

Grant H. Potts’s Faces in the Moon, Armies in the Clouds:Comments on Religion, Society, and Life has 4 posts in 1 year. Its stays for the time being. Baheyya: Egypt Analysis and Whimsy stays too, although it is similarly low in activity. However, the photography is striking.

Finally, Grant McCracken’s blog, THIS BLOG SITS AT THE Intersection of Anthropology and Economics, has acquired a ton of authority over the years, and I’ll be venturing there to bring back a report soon. ‘TBSA’ also has a fantastic blogroll.

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Just as there is the term folk psychology, meaning the subjective psychological assumptions and models individuals deploy to navigate the interpersonal universe, there could be the term folk anthropology to designate the subjective assumptions each of us deploys to understand the human universe.

Mr. Obama got himself in a lot of hot water recently when he waxed ‘anthropologically’ in just such an informal, subjective mode.

He answered a questioner with these now infamous remarks:

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

The offered stereotype probably does fit some people, but the error in anthropology, (Aside from the tactical error,) was described neatly by Obama, his choice of words was “inartful.”

My experience is folk anthropology is almost always at least inartful, artless. The reason is that there really isn’t any presumptive method other than what kinds of descriptions can be made to hang together out of both experience and other received data. And, it gets kicked along uncritically and often prejudices and biases and logical faults of attribution bang one’s findings into new and oft ridiculous shape.

A higher order folk anthropology would remain subjective but would be leavened by a critical sensibility. My sense is this is a skills set that can be taught and I’ve done so, yet lacking even an ability to focus on rich data rather than surface data, it is no surprise poor data gets reduced to stereotypes.

Although Obama has been advised by hundreds that, next time, his social analysis should be expressed as a matter of empathy, I’d go farther and suggest that any anthropological insights be rendered in as rich and nuanced a description as possible given the context.

His faulted remarks don’t exist at the vaunted level–in a negative sense–of the truly cynical and condescending anthropological musings of the pundits. They, to a man and a woman, are always standing up for, “Joe Six Pack.”  I’m confident the descriptions underneath this term would be appallingly incorrect. I see no evidence that the punditry has even the slightest clue about what’s going on with most people outside the pundit’s obvious bubble. Bubbles. Elitist bubbles.

As soon as Obama was taken to task for calling people bitter, the punditry weighed in with what these same people were going to feel in response to being called bitter. At least Obama has some data to go on! But the punditry traffics in all sorts of “ur-stereotypes” and so it was both not surprising and shocking to hear almost every cable commentator, and Mrs. Clinton, repeat Obama’s mistake by suggesting they knew how the subject in fact ticks. B.S.

The crucial practice of informal anthropology is careful inquiry unhooked from any of the biases which can be identified and ‘put away’ prior to the inquiry. The point is to reduce the influence of the filtering grid one normally interposes in an informal inquiry, i.e. how one comes to know by coming to ask. Any worthwhile inquiry done over 10 to 30 minutes will reveal the human subject to almost always be complicated in affect, cognition, and overall configuration. The point of a focused inquiry is to discern and differentiate particularity and then piece together the human operations and higher levels of order and at larger scales.

This is too much to ask of politicians of course. Still, most tossed-away ‘ethnography’ in the commons and in public discourse is worse than Obama’s attempt to highlight an actual socioeconomic predicament and its affectual and routine consequences.

As for elitism, it’s not so simple; J.K. Galbraith wrote in 1971:

Among all the world’s races, some obscure Bedouin tribes possibly apart, Americans are the most prone to misinformation. This is not the consequence of any special preference for mendacity, although at the higher levels of their public administration that tendency is impressive. It is rather that so much of what they themselves believe is wrong.


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Filed under social psychology, organizational development, sociology


With exquisite timing, Google today released its year-end Zeitgeist report, revealing “our collective consciousness” as expressed through our searches. The list of our top-ten news searches of the year provides a delightful preview of what we can expect when those dastardly news editors finally stop filtering the news and let “us” decide what we need to know:

1. paris hilton
2. orlando bloom
3. cancer
4. podcasting
5. hurricane katrina
6. bankruptcy
7. martina hingis
8. autism
9. 2006 nfl draft
10. celebrity big brother 2006

via Rough Type

This itemization has caused many commentators some dismay. With my anthropologist’s beanie on, I find this top ten to simply represent a very concise slice about where attention is directed. This means it’s interesting for what it overtly shows and what is tacitly underneath.

The ten pieces here are at turns lurid, idealized, sad, fatalistic, personal and trivial. It doesn’t seem to me to be a very profound comment on the Zeitgeist to be dismayed at the shallowness implicit in the averaging factor of a google top ten! Although a top one thousand would be more to the point, this thin slice shows the Zeitgeist to be summarily conflicted about matters of youth, identity, fate, and mortality. Good Jungian take with a puella/puer in the top two spots.

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Yeah, What Bateson said.

From a Batesonian perspective, it is the way we classify, make distinctions, and make sense of things that is fundamental. If it is the distinctions we ourselves make that are causes, then it is how we process information and map the territory that explains. Within this framework, any explanation or scientific activity becomes fundamentally recursive. It follows that if the world of mental process is recursive, then our descriptions of it should also be recursive and address the multiple layers of mutual influence in any relationship. Once it is understood that recursiveness is fundamental to the development of a science of human interacting systems, “the focus of explanation shifts from the world of matter to the world of form” (Bochner, 1981, p. 74). There are always different orders of recursion and different ways of slicing things up. Every picture can tell a multiplicity of stories.

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Filed under Gregory Bateson, science, sociology


Another goldmine hiding out on the web. This time oriented around phenomenological-constructive psychology and coming out of The Virtual Faculty in New Zealand. The VF has a modest facade behind which lies enormous resources; for example: The Vysgotsky Project.

I haven’t read all the papers, (not hardly!) but could point to a thinker worth curling up with. John Shotter.

If the unceasing flow of speech entwined activity is sustained between us spontaneously, i.e., in an unforced, unplanned, and unintended fashion, what must be the nature of our everyday activities such that we can not only sustain this flow routinely in our actions, but we also, unreflectively, repair or restore it should a significant hiatus occur within it (Buttney, 1993; Shotter, 1984)? To do this, we must both be able to ‘follow’ others in our talk entwined activities, while at the same time, we must speak and act in ways that they also can ‘follow’. To follow another’s utterance entwined activities, we must actively adopt an expectant attitude toward them. Besides noting their content, their reference to the current context, we must also note their point, the changes in that context toward which they ‘gesture’ in the future. As Bakhtin (1986) puts it: “…when the listener perceives and understands the meaning (the language meaning) of speech, he simultaneously takes an active, responsive attitude toward it. He either agrees or disagrees with it (completely or partially), augments it, applies it, prepares for its execution, and so on. And the listener adopts this responsive attitude for the entire duration of the process of listening and understanding, from the very beginning – sometimes literally from the speaker’s first word” (p.68).


Lots of important reasoning/feeling meta-psychology under his name at this site. Another grabber: VICO, WITTGENSTEIN, AND BAKHTIN: PRACTICAL TRUST’ IN DIALOGICAL COMMUNITIES.

…tip of the berg.

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Filed under social psychology, organizational development, sociology


In fleshing out the squareONE links page important thinkers on the periphery of experiential learning theory demand highlighting. Weick, who’s methodology of sensemaking is experiential remains a central influence to my own ‘galumphing,’ (a Weickian term for exploration). His book <The Social Psychology of Organizing> is an accessible, thought-provoking inquiry. As was the follow-up, <Sensemaking in Organizations>.

Henry Mintzberg stands a bit outside experiential theorizing, yet his work on strategy-making as a real-time activity tips the balance toward flexible designing and away from chilly planning. <Mintzberg On Management> and <Structure in Fives> and <The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning> are essential. Weick, Mintzberg and Peter Drucker, as I see it, are in a league of their own. (Okay, maybe Warren Bennis too.)

Karl Weick: | KW @business.com (links) | KW@veryard | KW @onepine |
Leadership When Events Don’t Play By the Rules
Henry Mintzberg:
henrymintzberg.com | HM @business.com |
5 Basic Parts of an Organization | HM @theworkingmanager |

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Filed under Karl Weick, sociology