In the academic study of sociology we often hear the phrase “badge of legitimacy.” It also crops up in news analysis, general education and marketing.
In sociology a badge of legitimacy usually refers to credentials (such as medical, academic or legal degrees) that connote some kind of socially legitimate expertise. As such, a badge of legitimacy conveys social power, privilege or status upon individuals who possesses one. The term can also apply to some official social body or organization (such as the UK’s FSA).
Sociologists sometimes use the term dryly, and maybe with a touch of cynicism, as if to imply that the particular “badge” they are referring to is somewhat questionable or in need of critical examination.
Critics of sociology could argue that this cynical use of the phrase badge of legitimacy is hypocritical. After all, some sociologists portray themselves as societal gurus who “decode” or “deconstruct” culture, all the while fully benefiting from their own academic badges of legitimacy in the form of salaries, pensions, insurance benefits and a respected social standing.
To this charge, the sociologist would likely reply that they apply whatever academic power they have to ”unpack” or “rethink” aspects of culture desperately in need of reassessment—such as racism, sexism, ageism and scientism.
So, in a positive light, one could say that the sociologist tries to raise awareness and, by implication, improve social conditions. However, the same kind of defense could be made by any group in possession of a badge of legitimacy. That is, they use their power and authority to provide some kind of vital service to society.
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- challenge for cultural sociologists who are interested in political sociology (orgtheory.wordpress.com)
- Do the Disadvantaged Legitimize the Social System? A Large-Scale Test of the Status-Legitimacy Hypothesis (scicombinator.com)
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In semiology connotation is the idea that a linguistic or vocal sign contains more than mere descriptive value (called the denotative value). This idea isn’t only known to semiologists. Poets and fiction writers have known about the importance of connotation for centuries. And in the social sciences, the French historian Fernand Braudel wrote in 1963:
[The definition of] most expressions, far from being fixed for ever, vary from one author to another, and continually evolve before our eyes.¹
What many semiologists do stress, however, is the importance not only of the writer but also the reader in the creation of multiple meanings.
Along these lines, Jacques Derrida believes that signs contain an infinite number of possible connotations. So communication is a potentially endless chain of connotative signification, with connotations playing off one another in a discontinuous matrix of linguistically constructed meaning. One of Derrida’s interesting claims here is that denotation plays next to no role in the process. In other words, everything is connotation.
The discussion about the absolute essence of a thing vs. its communal meaning(s) is many layered and goes back at least to the Scholastics of the Middle Ages. And as far back as Aristotle, the distinction between literal and figurative meaning has been discussed. More recent trends are summarized here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connotation_%28semiotics%29
¹ Fernand Braudel, A History of Civilizations, trans. Richard Mayne, Penguin, 1993 , p. 3.
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- Rousing the Male Feminist. ~ Alena Q. Reed (elephantjournal.com)
Conscience is a somewhat mysterious and much debated concept. In contemporary psychology it’s understood as a conscious system of moral values, or that aspect of the self that the person experiences as giving voice to these values–i.e. “my higher self says I shouldn’t do this.”
According to Freudian psychoanalysis, the conscience differs from the superego in that the former refers to moral values (the “still, small voices”) held in our conscious mind. The superego, on the other hand, contains moral values that are, in part, unconscious.
In religion, we find some belief systems claiming that the conscience comes from a higher plane or realm (e.g. astral or heavenly). But conscience is sometimes contrasted, in Catholicism for instance, with the Will of God. The belief here is that an unenlightened person may suppose they’re making good choices when they’re not.¹
¹ See, for instance, the Catholic devotional book, My Daily Bread by Father Anthony Paone.
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- JFK’s ‘Speech on Faith’ – The Conscience: False Dichotomy Part I – Truth and Charity Forum (newsforcatholics.wordpress.com)
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- Fashion with a conscience (cosmopolitan.co.uk)
August Comte (1798-1857) was a French philosopher and a founder of the discipline of sociology. His lectures, published in six volumes from 1830-42, outline a particular school of philosophy called positivism. Some describe him as the first modern philosopher of science.
Comte envisions three phases of scientific development: (1) theological (2) metaphysical (3) experiential or positive.
He coined the term sociology and regarded it as the master discipline among the sciences. This stands in sharp contrast to theologians like Hugh of Saint Victor (c. 1096 – 1141) who claim that theology is the noblest of sciences because of its focus and purpose.
- The Debate Over Christianity, Objectivism, and Altruism Continues (citizentom.com)
- Positivist Mythology (onlyagame.typepad.com)
Civilization and its Discontents is an important work written in 1929 (after WWI) by Sigmund Freud in which he proposes a “death instinct” (thanatos) said to exist on both personal and cultural levels.
Freud says tensions arise between personal, instinctual desires their cultural repression. And realizing that mankind is capable of mass destruction, Freud suggests that not only individuals but subcultures and even entire societies can be neurotic.
This might all seem pretty obvious today but in his time, Freud was groundbreaking.
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- Gerel Sorbee Human beings have “no difficulty in exterminating one another to the last man (lissakr11humanelife.wordpress.com)
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In the general sense, denotation means representing by signs or symbols. In semiotics it means affixing a specific, fixed meaning to a sign, in contrast to connotation. Although some thinkers present this distinction as if it’s a recent development, it was first introduced by J. S. Mill in A System of Logic in 1843.¹
Jacques Derrida and his followers suggest that the semiotic sense of denotation is, for the most part, chimerical and that everything is connotation. From this, one may try to claim that “there is only connotation.” But this claim arguably creates a meta-truth or master denotation that may also endlessly self reference (i.e. be reapplied to itself) in an infinite series of connotation. So this kind of claim would be paradoxically true and false.
¹ See online at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/27942
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‘Educated…’ Ironically, this might be one of the most unexamined ideas in contemporary culture. What does it mean to be educated?
Psychologists now admit that most IQ tests are culture-bound. Kids growing up in ghettos are more likely to do poorly on professionally engineered tests. If so-called Ivy League children were to spend a few years in a ghetto without their parents’ resources nor social connections, how ‘educated’ would they be in that environment? Clearly the education of a street kid and a wealthy person differ. Both are educated but the social status attributed to each is unequal and discriminatory.
The above, of course, is one extreme example. More subtle forms of discrimination based on arbitrary views of education are found practically every time we venture out into public spaces. And erudition – or even spiritual knowledge – doesn’t necessarily translate into a decent, morally integrated person.
- What is Iq? (socyberty.com)
- Education: Beating the I.Q. Test (time.com)
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- Thesis Proposal – Overrepresentation of Blacks in the Special Education Classroom (thinkingbookworm.typepad.com)
- The Need to Believe in the Ability of Disability (psychologytoday.com)
- Tiny gene change affects brain size, IQ: scientists (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- Bryan Caplan’s signaling model and on-line education (marginalrevolution.com)
The Forces of Production is a concept developed from the work of Karl Marx. Although Marx’s theory of history is variously interpreted, writers such as G. A. Cohen argue that politics, religion and economics (i.e. the social aspect of exchange) do not determine a given societal formation.
Instead, societal type is an outcome of the dominant forces of production, or ‘productive forces.’ The forces of production refers to the way a given society actually produces commodities. The forces of production include raw materials, tools, technology and the knowledge of how to organize labor power and use available tools.
While some writers apply the term ‘economics’ to include the forces of production, Cohen and other theorists say that economics more properly refers to the social relations of production. The relations of production refers to the uniquely social aspects of production in a given society, usually the legal or brute force mechanisms of exploiting labor, extracting surplus and maintaining social dominance of the few over the many.
- Marx Study Guide: Critique – Preface (keratibalahs.wordpress.com)
- Marx The Gothic Communist (enlightenedscot.wordpress.com)
- The Trouble with Marxism (Part Two) (pogoprinciple.wordpress.com)
History is the study of past (and arguably present) ideas, objects, people and events. Scholars usually credit the Greek Heroditus (c. 484 BCE – c. 425 BCE) as the founder of historical writing.
History often involves a particular narrative style that categorizes and describes according to certain time periods and geographical limits. For instance, Lord Kenneth Clark‘s groundbreaking Civilization series for BBC TV pretty much ignored the achievements of ancient China and several other cultures. This is because history must be selective.
Clark was well aware of these shortcomings and, in his view, overcame them by insisting that the series be entitled: Civilization: A Personal View.
More recently, the presentation of history has been popularized by time-charts, point form outlines, multimedia and other innovative techniques which have expanded our definition of the “narrative.”
Feminists often say that history is biased by patriarchy. It’s written mostly by men about men or by men interpreting women’s experiences from a male perspective. Feminists also suggest that female writers of history often adopt a stereotypical male attitude (i.e. sexist).
One strategy that feminists have used to further their agenda is to call history “herstory.” This is an effective contemporary word play, but has been criticized for ignoring the etymology of the word history. The Greek word historia translates to “inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation.”¹
The French postodern thinker Michel Foucault argues that history is about the interpretation of not only discovered but often selected forms of knowledge. For Foucault, past events and items are often selected and interpreted to make them seem significant for the benefit of those with social power, while other events and items that would challenge their power are routinely ignored.
According to this view, history is a kind of collective myth. Or more correctly, it’s an ongoing struggle for legitimacy among several competing discourses (a popular term among postmoderns) of power. So in a nutshell, the cleverest myth-makers benefit most.
On the other hand, the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung says that myth is history because it depicts mankind’s collective psychological past.
Two important points to consider with regard to the postmodern view are:
- Are the best mythmakers conscious of being such, or do they, perhaps, simply create and perpetuate relative “truths” out of ignorance.
- Not entirely unlike Karl Marx‘s notion of false consciousness, postmoderns believe that prevailing social myths spread throughout a culture so that even those who don’t benefit will believe in and espouse those social “fictions,” as Foucault once put it. And some may believe in a culturally relative discourse which is actually harmful to them.
A good example for #2 would be gays and lesbians before the American Psychiatric Association voted in 1974 that homosexuality wasn’t a mental disorder.² Prior to that time, many gays and lesbians would no doubt have questioned why they were apparently “wrong,” blindly believing in the psychiatric biases of the day.
Related Posts » Archaeology, Counter-discourse, Dialectical Materialism, Forces of Production, Hegel (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich), Intercession, Jewish Mysticism, Joachim of Fiore, Language, Lévi-Strauss (Claude), Moses and Monotheism, Myth, Nietzsche (Friedrich), Occam’s razor, Relations of Production, Scholarship, Sign
² Chuck Stewart, Homosexuality and the law: a dictionary, p. 41.
- Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Histories and freedom of the present: Foucault and Skinner (2011) (foucaultnews.wordpress.com)
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- why foucault is frustrating (orgtheory.wordpress.com)
- Key thinkers – Michel Foucault. Interview with Stephen Shapiro (2011) (foucaultnews.wordpress.com)
- The Product of Text and ‘Other’ Statements: Discourse analysis and the critical use of Foucault (2011) (foucaultnews.wordpress.com)
- Foucault & the History of the Human Sciences (ahp.apps01.yorku.ca)
Individuation process is a phrase coined by C. G. Jung to denote a life-long process of self realization. For Jung, the goal is not necessarily the riddance of evil and Christian perfection, which he sees as a somewhat skewed approach, but rather, ‘wholeness.’ Jungians – that is, followers of Jung – strive to know themselves and to become fully responsible for their actions.
Individuation entails an increasing awareness of various personas and primordial/inherited impulses that can obscure but are also a part of the self. The individuation process is said to move through various stages, symbolized and possibly aided by esoteric systems such as kabbala, alchemy and the Tarot.
Jung says that individuation gives us a new perspective on the cultural relativity of social norms. Although one may become more introspective and even ‘removed’ at some point in the journey, this hopefully does not end up in mere neurotic withdrawal (and this is a point where much debate could arise).
Instead, individuation gathers instinctual and social forces into a greater, more expansive sense of self. In contrast to individualism, individuation ‘sees through’ social norms but, at the same time, doesn’t entirely reject them. In fact, Jung often seems to say that a successful life is one that adapts to society—at least, in some way (another point where much debate could arise).
To compensate for the guilt that comes from being different or from partially leaving social norms and expectations behind, the individuating individual feels that she or he must create something of value to atone for his or her departure. Jung, in a rather authoritarian manner, says society has the “right” and “duty” to judge the individual harshly if she or he does not produce such a compensatory work.
Jung’s view here seems to limit compensatory works to material objects that can be perceived through the five senses—that is, the ‘great compensation’ must be something that everyone can understand. In his Collected Works Jung jokes about Tibetan Lamas sending him positive thoughts from some remote hill station. But Jung doesn’t pursue the idea much further.
Not surprisingly, Jung rarely displays genuine appreciation for the idea of spiritual intercession and the transfer of sin. But he’s not totally out in left field here. His work on alchemy and the psychological dynamic of transference provides a glimmer of hope. Jung concedes that personalities may mysteriously intermingle. But that’s about it.
For deeply prayerful and contemplative people, Jung may be seen as not totally “wrong” but definitely at a kind of kindergarten level with regard to the subtle dynamics of the spiritual life. The American guru Ram Dass implied as much in his work, and it’s likely that other contemplatives in diverse faith traditions would see it this way too.¹
However, Jung was often feisty and quick to respond to a challenge. Were he alive today, he’d probably retort that contemplatives are absorbed in, or identify with, a particular archetypal reality without being able to appreciate other perspectives. And in some instances, this too seems valid.
¹ In a recent article about David Cronenberg’s film A Dangerous Method, Jim Slotek describes the Jungian idea of synchronicity as “Jungian spookiness.” But for contemplatives around the world and throughout history, meaningful coincidences are often seen as evidence of our essential interconnectedness and, in the largest sense, God’s plan. And for Catholics and other Christians, they could be evidence pointing toward the “mystical body of Christ.” As Colin Wilson once put it, they’re healthy, not scary.
- Jung, Carl Gustav (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Carl Jung on reason’s limits. (lifeondoverbeach.wordpress.com)
- The World of Opposites (thejungian.com)
- Active Imagination in the Creative Process (immanence.net)
- Transpersonal (thejungian.com)
- Carl Jung, part 8: Religion and the search for meaning (guardian.co.uk)
- The Conscious and the Unconscious (thejungian.com)
- Mortensen calls for release of more Jung letters (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
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- Carl Jung’s advice (cynthiawh.wordpress.com)