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Caliifornia State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: August 31, 2001
Latest Update: September 4, 2001


Lecture Notes
from Week of August 27, 2001 Week 1

Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors: August 2001. "Fair use" encouraged.

Remembering What I Think I Said
In Class This Week

The first week of classes is always hectic, and, of course, I didn't get to keep notes in my journal, so I've forgotten some of what I lectured on. That's why we keep journals. If you remember something I've missed, e-mail me, and I'll be glad to include it.

These are all basic sociological concepts we will need for discussions in all our classes.


  • Agency and structural context.
    • Quick and oversimplified definitions:
      • Agency is the power to make decisions that can and do have an effect.
      • Structural context is the infrastructure of the social group to which we belong, as it constrains our agency to make personal choices.

    • Teaching essays on agency and structural context:

  • Adversarialism and Mutuality
    • Quick and oversimplified definitions:

      • Adversarial paradigm. A paradigm is a model. And an adversary is an enemy of someone we struggle against, who is somehow opposed to us. The adversarial paradigm of which Fellman speaks is a model of our social system in which we treat each other as adversaries, as though it's each person for her/himself. It's a competitive model. It's a good model for the corporate model today.

      • Mutuality paradigm. Mutuality is a concept of sharing, reaching out to others, of recognizing that humans live in social groups, and respecting others as humans. the mutuality paradigm of which Fellman speaks is a model of our social system in which we respect each other as interdependent, and respectthe social nature of humans, believing that all have human rights.

    • Teaching essays on adversarialism and mutuality:

  • Paradigm Shift
    • Quick and oversimplified definition:

      • A paradigm shift is a change from one model to another. This is not usually accomplished suddenly, especially when we are talking about the construction of our social system. Thus, Fellman speaks of a shift in our system from one of adversarialism to one of mutuality. He is not suggesting that we choose between adversarialism and mutuality. He is suggesting that we achieve a better balance between the two, recognizing that we need both.

  • Imaginary
    • Quick and oversimplified definition:

      • Imaginary. As I am using the term, imaginary means the facility to imagine beyond the constraints of what we know and have known. We are constrained by the dominant discourse, by our collective normative expectations, and most of us are complicit with those constraints. We accept them. Yet The Wright brothers were able to conceive of humans flying. Einstein was able to conceive of relativity. They refused to be complicit in the dominant discourse belief that what we "know" is the way things must be.

        Fellman describes this as our belief that "what we know" is "inevitable." It has to be that way. (Rambo and the Dalai Lama, p. xx.) The imaginary is the ability to break out of that "inevitable" constraint and to choose to approach the issue from a different perspective. Breaking out of the complicity of the constraints of the dominant discourse is one way of establishing a paradigm shift.

    • Teaching essays on the imaginary:

  • The Enlightenment

    • Quick and oversimplified definition:

      • Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was the goal of modernism. The scientific method and human understanding of the natural and the social sciences were viewed as answers to the suffering of the poor and unfortunate. Modern learning was to replace superstition and magic by knowledge, and was to usher in a Utopia in which there would peace and plenty for all. The Nazi holocaust and the Second World War was the beginning of the end for these illusions. Knowledge could serve evil and exploitation as well as good and community sharing. [This illusion had already set in amongst some European intellectuals (like Virginia and Leonard Woolf and T.S. Eliot and the Bloomsbury group in England) with the First World War.]

      • Teaching essays on the imaginary:

  • Dominant Discourse:
    • Quick and oversimplified definition:

      • Dominant Discourse. This is a difficult concept to catch. The French have a phrase for it: "idees dans l'air": "ideas floating in the air." An English phrase that catches the spirit is "Everybody knows" . . . "that the earth is flat and you could fall off the edge," for instance. A discourse is a conversation, an exchange of ideas, usually with the idea of an on-going exchange in which the predominant trait is argument, rational by the standards of the structural context in which it occurs.

        Now, "dominant" crept into the above definition in the phrase "rational by the standards of the structural context in which it occurs." What I mean by that, is that if you lived in the 14th Century it would have been rational to speak of falling off the edge of the earth. In the 20th Century with evidence of the universe before us, that was hardly a "rational" position. So "rational" is relative to the structural setting.

        "Dominant" is best represented by the phrase "everyone knows" as an indicator of the normative expectations of the structural context in which you find yourself. As a young child in New Orleans I lived in a structural setting in which Catholics practiced Voodoo, real voodoo replete with little dolls and pins. My mother, a Catholic, considered this pagan and irrational. But my mother was an Irish Catholic from New York. In her structural setting her conclusions were valid. But they were not valid in New Orleans, where indigenous cultures shared the structural context with the colonizing Catholics.

        Habermas' communicative action places great faith in "rational" discussion in the "public sphere." Habermas' hope that we can find ways in which to live together peacefully, that is, without killing each other, depends to a great extent on rational discourse, and rational discourse is affected by the dominant discourse of the structural setting in which it occurs. You can see why the concept of "dominant discourse" is complex to define. We'll need to take all the different structural contexts into account in trying to understand the balance of instrumental and socio-emotional components involved in the normative beliefs and values of the social group in question.

      • Teaching essays on the imaginary:

        • Bales' Interaction Process Analysis (IPA) on measures of instrumental and socio-emotional leadership in face-to-face group interaction. Includes use of the IPA as it relates to standards of grading in learning.

    • Yet to Come:
      • Postcolonialism