Saturday, April 16, 2011

Society as a Subjective Ideality

In my thinking on institutions I'm guided (or spurred) by the work of the economic historian Douglass North, as well as Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, who wrote the influential The Social Construction of Reality. In reading Berger and Luckamnn I note that when they talk about "institutionalization" under the heading "society as an objective reality" (Part 2) I just, you know, don't buy it. It strikes me like Descartes pretending that he could imagine that he could have no body and yet remain his same old self. Society cannot be an objective reality. Society is always a subjective ideality. Only materiality constitutes an (the) objective reality.


ayeh said...

Not an absolute objective reality, but some sort of, as Deirde reminded us, conjunctive reality, don't you think? If society is the subjective ideality, then what would the self be?

Presskorn said...

Well, I don’t think that Berger & Luckmann are really buying it either. The whole point of writing ‘Society AS an objective reality’ is to mark that they are engaging in some variant of als-ob-thinking: Institutionalization forces people to act as if society was like an objective (material) reality, while it is indeed merely a subjective ideality.

Society does not strike us as nothing but an imaginary universe, a free construct of the consciousness that produces it. ‘Institutionalization’, within Berger & Luckmanns theorectical frame, is to account for this fact.

Thomas said...

"Seems, Madam? Nay, it is. I know not seems."

I reject the als ob. The Pangrammaticon is concerned only with the as such. It is precisely by treating a subjective ideality as an objective reality that we disobey (for even to misunderstand, here, is a misunderstanding) the fundamental law of experience—the grammar.

The self, too, is a subjective ideality. But it is a "social construct", of course.

The whole point, perhaps, is not to "internalize", which I guess is something that B&L merely say we do, not that we must necessarily do.

I'll write a post later about how this connects to the ecstases.

Thomas said...

@Ayeh: Didn't Deirde say "conjective" (neither thrown before or thrown beneath but thrown together). My view is that imagination is the place whether the subjective and objective meet. The image is a "conject".

But I do insist on the subjective ideality of the social. Maybe that's what Thomas is saying (with B&L): we can imagine it to be real. But that simply means that we can mistake our material environment for out social one.

Like I say, Descartes said he could imagine he had no body (that his self and body were distinct substances). I can't. No more can I imagine that society is real. But I do recognize that my body (and everyone else's) is part real, part ideal. Half Angel, Half Lunch, as Sharon Mesmer puts it.

Expressions about the body are both empirical (intuitive) and normative (institutional).

Sometimes the sentence "This is my body" is a claim, a statement of fact. Sometimes it is a command. An act.

Thomas said...

The place where of course. Though there's something interesting about "the place whether".

ayeh said...

Yes, "the place whether" would be an interesting topic. The condition for "the place" to be would depend on the meeting of subjective and objective.
(I also remembered "conjective", but since my stupid spell-check couldn't recognize it, i started to doubt myself! :D)
Still, there would be a need for the separate existence of subjective and objective. And then, conjective is where they meet... but do they separately exist? If yes, then Descartes got it right...

Thomas said...

"In a poem of this sort," Pound said of "In a Station of the Metro", "one is trying to record the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward and subjective."

This demands, precisely, an image.

Reality is. Ideality becomes. This is not "existing separately". (Descartes can't possibly have gotten his "feindre" right.)

But I've got to say I'm at the outer limits of my subtlety now.

ayeh said...

if "reality is", then aren't you buying into a paradigm that suggests there's "a" truth to be discovered? reality becomes, and ideality is imagined.

by the way, the outer limits of your subtlety are to be experienced!

Thomas said...

I do believe there is a truth. The alleged "becoming" of reality is really a misreading of the material world (which is) as a social history (which becomes). That is, is a misapprehension of reality as society. Our materiality (our relation to things) "really" does limit us--and that limit is truth. Our society (or position among other people), by contrast, and here not really, but ideally, liberates us--that liberation, in turn, is justice.