Note-taking is an ordinary, common student practice at universities, which is rapidly changing under the influx of electronic technologies for recording and storing audio and visual educational materials. However, little attention has been paid to the actual organization of note-taking. This chapter presents an ethnomethodological study of the real-world orderliness of note-taking. It shows that note-taking is a collaborative production of teachers and students: students take into account the details of teacher’s speech and gestures while teachers adjust their lecturing activities to the visible actions of note-taking students. The analysis, based primarily on the data from lectures for undergraduate students in a Russian university, shows that note-taking practices are interwoven into the choreography of classroom interaction, the local history of student learning, and the knowledge certification practices at universities. The preliminary description of the details of local material practices of note production and usage lays the foundation for the analysis of note-taking as a routinely organized and organizational situated activity.
Cultural sociology must catch up in taking seriously recent initiatives in the sociology of culture and cognition, represented by the works of Omar Lizardo, John Levi Martin, Stephen Vaisey, and others. However, aiming at progress in cultural analysis, these theories are partly driven by an epistemic logic alien to cultural theorizing, making the very concept of culture redundant. To identify this anti-cultural strain within the ongoing cognitive turn in sociology, I propose an ideal-typical model—‘the informational theory of communication,’ which reduces culture to information. Although many cognitive scientists and sociologists of culture and cognition are aware of the limitations and counter-productivity of this model, and it might not exist in a pure form, I argue that, first, it is still clearly traceable in many of their arguments, and, second, that it can be seen as a cultural logic underlying a substantial part of their arguments. I posit that replacing this logic of explanation with the Durkheimian model of sui generis synthesis, the concept of emergence, and the idea of ‘boundary conditions’ not only allows us to integrate the insights of cognitive science into sociology, but also opens a way for sociology to contribute to the cognitive sciences.
We investigate the parallelism between aesthetic experience and the practice of phenomenology using Viktor Shklovsky's theory of 'estrangement' (ostranenie). In his letter to Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Husserl claims that aesthetic and phenomenological experiences are similar; in the perception of a work of art we change our attitude in order to concentrate on how the things appear to us instead of what they are. A work of art 'forces us into' the aesthetic attitude in the same way as the phenomenological epoché drives us into the phenomenological one. The change of attitudes is a condition of possibility of aesthetic and/or phenomenological experience. Estrangement is an artistic device that breaks the routinised forms of perception: one sees the thing as new and does not just "recognise" it automatically. Shklovsky insists that it is possible if one experiences or feels the form of the work of art - in an affective and even sensuous way. We claim that this is similar to the phenomenological seeing, or intuition, which, according to Husserl, should be devoid of all understanding. Phenomenological epoché can also be described as a philosophical technique that aims to arrest the 'ready-made', 'taken for granted', 'pre-given' meanings in order to access a new meaning which is not yet stabilised, the "meaning-in-formation". It is not enough to turn from what appears to how it appears; one has to oscillate between these conflicting attitudes, or rather to keep them both at the same time thus gaining a kind of a 3D-vision of meaning in its becoming. This double life in two different attitudes (or, following a Husserlian metaphor, 'double bookkeeping') can be clarified in terms of Roman Jakobson's theory of antinomic coexistence between the poetic and communicative functions of language. The notion of 'double life in two attitudes' uncovers the role that ostranenie can play in the philosophical transformation of the subject based on variety and essential mobility of the affective components involved. Proposing a phenomenological interpretation of a passage from Samuel Beckett we show how the radicalisation of ostranenie can lead even to 'meta-estrangement': to estrangement of the everyday 'lack of estrangement'. We conclude with a remark on the productivity of this form of estrangement in the phenomenological context.
Book review: Mario Rainer Lepsius. Max Weber und seine Kreise: Essays (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 2016).
This paper explores how Levinas redefines the traditional notion of prophecy, shifting the emphasis from the content of prophecy to the figure of the prophet, thus making prophetic inspiration a key feature of ethical subjectivity. The principal aim of the paper is to analyse the resulting triangular structure involving God and the Other. This structure is inherently unstable because God is incessantly stepping back in kenotic withdrawal. I show how this fundamental instability is reflected in the structure of the phenomenalisation of God’s glory, the structure of obedience to God’s order, and the structure of the authorship of prophecy. The prophetic experience is marked by heterogeneity; it can never be completely appropriated. Responsibility for the Other brings the subject to light as a witness of the glory of the Infinite, but not as the subject of self-identification.
The paper reflects upon the relevance of Weber's sociology in the 21st century. In the first part importance of his sociology is explained by referring to the idea of a state that is now returning back into the political and social realm. The second part overviews the contributions to the special issue dedicated to the intellectual legacy of Max Weber.
Mystery plays a fundamental though not fully acknowledged role in modernity, serving as an important means for the re-enchantment of social life. Thus, under certain conditions, seemingly unimportant events can attract enormous attention and emotional involvement. One of those cases is the Dyatlov Pass Tragedy that occurred in 1959 in the Northern Urals, where nine hikers died under mysterious and still unknown circumstances. Nowadays, a half-century later, there are thousands of lay researchers searching for the truth and constructing competing explanatory accounts. In this paper, I propose the ‘trigger-narrative model,’ explaining the relation between mystery, governing narratives, and forms of sacrality, and apply it to the Dyatlov case. I argue that mystery is a ‘complex emotional attractor’—a symbolic mechanism shaped by the configuration of ‘elementary attractors’—‘strange’ things, symbols, or events, challenging commonsense narratives, which eventually maintains uncertainty and emotional tension. Every pattern of perception concerning mystery can be characterized by the tie between a trigger and its corresponding narrative; this tie is based on the transgression of the narrative by a trigger event. This model allows us to understand the cultural construction of mystery, which is crucially important for explaining how deep cultural structures energize people’s urges, concerns, and fascinations.
In this chapter, I argue that the Durkheimian theory of the sacred is a crucial yet not fully recognized resource for cognitive sociology. It contains not only a theory of culture (which is acknowledged in contemporary sociology), but also a vision of culture-cognition relations. Thus, Durkheimian cultural sociology allows us to understand the crucial role the sacred/profane opposition plays in structuring culture, perception and thought. Based on a number of theories, I also show how another opposition – between the pure and impure modes of the sacred, allows us to explain dynamic features of the sacred and eventually provides a basic model of social change. While explicating this vision and resultant opportunities for sociological analysis I also criticize ‘cognition apart from culture’ approaches established within cognitive sociology. I argue, thus, that culture not only participates in cognition but is an intrinsic ingredient of the human mind. Culture is not a chaotic and fragmented set of elements, as some sociologists imply to a greater or lesser degree, but a system; and as such it is an inner environment for human thought and social action. This system, however, is governed not by formal logic, as some critics of the autonomy of culture presuppose, but by concrete configurations of emotionally-charged categories, created and re-created in social interactions.
Review of the book: K. Allen. Weber: Sociologist of the Empire (London: Pluto Press, 2017).
The author presents a philosophical analysis of the film “Blade Runner 2049” (2017, directed by Denis Villeneuve) — the sequel to the famous film “Blade Runner” (1982, directed by Ridley Scott). Both films are read as a political-theological statement. They feature creatures that are bi‑ ologically almost indistinguishable from humans, the “replicants”. They are used to colonize distant planets and are forbidden to live on Earth. In the first film of 1982, the design of the replicants presupposed an ear‑ ly death, and they rebelled against humans because they wanted to live longer. In the second film, their design presupposes submission, but they rebel again against such slavery. The script can be understood as a history of man’s relationship with the Creator. The film’s intrigue fur‑ ther addresses the notion of miracle in connection with the notion of revolution. The replicant’s ability to have children, and thus to refute the boundary between them and the humans, is presented as a miracle. However, only those who possess authority and power to set the norms and laws can proclaim a miracle as such. In the film, this right is as‑ signed to the replicants: their uprising means the transfer of the trans‑ cendent into a plan of immanence. Their belief in a miracle lies precisely in the fact that the Creator, and the belief in the Creator, is not necessary.
In this interview we are talking with outstanding Russian sociologist and philosopher Igor S. Kon about history of the revival of Soviet sociology in the early 1960s as well as about history of the Institute of Sociology. The narrative begins with a story of the emergence of relations with the Russian and American sociologist Pitirim A. Sorokin, and, more broadly, with a story of the review of Western ideas in Russian sociology. In this regard, a specific place takes the story of Soviet censorship and Kon’s attempts to influence the change in the rules for its implementation in the field of science. Distinct subjects are the ‘seminar movement’ in sociology, seminars of Yuri Levada, sociologists’ meetings in Kääriku. Names of many prominent Soviet sociologists who stood at the origins of the revival of sociology in Russia are mentioned.
The main topic of this conversation – the sociological study of nation and nationalisms, proceeding from its classical authors. The first part of the interview discusses the links between nationalism and modernity as a specific social and historical formation. Then it centers on the universal mechanism of social imagination allowing individuals to relate themselves to other members of their own community. Hereinafter it discusses nationalism’s functions - political, cognitive, etc. The second framework topic is ‘Nationalism from sociological point of view’. The final part of conversation is devoted to “Imagined Communities”, the famous book written by Benedict Anderson.
One of the key features of social sciences and humanities distinguishing them from technical and natural sciences are the frequent intersections of their terminology with everyday discourse. Some social concepts have completely different interpretations in sociological discourse and everyday life, with the words “field” and “panel” as good examples. However, the majority of similar concepts of everyday life and sociological research have quite the same content. The word “justice” and its derivatives stand out in this set of terms, for hardly any other concept in human history is saturated with political connotations, or requires little additional explanation when used in social- economic debates or military conflicts. As a result, the word “justice” is widely used in all “life- worlds” (i.e., according to A. Schütz, justice seems to be both a ‘first-order construct’ and a ‘second- order construct’), which complicates its unambiguous conceptual and empirical interpretations in sociological research. The article was supposed to be a review of two books, A History of Justice: From the Pluralism of Forums to the Modern Dualism of Conscience and Law by P. Prodi, and The Idea of Justice by A. Sen, providing a clearer conceptual definition of justice. However, it turned into reflections with some theoretical and empirical examples on why such searches in sociology are important and inevitable, but are unlikely to end with a satisfying result. This does not make such searches meaningless, but rather utopian in nature, and essential for the self-identification of the discipline through the questioning of its own conceptual foundations.
The article considers the major approaches towards the integration of philosophical and scientific perspectives on the nature and functioning of subjective consciousness. The project of naturalization of phenomenology is considered as an account of methodological unification of cognitive science and philosophy based on first-person perspective. This alliance is generally thought as an attempt to incorporate the explanatory models of phenomenology into the natural scientific worldview. The proponents of this approach, such as F. Varela, confirm that it can overcome the explanatory gap between the subjective first-person qualitative phenomenological data and third-person neurophysiological data, or at least it can contribute to the project of scientifically informed philosophy of mind, as in S. Gallagher’s front load phenomenology. But is it really possible to build a scientific theory of consciousness? It seems that the project of naturalization contains the inevitable shortcomings which render it impossible to take the first person approaches in cognitive science “seriously”. Hence, the first-person approach to consciousness cannot become the foundation of natural scientific theory of mind as part of nature. Phenomenological approaches to consciousness in the works of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty reject the primacy of the scientific objectivist world picture, claiming that the transcendental consciousness being the condition of possibility of truth and objectivity cannot be seen from the objective point of view. Scientific worldview gives the incomplete picture of consciousness, eliminating its transcendental dimension. However, as I try to show, transcendentalism and naturalism as world projects can contribute into each other, retaining the circular relations between them. Phenomenology can integrate both world projects into holistic picture through phenomenologization, or denaturalization of natural science.
The following paper examines the characteristic features and problems of the Russian translations of Hannah Arendt’s works and studies on her philosophy, evaluating the actuality and the future perspectives of the reception of her ideas in Russia. For a long time, Arendt’s name was little known to most Russian readers: first editions of her major works were published in the middle of the 1990s. As of now, most of Arendt’s major works have been translated, although the quality of Russian editions is lacking because of several objective and subjective factors. The situation with the reception of Arendt’s ideas is not less complicated: because of the mostly fragmentary character of Russian Arendt studies and the lack of fundamental publications, her name is still associated with many stereotypes. Although some of Arendt’s concepts are slowly turning obsolete due to methodological reasons, Arendt studies in Russia have good perspectives in the field of political and social philosophy, philosophical anthropology and philosophy of emotion.
Chayanov A.V. On the Agrarian Question. Translated from: Chayanov A.V. What is the Agrarian Question? Moscow: Joint-stock company “Universal Library”, 1917. 63 p. (League for Agrarian Reforms)