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[xmca] Re: xmca Digest, Vol 66, Issue 9

Fascinating thoughts. As I read over my words, let me just add that although the big bad world is beyond any single individual, but it is nonetheless a collective accomplishment...

As to your point about recognition, I think you point up an interesting way to go. I am a fan of the concept of recognition but it should be noted that it has many lives. I think that the way that Axel Honneth (and Charles Taylor too) uses it sounds also very close to the way that you are thinking of it. In this sense, recognition is more of a psychological feature of human life, really a psychological need (see also W.I. Thomas' 1923 The Unadjusted Girl - maybe even closer to your usage). I think there is a lot to this, and I think that there are certainly a lot of other psychological troubles that come with living in impoverished communities (in the US, at least). There is also a sense in which, in the US ideology of persons, one's WORTH in society bears a relationship to one's worth in the marketplace (i.e. how much one can sell one's labor for). This is a kind of recognition that is much more pervasive but also more difficult to get a handle on (how do you study this?). 

There is a second sense of recognition, more as a constitutive moment in which a person becomes a certain type of person through the gaze of the other. This type of recognition is the basis upon which people act as if they are one type of person or another. Sociology has had a somewhat more clumsy notion of this under the guise of "labeling theory" and which suggests that being labeled as a "deviant" becomes its own motivation to do "deviant" things, and this is above and beyond any motivation that the person might have had to do "deviant" things of their own accord. And educational researchers have, with mixed results, fiddled with a notion of a Pygmalion effect.

I think the Cuba example demonstrates how the macro-structure can create a different REGIME OF RECOGNITION. That is, there is a "culture" in Cuba that values people in and of themselves, rather than valuing them in terms of their stock portfolios (notice how our language lends itself to making these points, the WORTH of an individual, the individual's VALUE - these are simultaneously psychological and monetary terms). In the US, you might say "you are what you can accumulate" (and, I think, a psychology of hoarding flows out this way too). 

As for alienation from institutional structures, Elijah Anderson speaks of how the lack of police support in highly impoverished neighborhoods leads to a "code of the street" which is more or less a survival of the fittest (the ideal of capitalist economic ideology!). In this world, decent people have to act "crazy" in order to just get by.

It seems all of these are pieces of a very nasty and quite complex picture of things. 

Regarding recognition, I'd suggest Patchen Markell's work on recognition or Webb Keane's Signs of Recognition for alternate views on precisely the difficulty of what the Honneth/Taylor view would suggest - to recognize others in some better or more accurate way. As Markell describes it, recognition is mediated by social means beyond the control of either party and thus it involves an IMPROPRIETY of action. I personally like Markell's suggestion that what is needed is not to seek sovereignty through recognition of the other, but rather to learn to acknowledge our own finitude. 

And I do think that your intermediate notion of an intermediate level of transformation is a good and useful one. Hegel once had an idea of "corporations" that were intermediaries between the state and the individual and through which the individual would be able to attain a kind of recognition. I think that intermediate level groups hold out great possibilities (and this seems to be precisely what is behind Mike's Fifth Dimension, although true to the focus on the group, he wouldn't say that it was, in any way, *his*.).

I think the question that the macro-social issue of recognition (via worth and value) raises is: How do you create local intermediary groups that can do the work of recognition for people who are poor and living in an ideological structure (i.e. a regime of recognition) that places a low value and worth on them? What kinds of alternative means of recognition can be created at the local group level that do the necessary work of giving hope?

I appreciate all of the intense engagement with this problem, and for your very engaging post. 

Not an easy topic or one to be taken lightly.


>Message: 7
>Date: Tue, 9 Nov 2010 16:15:22 -0800
>From: Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com>
>Subject: Re: [xmca] return of culture of poverty (mike cole)
>To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>	<AANLkTinR=ax7zCH4qcKUiMmetbkj2SHBc2wU9AwZGrid@mail.gmail.com>
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
>Gregory, you wrote
>*I leave it to you as to whether the transformation is of an individual's
>view of the world or whether it is a transformation of the big bad world
>that is beyond any of us as individuals
>This question of where to intervene to "make a difference" [the individual
>or macro economic level] doesn't consider the "intermediate" level of
>Oscar Lewis in his article "The Culture of Poverty" emphasizes that the
>concept of poverty as a distinct "culture" is a GENERALIZATION that may help
>to unify and explain anumber of phenomena hitherto perceived as peculiar to
>certain racial, national, or regional groups. (p.25)  So what are some of
>the factors that Oscar Lewis identified as aspects of this subculture?
>He mentioned that out of approximately 50 million citizens living in poverty
>he guesses 20% live in the subculture of poverty.  Therefore, it is NOT
>poverty he sees as the defining feature but some other variable.
>Lewis also mentions the most likely candidates for the sub"culture" of
>poverty are the people who come from the lower strata of a rapidly changing
>society and are already partially ALIENATED from the free enterprise
>capitalist culture.   "alienation" IS a factor.
>Lewis writes, "The distinction between poverty and the culture of poverty is
>basic to the model described here." (p.23)  If people are poor but "have a
>high degree of social organization and a relatively INTEGRATED, satisfying,
>and self-sufficient culture" Lewis would NOT classify them as having a
>"culture" of poverty.  Therefore being disconnected from ORGANIZED
>institutional structures is a characteristic of this sub"culture".
>When writing about a poor neighbourhood in Havanna Cuba Lewis SPECULATED
>that this neighbourhood did not have a culture of poverty.  He states, "The
>people were as poor as before, but I was impressed to find much less of the
>feelings of despair and apathy, so symptomatic of the culture of poverty in
>the urban slums of the US. The slum [in Havanna] was now highly organized,
>with block committees, educational committees, party committees.   Lewis is
>making a case for the CENTRALITY of INTERMEDIATE COMMUNITY at a level
>between the macro economic and the individual.  Now it is also clear that
>Cuba had a macro economic socialist state economy and therefore an argument
>could be made that it was the macro economic level that constituted the
>conditions for the formation of the intermediate communities.  However, I
>believe it is the loss of intermediate communities that contributes to the
>sense of isolation and alienation in sub"cultures of poverty.
>Lewis also points out that cultures of poverty are ALWAYS a PART or "sub" to
>a dominant culture of capitalist organization.  In this sense they cannot
>exist outside the dominant value system of capitalism.  However,  want to
>suggest it is the destruction of "intermediate" forms of community that may
>be the defining characteristic of the sub"culture of poverty.
>All of the above examples from Lewis work point to the tension between the
>narrative of "social justice" and the narrative of "recognition"  Social
>justice may be as fundamentally about our need to be recognized by the other
>as it is about the redistribution of income.  I am not suggesting an
>either/or tension but rather a both/and understanding that our need to be
>"seen" by the other may be central to overcoming the sub"culture" of
>poverty.  This is an ETHICAL and MORAL imperative [see Levinas for a radical
>articulation of this perspective]
>On Tue, Nov 9, 2010 at 9:38 AM, Gregory Allan Thompson <
>gathomps@uchicago.edu> wrote:
>> This seems to inherently be a problem of atomistic, individualistic
>> thinking (or possibly "small group" thinking).
>> Might I suggest that people add Paul Willis' Learning to Labor to their
>> syllabi in the coming years (seems like Willis fell out of favor with the
>> turn of the millennium)? A notion of "cultural adaptivity" might be useful
>> as well but one needs to have a vision of the socioeconomic scape into which
>> the culture is adapting. Thus, if it is possible to get a dose of Marx in
>> there, it might help to at least give people a way to think about larger
>> social structure and how the culture of the local group (a 5th dimension,
>> no?) is in a dialectical relationship with the larger social structure (call
>> it what you will - global economic system, late modern capitalism,
>> globalism...). This type of thinking is not an easy point to get across, but
>> it provides a vision that can transform the world.*
>> -greg
>> *I leave it to you as to whether the transformation is of an individual's
>> view of the world or whether it is a transformation of the big bad world
>> that is beyond any of us as individuals.
>> >Message: 3
>> >Date: Mon, 8 Nov 2010 17:24:15 -0800
>> >From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
>> >Subject: [xmca] return of culture of poverty
>> >To: "eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>> >Message-ID:
>> >       <AANLkTimnRTrYOBn7JRATJbf8WLyyjxwgoE3z7vyeWZUY@mail.gmail.com>
>> >Content-Type: text/plain; charset=windows-1252
>> >
>> >This topic is, indeed, coming back in a big way.
>> >mike
>> >
>> >
>> >End of xmca Digest, Vol 66, Issue 7
>> >***********************************
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