Taking the Popular Wisdom Seriously is a Little Disturbing, No?

Dylann Roof, suspect convicted of Charleston Shooting

As a quick following-up to this morning’s earlier post on how quickly we tend to conclude, but only in some cases, that certain gunmen in mass shootings are “lone wolves” (whose actions couldn’t be anticipated), it occurred to me that there’s a largely unseen ramification to attributing individual, psychological motives to the actions of white guys as opposed to the ease with which many of us seem to attribute planned, political motives to pretty much everyone else who does something heinous. Continue reading “Taking the Popular Wisdom Seriously is a Little Disturbing, No?”

How Many Lone Wolves Does it Take to Make a Pack?

Photo of suspect in Las Vegas mass shooting

Yes, that’s the photo of 64 year old Stephen Paddock, the now dead suspect in last night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.

At present, 50 people are reported killed, at an outdoor concert, with over 100 injured. (Learn more at the New York Times.) Continue reading “How Many Lone Wolves Does it Take to Make a Pack?”

The Individual as Product and Producer

anthony-giddens

Every research investigation in the social sciences or history is involved in relating action to structure, in tracing, explicitly or otherwise, the conjunction or disjunctions of intended and unintended consequences of activity and how these affect the fate of individuals…. For the permutations of influences are endless, and there is no sense in which structure ‘determines’ action or vice versa. The nature of the constrains to which individuals are subject, the uses to which they put the capacities they have and the forms of knowledgability they display are all themselves manifestly historically variable. (p. 219)

Giddens makes an important point here, one frequently overlooked by scholars who emphasize either agency or structure in their work, and thereby failing to understand the two as heads and tails of the same situated, historical complex. Continue reading “The Individual as Product and Producer”

You Made Me the Individual That I Am Today

driverstestA story the other day on National Public Radio’s morning show was on the US Republican party’s ongoing efforts to recruit more voters from the Latina/o community.

Give it a listen. Continue reading “You Made Me the Individual That I Am Today”

“You’d Never Ever Phone Up a Friend and Say ‘Hey, Come on Over to My House; Let’s Go on the Internet Together’.”

Picture 1The author Douglas Coupland — who you might remember from his bestselling first novel, Generation X (1991) — was interviewed the other morning on the radio, about his new book, Kitten Clone: Inside Alcatel Lucent, a look into one of the world’s largest telecomm companies.

For some time I’ve been thinking about the normative model of the lone individual (one that’s as much in keeping with Rousseau’s notion of society being the result of separate citizens making agreements with each other as it is with a modern economic theorist’s notion of lone consumers all making rational choices) that is usually presupposed when it comes to warnings about the effects of the internet — and this interview made this all very apparent. For who’s to say what ought to count as an individual? For at least in the U.S., corporations and fetuses now seem to have the status — evidence that there’s an arm wrestling match going on right now over the limits of what counts as a person. (The fact that “we” even debate it should be sufficient evidence to dispel with the notion of individuality as actually describing anything other than the ongoing debate itself.) Continue reading ““You’d Never Ever Phone Up a Friend and Say ‘Hey, Come on Over to My House; Let’s Go on the Internet Together’.””

The Return of the Self

Picture 11Something interesting took place in the late 18th century; although we were already seeing books on such topics as self-denial, self-ignorance, and self-condemnation, a prior, declining discourse on the self seems to have been re-purposed and successfully connected to two other, equally prior, discourses that had, up until then, been of little consequence: the discourse on the individual and the discourse on experience. Continue reading “The Return of the Self”

Why Durkheim Was Right: On the Perils of Being a Young, Cute Shoplifter

Shoplifting Gum

In yet another entry from the annals of my parenting adventures, a particularly memorable event has always served me well as a reminder of Durkheim’s claim that the beliefs that we often perceive to be so central to our identities are often arrived at only after sufficient (and usually physical) conditioning creates them. Continue reading “Why Durkheim Was Right: On the Perils of Being a Young, Cute Shoplifter”

“What’s Regular For You?”

6029203887_4ae9a1ff1c_zA few years ago, when our main annual conference was held in Toronto, I walked into a Starbucks downtown, on my way to the convention centre (yes, that’s how Canadians spell it — deal with it). Apart from the curious (though once familiar) experience of all of us standing in a single line and then moving to one of the three open registers each in our turn (instead of my experience here in Tuscaloosa, where it’s each consumer for him/herself once a cashier opens), there was another moment in which the practical conditions of day-to-day life in TO (yeah, that’s what people in the know call it) made evident that a rather different sense of the the subject — of the individual-in-relation-to-the-group — was in operation north of the border.

Continue reading ““What’s Regular For You?””