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Session Overview
RN29_10: Social Contradictions and Social Pathologies
Friday, 23/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Benno Herzog, University of Valencia
Location: GM.325
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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Deconstructing Social Acceleration: Towards a Discrete Model of Temporality for Social Research

Andre Uibos

University of Tartu, Estonia

The concept of social acceleration provides a model explaining some of the key spatio-temporal processes occurring in the present-day society. However, the inherently temporal function of acceleration in the context of social research could benefit from a clearer methodological approach to temporality. This paper aims at contributing towards a new discrete model of temporality, applicable not only in conceptualizing social acceleration, but also in social research generally. Firstly, I provide an approach to discrete time by using an example of chess and its temporal properties. Time in chess can be seen from two different aspects: a) the (continuous) “time on the clock”, and b) the discrete systemic time “on the chessboard”, which postulates that each move takes one “tempo” in chess theory. Thus, the discrete model of temporality presented in the paper builds itself on a notion of “change” in a system. The methodological approach is interdisciplinary, combining a) linguistics (following the example of Ferdinand de Saussure) b) semiotics (Juri Lotman’s concept of text) and c) social system theory. In a broader sense, the presentation would address the issue of theoretical dichotomy of subjective and objective temporalities in sociology, a problem set by Norbert Elias. The new discrete model of temporality can be used in analysing the character of present-day communication media as a driving force of social acceleration resulting in new spatio-temporal relations in everyday life.

Keywords: temporality, social system theory, discrete modelling, chess, social acceleration, communication

The Resonance of Resonance: Critical Theory as a Sociology of World-Relations?

Simon Susen

City, University of London, United Kingdom

The main purpose of this paper is to examine Hartmut Rosa’s account of ‘resonance’. The first part focuses on the concept of resonance, including Rosa’s differentiation between horizontal, diagonal, and vertical ‘axes of resonance’ and their role in the construction of different ‘world-relations’. The second part centres on the concept of alienation, notably the degree to which it constitutes an integral part of modern life forms and, in a larger sense, of the human condition. The third part grapples with the dialectic of resonance and alienation, shedding light on the assumption that they are antithetical to each other, while contending that their in-depth study provides normative parameters to distinguish between ‘the good life’ and ‘the bad life’. The fourth part scrutinizes Rosa’s attempt to defend his outline of a sociological theory of resonance against objections raised by his critics. The fifth part comprises an assessment of Rosa’s plea for a resonance-focused sociology of world-relations. The paper concludes by suggesting that, notwithstanding its limitations, Rosa’s approach represents one of the most promising developments in 21st-century critical theory.

Rationality - Cultivation - Vitality: Simmel on the Pathologies of Modern Culture

Arthur Bueno

University of Frankfurt, Germany

This paper reconstructs Georg Simmel’s writings on money and modernity with a view to outlining a multi-layered diagnosis of the pathologies of modern culture. The resulting framework allows for the distinction of three different perspectives, each of them based on a specific philosophical anthropology and presenting a distinctive assessment of the potentials and problematic features of modern life. In Simmel’s oeuvre, the pathologies of culture are understood as (1) irrational (from the perspective of rational teleological action); (2) alienating (from the perspective of subjective cultivation); and (3) mechanistic (from the perspective of trans-subjective vitality).

The Modern Political Imaginary and the Problem of Hierarchy

Craig Browne

University of Sydney, Australia

Hierarchy has been a central concern of work on the modern political imaginary. The need to elucidate hierarchy’s deeper sources and its legitimations were some of the motivations behind Castoriadis’ development of the notion of the imaginary. Claude Lefort's analysis of the political imaginary similarly commences from a critical analysis of the hierarchical form of bureaucracy and its place in the constitution of totalitarian political regimes. In a different vein, Taylor’s conception of the imaginary details a long-term process of the erosion of preceding forms of hierarchy. In the contemporary period, the opposition to hierarchy has penetrated into organisations and institutions that had previously been shaped by hierarchies, like the family, the capitalist firm, the school, and the political movement. Despite the potentials that these initiatives suggest of a change in the political imaginary, it will be argued that forms of hierarchy have, to varying degrees, been reconstituted and that the problem of hierarchy appears in new ideological forms, both with respect to institutionalised power and the legitimating justifications for how things are organised. The critique of hierarchy was once associated with the radical democratic imaginary, however, there have recently been perverse mobilisations of the oppositions to hierarchy by neo-populist movements. These neo-populist movements actually sustain and instantiate versions of hierarchy, whilst rejecting the claims of ‘expertise’, scientific rationality, ‘elites’, and ‘cosmopolitan’ institutions. My paper will explore the problem of hierarchy and its relation to the modern imaginary through reflections on these historical dynamics. It will clarify and apply a series of interrelated concepts that are associated with notions of the imaginary, like those of institution, dialectic of control, displacement, incorporation, justification, and collective subjectivity.

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