Exploring the Social Imagination

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rights - Cultural Confusion, Cultural Collapse and Possible Reboot in the Social Imagination!

Previously, it was discussed that cultural confusion is the loss of identity - who you are and are not as an individual in a group. That loss of identity is both a loss for or about the one inasmuch as it is a loss for the many to which the one belongs. Its the loss of knowing who one is and is not that is both the cause of no longer knowing what is right and what is not right and result of cultural confusion regarding - Rights.

Identity comes from being in a place over time, experiencing social interaction in the framework of a social imagination that was born from being in a place over time with others. In that place over time, one and the many come to know themselves from social interaction in place over time and that crystallizes into what works for them, what is right for them and this creates a frame for who they are and are not and what is right and is not right in their social imagination in the place where they are.

From an outsider's view, such social imagination is both sustaining and limiting. Anyone on the outside of any group's social imagination other than their own will likely see limitations for that 'other' social imagination as a the lack of being able to go outside of that particular 'social imagination' to explore something 'new' or other kind of social imagination.

For the group itself which lives within its social imagination confines, limitations can be used as safety nets and comfort zones as borders for identity.  Limitations are after all, part of existing as one among many and in that there is both safety and comfort - sustainability. Even in the Lockean sense, I can only do so much as another person in my group as I exist within a social contract. I am not free to do whatever I want whenever I want. Most people learn this from parents and teachers.

Rights (what is right as in what is fair for one and many comes from ones ability to maintain right conduct within the social contract that one agrees with) are the result of social agreement reality. Rights in this sense are tied intimately to the culture - a group of people in a place who identity with each other in that place. Doing what is right in and for the group keeps you 'in the group'.

Cultural collapse begins as social decay in a place firstly, by the lack of new people being generated... a decrease in the local population; including diaspora to another place whereby other cultural aspects are embraced. Secondly, by influences being imposed from outside by another group and thirdly, by the group itself as it loses faith in who and or what it is and about as the world around it seems to be changing quicker than it is.  The later stems from doubt and questioning what is 'right' and who is 'right' and who deserves to be 'right'.

Let's look at the concept of 'right'. What is right and who is right largely depends on who is in control of the group, who is at the head of the social hierarchy. Who seems to know what to do that provides and or sustains the group. Whether we are talking about kings, religious leaders, political leaders, and even elders/parents this is how it all comes together for the group in the place where they are.

You may argue that what we think of as 'rights' today is not like the described above. But, they are. The description above is the foundation for the next idea to come along... 'right conduct'. You see, if you adopt the 'right conduct' you will get ahead and or recognition in the group and from the one or those that are at the top and have instructed what the right conduct is for the group. This keeps them in power and all others trying to be like them; which, works for and against the group. It works against the group when the adoption of 'right conduct' doesn't seem to pay off for those adopting it. Thus, they rebel. Which usually does not pay off but sometimes it does; i.e. the American colonies revolting against the Kind of England.

Revolt happens when the right conduct no longer pays off for either a few or the masses. For example, when a king or a government tells everyone that suddenly he/they needs more money to fight battles abroad or to support him/them. Or when the people in their past comfort zone fall out of favor with the king or the ruling elite who have a new passion/lust for things which the previous one/elites did not. If you fall out of what the top calls down, you can either lose your rights or gain rights to things you never dreamed of before. That does not mean 'fairness' for all. Only that you were willing to take on the new right.

In the Roman Empire, the strategy was to administer through set rules and regulations who was who and right conduct was expected. Strangers as in those who were not Roman citizens received different treatment compared to those who were not. You had 'rights' as a Roman citizen. This was a lure for many groups/cultures the Roman Empire conquered, to gain obedience ... right conduct got you in.

Rights exist only within social practice... in the social imagination. There are no 'rights' existing outside of that. There is an absolute truth but even in that truth there does not exist what we think of as 'rights' as in deserving of something just because 'I' exist. The only one with such right is the Creator.

So, you see... in the fallen world, when there is cultural confusion its due to a lack of identity tied to what is right conduct in a place by a group of people in that place. As this continues, there is likely cultural collapse on the horizon. Is there a reboot possibility in the social imagination? Yes, when someone establishes what is right conduct. In that, there is loss and gain and not by all in the same way at the same level.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Confused Culture ~ Really it's a Confused Social Imagination

There are discussions today among sociologists about culture transition - what they call 'confused culture'. It is more or less an observed period of transitional values and belief systems. Those values and beliefs that worked in the past, no longer work today and thus what no longer works passes away (or should) so that new ideas can replace the old. This obviously leads some to be confused as with any kind of transition; i.e. a company merger or acquisition.  At first, there are those they may not be willing to let go of the past as it seemed to work for them having been socialized in that value/belief in the past which is no longer useful for the current social climate and or social imagination.

I wrote not to long ago about the work of Cornelius Castoriadus. Essentially, Castoriadus observed  that human beings really don't change; in fact, they can't. But, it appears that they do as they just rearrange people/places and things to suit their current rationale in the social imagination based on the social dynamics of group positioning.

Are humans really so different from the past? No, and their ways of doing thinking and things are not that different from their past social imaginations either unless we are talking about the use of technology in every day life. Technology does modify certain behavior. But, it does not modify meaning in our life; at least, not the extent that we no longer know what it means to be human and have a human social imagination. You see, meaning is everything. What does it mean to be who you are and are not. This should not be confusing.

So, are we really culturally confused these days? Perhaps, we are confused about some things which are not really social but physical. We long for change but what we really want is solidarity and devotion to cause... a purpose for being one among many.  Knowing who we are and are not! And, if there is a confusion about or failure or even rejection to embrace who we are and are not, we look elsewhere to find it; until, we think we have found who we are. Yet, confusion is  a sign of social decay. You could think that sooner or later, we will all stop being confused or risk losing our social imagination all together! In the meaning, as all cultures will lose their social imagination in the place where they are and at the same time.

How could that be possible? In an every growing global community, 'human rights' will be the key to  cultural collapse and the ushering in of a new world order. First, comes the confusion. And, cultural confusion begins with the breakdown of tradition, custom and the idea of what is 'right' in the place where people find themselves.

*Just keep in mind... there is no truth in the masses!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

In Light of Fake News ~ No Truth in the Masses!

Soren Kierkegaard understood the individual from a Christian standpoint.  For Kierkegaard, in relation to "the numeric masses", the individual person is of infinite importance. Why? Because, God deals with, saves and judges individuals. The masses have no real essence. In The Single Individual he repeatedly asserts that the "crowd is untruth". He begins with the subject of politics. This is especially significant because politics emphasizes the whole, while Christianity, emphasizes the individual before God.  

If know of and or are a reader of Kierkegaard, you know that he saw as a tendency in society the idea that where the crowd is, there is also the truth, and that in truth itself there is need of having the crowd on its side. For Kierkegaard, this was nonsensical. For him, there was/is another view of life which conceives that wherever there is a crowd there is untruth, so that (to consider for a moment the extreme case), even if every individual, each for himself in private, were to be in possession of the truth, yet in case they were all to get together in a crowd—a crowd to which any decisive significance is attributed, a voting, noisy, audible crowd—untruth would at once be in evident.

In America, we love to jump on the 'righteous' bandwagon. Why? Because, Americans like to be liked. Quite often, they will do and say whatever it takes to be one of the many/masses. In this, they forget themselves in favor of the masses. This is tragic. You see, as Kierkegaard realized, there is no truth in the masses. How could there be? Yes, how could there be...

Just because you have 'mass' agreement does not mean that what it is being agreed upon is the absolute truth. It may be just a shadow of truth or no truth at all. One the individual can know the truth for him/herself and must stand up for that... not jumping on the bandwagon of untruth.

Mass protests, manifestations, are a sign/symbol of the untruth. Yes, all you march in protest with the signs and slogans are participating in an untruth. Most people if asked what their personal view of an issue is, would react differently that the masses. They would expound on what they think is true. This kind of platform for individual reasoning is truer than the bandwagon reasoning. Didn't you mother ever tell you, "I suppose if everyone were jumping off the bridge, you would too". Or... if everyone was doing this/that, you would too just to be part of the 'ingroup'.

Yes, that is the essence of the problem. Americans, being an immigrant country, long to be what they left... the 'ingroup'. The truth of themselves left behind in the 'old country' where they knew intimately who they were and were not. They had the idea of themselves in a place and in that they were who they understood. Is that the same as being on the same bandwagon? No, not at all. It is the other way around. It is a different kind of platform all together.

It is a root system of a deep source not a 'en mass' collective which protests in order to find the 'truth'. The masses in this superficial country seek to put forward the truth but unknowingly it is but untruth born out of the desire to remember and or to know who one is and is not. Why? Because, in the mish mash of people 'en mass' in America there is still the deeper desire for a deeper identity; one that does not have to be rewritten in and for changing times.

But, unfortunately, that will never happen here. There was at one time a feeling of solidarity in terms of identity but even that fell short of what was left behind in the old country, the original source of the social imagination.  And, I am sure that is exactly what Kierkegaard considered.  Steven was stoned alone, all the disciples died alone as Christ did. At the time of the Roman persecutions, yes there were mass crucifixions, but each died in Christ and in Him alone. The 'mass' crucifixions were for the crowd to sneer at and enjoy that they were with the right crowd.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Fake News in the Social Imagination...

What is fake news and what is real in the social imagination? That is a fair question. First, let's look at two interesting phenomenon that we experience daily: suggestion and choice. Why? Because, what is labeled fake news is dependent upon those experiences. We like to imagine that we are making a rational choice when we choose certain information over other incoming information. But, is that really the case? Charles H. Cooley made an excellent detailed explanation for what is really happening in our social imagination.

Before, telling you what he detailed, let me first say that for Cooley, all society was and ever will be takes place in the human mind. You can never know society or anything for that matter outside of creative social imagination - social collective thought which is constantly in the comparative elaborate process of mental organization or synthesis which for Cooley was rendered necessary by complexity in the elements of our thought. In its social aspect for all, or nearly all, our choices relate in one way or another to the social environment... it is an organization of comparatively complex social relations.

It does not matter if we are talking about rich people, poor people, local people or those at the top of society in government i.e. The process is the same. They know only what they agree upon through social interaction; as I have written before social reality is agreement reality. We agree that this is this and that is that not because it, as in anything even people, exist in some absolute form known to all immediately, no...certainly not. It is what it is because we agree it is something.

And, it can only be agreed to be something because whatever is going on in that comparative process  suggests meaning and as such brings us to choice. The decision to act 'choose' is not merely made by the individual; no he/she will and cannot act alone. The choice is made by the group and all else follows. Individuals in that group being parts of it feel as if they have made a choice. In this, group event 'process' of which individuals are part, they find the meaning of the group and their part in the group and this seemingly provides an advantage for them personally - what is personal among us.

So, what is fake news in the social imagination? According to Cooley, there is news that for some is fake and for others is real. If all agree it is fake, then it is fake but that does not mean it could never be real for some or even for all at some point in the future. People say "well, there are facts right"! And, I like Cooley would have to ask, "whose facts are you talking about?"

You can say to me that the sun is a star and I will agree and then you will say... you see that is a fact. I will say its only a 'fact' because we agreed. There was a time when the earth was the center of the universe and people agreed that was a fact until Copernicus came along.

When you surf the net or read the papers or listen to the nightly news, you immediately begin to sort what you will accept and what you won't accept whether or not it is true or not. I know people that will swear up and down that so and so said that and guess what... so and so never did. Or if I point that so and so did say that, those same people will say they never heard of it or can't remember ever hearing that.

There is a helpline being offered on some social media platforms which will guide you through how to detect fake news from real news. Can you imagine that? I can if we are talking about social engineering. What a great way to get people to think the way you want them to. Isn't that what news is about anyway. Of course, we want to see the news about our favorite sport teams doing well in the playoffs, and we want to see the news about our elected officials doing well or screwing up in the case we did not check the box by their name.

You will have to decide in the end? Which news you will base your life on and which news you won't because in the end that's all anyone can do. So, keep your ears open and your eyes on things that you think will get you where you want to go. Oh, as far as using other opinions or fact checkers... guess what? They are in agreement reality as well and can only go by what they can agree is real or not.

Facts are only what we agree they are as received in a certain order and who agrees upon that makes them a fact. You cannot know facts outside of social agreement - social reality. Why? Because, they don't exist outside of the social imagination. You can never know it... as you can never be outside of the framework of social imagination; what Cooley called = our choices which relate in one way or another to the social environment through the mechanism of suggestion... it is an organization of comparatively complex social relations. And, that much is a fact!

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Strangeness of Change in the American Social Imagination....

For a sociologist, it is very interesting to observe social change. In America, we can see change everywhere and it is not 'new'. Change is somehow purported as 'new' or what we need right here and now. The funny thing is that Americans think that they love change as they are always on the move, 'changing' or at least they think they are. Social change is not really change. One of my favorite classical social theorist is Cornelius Castoriadis. He wrote a book from his observations of society titled - The Imaginary Institution of Society: 1975.

One of Castoriadis' many important contributions to social theory was the idea that social change emerges through the social imaginary without strict determinations, but in order to be socially recognized it must be instituted as revolution.  Why? Because, the individual radical imagination and the social imagination can only be joined in a mass as in massive collective demonstration for change in order that it come to fruition for the one and for the group as both exist within the mass of social imagination. 

Especially, since  the social imaginary at large cannot be reduced or attributed to a subjective imagination, since the individual is informed through an internalization of social significations - subjected to and a product of socialization. The social imaginary of the one is as much his/hers as it is the groups'; necessarily, for the individual to even have a social imagination of him/herself. 
By that, we can sense that Castoriadis meant that societies, together with their laws and legalizations, are founded upon a basic conception of the world and man's place in it. Traditional societies had elaborate imaginaries, expressed through various creation myths, by which they explained how the world came to be and how it is sustained... for the one and the group.

Capitalism did away with this mythic imaginary by replacing it with what it claims to be pure reason. That same imaginary is, interestingly enough, the foundation of its opposing ideology, Communism.
Does that mean 'change' is what we think it is or just a matter of rolling over in the bed of social interaction tired from sleeping 'being' on one side for too long. I think the later. 

And, Castoriadis seem to conclude the same. It means that as much as the individual thinks of change for him/herself radically, it is not so from a bird's eye from of change within a group. Names and or positions can change and so one's thinking about a change ... which is really a need for something other than the same ole same ole after being in a place for a long time. But, the individual in the 'group' simply longs to assert their imagination in way that they gives them in their social reality/imagination only a new view on the same thing. 

We say we like change but rather we still prefer what is safe and familiar like our bed in which or where sleeping on the same side gets old. So, we just roll over and nothing more. Social change cannot and will never be more than that and quite often the individual in that experience can feel as if something happened when nothing happened... and well it did and it didn't.  

We ourselves as Americans are experiencing that now - 'change' and though it maybe called that it is change like any other so called change that we have experienced in the recent past and in the long ago past as well.  We read about change and either weep or rejoice that we/you are still who you are and are not. Why/how? The imaginary institution of society thus is understood... the individual thinks that change has finally come about and it has been somehow a radical change through their initiative toward change being a self- labeled 'social movement  warrior'.  Really?

What has actually happened in the end is only imagined. There is no radical change, only what was is somehow different but not really. One could call it transition from one arrangement to another of the same sort. And, not even a funny or somehow 'profound' beer commercial will ever fundamentally reconstruct society. Because, any society that sees itself as such a 'society' has only growing pains for  'change' ... better, what is simply the desire to roll over and sleep on the other side for awhile. And, as strange as it may sound, there is some kind of social justice in that kind of social change.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The American Kitchen ~ No More Chicken Soup at Home in the Social Imagination

Given years of observations made, it can be concluded that the American household kitchen is no longer the heart of the home in terms of acquiring sustenance there; it is more the place to meet up for conversation... if that. It more than often appears to be either a showcase of cabinetry, lacking in the appearance of any cooking as in having a 'brand new' appearance or a buffet of junk food on the counter, unwashed dishes in the sink and though the stove is dirty it is not from cooking but rather from accumulating dust from being unused.

Is the due to the fact, that American women are less and less opting to be 'housewives' as in being the CEO of home economics? If that is the case, is that due to a lack of appreciation for such a position? Perhaps, that is exactly the case. There has been sold a bill of goods to Americans, men and women, for some time now that what takes place in the home is secondary to ones life, work being primary.

Work provides things for the home to make home life less like 'work' but is caring for the family work? Depends on how you look at it or rather how 'they' want you to look at it. Who is they? The ruling elite, progressives and anyone who does not want the individual to be self-sustaining at home.
Why? Because, it is to their advantage to divide and conquer the individual in the place where they are. In that scenario, it is more easy to control them which to elites equals 'the masses'. To make them dependent upon the system is the ultimate goal.

Work does provide some with a 'better' home life if we think about bigger TV monitors, an extra car, an inground pool, a spotless kitchen as dining out is preferred and vacations to destination that can be bragged about. Let's return to the kitchen which used to be the center of home life. As just stated above, most American kitchens either don't get used or they get abused. There are so few that could be called homey or friendly in the sense or meaning that one clearly sees meals are made with love and eaten as a family.

Today, the idea is to eat fun stuff at breakfast, lunch and dinner and even breakfast foods are being sold as all three... top a carrot soup with fruit loops is touted as extraordinary gourmet home cooking.

It is sad to walk into a home... kitchen with junk food sprawled out on the counter and the stove unused... collecting dust. In general, it is been observed all too often that the American home and especially the kitchen is either or both unclean, unkept and unloved ... When college students were asked if their mom cooks at home or if they know how to cook at home, only a few raised their hands. And, out of every 30 (per classroom) only two or three could even say how to make chicken soup from scratch; let alone give a reason why they would want to cook soup at home.

There does appear in some instances, a concern for better food cooked at home or 'eaten' at home. In these kitchens, one can see in fridges or on counters: a variety of fruits, berries, spinach leaves, carrots, avocados, whole wheat crackers, nuts, yogurt and the blender... for smoothies of course. But, again... where is the pot of chicken soup, or at least the crockpot of meat and potatoes?  From time to time, there is but not on a daily basis as it should be.

And, why should it be that way you ask/argue? Because, for a stable society, human beings as human individuals must be loved, encouraged and have a solid point of departure to come and go from in this world which was in times past the home. It was recognized that the family was the heart of society and relied on the heart of the home -  the kitchen with someone in it, someone to be there as the source of all quality of life, nutrition and well being.

Could robots become that 'someone'? Likely, as we have been informed the robots are coming. Will chicken soup be made by them? Who knows... the social imagination has surely been captivated by them among other things. Perhaps, a 'good' robot as the 'head' of the household and kitchen may insist that they come home, going only to and from. A controlled family is better than no family and or an uncontrolled one...

You see, in the social imagination society remains solidly based on the family. And, perhaps a controlled family run by a robot will be like old times, and be able to guarantee a 'chicken in every pot' or certainly, sold as the idea of that being the ideal 'family life' and certainly the ideal method of control.

Could one ascertain that was the method before... only mom and dad were at the helm? Yes one could. You decide or we can imagine society will now decide which is best for the family.