Abstracts II

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Eric O. AYISI, An Introduction to the Study of African Culture, 1972, 1979.
East African Educational Publishers, 1992. xxv + 125 pp.
Drawing largely on the writings of major anthropologists, including Lucy Mair, especially of the structural-functionalist school, such as Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown and Evans-Pritchard, but also on his own field-work in Ghana, especially amongst the Akans, the author, himself a Ghanaian, attempts both more and less than the title suggests. On the one hand the book tries to give a general introduction to some concepts of social anthropology, such as to lineage, political organisation, and so on; on the other hand the book very much concentrates on one small area of Western Africa, though there are occasional references to related rites, customs, beliefs, etc. in other parts of the continent. After overly general but sketchy introductions, aspects of a traditional culture are described, in chapters with headings like "The Family", "Kinship Terminology in Small-Scale Societies" and "Akan Judicial Processes". The last chapter, "Social Change in Africa", discusses briefly how traditional society has been affected by economic change, (in particular, in a certain region, the introduction of cocoa,) religious change and political change.

Apart from being rather defensive in tone, the book suffers from weaknesses bad enough to make it unrewarding to read.

  1. Some sentences are incomprehensible: "A man may therefore call 'brother' not only a father's son, but his father's sons and other first and second cousins of his own generation."
  2. In many places the structuring is very poor, such as when two passages are introduced like this: "Radcliffe-Brown ... observed as follows: '...' A similar view is held by Radcliffe-Brown: '...'," or when present-day developments in research are discussed under the heading "The Efforts of the Early Anthropologists".
  3. And sometimes the arguments put forward are not valid, for example when Africa is defended against the charge of not having had an indigenous religion: "Sorcery, and the same goes for witchcraft, does not form part of the system of beliefs which Africans regard as religious. [For] Both witchcraft and sorcery are regarded as reprehensible and anti-social. Odutofo ... is a condemnatory term ... and [so] it is naive and ludicrous to describe it as religious."

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Christian ENZENSBERGER, Grösserer Versuch über den Schmutz, 1968.
Carl Hanser Verlag, 1968. 136 pp.
This essay, presented in disjointed paragraphs, some as short as a single line, is an investigation into the concept of dirt: especially where we experience it. The essay talks in many different voices: there are quotations from the works of authors as diverse as Plato and Genet; there are collections of turns of phrase and brief imagined scenes; there are relevant exclamations as well as an apparently irrelevant inconclusive story told in pieces throughout. But the main line of the argument is advanced by fragments of an imaginary expert's lecture, reported in paragraphs of indirect speech, around which the rest of the text is woven as a suggestive texture.

Dirt is in the first place, in the private sphere, understood as an essential means for the individual to define himself, it initially arises at his boundaries, i.e. most concretely at his body surface. Viewing himself as closed, unimpeachable, unitary, ordered and unique, he experiences all forms of excretion (including perhaps literary production,) contact, mixture (including perhaps business activities, to which exchange is essential,) decay and uncoordinated swarming as dirty. Identifying, furthermore, with his most elevated part only, his soul, he experiences its interface with the world, i.e. the body, as dirty – to the point where the soul is cleansed by the body's contact with a leper; the soul then is such that it can become dirty only by contact, as in sin or guilt.

In general, dirt has its place at the very edge of order, at its transition to disorder. So it is essentially marginal – like that which is funny –, it is that which is badly defined (e.g. emulsions, amphibious animals): and it loses its character with increasing concentration – cf. mud v. a swamp, litter v. a pile of refuse, the petty thief v. a murderer. So what constitutes dirt depends on the particular order and is learnt concomitantly with it. The relation between food and dirt is odd in that they are kept very separate, as well as being closely related: e.g. the remains of food on the palate are dirt.

At the political level this means that dirt is associated with power: not only does power always depend on a particular order, which brings with it the category of dirt, so that power can even be thought of as the ability to create dirt (and to denounce one's opponents as dirty, say;) but being in someone else's power and being dirty are closely related in that both threaten one's self-definition. Power thus generates dirt at its edge – cf. attitudes to members of minorities, (whose situation as regards dirt is precisely the converse of that of the workers, who though in dirt are not themselves dirt and cannot be dirtied by power) – and can even exploit the experience of being dirty to produce certain behaviour, i.e. towards the corresponding 'cleanliness': the lowest level in a hierarchy may be thus motivated – e.g. Third Reich blockwardens. Those in power have a special role, of course: they must be absolutely clean, and particular rules may apply to them to guarantee that state.

Language as the mother of systematisation must be opposed to dirt: in fact, even discourse of dirt is itself dirty, (which is not so for beauty, say;) and German is especially sensitive. But dirt can never be annihilated but only shifted or expelled, e.g. from polite conversation, though it soon returns attached even to the Latinate euphemisms.

A whole natural history of dirt can be discerned: Having been found in the marginal infractions of the order before, dirt became a general threat when the established order changed so radically that everything was in danger of becoming marginal: hence in the 19th century, cleanliness was next to godliness, the trend to conformity turned society into a collection of interchangeable units, and Europe saw the rise of the national states with their brand of politics. Also, capitalism's free market economy requires the exchangeability not only of goods but of consumers, so that under the order dominated by money, and by comparison with goods, people are in the minority and experience themselves and others as dirty. Thus – and as one product competes with, dreads another – people are alienated from each other; and everyone's demand for personalised treatment has nothing to do with individuality. After even the goods have finally become dirty too, with respect to the process of their production which is turning the world to waste, we now see a 'dirt-inversion': not only what interferes with the order, but the very interferences of the order are dirty, and a vague dirtiness pervades everything.

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James GLEICK, Chaos. Making a New Science, 1987.
Heinemann, 1988. 317 pp + notes + index.
Based largely on interviews with the main 'martyrs/heroes' – such as E. Lorenz, M. Hénon, R. May, B. Mandelbrot, M. Feigenbaum, D. Farmer – of this heavily computer-assisted shift of Kuhn-ian paradigm, which since the early '60ies has arisen in, affected and perhaps unified widely separate areas of science, Gleick, a journalist, gives a rather disjointed, often annoyingly anecdotal, even hagiographic account of the development of chaos theory.

Prior to chaos theory, science had proceeded on the largely implicit assumptions that

  1. small errors would give rise to only small differences in outcomes, (which is indeed the case with linear systems: e.g. predicting the path of a comet;) that
  2. all simple systems would eventually reach a steady state: this can be put in terms of the system's path through phase space, which will either converge to an 'attractor' (e.g. for a pendulum with friction: (0, 0) in the s,ds/dt -plane) or describe a closed loop around such an attractor (e.g. a pendulum without friction;) and that
  3. difficult non-linear terms in d.e.s describing a situation could (or should, or had to) be disregarded, because all complicated systems could be assimilated to linear systems, either by introducing small perturbations into them, whose effects might eventually become negligible (damping) and would certainly be predictable, or by additively combining a large number of them, which would make any kind of prediction impracticable or even impossible (e.g. in turbulence.)
However, evidence began to emerge from a variety of fields, such as meteorology, ecology, fluid dynamics, mathematics, that
  1. non-linear systems can show 'sensitive dependence on initial conditions': the Butterfly Effect, e.g. that a butterfly stirring the air now in Peking can transform next month's storm systems in NY; that
  2. there can be disorder in order, i.e. that chaos can arise in deterministic systems: e.g. in a simple model for the size x(n) of an animal population in year n, x(n+1) = k x(n) (1 – x(n)), an equilibrium point will only be reached up to a certain k, above which x(n) will oscillate between first two, then four, etc., values, where the 'bifurcation points' are in geometric progression, so that soon x(n) will vary chaotically – until, that is, above some other k-value, x(n) will vary between first three, then six, etc., values, ...; or in a very simple model for the earth's climate, consisting of only three d.e.s, (the Lorenz equations,) the three variables generally describe a path in phase space which keeps looping around two 'strange attractors', without ever intersecting itself, (i.e. the system never repeats itself;) or if a periodic process is regularly disturbed; and that
  3. the non-linear aspects of dynamic systems cannot be disregarded, because there is order in this disorder: this order is often reflected in striking numerical regularities, and can be described in terms of fractal shapes formed by the paths of dynamic systems in their phase space.
A fractal is, perhaps, in the first place, a set of points which 'looks the same' under any degree of magnification, at any scale: hence 'scaling', i.e. that although there may be no apparent order at one level, it is precisely the same 'disorder' that is repeated when one looks at details of the shape: e.g. the Koch-curve, or part of a coastline. Since therefore any complexity at one level is repeated at every level further down, ad infinitum, what one gets (in 2D:) are curves of infinite length around a finite area, etc. And as the position of a point on such a curve cannot be given by a single coordinate, fractals turn out to be of non-integer dimension – hence the name.

To see how the Koch-curve is constructed and learn about its fractal properties, click the button.

By their nature, fractals are not amenable to analytical rigour, but have to be calculated point by point, so it is no coincidence that their discovery coincides with our acquisition of sufficient computing-power – nor is it, perhaps, that the resulting graphic representations are of some aesthetic (and certainly commercial) appeal.

The reason that chaos does not reduce to randomness and that fractals can help to understand such a wide range of phenomena – e.g. cotton prices, the eye movements of schizophrenics, fibrillation of the heart, odd statistics after inoculation programmes, the irregular dripping of a tap, phase transitions, etc. –, is that they concern aggregate non-linear systems, which nevertheless behave according to a very limited set of rules: e.g. the growth of lung tissue forming alveoli.

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Erving GOFFMAN, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, 1959.
Allen Lane The Penguin Press, London, 1969. 225 pp.
In this "report", which was the first major publication by this Canadian sociologist, the author discusses face-to-face interaction in dramaturgical terms, as staged performances. While he gives occasional examples from a wide variety of sources, including books on etiquette, his own study of a Shetland Isles community, memoirs of a court official, as well as sociological research, his descriptions of patterns of interaction, and of possible disruptions, are often in these theoretical terms only; it speaks for the cogency of the analysis that the reader will usually have no difficulties in providing particular instances of these from his own experience.

In Goffman's dramaturgical model, a 'team' of performers typically faces an audience, though it should be noted that a side may consist of a single member, and that the audience for their part will often be putting on a complementary performance. Membership of such a team is a matter not of status or grouping, only of one's role in the performance, but within a team familiarity prevails, solidarity develops and secrets are shared; similarly, the role of a 'director', if a team has one, is purely a matter of the staging, and it often is someone of low status who plays it. Jointly, the two sides will endeavour to create and sustain a definition of the situation, a 'working consensus', which brings with it characters that are implicitly imputed to the participants and are, for the time of the interaction, accepted as their real selves. So, typically, in social situations, we are not only involved in doing some concrete task at hand, but also performing, i.e. we use expressive means to create a certain impression. Examples are the personnel and customers in a service establishment, such as a restaurant: the former are supposed to be honest, helpful and knowledgable, and the latter may want to come across as more distinguished or discerning than they are; or a host and a guest who has come to visit; or a doctor and a patient; or a teacher and the students in a class.

In this analysis, the world is divided into three regions:

  1. the performers' front region or setting, with their props, where they appear before the audience;
  2. their backstage area, access to which is controlled, where the team can prepare and discuss the performance, drop their guard, and even joke about the events front-stage; and
  3. the outside, which must stay or be kept at a distance, as when two couples have a conversation in a public place.
Who the teams and what their regions are, depends of course on the interaction that is being discussed: thus, in a restaurant, the dining area is the front region and the kitchen the backstage, but in the kitchen itself the employees may be 'putting on a show' for the owner; or the staff and inmates of a mental hospital may, temporarily, form one team performing for an audience of managers.

Within this theoretical framework, certain special roles and certain ways of acting that can be found in many different social situations can be usefully collected. Thus, there are various 'discrepant roles'

  1. of persons who are present but are not simply performers, audience or outsiders, such as the informer, the go-between, or the non-person (as servants often were;) and
  2. of persons who are not present, such as the service-specialist, the confidant, or the colleague.
And there are different types of 'communication out of character', which show that the performance is not a spontaneous response, the performers' sole social reality, but something they can stand back from: when the other team is absent, it can be derogated, problems of staging can be discussed, and so on; members of a team can collude in the presence of the audience, using cues and warning signals, even make fun of the audience; and temporary, unofficial realignments can take place, even between supposedly opposing teams.

The reasons, Goffman suggests, that we treat social situations as performances is that having a limited repertoire of roles which we all know, rather than always acting as individuals, makes social interaction more efficient, so typically all participants share in the conspiracy, with tact and decorum. When a breakdown does occur, despite the impression management, because of an unmeant gesture or a faux pas, or because someone 'makes a scene', all participants typically react with embarrassment and shame; and a joint effort will usually be made by all to arrive at a new working consensus.

This dramaturgical approach, finally, can be related to a framework of other perspectives – technical, political, structural and cultural – of social establishments; to the framework trying to connect individual psychology, social interaction, and society; and to moral considerations, of expectations we have of others and they of us.

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Erving GOFFMAN, Asylums. Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates, 1961.
Anchor Books, 1961. 386 pp.
In these four essays, largely based on the author's observations in a large mental hospital, Goffman develops the 'ideal type' (Weber) of a total institution and investigates the social structures that tend to develop in such places, where typically a large group of 'inmates' is subject to a much smaller group of 'staff'. He argues that while total institutions – such as concentration camps, prisons, mental hospitals, army barracks, navy ships, boarding schools, monasteries – all have different purposes, the social situations in them have significant features in common. Whereas ordinarily an individual, in the course of their daily round, gets to play a range of different roles – as parent, employee, mate – in terms of which they define themselves (or their self,) the inmates of a total institution find themselves cut off from their usual environment, in a situation that encompasses all aspects of their life and foists upon them a limited, official definition of themselves. As he usually does, Goffman cites evidence, much of it here far from entertaining, from a wide range of sources: biography, fiction, etc.

In "On the Characteristics of Total Institutions", he examines the social life in such establishments, setting out basic themes. The inmates, stripped of the support of their usual rounds and admitted into the institution by an often mortifying procedure, have to adopt a new, subordinate, very limited role – of which there are a range available, from sullen withdrawal to being the staff's 'straw-man' –, fit into a system of privileges (or rather non-deprivations,) develop 'secondary adjustments', and so on. The staff typically lead a normal life outside, but on the 'inside' have limited kinds of interactions with the inmates; they not only are responsible for them – a fact that can be used to justify restrictions and control –, but also have a certain view of them and play a major part in the definition of self that the inmates adopt, mostly but not exclusively justified by the official ethos, such as correction, cure, education; the interactions are often distorted ones, as when the lack of an (in the outside world: voluntarily) respectful greeting becomes a symptom or offence. The two groups do share in certain ceremonies – like joint social events, a 'house organ', official visits –, which while they may have an institutional function, also serve individuals' purposes. This basic view, of two uniform groups, does need qualification, though: there are, for instance, differentiations within the staff, so that the lower and upper echelons often play quite different roles towards, and for, the inmates.

The second essay describes "The Moral Career of the Mental Patient", not as it reflects his supposed mental problems but in general terms. As he progresses from being a pre-patient, at which time he might feel himself betrayed by relatives, professional mediators, etc., and find his self undermined, through a process of being stripped of the usual social supports, to being an inpatient, having to adopt strategies to 'save face' in a situation where he is not free to choose a role for himself, (the ex-patient phase is not here discussed,) a person's self can be seen to be less a fixed property than something that resides in the arrangements prevailing in the social system of which he has become a member.

Any organisation, formal or not, involves not only a discipline of activity, but also at some level a discipline of being, relating to the kind of person a member is expected to be. In addition to the primary adjustments a member makes to the official expectations, he will also make contrary secondary adjustments. After a general, quite abstract introduction, "The Underlife of a Public Institution" describes, and attempts to categorise, a mass of observations of such "ways of making out", mostly from a mental hospital. As a general conclusion it seems that, while a person's self-definition requires support from social institutions, he also needs to distance himself in some areas from the official definition of the self.

Social interaction between individuals always takes place within some framework, including a set of inherent assumptions, (deviations from which are however always common.) In "The Medical Model and Mental Hospitalization", the concept of a service-relation, between a server and a served, is gradually narrowed down, from a general form including car-repair workshops and sales floors, to the relation between doctor and patient. The essay critically discusses how, in a mental hospital, this model fails to suit the relation between the psychiatrist and the inmate, who is in fact less the one served than the object serviced, and is not served well by the fictions required for, and misalignments due to, its application.

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Erving GOFFMAN, Stigma. Notes on the Management of Spoilt Identity, 1963.
Penguin Books, 1990. 174 pp.
Drawing on a wide variety of sources – academic research, auto-biographies, literature, etc., as well as our everyday experiences – Goffman describes and develops the concept of a 'stigma'; noting what is common to apparently different situations and experiences, he puts them in context and enables us to see each more clearly.

A stigma is an attribute of a person that negatively affects (his) ordinary social intercourse, based as it is on the assumption that all the participants are 'normal': in social situations we ordinarily impute to – even demand of – others a 'virtual social identity' in terms of which we handle the situation, but which may be different from the 'actual social identity' that they (may later) turn out to possess. So only those undesirable attributes give rise to a stigma that lead to a divergence between an person's virtual and his actual social identity: working as a prostitute, being blind, or (in some places) being of a certain race/colour, or divorced.

In the life of a person with a stigma, special roles are played by (i) the 'own': others who share his stigma, and particular dynamics do develop both within the group, and towards the world of 'normal' others; (ii) the 'wise': others who do not share the stigma but for individual reasons – such as being related to someone with it – understand the secret life of persons with that stigma, accept them as 'ordinary', and are in turn accorded a certain trust by them: being 'wise' often requires having had a change-of-heart experience, and being not only oneself willing but accepted; one may then be viewed as having a 'courtesy stigma', though the relationship with the courtesy group may remain uneasy.

According to the 'visibility' of the stigma – which is not the same its obtrusiveness, or its perceived focus (i.e. the relevance to the social situation) – and its known-about-ness, persons with stigmas can be divided into the (already) 'discredited', such as a deaf, or an ugly or deformed person, or someone with a stammer, and the (merely) 'discreditable', such as someone who has been in prison or is homosexual. Whereas the main social problem for the former is the management of tension in social situations, the main issue for the latter is the management of information about themselves – especially when telling may not only affect the present social situation but also threaten established relationships. In both kinds of management, the 'own', the 'wise' and the person's intimates may be needed to play certain roles.

A possible response, especially for those in the latter group, is trying to 'pass', i.e. presenting oneself as someone without that stigma – or at least as someone with a lesser problem: a deaf person may pretend to be just inattentive. Successful passing not only risks future embarrassment, even blackmail, but may meet disapproval from one's 'own'. However, instead of placing the relationships of a person with a stigma on a continuum, from categoric and concealing to particularistic and open, it may be better to consider the structures in which contact with others occurs and is managed: public places, the workplace, one's friends and family, etc. And similar techniques as for passing can be used for 'covering', i.e. preventing the stigma from looming large, again in order to reduce tension.

Possession of a stigma also affects one's personal identity, (the particular marks, such as a name and face, and the unique combination of biographical facts that differentiate the person for us – also officially – from all others.) While we are used to playing different roles in our lives, (e.g. husband, employee, mate, etc.) these are not usually contradictory, as they may be for someone who conceals something about themselves, especially about their past.

And an individual's social and personal identity must be distinguished from his ego identity, i.e. what it is to be that person, part of which will be the possession of the stigma; different kinds of alignments with the in-group and the out-group are possible, and others or even 'official' bodies may advocate certain 'philosophies': thus he may identify with his stigma, or share society's rejection of it, or feel ambivalent.

In a larger context, the investigation turns out to be, more generally, about mechanisms for dealing with the deviance which, together with conformance, arises from any normative expectations: a stigma is an extreme case, of what is in fact a common situation – hardly any of us never are in the position of being shamefully different, and so we are all experienced in playing the roles on both sides: thus, an person with a stigma can play the part of the 'normal' towards someone with a different stigma, and people adjust surprisingly easily to gaining, or losing, a stigma. Moreover, not only are there not two separate sets of persons, those with a stigma and those without, but due to the nature of social interaction, those supposedly 'normal' too are vulnerable in it: by embarrassment, being made to look fools, etc.

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J. E. GOLDTHORPE, The Sociology of Post-Colonial Societies, 1996.
Cambridge University Press, 1996. 244 pp + notes + index.
If sociology is the study of interactions of individuals within a society, and of the values, customs and institutions the members of a society both subjectively establish and, somewhat paradoxically, find themselves confronted by as part of their objective reality, then this can hardly be called a book of sociology. Instead, it is a wide-ranging overview of social science literature, including economics and politics, and statistical evidence to show up trends, relating to 'Third World' countries, (which is how the author generally refers to them in the book, rather than as "post-colonial".)

While the countries at the centre of the discussion are indeed post-colonial, this aspect of their past does not feature centrally, and is in fact always put in a larger context.

Nor does the discussion deal at all equally with all post-colonial countries: the emphasis is very much on Africa, the area where most of the most recently emancipated countries are, and there again on the East African countries with which the author is most familiar from his own research. Still, in his large-scale overviews he regularly refers to countries in other parts of the world and includes their circumstances in the discussion.

The book has a rather digressive or excursive feel, like a series of separate but related essays (– which does make it difficult to write a fair abstract of it ...) One cause of this is that the focus frequently changes, from one chapter or section to the next:

  1. between particular and general discussions,
  2. between close-up and wide-angle views, and
  3. between case-studies, and theoretical discourse about the concepts, methodology and assumptions used in case-studies.
[These categories are mine rather than the author's.] Here are some (almost randomly chosen) examples, which will also give an impression of the wide range of issues covered, (or at least touched on):
  1. general, wide-angle, case-study: a report on the growth of the population of the world from the earliest times, and the course in particular areas in modern times (pp. 16-44.)
  2. general, wide-angle, theoretical: a critical discussion of some common ideas about exploitation (65-69,) underdevelopment ("to underdevelop a country") and dependence (118-129.)
  3. particular, close-up, theoretical: an examination of different ways in which it has been attempted to measure disparity and development (72-77.)
  4. particular, close-up, case-study: a description of the cultural and linguistic diversity in Uganda since pre-colonial times (150ff, 156f.)
  5. general, close-up, case-study: a chapter on "Religion and development", moving from Weber's 'protestant work ethic' to Indians in East Africa, where the author concludes that factors like minority status and migration are more important than religious beliefs (179-187.)
  6. particular, wide-angle, case-study: a brief history of the international economic organisations – IMF, World Bank, Gatt/WTO – and their roles, and the major reviews, by the Pearson (1968-69,) Brandt (1977-80) and Brundtland (1983-87) commissions. And related to this:
  7. particular, wide-angle, theoretical: criticisms of some basic ideas underlying the thinking on aid and the flow of resources, such as the following: "The Brandt commission had confused countries with governments, and had failed to distinguish between aid to a countries economy and aid to its poor. Together these confusions had given rise to the assumption that because a country's people were poor, financial transfers were justified to its government. ... 'In many countries the problem precisely is the government"' (226-244.)
[– Read about a thesis that is discussed, that the nature of family life in a society may either contribute to or hamper a certain kind of development. –]

Another cause for that 'feel' of the book may be that the author does not seem to take much of a position, from which he might evaluate the ideas he examines and derive recommendations, although he does show a more than abstract interest in the issues under discussion.

But as much of the writing takes the form of different views being contrasted, one (pleasingly) often finds ideas argued for that are contrary to what one might have supposed: "Mortimore found equally little evidence for the population pressure hypothesis. ... predictions of soil exhaustion and environmental degradation were seldom fulfilled, ... and living standards were if anything higher in the more densely populated areas. Droughts and wars were the prime causes of African famines, which were wrongly regarded as evidence of density-induced ecological collapse" (106f.)

Better in fact than by its title, the book's content and approach are captured by its subtitle: "Economic disparity, cultural diversity and development" – of these and related issues it is indeed a very informative summary, and a readable guide to them.

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James HOPKINS, "The Interpretation of Dreams", 1992.
Jerome Neu (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Freud, Cambridge University Press, 1992. pp. 86 -135.
Freud's account of dreams in what may be his most valuable book (1900a) is here presented, and defended against Adolf Grünbaum and J. Allan Hobson, as an extension of common-sense psychology; based on this paradigm, Freud could give relatively simple and unified accounts of other phenomena: parapraxes, symptoms and works of art.

Common-sense psychology explains actions by motives, in terms of beliefs and desires, which relate to the world by their intentional content: the belief/desire that S is true/satisfied if S is/becomes the case. So motives are articulated by the flexible and effective means used to describe the world, they are causes whose working is encoded in language, (though there may be other causal accounts of behaviour too,) and share the structures of language, including logical implication: hermeneutic understanding and grasp of the causes of behaviour form a unity. Such explanations make actions understandable, by revealing them as informed by their motives, which can be thought of as psychological causes which pass content to their effects.

Interpretation of a dream, (e.g. Freud's of Irma's injection,) starts from some motives of the dreamer and the dream's manifest content. Using the dreamer's free associations, and relations between motives and the content, a latent wish is attributed to him, which is instigated by the motives and represented as fulfilled in the dream, (though it may have undergone condensation, displacement, distortion, and symbolic replacement of elements,) but which is not realistically constrained in its content as the motives are (– which is why a dream can give rise to anxiety while being a wish-fulfilment.) This is just common-sense reasoning, for whose cogency we use familiar criteria: the motives ascribed must be coherent, and consistent with motives revealed in actions, in other dreams, etc.

Freud's reasoning here can be extended: to include other phenomena with content, e.g. symptoms and children's play; and is cumulative: in creating inductive support for its kinds of conclusions, in revealing typical structures, and in extending the range of motives – to radical ones even that would have been inadmissible at the outset.

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David M. KREPS, Game Theory and Economic Modelling, 1990.
Oxford University Press, 1990. 185 pp + bibliography + index.
The theory of non-cooperative games has come to be widely used in different areas of economics. In this book, which has its origins in a series of Clarendon Lectures at Oxford University, the author, a self-confessed game-theorist (and professor of Economics at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University,) taking an example-based, non-mathematical approach, first introduces some basic concepts of game theory and then discusses its usefulness, or if it is just a fad: the standard by which game theory is here judged is the extent to which it helps economists to understand and predict what will happen in actual economic contexts.

A game is a situation in which each of a number of players (most commonly two, A and B) chooses one of a set of strategies ({u, d} and {l, c, r}, say) and receives a payoff which depends on the strategies chosen. A game can be represented in strategic (or normal) form, as a table of combinations of strategies, or in extensive form, as a sequence of choices made by the players. The extensive form contains more information, and one strategic form game corresponds to different extensive form games. In static games, the players chose their strategies as if simultaneously, whereas in the (more interesting!) dynamic games they take turns, knowing the earlier choices. The famous Prisoners' Dilemma was an example of a static game, where the payoffs were months in prison depending on whether each of the two defendants implicated the other or not:

Aconfess4, 41, 6
don't6, 12, 2
Prisoners' Dilemma. 3 kB.
– the payoffs in each pair are for A and B, respectively; and the broken line in the extensive form game on the right represents an information set: B did not know whether A had chosen 'c' or 'd'.

There are different ways in which such a game can be solved: (a) simple dominance – a player will not choose a strategy if there is another that makes him better off, or at least not worse off, whatever the other player does; (b) Nash equilibrium – players will choose a combination of strategies such that neither has an incentive, given the other player's choice, to deviate from their choice; (c) backward induction – in games of complete and perfect information, in which every node is an information set, one can work back through the choices from the sets of payoffs. This kind of analysis has had some notable successes, for instance in discussing the situation where a monopolist wants to deter competitors from entering the market; it enables one to formalise intuitions and extend their reach when talking about (a) incredible promises and threats, (a threatened strategy being incredible if playing it would reduce the pay-off of the player making the threat;) (b) co-operation and reputation, which depend on making credible promises and threats; (c) the significance of any knowledge that one player may have about another, whether for instance they are a money-maximiser or might be co-operative; and (d) interactions between parties holding private information, as in competitive auctions.

Despite its successes in analysing certain situations, we must not expect game theory to do what it isn't intended to do, and the theory does have its problems: thus, a game crucially depends on the specification of a precise protocol, which in reality may often not be available; a game can have different equilibria, with no procedure in the theory to predict which one will be chosen by players; even when using refinements of the Nash equilibrium, there is no satisfactory way of dealing – in a 'complete theory' – with counter-equilibrium choices, due to a spiteful player, say, having payoffs different from the monetary ones; and game theory tends to take the rules of games too much for granted, when in reality these may themselves be the result of choices by players.

To be able to address questions like: When is equilibrium analysis appropriate? How do players select among equilibria? How do players behave when equilibrium analysis is inappropriate? we must, the author argues, come to grips with the behaviour of individual agents, and supplement pure game theory by a model of the players. The players' behaviour is then thought of as 'boundedly rational' – "intendedly rational but only limitedly so" – and 'retrospective', i.e. experience-based. A research strategy that has shown a lot of promise is modelling the players as making short-term choices using specific models of their situation, which in the longer run they are able to update heuristically, in specific ways.

[– For an example of the kind of argument used in game theory, read a brief essay, about the 'second-mover advantage'. –]

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Elisabeth KÜBLER-ROSS, On Death and Dying, 1969.
Tavistock/Routledge, 1989. 260 pp.
As part of an interdisciplinary seminar at a Chicago hospital, terminally ill patients and sometimes their relatives were interviewed, voluntarily and even at their own request, by a doctor and usually a chaplain, to illicit their responses to their situation, including the attitudes of members the helping professions who were involved with them: they were asked to "teach" the members of the seminar. Much of the book consists of summaries of cases and transcripts of interviews. It seems that while there was much initial resistance, especially from the doctors at the hospital, the seminar and the need to listen to the patients themselves and to let them be part of any decisions were eventually widely accepted.

The fear of dying and death has various unconscious determinants, but in modern society we may also have lost a certain familiarity with death and certain mechanisms for dealing with it. As a result of the issue being avoided, even by many doctors, the emphasis is largely on the medical aspects while the patient as a whole person is neglected. Through open conversations, as in the setting of the seminar, where even the most personal issues could be raised, many practical and emotional problems could be resolved. Many patients turned to their faith for support, but also expressed other reactions in terms of it.

It was found that as they approach their death, patients, (and to some extent the people close to them,) tend to pass through a series of reactions, though the stages are usually not quite separated: i. denial and isolation, ii. anger, iii. depression, iv. bargaining, v. acceptance and decathexis. Hope coexists with all of the stages after the first until practically the end, and it is important that when a patient is told of the seriousness of their condition, the possibility of hope always be left open to them.

In all the stages, the most important aspect of helping is to make oneself available to the patient for them to express their feelings, although in the last stage what they require is usually someone just sitting with them who cares. In addition it is often necessary to help the patient doing some sorting out – either of practical details, such as where their children are going to go, or of past conflicts, feelings of guilt, etc. – for them to be able to reach a final stage of being at peace.

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Jerome NEU, "Freud and Perversion", 1992.
Jerome Neu (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Freud, Cambridge University Press, 1992. pp. 175 -208.
Using homosexuality and foot fetishism as the main examples, the questions:
  1. what behaviours (or desires) count as perversion, or are abnormal? and
  2. if they are, is that a reproach?
are discussed, in the context not only of Freud's writings but also of our society. Points made throughout are that 'normal' sexuality is as much in need of explanation as what is considered abnormal, that Freud abstained from making judgements, and that there are wide cultural variations.

At the beginning of "Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality" (1905d,) though it is mainly concerned with infantile sexuality, Freud argues that perversions are considered as sexual, even if they are not normal, "because they can be understood as variations of an underlying instinct along three dimensions (somatic source, object, and aim.) The instinct has components, is complex or 'composite'. If adult perversion can be understood [that way] ..., then many of the activities of infancy can also be so understood, can be seen as earlier stages in the development of those components." Three criteria of perversion are considered, and rejected:

  1. sociological or statistical specification, because it is circular and society-dependent;
  2. in terms of the content, in that it is not directed towards reproduction or causes disgust, say, because it is both too narrow and too wide, and again society-dependent; and
  3. on account of exclusiveness and fixation, because these may equally be said to apply to 'normal' sexuality.
Nor can perversion be defined relative to a (biologically?) normal development, as infantile and regressive, or by the lack of reproductive purpose: regression gets a sense only in terms of social norms; and while reproduction is a purpose of sex, this cannot settle the attitude to non-reproductive sexuality – like that of infants, or couples using contraception. As regards object choice, homosexuality is no more primitive, in being narcissistic, say, than any other attempt at love.

While psychoanalysis may not offer a sustainable concept of perversion as pathological, it does give insight into the thoughts behind perversion as well as 'normal' sexuality, instead of reducing them to the biological.

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Alexander ROSENBERG, Philosophy of Social Science, 1988.
Clarendon Press, 1988. 218 pp.
Whereas the natural sciences emancipated themselves from philosophy – defined here as addressing those questions the sciences cannot answer, and the question why they cannot – some time ago, so that scientific advances have even provided new questions for philosophy, there has been no such break between philosophy and the social sciences. The methodological and other choices social scientists have to make, even if they often make them by default only, are but the enduring questions – epistemological, metaphysical and moral – of philosophy, albeit in a new garb. In the course of tracing the controversies between 'naturalist' and 'interpretationalist' positions, between which he finds no stable middle ground, Rosenberg gives an account of important approaches in the social sciences, making explicit their underlying assumptions, and branding their pervasive question-begging as such.

The starting point of social science is to explain actions, and even distinguish them from other behaviour, in terms of the agent's beliefs and desires. For these to be explanatory requires something like the following principle L:

    "Given any person x, if x wants d and x believes that a is a means to attain d, under the circumstances, then x does a." – (or some improved version of it, to exclude x having another, overriding desire d1, etc.)
Now, if we understand L as a scientific law, then we face the question why we have not been able to make better predictions than folk-psychology, which has always used something like L. To which the answer is that L is not in fact testable, we would not give it up, because there can be no other way of discovering somebody's beliefs and desires, other than from actions of his (including what he says, his utterances): there is more than a logical connection between motives and actions, there is a conspiracy. Beliefs and desires may be causes of actions, but because they are 'intentional', i.e. have propositional content and so depend on the particular descriptions the agent gives of them, on his meanings, we cannot find descriptions of them independent enough to frame laws about them that have improvable predictive power. At this point two strategies are possible.

Naturalism surrenders such explanations in favour of more satisfactory causal ones in terms of behaviour: aiming to "carve nature closer to the joints," it eschews teleological explanations of events in terms of their consequences, or purposes. In economics, behaviourism takes the forms of a theory of rational choice circumventing the difficulties of intentionality, or of excluding the actions of individuals altogether. Interpretationalism, on the other hand, gives up the idea of a causal explanation and instead explains human action by making it intelligible, giving it meaning, i.e. describing the rules under which it falls, which constitute the social reality. Critical theories, like those of Freud and Marx, furthermore claim that not only is social science reflexive, but many of these meanings are unconscious and that one of the tasks of a social science is to make them conscious. The former strategy eventually cannot avoid the problem of intentionality, for its models and laws must simplify, and the only justification can be that they make behaviour intelligible: should rational choice theory, say, despite the fact that it is not true or close to true, allow economists to make increasingly accurate predictions ('instrumentalism',) we have gained nothing in terms of knowledge.

When we turn from the explanation of individual behaviour to 'macrosocial science', there is a related division. 'Holism' supposes there to be irreducible 'social facts', such that sociology does not reduce to psychology, (just as psychology must avoid reduction to neuro-physiology.) The main analytical and explanatory strategy of holism is functionalism, which needs however to be underwritten by a further explanation, such as an evolutionary one. '(Methodological) individualism' faces the difficulty of accounting for altruism and there being public goods, which could not arise in a society of rational agents. But while Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' cannot offer an alternative to holistic social science, an evolutionary, sociobiological approach might.

The two views of the nature of social science are closely associated with different moral theories, (as of course with the morality of what social scientists do): the choice of a position in the social sciences may be a moral one. Thus the relevance of consequentialism (e.g. utilitarianism) to real moral decisions requires a predictively improvable social science, while deontology's commitment to rights and right motives for action (cf. Kant) presupposes the explanatory powers of intentional states, no matter what their predictive weakness.

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Roy SCHAFER, "Action: Its Place in Psychoanalytic Interpretation and Theory", 1973.
The Annual of Psychoanalysis, 1, 1973, pp. 159 -196.
While Freud's metapsychology is cast in the objective terms of natural science – of forces, energy, structures –, ostensibly removing any subjective 'I' from the psychoanalytic model of the mind, his theory is in fact pervaded and sustained by anthropomorphism: the parts of the apparatus interact as if they were person-like homunculi – which reintroduces a concept of agency. Later analysts (Waelder, Hartmann) failed to resolve this tension between the theoretician and the clinical analyst in Freud; it is reflected in reactions against mechanistic theory, like 'the adaptive ego' (Hartmann,) 'identity' (Erikson) and 'self' (Kohut;) and in the assumption of a person – as opposed to an 'it' – for the analyst to relate to: 'the mover' in the machine is in fact the clinician's projection of himself into his model of the mind.

Those concepts, and the work of existential analysts (Binswanger,) suggest that a new conceptualisation of psychoanalysis is required, to replace the mechanistic model. Starting from Fenichel's insistence on the activity that lies behind apparent inactivity, and his strategy to identify in the patient's past and behaviour a network of intelligible actions where there seemed to be none, 'actions', in a wide sense, are the main concept, and disclaimed actions the focus of analysis: thus, in a slip of the tongue, the speaker does two things at once, both his responsibility, but he disclaims one. While the term 'mind' is used in many locutions, e.g. "It slipped my mind," to disclaim an action, (often just to avoid a socially awkward truth,) on this action model, mind is not something we have but something we do. Conflict, now, is conceptualised not as a struggle between impulses, but as engaging in contradictory actions, recognising them as such, and still doing both; and an impulse, rather than causing an action, is an action – which if inhibited just has been stopped by another action. While the analyst, especially initially, may not be able to use the rhetoric of action consistently, as the analysis progresses, the patient's need to disclaim actions will recede and he will take responsibility for his life as action.

Thus, rather than reducing man's conception of his scope, (like Copernicus and Darwin had done,) psychoanalysis may instead be found threatening for expanding it.

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David Lloyd THOMAS, "Is Nationalism Irrational", 1997.
Lecture, Atlantic College, 31 October 1997.
Some questions that may at first seem to require an empirical answer, i.e. to be about the world, turn out to be answerable by a careful philosophical analysis instead. [For instance, that old problem of how mind- and brain-events are related just dissolves.] The lecturer proposed that the question of the title is of this kind; his answer being that nationalism is indeed irrational, simply because strictly speaking nations don't exist – although states of course do –, and it is irrational to believe in something that does not exist: Dr. Thomas compared this view with an atheist's view of religion. To demonstrate that nations don't exist, various ways in which a nation could be defined were considered in turn [– but not jointly]: in terms of a certain territory, a common language, the shared ethnic origin of a group, their common culture, or their common view of the nation's past. But each of these was rejected, by means of counter-examples: for each kind of definition, nations can be found that don't satisfy it – the nations' own myths notwithstanding. Since nations therefore exist only in the minds of their members, they are only "imagined political communities".

Now, taking up this phrase of Benedict Anderson's, we can get to understand nationalism better if we shift the emphasis, from the negative "imagined" to the positive "political communities": what makes a group of people the members of a nation is that they share the aspiration to have a political identity, typically to be (or have) a state. Something that makes this conclusion plausible is that it agrees with the way we actually use the concept of a nation: thus, a group of people may be more or less of a nation, depending on how far they are from achieving statehood; and of a group that could not possibly become a state, like black Americans, without even their own region, we do not think of as a nation.

However, one can perhaps still rationally 'favour' a nation, as a means: either of supporting the values and policies of a supra-national state, such as the France of the revolution, or the EU; or of defending or promoting a region, language, group, ..., like Wales, that is in danger of being integrated into a larger state. It is least rational to be a nationalist for a nation-state, like Britain.

In his conclusion, Dr. Thomas admitted that he had not at all addressed the question of why then nations should have come to be believed in. In his answers to subsequent questions, though, he rejected the idea that nationalism might arise from a basic human need, since it was a fairly recent phenomenon, later than the middle ages; and he did suggest that from a certain point in history onwards, nationalism(s) might have come about as the creation of certain elites for their own ends [– nationalism seems to be exclusive, always directed against some other group –], exploiting the feelings of home and belonging that attach us to where we come from.

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Richard WOLLHEIM, "Freud and the Understanding of Art", 1992.
Jerome Neu (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Freud, Cambridge University Press, 1992. pp. 249 -266.
In three essays Freud talks explicitly about works of art, though he disclaimed anything more than a layman's knowledge, and being able to make any aesthetic contribution. It is far from him to reduce art to wish-fulfilment, like dreams or neuroses, though he later sometimes equates it with recovery and reparation.

"A Childhood Memory of Leonardo da Vinci", 1910c, is in fact a biographical study, in which works of art are not interpreted psychoanalytically, but used to support interpretations of the artist's adult life in terms of his childhood experiences, arrived at by other routes. The concern is with what the artist expresses in his work.

In "The Moses of Michelangelo", 1914b, on the other hand, the concern is with what is expressed by the subject of the work, with its 'spiritual content'. While this may appear conservative, Freud is going beyond 19th-century art-appreciation: for he is analysing expression revealed through small touches - which puts the work of art in the vicinity of tendentious jokes. While a mere jest functions only at the level of play, albeit play that makes sense, which in a joke is associated with a thought to give the playing respectability, the joke in a tendentious joke is used to protect a repressed purpose, either sexual or aggressive: such a joke is incomplete, since the joker uses it to divert his attention from the impulse that seeks expression and so cannot laugh himself, which is why he requires a hearer to laugh. In the same way the work of art is incomplete, and its audience uncertain as to the source of their pleasure: hence the institutional character of art, and the diversion of attention from the expressive small touches, by the public-relations aspect of the work - which is part of its aesthetic aspect.

In "Delusions and Dreams in Jensen's Gradiva", 1907a, too, it is an aesthetic point that is being made about the work, namely that there is enough detail of the right kind to allow interpretation of the products of the main character's unconscious and his 'cure'. Contrary to some criticism, Freud is not confusing fiction with reality; in general, he is less interested in any spiritual content than in how it is manifested.

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