Read e-book online Against Essentialism: A Theory of Culture and Society PDF

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By Stephan Fuchs

I have had Stephan Fuchs for 2 sessions on the college of Virginia. not just is he an excellent professor, but in addition a superb author. opposed to Essentialism offers his perspectives on cultural structures in as transparent a fashion as is feasible given the complexity of the topic. it is a publication that are supposed to be required interpreting for sociology classes, yet is perhaps a bit deep if you happen to have by no means taken a social conception path.

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It is these relations that matter. The information obtained by observing according to a distinction is selective, not complete and exhaustive. No network of observation reveals the world as such, or all of it, since a network occurs within this world and its times. If no distinctions are drawn, there is no information; if different distinctions matter, they yield different information. Except for highly stratified societies, where all “privileged” information is concentrated at the top, there are different social observers, located in different positions in a social structure.

A culture ends where its distinctions cease to matter. There is no art outside of art, unless a different art makes it so. A culture can extend the range of its networks and distinctions, but this extension must also be done, or does not come about at all. The distinctions that do matter matter in time and space, there and then, here and now. Past and remote distinctions matter if they are adopted and go to work within a here and now. Distinctions that do not survive become extinctions. When an observer becomes extinct, the world loses this particular niche.

Such is the paradox of reflexive selfobservation. Theor y after Essentialism • 33 If these two roads are closed, which one should we take? The theory of levels of observation shows a new possibility. Levels of observation differ in the ways that they attribute observation. On the first level, observation proceeds naively, observes what it observes, and attributes its results to the world. It is unaware of construction. On the second level, observation attributes outcomes to the distinctions and constructions of a specific and empirical observer, who can only see that which can be seen from where he is at the moment.

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