[xmca] Radius of Subjectivity

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at mira.net>
Date: Wed Nov 07 2007 - 22:21:11 PST

Listening to the videoconference between San Diego and Helsinki, a concept
occurred to me, first when there was a short exchange about "the infant's
agency" and then later when Mike was talking about the changing "setting"
as we go through the life cycle.
Consider these phrases:

               "Baby squeezed my finger"
               "She bawls something awful if I don't feed her in the morning"
               "He's crawling all over the house now"
               "I've learnt how to deal with bullies"
               "My Dad would make the best Prime Minister in the world"
               "I'm really going to make something of my life"
               "We've had our rows, but we get on very well now"
               "We are a close family"
               "All politicians lie"
               "We Australians care about how visitors see us"
               "The little man always gets screwed"
               "I'm going to re-organise the accounting department."
               "Let's try and stop this war"
               "Don't look an indigenous person in the eye, they take that
as disrespectful"
               "We've restructured this department and it works much better
               "We've really lost our way since 9/11"
               "When are we going to get over the Crusades"

Successively wider expressions of self-consciousness sometimes in terms of
agency, sometimes in terms of identity and sometimes exhibit a different
scope of knowledge of the world. And of course there is a relationship
between the scope of the "world" withn which you are inclined to see
yourself as a subject, and the scope of the world in which you really are
an agent, and the scope of the world of which you have some practical
knowledge. There is a dynamic relation between all three radii.

When a biologist talks about agency, they mean the ability to think "lift
arm" and see your arm lift and know that it was you who did the lifting.
When a child psychologist talks about agency, they mean an infant getting
stroppy when something is not properly explained to them perhaps. When a
sociologist talks about agency, they mean maybe preventing an impending
war, or something.

So when we talk about "agency" we imply a certain radius of subjectivity.
When we talk about an infant's agency, we don't think that the infant in
question might solve the banking crisis, and when we talk about the power
of the USA in world affairs, we don't mean that Americans can raise their
own arms.

Just a thought.

(Apologies to Robert Putnam and his concept of "radius of association")

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Received on Wed Nov 7 22:22 PST 2007

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