Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Making the case for STA:C — #3: insightful quotes about the significance of people’s space, time, and/or action orientations for society and culture

[UDATED Dec 2, to add quote from Edward T. Hall about time.]

Over my years of wondering about STA:C, I’ve collected various scholarly quotes that speak to the elements and ideas behind STA:C. I’m posting a selection here, for they may help convey and clarify STA:C for some readers. Besides, I like reading them again too.

These quotes are mostly pitched at big-think sociological, epistemological, and historical levels. The individual psychological level is equally important, and I hope to provide quotes about it as well someday.

ON SPACE: These three quotes — from Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, and Manuel Castells — speak to the importance of space constructs from sociological standpoints; they help show why postmodern neo-Marxist sociology engaged in the so-called “turn to space”:
• “[E]very society — and hence every mode of production with its subvariants (i.e. all those societies which exemplify the general concept) — produces a space, it's own space. … “The ‘object’ of interest must be expected to shift from things in space to the actual production of space.” (Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, [1974] 1991, pp. 31, 37)

• “The present epoch will perhaps be above all the epoch of space. We are in the epoch of simultaneity; we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed. … when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersections with its own skein.” (Michel Foucault, “Of Other Space,” in Diacritics, Spring 1986, p. 24)

• “I shall then synthesize the observed tendencies under a new spatial logic that I label space of flows. I shall oppose to such logic the historically rooted spatial organization of our common experience: the space of places.” (Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, 1996, p. 378)

ON TIME: Here are five quotes about the sociological significance of time orientations — one each from Karl Mannheim, Florence Kluckhon, Fred Polak, Edward T. Hall, and Georges Gurvitch:
• “[T]he innermost structure of the mentality of a group can never be as clearly grasped as when we attempt to understand its conception of time in the light of its hopes, yearning, and purposes. On the basis of these purposes and expectations, a given mentality orders not merely future events, but also the past.” (Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia, 1936, p. 209)

• “Obviously all societies at all times must cope with all three time problems; all must have their conceptions of the Past, the Present, and the Future. Where societies differ is in the rank-order emphasis they give to each, and a very great deal can be told about the particular society being studied, much about the direction of change within it can be predicted, if one knows what that rank order is. Spengler, greatly impressed by the significance of the time orientation, made this statement in his Decline of the West: ‘It is by the meaning that it intuitively attaches to time that one culture is differentiated from another.’” (Florence Kluckhohn, “Some Reflections on the nature of cultural integration and change,” in Tiryakian, ed., 1963, p. 224)

• “[Man's] image of the future is his propelling power. … [T]he rise and fall of images of the future precedes or accompanies the rise and fall of cultures. As long as a society's image is positive and flourishing, the flower of culture is in full bloom. Once the image begins to decay and lose its vitality, however, the culture does not long survive.” (Fred Polak, The Image of the Future, [1955] 1973, p. 5, 19)

• “While we look to the future, our view of it is limited. The future to us is the foreseeable future, not the future of the South Asian that may involve centuries. Indeed, our perspective is so short as to inhibit the operation of a good many practical projects, such as sixty- and one-hundred-year conservation works requiring public support and public funds. Anyone who has worked in industry or in government of the United States has heard the following: "Gentlemen, this is for the long term! Five or ten years." (Edward T. Hall, The Silent Language, 1959, p. 30)

• “Finally, as the eighth and last kind [in his typology] I shall point out explosive time, which dissolves the present as well as the past in the creation of the future immediately transcended. … Such a time is that of collective acts of creation which always play some role in social life but which arise from beneath the surface and become open and dominant during revolutions. … When it is real, explosive time places the global and partial social structures before complicated dilemmas, for it carries the maximum risk and demands the maximum effort to overcome it.” (Georges Gurvitch, “Social Structure and the Multiplicity of Times,” in Tiryakian, ed., 1963, p. 178)

ON ACTION: That people have power to affect things, that progress is feasible, that social action can work — that human agency and efficacy matter — is a separate belief, dependent on but not derived from space-time beliefs. This point shines in the following two quotes — one from Leonard Doob, the other from Alberto Bandura:
• “Basic to all such thinking …. must also be the belief that men themselves — not their ancestors, not fate, not nature, not other men — are able to control their own destinies. … for men everywhere are not likely to seek change unless they believe that change is possible.” (Leonard Doob, Becoming More Civilized, 1960, p. ?)

• “This change in human self-conception and the view of life from supernatural control to personal control ushered in a major shift in causal thinking, and the new enlightenment rapidly expanded the exercise of human power over more and more domains.” (Alberto Bandura, Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control, 1997, p. 1)

ON SPACE AND TIME TOGETHER: Of the three STA:C orientations, space and time are the two that usually get discussed in combination. The following quotes — from Emile Durkheim, Lewis Mumford, and Daniel Boorstin — exemplify this:
• “If men … did not have the same conception of time, space, cause, number, etc., all contact between their minds would be impossible, and with that, all life together.” (Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1915, p. 17)

• “[N]o two cultures live conceptually in the same kind of time and space. … [E]ach culture believes that every other kind of space and time is an approximation to or perversion of the real space and time in which it lives.” (Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization, 1932, p. 18)

• “[T]he compass provided a worldwide absolute for space comparable to that which the mechanical clock and the uniform hour provided for time. … When you moved any great distance from your home out into the uncharted great oceans, you could not know precisely where you were unless you had a way of finding precisely when you were.” (Daniel Boorstin, The Discoverers, 1983, pp. 219-220)

ON SPACE, TIME, AND ACTION AS A TRIPLEX: Finally, as intimations of STA:C, here are several revelatory quotes — one from Sheldon Wolin, the next from Bruno Latour, and a hint from Rob Shields — that partially imply treating space-time-action as a triad.
• “Every political theory that has aimed at a measure of comprehensiveness has adopted some implicit or explicit proposition about “time,” “space,” “reality,” or “energy.” Although most of these are the traditional categories of metaphysicians, the political theorist does not state his propositions or formulate his concepts in the same manner as a metaphysician. … Rather, the political theorist has used synonyms; instead of political space he may have written about the city, the state, or the nation; instead of time, he may have referred to history or tradition; instead of energy, he may have spoken about power. The complex of these categories we can call a political metaphysic.” (From Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision, 1960, pp. 15-16)

• “Fourth, to talk like the semioticians, there is always simultaneously at work in each account, a shift in space, a shift in time, and a shift in actor or actant, the last of these always forgotten in philosophical or psychological discussions. … We should not speak of time, space, and actant but rather of temporalization, spatialization, actantialization (the words are horrible) or, more elegantly of timing, spacing, acting.” (From Bruno Latour, “Trains of Thought: Piaget, Formalism, and The Fifth Dimension,” in Common Knowledge, Winter 1997, pp. 178–9)

• “Yet conceptions such as space and time are intrinsic to the intellectual ordering of our lives and our everyday notions of causality and with it, agency.” (From Rob Shields, “Genealogies of social space,” in lo Squaderno, no. 39, March 2016, p. 9.)

If you’ve read this far, I’d like to you to know that it will be a while before post #4 is ready. It’s a longish briefing-style post, nearly finished, about how people’s space-time-action perspectives have long been studied in academia and elsewhere, and how they should be studied according to STA:C.


[Posted on both my Google blogspot and Facebook page today.]

No comments: