More On Social Imaginaries

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Ned Resnikoff

I am a freelance writer, researcher for Media Matters for America, and occasional inactive to Salon. Everything written here is my opinion alone, and not representative of the views of my employer.

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5 Responses

  1. “That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.” – Henry David ThoreauReport

  2. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    “Good policy can only do so much in creating a stable, prosperous society; and I think it goes without saying that the optimal state is which maximizes self-governance through public virtue and minimizes governance through state regulation.”

    Which begs the Platonic question, should the state take an active role in propagating/regulating these social imaginaries/societal myths?

    Also, education writer E.D. Hirsch has been arguing something similar, calling for, “reverence for the laws…[to] become the political religion of the nation,” noting that the place for this to start is in public schools.Report

  3. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    I’ll also re-post this excerpt from Taylor’s post:

    “Well, it’s not social theory, because, as Taylor says, the ordinary people of a society don’t typically theorize explicitly what they imagine their social world to be; that’s typically the job of an intellectual minority.”

    The clear significance and importance of “social imaginaries” brings us to the problem of, “Who does/should create them?”

    I think, but maybe others would disagree, that a lot of the anti-intellectualism/anti-elitism out there is specifically in response to this gut instinct: Social/Academic elites create the our “social imaginaries” and as a result wield power greater than any specific political or financial advantage.Report

    • @E.C. Gach, it’s more that elites propound theories that end up affecting the way we see our social life together. The shift that should be most apparent to all of us is the perception of gay marriage. In the social imaginary of the 1970s (if I understand things correctly; I wasn’t around) aside from a few dreamers nobody would seriously consider a man and a man or a woman and a woman as candidates for marriage to each other. Now, theories have slowly convinced huge numbers of people — perhaps most people — but what bloggers refer to as the “ick factor” remains. But the thing that really drives the shift in the social imaginary is not the theory on paper; it’s the theory put into practice: the reality of relationships between gay people that actually enacted the common understanding of what a marriage is. (I would argue that the common American understanding of marriage differed from, though didn’t necessarily clash with, what orthodox Christian theology teaches about marriage well before gay marriage was an issue.)

      So there are intermediate steps between elites creating a theory and shifts in the social imaginary, but what makes intellectual elites elite is their ability to garner attention for their theories and thereby affect social practices.Report

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