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Monthly Archives: September 2006

These are just notes yo.

A bullet of how I might proceed in this discussion: A. Let’s make the following suppositions 1. It is possible to be ‘scientific’, but that what constitutes ‘science’ is a contested set of tools and methods for approaching the things we observe, as in the things we sense in the broadest notion of the verb -to sense.   2. The way one goes about ‘being scientific’ varies and must vary from one field and context in that field to the next.  

3. Our field is a matrix of constructed/constructing fields, the social. The social is an insanely complicated collection of agents bearing their habitus and shaping the bearing of it. What I like about the Turner piece is that it reminds us of the need for representations, models, theories as a sort of ‘language of sociology’ – but only with the understanding that these are indeed ‘just models’ and mappings to provide some method for discussing occurrence and concepts of occurrence, an attempt to gain the ‘clear definitions’ Weber, Durkheim and Marx all through method and constant definition.  I think Bourdieu provides an aside that I feel comfortable with just before he presents this convincingly complex model of ‘the space of social positions’ (Bourdieu, 128): “…this diagram does not aim to be the crystal ball in which the alchemists claimed to see at a glance everything happening in the world; and like mathematicians who also treat what they call ‘imaginary’ as a necessary evil, I am tempted to withdraw it in the very act of presenting it. For there is reason to fear that it will encourage readings which will reduce the homologies between systems of differences to direct, mechanical relationships between groups and properties; or that it will encourage the form of voyeurism which is inherent in the objectivist intention, putting the sociologist in the role of the lame devil who takes off the roofs and reveals the secrets of domestic life to his fascinated readers” (Bourdieu, 126) Bourdieu invites in some respects the same question Engels prefaced in Marx’s challenge to the science of political economy: 

“Political economy has generally been content to take, just as they were, the terms of commercial and industrial life, and to operate with them, entirely failing to see that by so doing it confined itself within the narrow circle of ideas expressed by those terms…classical political economy never went beyond the received notions, and therefore never arrived at a clear comprehension” (Engels in Marx, 111). A clear comprehension never entirely clear by the very fact it must always be re-clarified. “You have to confess before you profess” Art Homer, professor of poetry at my Bachelor alma mater use to say. However,   We must cause our definitions, which are really our perceptions plotted out, to confess. While Turner provides what I feel to be an excellent reference for thinking about the structure of theory (which I digested really well thanks to all the ‘all other things equal’ in the language of Capital 1-3) he does not go far enough with his: “The goal of sociology is to gain knowledge about the nature of human organization.” (Turner, 1).  Bourdieu invites us, and in a wonderfully explicit manner, to acknowledge that in claiming the ‘right’ to study society in this way we have a responsibility to use our specialization in a way that ‘writes -diagnoses /and/ prescribes- with understanding’. It is not enough to merely view and describe the what is. It is vital to invite discussion among as many people as possible; with as much information and ‘understanding’ as possible as to what we like and dislike about the social in which we now endure. We are invited into the question, what does our research mean? Why do I research what I do? For whom? Why do I research it this way? What do I think about this situation? What can I do about it? How does what I do effect the production of it? At the very least we must try.  As my friend ‘Maeffro’, a Bachelor of the fine arts program at the University of Iowa (theater) once related the sentiment, ‘a hero is a man who does what he can’. Maeffro now works with the mentally disabled and participates in the production of theater and music. His sentiment is transcribed here like ‘the words of the plumber’.   Social science cannot be neutral not merely because the researcher is positioned in so many related positions in so many related fields but because those fields and all the capital brought to them are never neutral, they are perpetually contested, dominated, and defined. But this cannot just be polemically achieved. There is responsibility in the research process itself, a responsibility of understanding; of understanding the world of the subject without necessarily imposing your own categories of meaning upon them. Of being aware of the loss of fidelity and the ‘true fidelity’ achieved in the act of transcribing our sense of the subjects who become our objects and the modesty that demands on the part of the social scientist.  There is an act of representation. I enjoy also how Bourdieu establishes sociology as the ‘opposite of journalism’. In light of the above discussion of ‘what is social science’ it neatly summarizes much of what I dislike in much of the approach applied and reproduced in the field of journalism; precisely why the imperative to challenge concepts like ‘professional’ and probe deeper into the role of author as authority; the way in which authority is accumulated, exercised, produced and reproduced, challenged and changed.