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How many times do I have to tell you that this is a BOOK. I have sent you my LIST OF PUBLICATIONS so you can STOP MAKING THESE MISTAKES. IDON'T NEED YOU OR YOUR INSULTING SUGGESTIONS ABOUT 'INCREASING MY PROFILE'!!!!! unless you rectify these errors, of your making, I will simply leave.
Being Human: the Problem
of Agency
Margaret S. Archer
University of Warwick
The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, United Kingdom
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© Margaret S. Archer 2000
This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published 2000
Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge
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A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
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List of gures page viii
Acknowledgements x
Introduction 1
Part I The impoverishment of humanity
1 Resisting the dissolution of humanity 17
2 Modernity’s man 51
3 Society’s being: humanity as the gift of society 86
Part II The emergence of self-consciousness
4 The primacy of practice 121
5 The practical order as pivotal 154
Part III The emergence of personal identity
6 Humanity and reality: emotions as commentaries on
human concerns 193
7 Personal identity: the inner conversation and emotional
elaboration 222
Part IV The emergence of social identity
8 Agents: active and passive 253
9 Actors and commitment 283
Conclusion: the re-emergence of humanity 306
Index 320
3.1 Harré’s ontologies of science and society page 89
3.2 The development of Society’s Being 107
3.3 The orthodox Vygotskyan square (Harré) 115
3.4 The social realists’ square (Archer) 115
5.1 Three orders of reality and their respective forms of
knowledge 162
5.2 Relations between embodied, practical and discursive
knowledge 179
6.1 The emergence of (rst-order) emotions 199
6.2 Emotional emergence in the natural order 205
6.3 Emotional morphogenesis in the natural order 207
7.1 Elster’s cognitive transmutation of emotion 224
8.1 Realism’s account of the development of the stratied human
being 260
8.2 The morphogenesis of corporate agency 268
8.3 Structural and cultural congurations reproducing
morphostasis in society and agency 271
8.4 Structural and cultural congurations generating
morphogenesis in society and agency 277
8.5 The double morphogenesis of agency 279
9.1 The acquisition of social identity 295
9.2 The emergence of personal and social identity 296
1 Resisting the dissolution of humanity
Humanity is seen as the linchpin of agency in general and is therefore
crucial to how one side of the ‘problem of structure and agency’ is
conceptualised.1Too often we are presented with reductionist accounts,
which either make all that we are the gift of society or, conversely, which
claim that all society is can be derived from what we are. Instead, both
humanity and society have their own sui generis properties and powers,
which makes their interplay the central issue of social theory for all time.
This book is concerned with the emergence of our human properties and
powers. They are relational: stemming from the way our species is consti-
tuted, the way the world is and the necessity of their mutual interac-
tion.The relations between the two, being universal, supply the anchor
which moors our elaborated human forms as Selves, Persons, Agents and
Actors, and thus sets limits to their variability. Humanity, as a natural
kind, dees transmutation into another and dierent kind. It is this which
sustains the thread of intelligibility between people of dierent times and
places, and without it the thread would break. It is this too which under-
pins our moral and political responsibilities to humankind despite the
socio-cultural dierences of groups – for these are never big enough for
them to leave the human family and dispense us from our obligations to
family members.
Another way of putting this is that human interaction with the world
constitutes the transcendental conditions of human development, which
otherwise remain as unrealised potentia of our species. However, it
must be stressed from the start that there is more to the world than society
(which until recently would have been unnecessary), and that all of its
constituent orders contribute to our human being and to what it is to
be human in the world. Indeed, my key argument maintains that it is
11Although these large claims were made in the rst two parts of this trilogy (Culture and
Agency, Cambridge University Press, 1988 and Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic
Approach, Cambridge University Press, 1995), their justication was postponed until this
last volume. This book is intended to redeem the promissory notes scattered through the
previous ones.
precisely because of our interaction with the natural, practical and tran-
scendental orders that humanity has prior, autonomous and ecacious
powers which it brings to society itself – and which intertwine with those
properties of society which make us social beings, without which, it is
true, we would certainly not be recognisably human. This book will
conne itself to working on our feet of clay, that is our relations with the
natural and practical orders of reality, because these are all that are
needed for the defence of humanity as sui generis within sociology.
My stress upon the transcendental necessity of relations with nature
for the possibility of being a human, should clearly serve to separate this
view of common humanity from the Enlightenment model of intrinsi-
cally rational ‘Man’, characterised by ‘his’
mastery over nature. Here
the natural relations of people are neither ones conned to instrumental
rationality nor ones which can be captured by notions of mastery. Indeed
our most basic practices, basic in terms of our physical survival, are
better portrayed as our embodied accommodation to the mercy of
nature, and not the other way around. As we accommodate, we do
indeed learn things, inter alia, about means and ends but these come
after the event; they cannot be construed as part of our natural attitude in
It should be clear that my objective is to reclaim the notion of common
humanity, even if its practical grounding has not yet been explicated.
Although the present work distances itself from the Enlightenment
concept of man, it does not do so by the radical device of de-centring, dis-
solving or demolishing the human subject. Because the aim is to salvage a
workable notion of humankind, this book is also hostile to the post-
modernist mood, where the inclination of theorists is to distance them-
selves from the metaphysics of modernity by scrapping humanity. I wish
to reclaim human beings as the ultimate fons et origio of (emergent) social
life or socio-cultural structures, rather than subjugating humanity, as if it
were the epiphenomenon of social forces.
The following quotations from leading postmodernists ( their immedi-
ate predecessors and fellow-travellers) reect not only the ‘death of Man’
but also the method of his demise. What could appear on the death
certicate is ‘asphyxiation by social forces’.
‘I believe the ultimate goal of the human sciences to be not to constitute, but to
dissolve man.’ (Lévi-Stauss)3
18 The impoverishment of humanity
12Rational ‘Man’ was the term current in Enlightenment thinking. Because it is awkward to
impose inclusive language retrospectively and distracting to insert inverted commas, I
reluctantly abide with the term Man, as standing for humanity, when referring to this
tradition, its heirs, successors and adversaries.
13C. Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind, London, 1966.
(Humanity) that ‘spongy referent, that opaque but equally translucence reality,
that nothingness’ an ‘opaque nebula whose growing density absorbs all the sur-
rounding energy and light rays, to collapse nally under its own weight’.
‘Man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea.
‘With the spread of postmodernist consciousness we see the demise of personal
denition, reason, authority, commitment, trust, the sense of authenticity, sincer-
ity, belief in leadership, depth of feeling and faith in progress. In their stead, an
open slate emerges on which persons may inscribe, erase and rewrite their identi-
ties as the ever-shifting, ever-expanding and incoherent network of relationships
invites or permits.’ (Gergen)6
‘Identities are points of temporary attachment to the subject positions which dis-
cursive practices construct for us. They are the result of a successful articulation
or “chaining” of the subject into the ow of discourse.’ (Stuart Hall)7
‘A self does not amount to much.’ (Lyotard)8
‘Socialisation . . . goes all the way down.’ (Rorty)9
This displacement of the human subject and celebration of the power of
social forces to shape and to mould is the epitome of what I have termed
Downwards conation. For ‘a self does not amount to much’10 is a view
redolent of the human being seen as ‘indeterminate material’ by
Durkheim. To both, the epiphenomenal status of humankind deects all
real interest onto the forces of socialisation. People are indeed perfectly
uninteresting if they possess no personal powers which can make a
dierence. Of course, if this is the case then it is hard to see how they can
oer any resistance, for even if it is ineectual it has to stem from
someone who at least amounts to the proportions of an irritant (and must
thus be credited minimally with the personal power to challenge).
Foucault was to face the problems set up by this one-dimensional, socio-
centric account and there is evidence in his later work that he began to
reinstate a more robust self concept, one strong enough to restore the
‘problem of structure and agency’ which the notion of resistance
Resisting the dissolution of humanity 19
14J. Baudrillard, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, New York, Semiotext(e), 1983.
15M. Foucault, The Order of Things, New York, Random House,1970, p. 387.
16Gergen, The Saturated Self, New York, Basic Books,1991.
17Stuart Hall, ‘Who Needs Identity?’, in Hall, S.and Du Gay, P. (eds.), Questions of Cultural
Identity, London, Sage, 1996.
18J-F. Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press,
19Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, Cambridge University Press,1989,
p. 185.
10 Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition,p.15.
ineluctably implies. In short the programme of dissolution turns out to be
circular in that it returns grudgingly to examine the two terms and the
interplay between them in order to account for outcomes. Explanation of
these is, of course, the charter of the Analytical Dualism11 advocated here,
but there are crucial reasons why there can be no rapprochement with post-
modernism which goes deeper than the fact that not all postmodernists
have followed Foucault’s re-turn.
There is a much more profound circularity running through post-
modernist thought if it is to be regarded as a contribution to social theor-
ising rather than a prolongation of the esta of May 1968: that is as an
investigator of events rather than a participator in the évènements. This
circularity concerns the stance taken towards anthropocentricism. Below
I will consider three questions about the postmodernists’ view of human-
ity whose answers ultimately tend to a very dierent conclusion from the
brutalist presentation of humankind contained in the cluster of dismissive
quotations just given. If we consider sequentially, (a) why this de-centring
of Man?; (b) how was humanity dissolved?, and; (c) what personal self this
leaves for sociological investigation and theorising?; the progression of
answers comes full circle. And this is a vicious circle both for post-
modernist consistency and for utility in social analysis.
The basic answer to ‘Why de-centre?’ was in order to demolish the
anthropocentricism explicit in Rational Man as master of all he surveyed,
with consciousness thus being the source of history. The answer to how
he was dethroned was by installing an anti-humanism which made him
the recipient rather than the maker of history. But when we come to what
kind of consequences this has for the social ‘sciences’ there are three pos-
sible responses. The rst sometimes tells us that we, as sociologists, have
perished with humankind, washed away with the face of Man, for ‘All that
remains to be done is to play with the pieces’ now that ‘history has
stopped.12 We can make art but not sociology (who remains to appreciate
these aesthetics we will leave to Rorty to tell). Ultimately, author-less texts
without referents swing free as the product of disembodied forces, not the
cumulative production of succeeding agential generations of critics. What
we make of them is our game in the here and now.
The second bids us engage in an idealist reication of process-without-
a-maker or discourse-without-a-speaker or texts-without-an-author,
which ironically turns out to be anthropocentric for it installs the inter-
preter in a position of rhetorical authority in place of the absented inten-
tional agent. Perhaps this accounts for its popularity, but it makes it a
20 The impoverishment of humanity
11 See, Realist Social Theory, ch. 6.
12 Baudrillard, ‘On Nihilism’, On the Beach, 6, 1984, pp. 24–5.
thoroughgoing form of anthropocentricity, even though an intergenera-
tional one, since successive interpreters must endlessly defer to their suc-
cessors and their successors to their children’s children’s interpretations.
Yet there is a third answer, forthcoming externally from those disin-
clined to shake their sandals free of postmodernism and yet who seek
instead a rescuable account of reason, truth and self embedded in it
which can still sustain the sociological enterprise. The paradox is that this
version recommits the anthropocentric fallacy with a vengeance. It
concurs with the ‘Death of God’ at the price of resurrecting Man. For if a
‘God’s eye view’ can provide no knowledge of the world, told in dis-
embodied worldspeak, then our only recourse is to knowledge generated
from our own human perspectives – incarnational and perspectival
knowledge which has to reinvoke the human point of view. Both the
circularity and the fallacy consist in now over-privileging people’s emer-
gent properties (PEPs), for our access to the social is via what human
beings can tell us of it. Since they are not merely fallible (as we all agree)
but necessarily limited in their perspectives, then structural and cultural
emergent properties (SEPs and CEPs) are under-privileged because they
can only be grasped through what people say. This is quite a dierent
statement from the activity-dependence of social forms stressed by social
realists. That never presumes full knowledgeability on the part of agents
(we cannot discover the nature of social structure by administering ques-
tionnaires), whereas this does assume full agential discursive penetration.
Or if it does not, it condemns the investigator to the same ignorance of
social processes as their subjects. The reason is that we shall nd this
analysis to be conned to the Humean level of the event, for only the
actual rather than the real is accessible to direct human perception from
the human perspective.
As a social realist, I would seek to rescue social theory from both
the postmodernists and their charitable humanistic defenders. For we
must neither under- nor over-privilege human agency in our analytical
approach. In contesting both the original and the derivative positions on
humanity and its role in society and sociology alike, the realist does not
seek to prop-up modernity’s model of Man. We are just as critical of such
attempts, represented by the Rational Choice theorists’ model of the
utility maximising bargain-hunter, as of demolished Man. Such latter-day
proponents of the Enlightenment model are fully anthropocentric in their
Upward conation, for it is some property of people (usually their in-built
rationality, though sometimes modied by social additives such as
normativity) which is held to account for the entirety of the social context
– by a process of aggregation. The deciencies involved in reducing struc-
ture (SEPs) and culture (CEPs) to aggregate properties, rather than
Resisting the dissolution of humanity 21
emergent ones with their own causal powers, have been rehearsed in
Realist Social Theory (ch.2 ), but it is the sourceless, fully asocial, rational
abstraction which stands for agency which is criticised here (see chapter
Instead of rehabilitating Enlightenment Man with his incorporeal
consciousness, or any equally mentalistic portrayals of humanity, social
realism makes our real embodied selves living in the real world really
load-bearing. It constitutes a naturalistic account of consciousness rather
than taking the latter as an a prioristic endowment. Nevertheless, contra
postmodernism, this is an account of consciousness with a real history
which, in turn, ultimately accounts for there being real world history. Far
from being groundless, it is rmly grounded in the natural praxis of
humanity; ways of being in the world without which the species would not
survive as a natural kind to develop its potential properties – all of which
at conception only exist in potentia. These natural relations are the source
not only of consciousness but also of our distinctive self reexivity, whose
origins are equally practical. It should be noted, to complete this aerial
view, that this insistence upon natural praxis does not align the
humankind conceptualised by realists with the ontology of praxis held by
Central Conationists, such as advocates of Structuration Theory.13 For
their ‘ontology of praxis’ would deny the autonomy, priority and causal
ecacy of natural relations, since every practice is held to draw upon
socio-structural properties. It therefore also denies questions about the
interplay between natural and social practices, which cannot even be
addressed from within that framework.
I Social imperialism and linguistic terrorism
However, to return to postmodernism as the apogée of Downwards
conation, let us trace through my contentious claim that this most avow-
edly anti-humanist stance actually does come full circle to advocate an
unacceptably anthropocentric position. We begin by returning to the
three questions listed above.
Why de-centre humanity?
Postmodernists usually pay their intellectual respects to Nietzsche. In
particular they align themselves with him in attacking the Enlightenment
for having allowed the ‘death of God’to issue in titanic Man (as if thought
abhors a vacuum in the cult of personality). Thus with the secularisation
22 The impoverishment of humanity
13 See Realist Social Theory, ch. 4.
of modernity went a progressive humanistic endorsement of human self-
determination, of people’s powers to come to know the world, master
their environment and thus control their own destiny as the ‘measure of
all things’. This lies at the heart of humanism, a tough doctrine not to be
confused with secularised humaneness: it is not the latter gentle belief
that ‘people matter’, but the more strident doctrine that nothing matters
at all except in so far as it matters to man.
As Kate Soper puts it, this ‘Humanist thought is very commonly
described as “anthropocentric”: it places Man at the centre. But there are
dierent ways of doing so. One is to assume from the outset an opposition
between an “external”, objectively existing world on the one hand, and
human subjects possessed of consciousness, on the other. In this view,
“Man” is conceived as standing “outside”the reality which is given him in
consciousness. It is a standpoint that promotes and endorses an instru-
mental conception of the relations between humanity and the non-
human or “natural” world: Nature exists for Man, who by means of an
objective knowledge of its workings, harnesses it in the service of human
ends.14 This seems a very fair encapsulation of the Enlightenment model
of the modern self. Not only does this self stand outside nature as its
master, it also stands outside history as the lone individual whose rela-
tions with others are not in any way constitutive of the self, but are merely
contingent accretions, detachable from our essence. Thus the modern
self is not contingently made but is universally given. Because all that is
contingent can be stripped from this self, it can step forward as a purely
logocentric being whose consciousness, freed from any embedding in his-
torical circumstances, can pellucidly articulate the cosmic story. As the
‘Pure Visitor’ in Gellner’s terms,15 logocentric man is by nature the
perfect recorder (he does not have the moral struggle of honest
Chroniclers, condemned in advance to fail in eradicating their subjective
biases). The metaphysics of modernity thus adduced a model of instru-
mentally rational man who could attain his ends in the world by pure
logos, a rationality working through the formal manipulation of linguistic
symbols to generate truth.
Yet the very quest for truth is dismissed by postmodernists as a human
folie de grandeur. It was dismissed in part (the one that concerns us
here) because of the fundamental error entailed in holding human
consciousness to be the mirror of nature. The human subject is not the
‘origin’ of knowledge, nor is meaning derived from what is self-evident to
the human mind. Indeed, since there is no progressive mastery, either
Resisting the dissolution of humanity 23
14 Kate Soper, Humanism and Anti-Humanism, London, Hutchinson, 1986, p. 24.
15 Ernest Gellner, Thought and Change, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1964,
pp. 105–13.
epistemological or ontological, neither is there a story to be told about the
mastery of progress. With the anathematisation of such historical meta-
narratives came the explicit concern with the whole status of history, and
who, if anyone ‘made it’. To privilege human makers is to misconstrue
historical thought as humanist mythology: it is to throw up the Cartesian
cogito onto the big screen and backwards over time. Instead, to Lévi-
Strauss, history has neither meaning, nor subject, nor object – ‘We have
only to recognise that history is a method with no distinct object corresponding
to it to reject the equivalence between the notion of history and the notion
of humanity which some have tried to foist on us with the unavowed aim
of making historicity the last refuge of a transcendental humanism.’16
Where then does that leave humankind? Not as the makers of history,
because history as metanarrative is dead, not as the honest chronicler
because truth is dead, and not as the external observer because our refer-
ential language is dead too. These fatalities spell the dethronement of the
previous masters of nature, but what status do they now occupy? Those
who previously harnessed nature and made history progress are now
themselves harnessed and subjugated. Instead of being the subjects who
mediated these realities through their consciousness and rationality, the
fact that referential reality has died the death too means that they are sub-
jected to the play of meanings which are all that remain. Demoted from
being makers of something real, true and progressive, once all of these
terms have been contested, humankind itself gures among the ‘made’.
Meanings now become constitutive of humanity itself and not vice versa.
Our status is that of semiological objects, homo signicans, or cultural sub-
jects. And culture itself has shrunk: there is neither the cultural cut and
thrust amongst groups with real interests, nor the continuous elaboration
of the Cultural System with internal relationships of contradiction and
complementarity as its emergent properties, which impinge causally
upon interested parties, as was described in Culture and Agency. Instead,
to Lacan, ‘culture could well be reduced to language’.17
The postmodernist denies human subjects any form of external
mastery over society’s development and form, in opposition to the
Enlightenment model which gave them complete sway. The intermediate
position where structure and agency conjointly determine society’s tra-
jectory, whose shape is an unintended consequence conforming to the
exact desires of no one, is passed over. If humankind cannot be the master
of society it becomes the slave of one of its sub-systems, culture, restric-
tively presented as language. In the next section, which deals with how
24 The impoverishment of humanity
16 C. Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind, London,1966, p. 269. My italics.
17 J. Lacan, Ecrits, London, 1997, p. 148.
humanity was lost, we will nd a common thread uniting structuralist,
post-structuralist and full-blown postmodernist thought, namely ‘the
concern is with the universal inscription of humankind within language
and systems of codication which regulate all human experience and
activity, and therefore lie beyond the control of either individuals or social
groups.18 However, in trying to answer why humanity was de-centred in
terms of a revulsive reversal of the primacy assigned to it by the
Enlightened model, a major diculty has already been encountered.
Since all that now constitutes our selves are local contingencies, then this
presages the collapse of any concept of self identity qua human beings.
The de-centring of the Enlightenment concept of the human being leads
directly to an actual dissolution of the self which is then kaleidoscopically
shaped by the ux of historical contingencies. References to the human
being become indenite, since contingency deprives them of a common
denominator, and thus any coherent idea of human identity is lost. To
return to the quotations at the beginning of this chapter, it seems as if
humankind will not be mourned: but as we will see a little later, some of
the jobs performed by human beings in social theorising will be so indis-
pensable as to make them subjects of attempted resuscitation.
The dissolution of humanity
The human being, as a causally ecacious subject was exposed to a lin-
guistic terrorism which intensied over the stages of thought paving the
way to postmodernism – structuralism, post-structuralism and textual-
ism. Rather than being the source of referential meanings in the real
world, humanity was increasingly turned into an entity constituted by
language – a movement from subject to subjectication and subjugation.
This represents the most radical form of Downwards conation
encountered in these studies, because postmodernism not only asserts
the primacy of (linguistic) structure over human agency, it ultimately
seeks to dissolve the human subject entirely. This tough anti-humanism
insisted upon the priority of circumstance over will in opposition to the
Enlightened humanist emphasis on the primacy of will over circum-
stances.19 This opposition is general when these two convictions confront
one another: what was distinctive was that the only circumstances given
consideration were linguistic ones. Noting this from the beginning is
crucial, because such persuasiveness as these views carry is crucially
dependent on what they leave out and encourage us to ignore by their
own silences. Specically what is omitted is that the causal powers of
Resisting the dissolution of humanity 25
18 Kate Soper, Humanism and Anti-Humanism,p.97. 19 Ibid., p. 151.
social and cultural structures are of a dierent order from language,
which is in no sense paradigmatic of them. As Anderson has argued, the
exchange of words in no way models the exchange of women in kinship
structures or of goods in the market economy for the latter cannot be
‘dened in terms of exchange at all: production and property are always
Certainly, the terms in which modern metaphysics had been cast since
Descartes introduced a dualism between brute matter (what was there)
versus human consciousness (what to do), which served to facilitate this
one-sided concentration on the latter term amongst its postmodernist
opponents. Realism, instead, challenges the dualism itself, particularly
our inheritance of the is/ought distinction from it. As Collier argues, one
could not make sense of the simplest intentional action, like making tea,
unless it was taken for granted that the way things are does provide
grounds for action.21 In general, realists would claim priority for practice
over language, which is the theme to which this whole book is devoted,
but modernist metaphysics, rooted in the Cartesian cogito, begins from
the opposite and non-practical conception of consciousness and experi-
ence and this non-practicality has ironically passed directly on to post-
modernism. Yet the normal place of thought is as an aspect of practice. It
can never be independent of reality as Cartesian thought is, since if it con-
fronts no other, it cannot evade the concepts, theories, beliefs and so on
which are lodged in the Cultural System. And the C.S. contains a whole
series of emergent relationships between items which cannot be reduced
to the relations between words, because once they have developed they
can be expressed in an unlimited number of alternative words (consider
the limitless semantic forms in which propositional contradictions
between religious and scientic convictions can be expressed). It is not
the word-to-word relationship which matters, but the logical relations of
contradiction and complementarity in the ‘systemic register’ since these
impinge upon the fundamental activity of holding an idea.
Saussure’s ‘exorbitation of language’,22 follows the path of non-
practicality by severing the relationship between language and the world
and holding the sign system to be a closed one. Signs are not prior to the
relations between them, but themselves arise out of the play of dierences
between them. The system of langue, thus constituted, is ‘radically
arbitrary’ to the world of objects. Therefore linguistic terms acquire iden-
tity, not by consistency of reference, but only in so far as they are
26 The impoverishment of humanity
20 Perry Anderson, In the Tracks of Historical Materialism, London, 1983, p. 43.
21 Andrew Collier, ‘Language, Practice and Realism, in Ian Parker (ed.), Social
Constructionism, Discourse and Reality, London, Sage, 1998, p. 53.
22 Perry Anderson, In the Tracks,p.40.
dierentiated from other signs by their dierences. Hence the subject is
no longer constitutive of langue by endowing words with meaning, that is
referring to objects to which he has access. Rather meaning is now
autonomous, it is not the creation of speakers who instead merely and
‘passively assimilate’ the system produced by the interplay of signiers. In
short, consciousness is necessarily mediated by discourse which tran-
scends the human subject who has no exit from the linguistic system.
However, there are various ways in which Saussure’s theory of
meaning, as the play of dierences between signifer and signied, was not
hermetically sealed against the real world or the subjects’ practical activ-
ity within it. Firstly, reality was not entirely banished. Signs after all
signify something, and, although Saussure sought to conne these refer-
ents to ‘ideas and concepts’, reality kept obtruding, for how could the
arbitrary nature of the signiers ‘boeuf ’ and ‘ox’ be articulated without
the fact that these two terms referred to the same animal in reality?
Secondly, he does not in fact manage to sustain the argument that all lin-
guistic values stem entirely from dierences, because which dierences
count depends upon the practical interests of the subjects involved. Thus in
his famous ‘Paris–Geneva–Train’ example, this retains its identity for the
passenger, although every carriage and engine changes, so long as it
departs on that route approximately on schedule, but not for the
trainspotter or maintenance sta. In short the barrier which was meant to
exclude real world objects and the practical involvement of subjects
proved ineectual. Finally, the argument that words gain their meanings
from their relation to other words, through the dierences established,
does nothing whatsoever to show that dierence itself related to nothing
in the world or that it is not our practical interests which prompt the
establishment of dierences. The numerous Inuit words for snow encode
dierences between impactable and powdery substances and only pro-
liferate among a population which has a practical interest in such matters.
These dierences disclose information of utility to any who have an inter-
est in learning them, even a trivial one like snowballing. Since real refer-
ents and practical human interests keep surfacing, Saussure had not
produced a linguistic theory which demoted the subject from being the
mediator of meaning and subordinated her to passively assimilating all
meaning through discursive mediation.
Saussure had attempted to advance an anti-realist theory of meaning,
uncoupled from any referential theory, since ‘dierences’were not meant
to point to referents. Since what counted in language was the distinction
between ‘signier’ (word) and the ‘signied’ (concept), the subject was
reduced to a very secondary role in the generation of meaning, since
priority was accorded to the ‘dierences’ themselves. However we have
Resisting the dissolution of humanity 27
seen that neither referents nor subjects were eectively excluded. The
common denominator of the various structuralists, who linked back to
Saussure, was to assign the subject to a more rmly based subordinate
status. In the work of Lévi-Strauss, Althusser and Lacan, subordination
consisted in conceptualising subjects as constituted by social forces
beyond their control (whether the grid of the human mind, the forces and
relations of production or the unconscious) and whose very subjectivity
was constructed in language. Such forces render human consciousness
irrelevant since it is now presented as the eect of a determinism which is
outside both our conception (as lay actors) and control (as investigators).
The signicance of Lévi-Strauss lay in his direct challenge to the notion
that ‘men make history’ and its attempted replacement by autonomous
processes, consisting of binary codes of signiers (such as ‘raw’ and
‘cooked’), which owed nothing to the intentional creation of meanings by
human beings.
History, in short, does not record or discover meaning; it does no more than
provide a catalogue which can serve as a point of departure in the quest for
intelligibility. We must understand, that is, that there has been no progress of the
kind that humanist historians suppose, no development of cognition, no dialecti-
cal process at work in human society, but merely the reformulation in numerous
dierent guises of an essential structure of human knowledge – a structure which
is, according to Lévi-Strauss, a closed system. Historical thought is simply the
humanist mythology by means of which the ‘civilised’ or ‘developed’ world relates
to the discontinuous, objective and immutable structure of brain and psyche.23
Therefore all forms of humanism are considered to be ‘ideological’ since
they distortedly take our wholly supercial subjectivity seriously and thus
deect attention from the underlying social forces which alone have
causal ecacy to Lévi-Strauss.
An identical process of transcending subject and object is inscribed in
Althusser’s two basic propositions: that individuals are not themselves
constitutive of the social process or history but are only its träger, and that
the consciousness or subjectivity of the subject is constructed in ideology.
The former insists that we are not the ‘makers of history’ but only the
supporting material which energises the process. Thus it is that the
structure of the relations of production determines the places and functions occu-
pied and adopted by the relations of production, who are never anything more
than the occupants of these places, insofar as they are the supports (Träger) of
these functions. The true ‘subjects’ (in the sense of constitutive subjects of the
process) are therefore not these occupants or functionaries, are not, despite all
appearances, the ‘real men’ but the denition and its distr ibution of these places and
functions. The true ‘subjects’ are these deners and distr ibutors: the relations of produc-
28 The impoverishment of humanity
23 Kate Soper, Humanism and Anti-humanism, p. 99.
tion (and political and ideological social relations). But since these are ‘relations’,
they cannot be thought within the category subject.24
Secondly, everything about the concrete historical individual(s) and their
experience is actually subjected to these relations and therefore human
subjectivity is the subordinate product of these social forces. Subjectivity
and the misrepresentation of ourselves as subjects are ideological con-
structs, ways in which we are formed and from which we cannot escape.
Here Althusser is careful to specify that we are not directly produced by
eects of the economy, but rather by functional ideological apparatuses
whose task is to produce subjects whose consciousness is appropriate to
the positions they occupy. This is not the place to start questioning what
hidden hand ensures the functionality of ideological (or repressive) state
apparatuses in providing the non-material pre-conditions of production.
But it is the point to note why Althusser advances two distinct but related
theses, the rst about social positions and functions and the second about
ideological mediation which equips people for these roles.
Now both Mepham25 and Collier26 have argued that the force of the
rst argument is that it is collective class action which ‘makes history’,
rather than individuals, and this gels with Althusser’s own protestation
that he never sought to deny the existence of human beings. The use of
Träger’ applied not to concrete reality, but to deeper structural mecha-
nisms which could only be grasped by this abstraction of our being to
become nothing but ‘carriers’. Yet the problem remains, for who now
does the ‘grasping’? It looks as though real human beings have been read-
mitted (in concrete reality though not in functional theoretical abstrac-
tions), in which case why are they not deemed the real history-makers?
Alternatively, if we can only reect upon ourselves as Träger, then how can
we (collectively is irrelevant) attempt to transform the structures domi-
nating us? If that is the only way we can experience our existence, then
how is it possible to talk about individuals being in need of liberation from
such domination? Träger are not human beings, but without humanity
they must lack any real interests in being liberated. It seems as though the
human being gains readmission, but the price of that is to accord him the
power of ‘making history’.
This is the dilemma, either complete structural determinism where
people are quite irrelevant to political change has to give way, or the
beings who are deemed to be so constituted have to be armed as non-
human, in which case why does it matter what happens to puppets?
Resisting the dissolution of humanity 29
24 L. Althusser, Reading Capital, p. 180.
25 John Mepham, ‘Who Makes History’, Radical Philosophy, 6, 1973.
26 Andrew Collier, Scientic Realism and Socialist Thought, Hemel Hempstead, Harvester
Wheatsheaf, 1989, ch. 3.
Certain British neo-Althussarians like Paul Hirst27 have taken the latter
tack by denying that we are a ‘unity of consciousness’, but in the process
have had to sacrice any reason for advocating socio-economic change.
The case for ‘letting the men back in’ is logically and politically strong,
but it is incompatible with a structuralism in which they only feature as
systemically constituted eects.
The same dilemma is found in Lacan’s linguistic Freudianism, where
the sign is given sovereignty over the mind itself and its desires. He main-
tains that we only become human by a socialised induction into a cultural
order, which is linguistic in form. Thus, for example, gender dierences
are discursively constructed, but its bearers are only gendered subjects by
courtesy of the cultural order and thus via their subordination to lan-
guage. Once again, if it is not by reference to a prior and non-discursively
constituted humanity, how can he consistently condemn the victimising
eects of socialisation? The ‘subjects’ so constituted are incapable of
knowing their victimisation and who is the Jacques Lacan who reveals it,
and where epistemologically is there for him to stand in the terms of his
The advent of the post-structural and eventually postmodern dispute
with structuralism challenged its residual humanistic premises and
sought to eliminate problems like the above which stemmed from a
‘lurking subject’ which had not been thoroughly expunged. Once again
the prime device was a reconceptualisation of language to eradicate any
notion of it as the transparent source of representation which derived
from some determinate relationship between consciousness and reality.
(For, as has been seen, nothing precluded Saussure’s ‘dierences’ from
being referential or human practical interests from disclosing this.) Now
Foucault declared that ‘the question of language seems to lay siege on
every side to the gure of man.’28
However, this siege involved four consecutive moves on the part of
Foucault, Derrida and Baudrillard. Firstly, an ontological denial of the
relationship between discourse and reality, which eectively blocked any
access to reality, meaning of course natural reality (since things social
were transmuted, as is typical of idealism, into discourse itself). This
move entailed a radical version of the ‘epistemic fallacy’ where ontology is
collapsed into epistemology,such that what is, becomes synonymous with
knowledge claims about it (or being is subordinated to knowing). The
second move then cut any epistemological connection between discourse
and truth and between discourse and linguistic referentiality. The third
involved detaching textual ‘knowledge’ from a ‘knowing subject’ and
30 The impoverishment of humanity
27 Paul Hirst, Law and Ideology, London, 1979. 28 M. Foucault, The Order of Things.
severed all links between traditional philosophical anthropology and
culture. Finally, having eliminated the human subject, it was then possible
to ‘de-structuralise’ completely because, unconstrained by human prop-
erties of the ‘subject’ with which it deals, theoretical discourse was no
longer limited by any call to ‘order’.
It is worth looking briey at each move, particularly to pinpoint where
some hesitated whilst others moved on. The latter were willing to demol-
ish the social sciences in any recognisable form as a simple corollary of the
‘death of man’. Others sought to re-cast these disciplines and, equally
necessarily, had to re-consider a stay of execution. This division is crucial
to my argument, which at this stage can be presented as a parting of the
ways between Foucault and Derrida. Since the rst two moves nd them
in considerable unanimity, neither can have anything in common with
realist social theory. Nevertheless, their subsequent dierences represent
very dierent challenges to it.
Firstly then, we nd ontology suspended in Derrida’s aestheticising of
language where all texts have no more grounding in reality than the liter-
ary genre. Foucault is equally willing to endorse the ‘epistemic fallacy’
when he argues, in connection with mental illness, that the point is to ‘dis-
pense with things’ in favour of ‘things said’, that is discourses which have
no limitation by virtue of the way things are. The severing of epistemology
from truth is also shared via the nature of what discourse is held to be.
Thus, Foucault can claim that his lengthy disquisition on the Panopticon
was metaphor rather than penal history, whilst Paul de Man has rightly
argued that in Derrida’s thought ‘literature turns out to be the main topic
of philosophy and the model of the kind of truth to which it aspires’.29
Indeed the whole practice of deconstruction deprives theoretical texts of
cognitive content and thus truth claims, hence according them the status
of rhetorical devices, indistinguishable from rhetoric in literature.
The third point is the crucial one. To Derrida, the ‘text’ swings free
from the ‘knowing subject’, for it has no determinate meaning which
depends upon its authorial origin. Neither does it carry any unequivocal
meaning, but is only the source of ‘dierences’ and their alteration. Thus
all signication is relieved of a signied, of any particular concept or idea
which had its genesis in a human subject: instead the ‘subject is sub-
ordinated to the endless play of dierence’.30 The early Foucault
endorsed this conclusive demotion of subjects from constitutive to con-
stituted status and rendered them impotent as ‘knowing subjects’, since
what was available to be known was independent of these socially created
Resisting the dissolution of humanity 31
29 See Christopher Norris, Deconstruction: Theory and Practice, London, Methuen, 1982,
p. 21. 30 Alex Callinicos, Against Postmodernism, Oxford, Polity Press, 1989,p. 75.
knowers. Hence his argument that ‘The individual is not a pregiven entity
which is seized on by the exercise of power. The individual, with his iden-
tity and characteristics, is the product of a relation of power exercised over
bodies, multiplicities, movements, desires, forces.31 What he knows, or
even that he knows, has nothing to do with his powers as a ‘knower’, for
the only property left to the subject is epistemological malleability. Their
very subjectication is therefore a social gift which is predicated upon
their subjection to social forces: what they think they know is what they
have been disciplined to believe.
Where the fourth move bids to take us need not detain us here, namely
into Baudrillard’s ‘hyperreality’. ‘With distinctions dissolved between
objects and their representations we are left only with “simulacra”. These
refer to nothing but themselves. Media messages, such as TV ads, are
prime examples. This self-referentiality goes far beyond Max Weber’s
fears for a disenchanted, detraditionalised world. Signs lose contact with
things signied; the late twentieth century is witness to unprecedented
destruction of meaning. The quest for some division between the moral
and the immoral, the real and the unreal is futile.32 Since as a realist, I
agree about this futility, I am much more interested to return to the third
move and to examine Foucault’s hesitations over making it. If he refused
to do so, having already made the rst two moves, where does that leave
human subjects and the disciplines which ultimately deal with them?
In the seventies Foucault had forcefully claimed that the individual is
not a pregiven entity seized upon by the exercise of power: power operates
by a process of constitution of people and thus he eectively denies that
‘there remains any progressive political potential in the idea of an
autonomous subject’.33 Simultaneously, however, he vituperates against
the ‘carcerial’ society which subordinates them. His condemnation of this
form of our constitution does seem to call for an ‘anthropology’ which is
at odds with the disciplinary culture operating in this manner. Especially
if resistance is to have a locus, then this needs to be predicated upon a self
which has been violated, knows it, and can do something about it. Yet his
early work precluded precisely this. In order to account for why power can
be and is resisted, and thus to retain his own critical stance towards it, he
has to reintroduce premises about the natural desires of people which
means withdrawing the earlier view that humanity is in no respect an
entity – in place of a being, one of whose properties is to resist those things
done to it which are contrary to its nature.
32 The impoverishment of humanity
31 M. Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, Br ighton,
Harvester, 1980, pp. 73–4.
32 David Lyon, Postmoder nity, Buckingham, Open University Press, 1994, p. 16.
33 Peter Dews, ‘The New Philosophers’, Radical Philosophy, 24, 1980, p. 87.
In his last writings, Foucault appears to have bitten the bullet and spat
out ‘move three’ above, by now accepting an anthropological entity, a real
subject, which confronts culture as a ‘knowing subject’, capable of agen-
tial resistance. In a late essay on ‘The Subject and Power’, he conceded
that ‘power is exercised only over free subjects, and only insofar as they
are free. By this we mean individual or collective subjects who are faced
with a eld of possibilities in which several ways of behaving, several reac-
tions, and diverse comportments may be realised.34 This re-turn to the
‘philosophy of the subject’ is increasingly marked in the second and third
volumes of the History of Sexuality, published in the year of his death.
He characterised this as a ‘theoretical displacement’ away from the
conated ‘power/knowledge’ complex and towards ‘truth-games in the
relation of self to self and the constitution of oneself as a subject’.35 In
exploring the idea that the truth concerning the subject is found in
sexuality and thus tracing the history of changing sexual conceptions (as
in Greek practices of self-mastery), he introduces new notions of ‘arts of
existence’ or the ‘technology of the self’. Some36 have sought to ‘re-
discipline’ this work into the foucauldian mainstream. They argue that
these are demonstrations of variable subjectivities whose very relativity to
changing social forms only underscores the absence of a prior and uni-
versal human nature. However, this interpretation cannot sit well at all
with Foucault’s last preoccupation, namely that ‘everyone’s life become a
work of art’ – a democratic version of Nietzsche’s aim.37 Yet in both think-
ers, what is there to form (and how can the self play any part in this forma-
tion) unless the existence of a prior self, primitive to this process, is nally
conceded? If there is no antecedent self, one cannot become ‘someone’
but only ‘something’ and this again collapses back into a passive process
of socialisation and subjugation.
Yet, as Callinicos argues, the readmission of the human self means con-
ceding a great deal. By ‘thus acknowledging the irreducible distinctness
of persons, however, we have gone a long way towards setting limits to the
process of self-creation. My particular characteristics circumscribe my
likely achievements. If I am tone-deaf or blind then I cannot appreciate,
let alone produce music or painting respectively. My past actions – an act
of personal or political betrayal, for example – may give a shape to the rest
of my life which is, quite simply, inescapable. My bad temper may bedevil
Resisting the dissolution of humanity 33
34 M. Foucault, ‘Afterword’ to Dreyfus and P. Rabinow, Michel Foucault: Beyond
Structuralism and Hermeneutics, Br ighton, Harvester, 1982, p. 221.
35 M. Foucault, L’Usage des Plaisirs, Paris, 1984, p. 12.
36 L. Ferry and A. Renaut, La Pensée 68, Paris, 1985, pp. 150f.
37 M. Foucault, ‘On the Genealogy of Ethics’, in P. Rabinow, The Foucault Reader, New
York, Pantheon, 1985, p. 350.
my personal life, helping to undermine my most important relationships
with others . . . the process of making sense of one’s life . . . is constrained
by the facts of one’s character and history.38 This then takes one of
poststructuralism’s central thinkers full circle back to the point where
Foucault readmits the autonomous human subject, since ‘he’ has proved
indispensable to resistance, to progressive political potential and to
creativity – all of which assume people doing things rather than having
things happen to them.
Now ‘the body +’ is a fairly standard anchorage of the human being
(leaving aside those like Part who deny we have a unique physical iden-
tity; only the psychological continuity of our mental states over time).39
The contentious element is ‘plus what?’ With the readmission of the
autonomous self into postmodern theorising we can explore the answer
which is reluctantly given by Rorty. He takes up the late foucauldian
project of self-formation and self-enrichment within the same connes of
moves one and two (anti-realism and a pragmatic view of truth).
In parallel he wishes to conceptualise the self anti-foundationally, that
is without any xity of human nature, but only one plastically constituted
in discourse. Because he completes the design which Foucault only ges-
tured towards, we can examine his project of making oneself conversa-
tionally. In it I will seek to establish two propositions:
ii(i) that the project of aesthetic self-redenition and self-enrichment is
logically incoherent without a self to unify this enterprise,
i(ii) that substantively there is an inescapable appeal to the notion of the
human being, which does underpin his argument.
II Rorty: the ineradicable face of humanity
I want to establish that, despite Rorty’s post-foundational picture which is
in full communion with the French movement to ‘decentre the subject’,
the move cannot be completed. The aim is to replace the ‘I’, of the cogito
by the ‘we’ of conversation, so that we exist as intersections of transient
public interpretations, but there ‘is nothing which has these interpreta-
tions, just as there is no uninterpreted reality these are interpretations
of ’.40 In other words, the self is dissolved into discursive structures and
would seem to be denied agency if the ‘I’ is merely a conversational con-
struct and not something given. It cannot be given because there are no
‘essential features’ of life, no timeless truths about the human condition,
34 The impoverishment of humanity
38 Alex Callinicos, Against Postmoder nism,p.90.
39 Derek Part, Reasons and Persons,Oxford University Press, 1984.
40 Charles B. Guignon and David R. Hiley, ‘Biting the Bullet: Rorty on Private and Public
Morality’, in Alan Malachowski (ed.), Reading Rorty, Blackwell, Oxford, 1996, p. 344.
our own or any one else’s. Since life is ‘a tissue of contingent relations, a
web which stretches backward and forward through past and future
time’, it is not ‘something capable of being seen steady and whole.41 Thus
there is nothing of ourselves to ‘discover’. If all our insights are culled
from current language-games, it follows that our own self-interpreting
activities are transitory. This is the consequence of Rorty’s ‘ubiquity of
His denition of the self re-echoes this decentring, for it is simply ‘a
network of beliefs, desires, and emotions with nothing behind it – no sub-
strate behind the attributes’. A self ‘just is that network’ which is also ‘a
network constantly reweaving itself’,42 in a ‘hit or miss way’ in the face
of environmental pressures. There are major problems here. To begin
with, Rorty wishes to make this reweaving the heroic action of ‘strong
poets’, yet in denying the existence of a ‘master weaver’, which as Hollis
points out used to stand for our self-consciousness, how does agency
pertain to a network which passively adjusts to its environment, let alone
it being accorded heroic moral responsibility for what it becomes?43
Simultaneously, the process of ‘reweaving’ is presented as hyperactive, for
as we have no internal xity, then we can envisage ourselves being com-
pletely transformed. Yet as Bhaskar has rightly argued, a ‘total trans-
formation would leave the discursive agent and her community without
the linguistic resources to recognize or refer to her achievement; nor
could it be literalized in the community unless there were some continuity
or overlap in usage. “Overcoming” is always piecemeal and partial-trans-
formation, not replacement; and it respects the existential intransitivity of
the self or past to be overcome.44
However, Rorty never makes the essential distinction between things
(including people) which do change (to some degree), and therefore
require a new description which may be incommensurable with the old,
and things which remain unchanged (including people) but which can be
re-described in potentially incommensurable ways. It is crucial not to
conate these two, the transitive and the intransitive. Rorty wants to
incline towards the former (all is transitive), but sometimes has to mean
only the latter because of our intransitive embodied continuity, amongst
other things. Yes, we undergo certain changes, such that I hope I can
describe myself as a ‘wiser woman’ than the ‘ingenue’ who lived a quarter
Resisting the dissolution of humanity 35
41 Richard Rorty, ‘The Contingency of Selfhood’, London Review of Books,8, May 1986, pp.
42 Richard Rorty, ‘Postmodern Bourgeois Liberalism’, in Robert Hollinger (ed.),
Hermeneutics and Praxis, Notre Dame University Press, Notre Dame, 1985,p.217.
43 Martin Hollis, ‘The Poetics of Personhood’, in Alan Malakowski (ed.), Reading Rorty,
p. 249.
44 Roy Bhaskar, Philosophy and the Idea of Freedom, Blackwell, Oxford, 1991, p. 66.
of a century ago, but both relate to the same bodily entity: and how could
I suer the future indignity of incontinence, were I not reproaching the
same body which had never previously let me down in this way. Similarly,
‘we’ simply do not have the power to redene our society’s structural
properties (SEPs) as our linguistic community pleases. We remain rich or
poor, powerful or powerless, privileged or underprivileged in the (rela-
tively enduring) intransitive dimension, which takes more than talk to
change it.
However, this distinction between the transitive and the intransitive is
impossible to Rorty. He could accept, for example, biological intransitiv-
ity qua human beings as organic parcels, but he denies us the ability to
inspect bodily change mentally, from the standpoint of someone with a
continuous sense of self. Instead, he insists that ‘there is no such thing as
getting outside the web which constitutes oneself, looking down upon it
and deciding in favour of one portion of it rather than another’.45 This
then produces an unworkable split in selfhood, between the self who is the
web and the self who reweaves it; between the passive ‘I am’ and the active
‘I will be’. Now these two have necessarily to be united in an emergent,
active self-consciousness which embraces both, for otherwise how can the
self be a ‘re-weaver’? Such a self may be able to garner external discursive
materials for self-elaboration, but how does it make something new or
know that it has done so? Unless it is granted a sucient degree of inter-
nal self-consciousness over time, its linguistic heroics may merely be tran-
sitive re-descriptions of completely routine actions, beliefs, desires and so
on. This point will become crucial when we turn to the question of self-
enrichment: for you have to know what you are to determine whether you
have been enriched by something or not.
What Rorty proers in place of this continuous sense of self is a variety of
‘quasi-selves’, dierent internal clusters of belief and desire, amongst
which there is no inner conversational relationship since they lack the inter-
nal coherence to constitute one unied person who is self-conscious about
her own constituents. He draws this picture from his reading of Freud, to
whom our unconscious inhabitants mean that ‘we are “lived” by unknown
and uncontrollable forces’46 and are thus constituted by more than one
self. As each one tells its own story there are no correct accounts about
what happened to me in the past or who I am now, independent of the
optional interpretations produced by these dierent inner denizens. There
is no ‘inner core’, which persists when accretions are stripped away, or
which struggles against inclinations which are hostile to its integrity.
36 The impoverishment of humanity
45 Richard Rorty, ‘A Reply to Six Critics’, Analyse & Kritik, 6, 1984, p. 95.
46 S. Freud, The Ego and the Id, W. W. Norton, New York, 1962, p. 13.
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Despite the broad engagement of higher education institutions in most social sectors, limited thinking and hyper-individualistic approaches have dominated discussions of their value to society. Advocating a more rigorous and comprehensive approach, this insightful book discusses the broad range of contributions made by higher education and the many issues entailed in theorising, observing, measuring and evaluating those contributions. Prepared by a group of leading international scholars, the chapters investigate the multiple interconnections between higher education and society and the vast range of social, economic, political and cultural functions carried out by universities, colleges and institutes and their personnel. The benefits of higher education include employable graduates, new knowledge via research and scholarship, climate science and global connections, and the structuring of economic and social opportunities for whole populations, as well as work and advice for government at all levels. Higher education not only lifts earnings and augments careers, it also immerses students in knowledge, helps to shape them as people, and fosters productivity, democracy, tolerance and international understanding. The book highlights the value added by higher education for persons, organisations, communities, cities, nations, and the world. It also focuses on inequalities in the distribution of that value, and finds that the tools for assessing higher education are neither adequate nor complete as yet.
... Agency and structure, according to Giddens, shape and are shaped by each other in a recursive manner, referred to as the duality of structure. Structural properties of social systems are both medium and outcome of the practices that constitute those systems (Giddens and Dallmayr 1982); whereby agency is socially constructed and further contributes to reconstructing structures (Giddens 1984;Archer 1995Archer , 2000. ...
This article investigates students' post-secondary education transition processes in Cameroon through the lens of agency. Situated in a country where the higher education participation rate is fairly low, our article explores how students agentically negotiate access to higher education within structural constraints of socioeconomic status and gender. Semi-structured interviews with 25 students from two secondary schools in Yaoundé, Cameroon were conducted. The findings reveal that students enacted the four modes of reflexives (Archer, 2003) dynamically and discursively, with specific manifestations of agency relevant to gendered and classed structures in Cameroonian society. In this paper, we propose a person-centred, empowering approach to supporting students in higher education participation. We further confirm the importance of non-universal, contextually-situated employment of Archer's (2003) typology of four reflexive modes.
... Artikeln inleds med en översiktlig introduktion av studiens metodologi och Margaret Archers identitetsbegrepp, 11 varvid den intresserade läsaren hänvisas till avhandlingsstudien i sin helhet.Därefter åskådliggörs klassresan som subjektiv erfarenhet utifrån intervjusamtalen och klasskänslor är i centrum. Upplevelser av klassrelaterad skam lyfts särskilt fram i ljuset och det görs i anslutning till moraliska värden och erkännande. ...
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The article presents a theoretical and empirical sociological view of the human being and the surrounding structural conditions of social inequality, class and gender. An introduction is given to the sociologist Margaret Archer’s theory of development and social ontology, which builds on the grounds of critical realism. The explanatory strength of this theory is illustrated in relation to the dissertation, The Female Experience of Class Mobility (2003) (Den kvinnliga klassresan), where class and gender are in focus. Application of Archer’s identity concept yields an understanding of the relationship between individual and societal conditions and of how social change occurs over time. In particular the article illuminates the emotions of class and the issues related to class-shame, based on Andrew Sayer’s sociological analysis of class, moral value and recognition. The author argues that class is something real which positions the individual: a condition we become and personify, engage in and act on the basis of, and experience on a subjective emotional level. The study indicates that class structures and their meaning as subjective experiences are part of time- and genderdependent social conditions. The female “class journey” is found to build upon women’s reflexivity, intentionality and power of action.
... Thus, denying nature means denying human nature and the various identities that exist within it [65] [66]. ...
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Today, the world is facing so many serious problems that any one of them could lead humanity down the path of destruction. All of humanity is aware of this fact, but drastic action cannot be taken while world leaders continue to protect only their own interests and not those of the populace. This research discusses what needs to be done to ensure humans do not destroy the planet. Here is the manual to save the world from the apocalypse. Today, most people harbour a pervading sense of dread about the world ending. Some of the main man-made problems include: Abnormal weather patterns [1]-[3]; increasing temperatures [4][5]; natural disasters [6][7]; wildfires on a large scale [8][9]; incomprehensible natural phenomena [10]; never-ending environmental destruction [11]; appalling levels of water [12] and air pollution [13]; fish ingesting plastic debris [14]; destructive deforestation practices [15]; an incredible amount of landfills [16]; disposal of hazardous substances [17]; desertification [18]; acid rain [19]; depletion of the ozone layer [20]; dramatic levels of wildlife extinction [21]; and more. Parallel to all these events, there is an increasing level of human-on-human violence, including indiscriminate mass shootings [22]; gun violence resulting in hundreds of weekly deaths [23]; incomprehensible crimes of extreme violence, such as serial murders [24]; national and international conflicts which result in large number of refugees [25]-[27]; racial violence [28];
... Compreendemos que agenciamento é um processo sociodiscursivo de reelaboração (meta)reflexiva e produção de si, na perspectiva da agência engajada, que se relaciona com processos de conscientização identitária, constrangidos inevitavelmente pelos efeitos causais das interações entre estruturas sociais e econômicas e sistemas culturais. Os agenciamentos ocorrem de modos diferentes e singulares, pois dependem da maneira como a identidade pessoal do ator e da atriz social é afetada pelas experiências em práticas sociais e práticas discursivas (ARCHER, 2004). É uma questão de abertura também. ...
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Este artigo propõe considerações reflexivas sobre discursos e práticas de (micro)resistência crítica e criativa relacionadas ao debate sobre gênero social no contexto escolar. Para delinear traços da conjuntura global, inicialmente, apresenta os pressupostos que sustentam os discursos conservadores no campo da educação, considerando suas conexões com processos históricos e socioculturais. Em seguida, aborda práticas de (micro)resistência no contexto do EM que envolvem práticas de leitura crítica e produção de textos autorais marcados por discursos antissexistas, tomando como referência as experiências sociopedagógicas construídas no Projeto Mulheres Inspiradoras. Por fim, coloca em evidência as práticas de escrita autoral que concorrem para a reelaboração reflexiva e identitária e para a cidadania ativa. Em termos de microanálise, mobiliza categorias linguístico-discursivas do significado acional do discurso (FAIRCLOUGH, 2003), especificamente a intertextualidade e a pressuposição, que apontam para agenciamentos sociodiscursivos por parte dos/as estudantes.
The human being is a dynamic and open creature, and therefore he always changes. However, not only an individual but also the whole society is in such a state. The article briefly explains the urgency of reflecting on transcendence and responsibility. Based on the historical-philosophical study of transcendence in ancient and Christian education, the situation is presented at the beginning of the modern age (Comenius) and after the Velvet Revolution (the 1990s) in Czechoslovakia (Palouš). Voices calling for respect for transcendence, grossly ignored in atheistic totalitarian regimes, took an important place. Finally, a view of transcendence is presented that considers it an important aspect in the context of the human person in times of civilization change. The research is conducted from the perspective of critical realism and its morphogenetic approach, which is characterized by an orientation to defend humanity against sociological concepts that reduce the image of the human being.
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En este trabajo se revisa el problema de la definición de ‘lo social’ o unidad de análisis en sociología y se desarrolla un planteo teórico-metodológico destinado a mejorar su tratamiento. A tal fin, se examinan las discusiones del micro-macro link y de las concepciones de la socialidad, se identifican tres núcleos teóricos vigentes en la sociología y se elabora una relación sistemática entre ellos. Sobre esas premisas, se introduce el concepto de sistema de coordenadas de la socialidad y se desarrolla un esquema teórico-metodológico basado en él: los núcleos son establecidos como dimensiones (monádica, diádica y triádica) de un espacio de propiedades sociológico, se fija el origen de coordenadas y se escalan los ejes. Finalmente, son definidos sus propiedades basales, operaciones básicas y campos de aplicación en general.
Semiotext(e), 1983. 15 M. Foucault, The Order of Things 16 Gergen, The Saturated Self
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J. Baudrillard, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, New York, Semiotext(e), 1983. 15 M. Foucault, The Order of Things, New York, Random House, 1970, p. 387. 16 Gergen, The Saturated Self, New York, Basic Books, 1991. 17 Stuart Hall, 'Who Needs Identity?', in Hall, S. and Du Gay, P. (eds.), Questions of Cultural Identity, London, Sage, 1996.
10 Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition
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19 Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, Cambridge University Press,1989, p. 185. 10 Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition, p. 15. 31 M. Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, Brighton, Harvester, 1980, pp. 73–4.
33 Peter Dews, 'The New Philosophers', Radical Philosophy
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David Lyon, Postmodernity, Buckingham, Open University Press, 1994, p. 16. 33 Peter Dews, 'The New Philosophers', Radical Philosophy, 24, 1980, p. 87.
On the Genealogy of Ethics', in P. Rabinow, The Foucault Reader
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Foucault, 'On the Genealogy of Ethics', in P. Rabinow, The Foucault Reader, New York, Pantheon, 1985, p. 350.
39 Derek Parfit, Reasons and PersonsBiting the Bullet: Rorty on Private and Public Morality
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Alex Callinicos, Against Postmodernism, p. 90. 39 Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons, Oxford University Press, 1984. 40 Charles B. Guignon and David R. Hiley, 'Biting the Bullet: Rorty on Private and Public Morality', in Alan Malachowski (ed.), Reading Rorty, Blackwell, Oxford, 1996, p. 344.