Exploring the Social Imagination

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Meaning, Choice and even Science

For me the social imagination is the most fascinating phenomenon. The moon and stars and the Milky Way too are interesting phenomenon, but the social imagination beats them all.  Why? Because, without it, reality as we know (in the social imagination) would not exist, no moon, stars or Milky Way. As I have said many times over, what things mean to us as Americans do not mean the same to others in different parts of the world. We make choices based on what people,places and things mean to us. How do we get meaning? It comes to us through the social imagination; I oughta know I wrote a 300 page dissertation on it. Before I wrote, others did too. I name them all in my thesis: Max Weber, Charles H. Cooley, Albert Schutz, Berger and Luckmann, Castoriadis, and Pierre Bourdieu to name a few. I list Weber first because he is my guru on the topic of choice and then Cooley for 'meaning'.
What may seem incredible for most people to imagine is that even 'our' science is just our imagination of some kind of order that describes what we are imagining. Western civilization let us just point to western social imagination is rooted in the idea of the individual. This idea came out of Roman/Greek political thought and Judeo-Christian traditions. Max Weber wrote that the man with this kind of socio-cultural heritage has the world view of 'mastery/rejection' over the earth.  Mastery comes out of Judeo-Christianity as does rejection. Christians are told that they have the responsible authority over the earth (*See Genesis) = hence, mastery. And, rejection means to reject what is and create something new. This 'rejecting' goes with mastery. We can reject the 'tree' as just a tree and create furniture, a house, a simple machine = catapult i.e. We can make choices that suggest superiority over another man's choice as in results of which choice was more successful.  Western man likes to associate with the better choice in order to fit in. It suggests to him/her certain choices produce better effects in mastery. Of course, there are some similar religions that Weber observed regarding mastery. But, the difference lies in the attention that the individual gets for being able to master his/her behavior, his/her thoughts and actions that produce successful outcomes for the good of the whole.  Christianity is a direct result of this take on individuality. Again, our science is based on that same world view that Weber observed. This week, a probe landed on an orbiting comet. Amazing, but for me the more amazing aspect is why would we (international project led by Western scientists- European Space Agency) even imagine doing it. It is still about world/cosmic mastery. "I think that humans have to go into space more and take ownership of the solar system,” says Denton Ebel, chairman of the division of physical sciences at the American Museum of Natural History, calling efforts such as Rosetta “the logical next step” of human space exploration."
One could argue that Americans and Europeans work with people from other countries on projects. True. In my research I was curious if Americans/Europeans when in contact with other cultures over a period of time would adopt other cultural aspects. They did not. What is interesting for me is that when we have a 'western' science team, others can be on board, but they are doing what the western team wants to do. Meaning, choice and science in the western social imagination is about and observed in western world mastery.

1 comment :

  1. There was a great short series in the 1980's by a British professor on BBC called "The Triumph of the West" where he discussed this very phenomenon.