Friday, November 30, 2012

post structuralism

ceci n'est pas une pipe


le duex msteres

Foucault’s theories are often referred to as being both a structuralist and as a post sturcturalist. While the two theories are obviously related (see the names of the two theories), post structuralism makes a distinct turn away from structuralism, through theorists like Jacques Derida and Michel Foucault.  Before analyzing the aspects of structuralism and post structuralism in the work of Michel Foucault, an explanation of the two theories is necessary.  Structuralism comes from the theories of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, who studied what he called the arbitrary “connection between the signifier and the signified” (Kronenfeld and Decker 1979:5).  Famously Saussure gave the example of a tree.  The word tree has nothing to do with the object tree, the connection made between the word (signifier) and tree (signified) is made through socialization with the community, language as cultural; “a human construction no single human can change” (Kronenfeld and Decker 1979:9).  A key feature of this theory is that signs only make sense in relation to other signs.  Other theorists, especially Claude Levi-Strauss, expanded off of Saussure’s base, by applying structuralism to fields other than linguistics like anthropology.  Strauss, in his work on myths, “abstracted out frozen and complete synchronic states from the inconsistencies and flux that occur in any actual system as a result of normal and constant diachronic change… [providing] a formal analysis”(Kronenfeld and Decker 1979:20).  Strauss’s application of structuralism was immensely influential on social theory.  Post structuralism on the other hand posits that we “are beings that are culturally constituted by interpretive frameworks or interpretive strategies that our culture makes available to us, and these strategies are the only way that we have of conceiving who we are, of thinking or of having a ‘self.’ The objects of our gaze are likewise constituted by these interpretive strategies”(Tompkins 1988:734).  The post sturcturalist thinker Derrida makes this argument in his essay Différance, where Derrida develops his concept of difference which he refers to as “what makes possible the presentation of being-present”, “the possibility of opposition”.  Différance is fundamentally undefinable, as it is the process that makes binary opposition, and language, possible.   (Tompkins 1988:741)  In this incredibly complex (and quite honestly often incoherent) work, Derrida essentially argues that the binary pairs, the oppositions from which language is based on, leaves out meaning.  He is building off of structuralism and the understanding of language as existing in a relation of meaning between words, but attacks (deconstructs) this relation, as words are always understood by relations to other words, and those words are then understood by relations to other words and so on ad infinitum.  There is never a final meaning, a word understood in and of itself.  Instead post structuralisism looks at these oppositions to find meaning instead in their difference.  This isn’t an easy concept to comprehend, as it attacks the very way we think and make sense of the world.
So where does Foucault fit into all of this? Poststructuralists look at discourse, to see how meaning is defined, something that Foucault certainly does in his works. (see history of sexuality, history of madness)  Like Saussure and Derrida, Foucault does look at meaning as existing in a system of other meaning, as being relational in nature.  In his work on madness, Focualt sees how the discourse of madness defines what it is to be mad, and how that meaning changes.  This is one of the most crucial implications of post structuralism, that meaning is not static, but dynamic.  For post structuralists there cannot be any single truth, as all meaning is relational and dynamic and since language is inherently incapable of conveying truth, due to post structuralism’s rejection of the binary opposition.  Furthermore, inherent to post structuralism is a concept of power and hierarchy.  The structures of meaning, according to post structuralists, create hierarchy, a more and a less; the binary opposition, of dominator and dominated, comes from the structure of meaning.  This makes the analysis and deconstruction of power structures central to post structuralism, and it certainly is central to Foucault’s work.  In his short work, This is not a pipe, Foucault discusses Rene Magritte’s famous work, itself translated as this is not a pipe, which depicts a pipe with the sentence this is not a pipe (see picture above).  For Foucalt, the seemingly contradictory nature of the painting comes from the conventions of language, the structural nature of language which relates the object (pipe) to the statement (this is not a pipe).  The actual logical contradiction comes, not from the object or statement, but from the method of relating the two.  This is post structuralism.    

The Stimulus Proposition: George Homans (Blog #4)

This person began making videos under the name WhatYouOughtToKnow.  He probably started off with one video, concerning gay marriage.  After receiving a lot of views, he decided to repeat his action by making more videos.  He considered the reward would be popularity   He began to generalize his videos by making them on different topics, such as gay marriage, hiccups, and even facebook personas. He discriminated by making videos on other subjects that would be considered not as important as gay marriage or liberals vs. conservatives.  He branched out so he could gain more subscribers and more fame. 

In the book, Elementary Forms of Social Behavior, by George Homans, he wrote about a list of propositions.  One of them was called the stimulus proposition.  In this proposition, the significant aspect is pointing out the outcome of an action and the circumstances attending it.  The outcomes of the action are interpreted through voluntary or operant behavior.  The circumstances are referred to as the stimuli.  What’s unique about the stimulus proposition is that it is represented in a quasi-statistical form.  Homans used a great example concerning a fisherman fishing in a dark pool.  If a fisherman caught a fish in a dark pool, there is a probability that he will do so again.  “This proposition assumes that an individual has the cognitive capacity to discriminate among stimuli and generalize from one stimulus-context to another” (Rhoads 1991: Pp. 208).   The stimulus proposition proposes that when an individual receives a reward after performing a certain action, that individual will perform that same action again.  If there is a success in performing a certain action, the present stimuli will repeat the stimuli from the past.  In the stimulus proposition, Homans also discussed the “psychological questions of stimulus generalization and stimulus discrimination as these processes may occur in the actor” (Skidmore 1975: Pp. 21). Going back to the previous example by Homans, the fisherman’s action can be generalized.  After catching fish in the dark pool, he may want to try other forms or techniques of fishing to make him a better fisherman in all aspects of fishing.  However, since he was good at catching something as a sport, he may want to try other related sports.  The fisherman can practice hunting or anything else wildlife related. To be more specific, the fisherman can probably try diffident types of fishing rods or different types of bait to be more successful when catching fish. However, as the fisherman tries different ways of fishing, his stimuli then becomes discriminated.  “The argument runs to the effect that as the actor himself more finely discriminates situations, so the rewarding properties of them are more closely discriminated” (Skidmore 1975: Pp. 21). In other words, when the fisherman starts to generalize other forms of fishing, and maybe trying other related sports, the stimuli, that controls his behavior, begins to be much discriminated. Instead of focusing on his previous technique, catching fish in the dark pool, he tends to find other techniques in order to strengthen his performance.  By strengthening his performances he hopes to gain more rewards, in this case, catching more fish. “An individual’s expectation is determined by the rewards and punishments he did in fact receive or saw others receive in similar circumstances” (Rhoads 1991: Pp. 210).  The fisherman’s main goal is to receive rewards.  He wants to catch more fish.  There is a relationship between the stimulus and the action, concerning the reward.  According to Homans, if the stimulus takes too long, following the action, the individual will not make a connection.  In other words, if the fisherman doesn't realize that after catching a fish in the dark pool means that if he repeated doing so would give him the possibility of catching more fish, he would not receive long-term rewards.  He won’t go back to the dark pool; instead, he will go somewhere else where he might not catch any fish. When it comes to the rewards, the better it is, the individual will might become more sensitive to the stimuli.  It all depends on the value of the benefit.  Catching a small herring would be different form catching a swordfish, wither form the same dark pool or catching it from another area. I agree with Homans stimulus proposition.  It is true that when someone does something that gives them a reward they are more likely to do the exact same thing again.  However, they might also try other strategies to gain higher valued rewards.  Here’s a simpler example.  As a student, if I received a high average on a test after studying every day, it would provoke me to repeat the action by studying every day. However, the stimulus that makes me want to study constantly can also be discriminated. Instead of studying every day, I could use other methods of studying.  I could study twice a week or use different techniques when studying.  If all I did was read the textbook, this time, I could use flashcards and form study groups with friends. These different methods are generalized from the former method I once used to study from.  All I basically want, all in all, is to receive a reward. The reward is getting a high average on my test.  All I have to do is repeat the same steps I've originally done that got me a high score in the first place. 

Rhoades, John K. 1991.  Critical Issues in Social Theory. USA: The Pennsylvania State University
Skidmore, W. L. 1975. Sociology's Models of Man: The Relationships of Models of Man to    
         Sociological Explanation in Three Sociological Theories. New York, New York: Gordon &   
          Breach Science Publishers, Inc.

Mead: "The significance of concrete individual interaction relies on the conversation of gestures".

People talk and listen. However, in the art of conversation it is more complex than a mere concept of the social interaction. A conversation consists of gestures. The gestures are elements for interpreting the meaning-making and simplify the symbolic mechanism. Mead argues “gestures refer to the manifold movements and expressions in which people engage, including language” (Alexander 1987:206). In gestures, there are the infinite methods which convey a message between people to people through a social interaction. However, the gestures specifically function in each situation. Therefore, rather than holding a different meaning separately, they as symbols carry out a same meaning in each situation. According to Mead, “gestures are significant symbols” (Alexander 1987:207), he adds “because they have the same meanings for all individual members of a given society or social group, that is, they respectively arouse the same attitudes in the individuals responding” (Alexander 1987:207).  
     The picture for this topic describes a gesture from the interaction. In this picture, the two teddy bears express a symbol of love, friendliness, warmth, or affection. Despite a variety of the messages in the picture, its gesture unifies into a positive meaning. When the interaction is carried out between people to people, it can become complicated when a message does not properly deliver between them. In such complicity, gestures simplify the process.            

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mead: "Like a withered rose, the contingency is one moment of the situation."



     “Wonderful.” It is a simple word of the impression which follows after looking at a beautiful red rose. While such rose is still “fresh” with a delicate combination of youth and scent, one will naturally consider it as a beauty of the world. However the beauty is not a fixed term of the situation but rather a term of the temporality. In a case of the rose, no matter how beautiful a rose can be, it will not last its beauty because the rose without a doubt will wither in the end. A rose alone has much of a different variety of the situation. In one situation, it is under the bed of earth as in a shape of the seed. In another, it can be glamorously beautiful when it is blossomed. And when time passes, it meets a phase of aging process. In the end of the situation, it withers like a dry crisp leaf. If a beauty is considered when a rose is fresh, then it is only existed under a certain frame of the moment. As “freshness” as a basic symbol, the beauty is realized in one moment of the situation. Likewise, a beauty is lost when a rose withers in a certain moment as “agedness” is based as a symbol. As such, the contingency is one moment of the situation. Mead argues that “temporality is the essence of contingency” (Alexander 1987:209). There is a Japanese proverb which says that any object with a shape will be perished one day. Suppose it is true, then a beauty as the temporal matter is deemed as a value because it is the ‘only’ one moment of the situation among many which can be achieved. The limitation of resource in time establishes a beauty as a rarity, a one of the kind. Therefore a beauty becomes a value. Thus I picked a picture of a withered rose for the topic because its appearance describes a realistic sense of the contingency. A withered rose shows an evident trace on perish, where a beauty does not last forever.

     However, the contingency is more than simply a subject of temporality. According to Mead (1987), it is an element to define the nature of social order. “Order is pictured as irredeemably negotiated, as emergent from individual interaction, as having no collectivist roots” (Alexander 1987:205). The contingency is also one separate individual action that maintains a society altogether in an orderly manner. In a case of one married couple, an action of respect and understanding between them leads to a harmony of family. Also the matter of harmony within the couple is not merely limited into the couple but others around them. As they develop love between them, such action is a good of the couple themselves, their children, their relatives, their neighbors, their friends, and all kinds of people who influence under a circle of their social relationships. In order to realize a situation of harmony, a couple constantly needs to exchange an action of efforts one another. To put it specifically, the action of efforts takes a meaning to accomplish a situation of harmony. And, since the contingency is one moment of the situation, a couple must constantly proceed with an action of efforts to reach a harmony. Mead states “meaning is found in symbols, not acts” (Alexander 1987:206). As he concludes it so, a meaning is achieved through symbols, not acts. An action itself does not fulfill the meaning. For example in the married couple, a husband earns living and brings salary to his wife. His bring money to home is not what builds her trust on him. It is his respect to fulfill his responsibility as a head of household. His respect to the matter of household serves as symbol which makes a meaning. In exchange, her trust on him works as a symbol also. Through the exchange of symbols, they run a system of family order. To maintain a harmony, a couple should put constant efforts one another.



Alexander, Jeffrey C. 1987. Twenty Lectures: Sociological Theory Since World WarII. NY:
Columbia University Press.    


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Animal Behavior: George Homans (Blog #3)

This is photo of my work on my laptop and my favorite cereal.  If I finish my work, I promised that I'd reward myself with a big bowl of Cheerios.  The operant is me finishing my work.  The operant is being reinforced by the fact that I want the bowl of cereal.  The reinforcer is the cereal.  Therefore, the more I study, maybe next time I'll add strawberries or nuts to my cereal for extra flavor.  That is how the operant is reinforced.  Therefore, I had gone through an operant conditioning. 

            George Homans wrote a book called Social Behavior: Its Elementary Forms in 1961.  In the second chapter of his book, before he could explain his theory of social behavior, he wrote about animal behavior.  Before he explained his theory on social behavior as humans, he wanted to explicate animal behavior as individuals. More specifically, he wanted to detail on the action of voluntary behavior, or operant behavior.  Voluntary behavior is when an individual does something with the “will” to do so.  Involuntary behavior is what individuals do without consciously thinking about it.  For example, blinking the eye or scratching when there is an itch.  People do not think about their actions, they just do them.  Homans stressed that “individual animal behaviors are the simplest unit of all behaviors, and thus, basic propositions about individual animal behavior are generally applicable to all behaviors” (Choi 2004: Pp. 154). Individual animal behavior is the building block of understanding behavior as a whole.  Whether it is interactional behavior or the behavior shared with a loved one, individual animal behavior interprets these and other behaviors as well.  To start off by understanding individual animal behavior, Homans wrote about how we need to understand operant behavior first.  He used an example, the one used by B.F. Skinner, an experimental psychologist. In the experiment, they used a pigeon as the tested subject.  In this experiment, Homans was able to conclude the experimentation of operant conditioning.  The pigeon’s constant behavior is the “peck.”  The pigeon’s location is in an isolated cage in a laboratory.  The involuntary behavior of the pigeon is to “peck.”  During the experiment, a red target is noticed by the pigeon and it starts to “peck” repeatedly at the target.  Not only did the pigeon “peck” at any specific spot in the cage, it repeatedly “pecked” solely at the red target.  Therefore, according to Skinner, “the pigeon’s behavior in pecking the target is an operant; the operant has been reinforced; grain is the reinforcer; and the pigeon has undergone operant conditioning” (Homans 1961; Pp. 18). In other words, it is clear to comprehend that the pigeon only “pecked” at the target, because apparently he was rewarded when doing so.  So when we are rewarded something, we do the same task over and over, just for the rewards.  For example, if a child cleans his room every day, his parents give him ice cream.  So his reward is ice cream every time he cleans his room.  The child cleaning his room would be the operant. The operant, being the child cleaning his room, is reinforced.  Meaning, he is conscious that cleaning his room, probably better than every time he does, will give him an extra bonus.  Maybe his parents will add marshmallows or cherries to the ice cream, for cleaning the ceiling fan, including the floor. That is how the operant is reinforced.  The ice cream would be the reinforcer.  Therefore, the child has gone through operant conditioning.  George Homans focus on Skinner’s experiment brings up another important point.  He found it important that “the first principles should be invented or borrowed from other sciences” (Choi 2004: Pp. 154).  He called this process “induction.”  The first principles are considered the basic propositions of individual animal behavior.  The first principles that were borrowed would be the experiment of the pigeon from Skinner.  However, Homans was not for the “induction” process.  For this reason, he was acknowledged as a Platonist.  A Platonist is a term named from the Greek philosopher, Plato.  Basically, a Platonist is someone who believes in the principle of Platonic realism.  Homans found “induction” to be very vague when it came to trying to understand it.  He found there was no concrete explanation when trying to understand the “induction” process, when there is no guarantee of an “empirical referent in the empirical world” (Choi 2004: Pp. 154).  The “induction” process represents the enactment of creation. In the performance of creation, there is no set of laws or rules to act in the procedure. Everything is done with no explanation, and yet, the individual is guaranteed success. Homans disagrees with the process because there is no logic within it.  He prefers to witness an explanation of the act of creation.  He does not see any logic in the act of creation which guarantees success, without any explanation. These ties into individual animal behavior.  Homans believed that the first principles were derived from individual animal behavior.  However, the introduction of the “induction” process, which correlated with the behavior, is not what he favored.

Choi, Jongryul. 2004. Postmodern American Sociology: A Response To The Aesthetic Challenge.
                Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc.
Homans, George . 1961. "Animal Behavior." Pp. 17-30 in Social Behavior: Its Elementary Forms
                London, England: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Garfinkel - Accountability

Accountability is often associated with liability; Tenhave (2002) notes it is closer to “intelligibility or explainability, in the sense that actors are supposed to design their actions in such a way that their sense is clear right away or at least explicable on demand”. The term implies that the basic requirement for all social settings is that “they may be recognizable or accountable as whatever social setting they are supposed to be”, Tenhave (2002) members knowingly and visibly work at making their scenes accountable, and in turn this organizes the situation and renders it real and meaningful. Overall accountability is the concept of other people taking responsibility for their own actions.

Garfinkel wrote in his studies on Ethnomethodology, studies that analyse the everyday activities of individuals as members, is the methods that make those activities “visibly-rational–and–reportable–for–all–practical-purposes, i.e., ‘accountable’, as organisations of common place everyday activities”. Noted by Colhoun (1995, p. 23) Coulon (1995, p.23) referred to Garfinkel who came up with four examples of accountability, including “the study of the Suicide Prevention Center (SPC) in Los Angeles, the case of Agnes, the discovery of the optical pulsar, and an ordinary conversation reported and analyzed in studies”.
Alain Coulon refers to Garfinkel; Coulon focuses first on the activities of the SPC. This center deals with cases of unnatural death, the center makes inquires, and then is requested by a judge to see whether the death of the individual was due to suicide or another unknown cause. From this study, Coulon (1995, p. 24) referred to Quéré (1984) who commented on Garfinkel’s recommendations that conclude and indicate some “recommendations that constitute an important methodological element in ethnomethodology research”. Quéré noted that there are two levels of analysis: there is the level of the self – organization of the SPC and there are accounts, meaning the representation or the responsibility of the other.

Coulon (1995, p. 24) quoted, Quéré, (1984, p.104) To begin with the SPC organizes itself practically as an objective reality, and ordered “with a finality, with rationality and coherence…” this self- organization is expressed by the material arrangements of the organization, by the division of labor that is involved, the “definition of inquiry processes of constitution and revision of files, of processes of archiving, by the accumulation of resources”. Next, at the second level, the organization is able to build itself up through the ability to be able to investigate, this accounts in which it is represented as being an objective reality, by this it is “given an identity, finality and a structure of order”.
Ethnomethodologist aim to define accountability as well as theorize the concept, to see and tell them ways in which the accounts are structuring or informing the situation. For example, how does one individual take the responsibility of an advertisement that is aimed at a certain demographic but can be harmful to another, and how is it informing to the audience if it is at all.

Another study which was proposed by Quéré is the story about Agnes. Garfinkel had a lot of time to interview Agnes, who had chosen to become a woman. Garfinkel here, shows how Agnes has to become a woman, how she must exhibit the routines, activities of a “normal woman”. Although we are born with either a female or male body, we have to culturally become either a girl or a boy, and at the same time we have to take on and exhibit masculine or feminine attitudes, and become a character of either one or the other. Colhoun(1995, p. 25) noted that Garfinkel argues “accountability is this “exhibition” of a sexual personality in daily activities and conduct” It is something as being renewed, and is lived as natural, Agnes had to keep checking her presentation, her appearance, herself to be seen, and to appear as the “real thing”.
When we say the social world is accountable, this means that it is intelligible, reportable, analyzable and describable. Members within the social world are constantly basing assumptions by ones appearance. Overall when we look at accountability as a concept, we see it as the way individuals see how they take responsibilities for their own actions. For example a business person in charge of a major business corporation will have many responsibilities to keep the business running, if something goes wrong, such as a loss of profits due to employers not working hard enough and lacking in productivity, the business person will have full responsibility. 

Coulon, A. 1995. Ethnomethodology. California, CA:  United States. Sage Publications.
Tenhave, Paul. 2002. “The Notion of Member is the Heart of the Matter: On the Role of Membership Knowledge in Ethnomethodology Inquiry”. Qualitative Social Research. 3 (3). Retrieved November 21 2012.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Collins: Black Feminist Epistemology

Patricia Hill Collins is a well-known promoter of black feminist thought and a social scientist that has focused her research and education on matters of race, gender and power.  In Black Feminist Epistemology Hill addresses a crucial problem within the process of validating knowledge.  In the United States, as well as in other countries, black feminist thought is a presentation of ideals and viewpoints from the people in power.  Those in power are “elite white men who have the authority to manipulate Western structures of knowledge validation” (Collins 407).  Due to controlled social institutions of knowledge African American women are forced to choose between two identities: “one representing elite White male interests and the other is expressing Black feminist thought from the black woman perspective” (Collins 408).  Choosing between these two identities is essential; on one hand a black woman is deciding to represent and reproduce dominant elite conventional ideals, where they can gain positions of power in academia more easily and be respected among their colleagues.  If they choose to express the reality of being a black woman in America they are excluded from positions of power in academia.  This has lead black feminists, to create alternative forms of validating knowledge in order to narrate their truths, leading to an evolved sense of consciousness.
Epistemology is the study of knowledge and the process of justifying information as true.  By examining the “standards used to assess knowledge or why we believe, what we believe to be true” (Collins 408) is key to understanding its construction and distribution.  According to Collins, questioning the “level of epistemology” is fundamental “because it determines which questions [deserve] investigation, which interpretive frameworks will be used to analyze findings, and to what use any [of the results of the research will be utilized]” (Collins 408). In questioning the structure of epistemology we come across the process of how “truth” is investigated and claimed as justifiable.  A group of experts validate information and decide if it’s credible, based on elitist ideals.  According to Collins the standards of epistemology sway in the direction of power, which suppresses black thought.  This process decides what type of knowledge is important for society to know.  This is a slippery slope because the people who control knowledge will decide what information needs to be distributed and taught to others.  It makes me question which truth is the truth?
I chose a quarter to represent conflicting ideals of knowledge validation because according to Collins the black feminist must know both sides in order to defend the other.
What are black feminists doing about this dilemma? They are using their own standards to measure knowledge.  Alternative knowledge validation is utilized “to create independent self-definitions and self-evaluations and to rearticulate them through [their] own specialists…[by developing] distinctive black women’s standpoint” (Collins 410).  The “alternative ways black feminists use to produce and validate knowledge” is what empowers black women because they are able to use their voice as a tool to tell their story and shatter dominant theories imposed on them.  The film Claudine is a great example of black women using their voice to fight stereotypes. Diahann Carroll stars as Claudine and portrays the story of a single African-American woman on welfare trying to support herself and her six children.  She meets and starts dating a garbage man named Rupert B. Marshall, played by James Earl Jones.  Due to government restraints that the welfare system imposes on Claudine, Rupert and her family we see the disintegration of the black family. From this we can notice the imposition of black stereotypes on black men and women.  Claudine Price gives audience members the duality of the black woman: the stereotype and the reality.  The stereotype is the collective dominant belief of the black women in the media, which in this case is the Welfare Queen.  The reality of her story is that she is trying to secretly work as a maid to support her children; she doesn’t wish to be under the constraints of the Welfare System.  The film depicts the importance of valuing the content of characteristics belonging to individuals, rather than accepting stereotypes as a reality. 
Although Black Feminists are fighting to create their own methodological process in producing their unique ideals and themes in epistemology, but there are obstacles they encounter.  One, they come across rejection by the panel of experts who control the knowledge validation process, “on the grounds that black women’s work does not constitute credible research” (Collins 410).  The reasons were black women’s competing methods and models do not fit the dominant archetypes of epistemology, in turn “academic disciplines reject” their claims as nonfactual.  Another obstacle is “attaining validation from ordinary African-American women” (Collins 414).  It is crucial to portray the black women’s perspective in relations to black culture, such as music, literature, daily conversations, religion and so forth, as a collective identity of their truth.  This isn’t to say all black women’s experiences are the same, but there are contingent experiences among black women, such as struggling to gain power. 
Black women scholars who want to distribute ideals of black feminist thought must meet the black feminist epistemological standards in framing their work.  They also must meet “epistemological standards met by dominant groups who control schools, graduate programs, tenure processes, publication outlets and other mechanisms that legitimatize knowledge” (Collins 413).  Black women must master white male epistemologies in order to use existing alternative black feminist ways of knowing.  This leads to “frustration and creativity” because in mastering both forms of knowledge it “dichotomizes” their perspective and ultimately they “become two different people” (Collins 413).  Meaning in the process of defending the alternative black feminist thought they must use the epistemological standards of the dominant group.  Having to flip flop between both communities can be difficult to manage because most women scholars stand alone in attempting to defend black feminist thought.  This can be frustrating because in defending one group the other will denounce knowledgeable claims.  Collins believes black women scholars need to release trying to fit in or “translate every notion into a framework” (Collins 413) because once they stop insisting, other choices will come into view.  For instance when trying to translate languages, let’s say Spanish into English the translator must understand that not all words can be transferable.  This is where creativity is needed in order to “rearticulate a black woman’s standpoint” (Collins 413).

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mead: "Truth is a solution."

It is a mathematical equation that when one adds to one, the answer turns out to be two. As simple as it is, it is universally a known fact. Hence, a fact which has theoretically proven is “truth.” Although truth is thus an answer, the answer is not the process of solution itself. This is to say the answer, in another words, the end product depends on the process because the process is comprised of different variables. Going back to the first equation, the answer becomes two when one adds to one. In order to make the answer “two,” it is a condition to require the addition of “one and one.” If such condition is not fulfilled, the answer does not come true. If so, then the variables “one and one” themselves are not equal to the number of product “two.” There is another example, which shows that the product is not equal to the process. In another mathematical equation, if one point five adds to zero point five, the answer is two. Again, the condition is required in this case to accomplish the product “two.” To do so, the addition of the variables, “one point five and zero point five” are needed. Before the addition (action) is not occurred, the product does not come out. There are many different cases on the process of solution that leads to a same solution, yet the solution does not equal to the process. Therefore truth can be a solution, but a solution cannot be truth.

         Mead ambitiously claims “truth is synonymous with the solution of the problem” (Alexander 1987:203). According to Mead (1987), it is the main concept of pragmatic philosophy which expresses the Social Darwinian. On his argument, he adds “process will determine form” (Alexander 1987:203). If truth determines a solution, then a stronger quality of variables will contribute the proximity of solution. Therefore, the solution can be depended upon superiority. To say an individual’s character is the variable, a decision as the process, and lastly a society as the solution, then an individual who possesses the strongest social trait (the economic and political power) can decide the flow of society in terms of the Social Darwinian. The abundance in economic factor will enable an individual more access to the economic aspect in the society. Likewise, the political wealth will grant an individual more access to the political component of society. However, both of the two powers not only limits to the each designated field (the economic-to-economic field and the political-to-political field) but also the general body of a whole society. Hence, the strongest trait of the individual controls the factor of outcome.
     The reason I chose this picture is to define “truth is a solution” by expressing the process determines the product. Also to distinguish the difference between “truth is a solution” and “a solution is truth,” the image of mathematical equation seemed an appropriate match to the concept. The mathematical equation simplified the concept of truth and solution. And when I used a very basic of the mathematical equation, it gave me a nostalgic atmosphere. To suit this nostalgia, I touched with some of vintage feeling.         
Alexander, Jeffrey C. 1987. Twenty Lectures: Sociological Theory Since World WarII. NY: Columbia University Press.

the regulation of life

cigarettes are regulated with warnings from
the medical institution about their
pack of cigarettes complete with medical warning
about how you shouldn't use them

alcohol, another heavily regulated
 dangerous substance 
One of Foucault’s most famous works is the multivolume, The History of Sexuality.  In this set of landmark books, Foucault makes an argument that ties the scientific discourse and study on sexuality, with the power of the state, along with the various institutions that regulate sex.  Foucault‘s argument rests on his analysis of political power through history; from the power of the absolute sovereign over life and death to power over the administration of life, by which Foucault means the “safeguard of society” via social welfare and biological regulations (Foucault 1976:193).  This shift, from power over death to power over life, began during the 17th and continued through the 20th century, and was typified to Foucault by the creation of the social sciences, which brought with them the methods of scientific research to the domain of the mundane and personal.  Foucault points out the development of the study of the human body as a machine, as something to be optimized through scientific study, as well as the development of population regulations and demographic study.  These developments resulted in (or perhaps from) a change in the power structure, from a powerful sovereign’s power of death to more democratic methods of government which relied on the increasing power and influence of institutions like schools and especially medicine in order to regulate society through norms.  These institutions worked through a system of discourse that stratifies society, through categorizing sexuality as normal or perverse.  The repressive hypothesis, one of the key aspects of Foucault’s historical analysis, examined the widespread assumption that sexuality was repressed during the Victorian era, instead proposing that in fact the Victorian era had an explosion of sexual discourse and regulation, where sexualization was taken to an extreme, notably in the creation of perverse sexualities, like homosexuality.  Foucault points to the history of homosexuality, and how previously homosexuality was simply an act (sodomy for males) that was considered a vice, whereas in the Victorian era it became a sexuality, and identity of deviance and perversion.  (Foucault, Morar and Smith 2011)  For Foucault everything always returns to power, the scientific institutions working to make life a political object that can to be controlled and regulated, which he further ties to in particular the massive  growth of the medical institution.  He points to the combination of “disciplinary techniques” like the creation of demography and medical examination, as the powerful regulatory methods that allow for the management of life. The medical institution created a discourse of sexuality that focused on sexuality, through “problems” like female hysteria and masturbation in children, making pleasure abnormal, and cause for treatments defined by either the medical or even legal institutions  (Foucault, Morar and Smith 2011:5).  By making types of pleasure into abnormal sexualities, the medical institution made certain subjects taboo, which is itself a method of regulation; creating a norm to which people were expected to fall in line with, all for the sake of the preservation and optimization of the human race as well as making sexuality more important of an issue, thereby making itself more powerful (Foucault, Morar and Smith 2011:9).  Furthermore, the development of scientific race mirrors this desire to regulate reproduction, through legal means like misogamy laws, or taboos on interracial sex.         
While Foucault focused this analysis on sexuality, the regulation of life by institutions extends beyond simply sex.  For example there is now a massive medical discourse on the medical dangers of smoking cigarettes, and smokers often face stigma and judgments for endangering the health of themselves and those around them.  Not long ago however this discourse did not exist, and smoking cigarettes was normative for much of the western world, and despite the enormous discourse on the dangers of smoking, many people continue to ignore these attempts at regulation, just as many people continue to engage in so called perverse sexualities.  While cigarettes are not illegal (although the prices are heavily inflated to promote abstinence), drugs like marijuana are, and have been since the medical institutions defined the smoking of marijuana as abnormal and dangerous to the welfare of society, much like what the current discourse says of tobacco.  It’s a sign of the power of the tobacco industry that marijuana is illegal, but tobacco remains legal, albeit heavily regulated.  Alcohol is in much the same boat, although the immense failure of the regulatory institutions to prohibit alcohol during the 1920s and the fact that people still used illegal drugs is notable to show that the power and regulations over mundane life by institutions is not absolute and that the scientific discourse is not always accepted as truth by the masses.  This is by no means contrary to Foucault’s claims, but rather the result of a kind of subversive counter discourse that rejects those regulations.  Any power relation has at least two sides to it, the dominator and the dominated, nowhere in Foucault’s work does he state that the dominated doesn’t resist.  The fact that even though there is a huge counter movement against the illegal status of marijuana and plenty of people that smoke it illegally, users continue to be punished by the legal system and the whole issue of drug use is problematized, making what the medical institution has to say even more valuable to the public discourse.  This for Foucault is the power structure of modernity.