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In the presence of absence: (Not) only the lonely

Loneliness has been in and out of the news in the past year, accompanied by headlines such as ‘a silent plague that is hurting young people’ and ‘loneliness is killing us’. This last item includes the doctor’s warning that ‘lonely people are nearly twice as likely to die prematurely as those who do not suffer […]

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Looking for the magic: Sartre on affect

Sartre was rightly fascinated by the power of emotions in human life – as portrayed in his play No Exit. He even wrote a short book on the topic Sketch for a theory of the emotions (originally published in French in 1939), which provides a reasonably clear account of his existential take on affect and […]

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Knowing Your Place Uncategorized

How do we come to know our place?

This is the question Douglas Robertson asks in his recently published article Knowing Your Place: The Formation and Sustenance of Class-Based Place Identity. Robertson utilises Bourdieu’s theory of practice in an attempt to understand the role of place in the formation of class identities, using empirical data generated from studies in the Scottish city of Stirling. Here’s […]

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Where do you go beyond structure and agency?

In his book The structure of social theory, Anthony King argues that understandings  of society need to go beyond the restrictive dualism of structure and agency – a dualism that according to him takes us too far away from human relations and leaves sociology marooned in the mythical state of the lone individual. Contemporary social […]

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What did Hegel mean by Geist?

In his excellent book The structure of social theory, Anthony King does the social sciences a big favour by taking on the might of the restrictive paradigm that is structure and agency. I’ll come back to some of King’s core ideas in later posts, but for this post I want to focus on the chapter […]

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Keeping Score

Judgement Day

In a previous post, I discussed the role of relational conversion via religious institutions, making the argument that religion to a great extent has succeeded in making the invisible but watchful presence (see also the post Wrapt in a brown mantle) that is the relational world codified and organised – made it visible.  The pomp […]

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Saving Face

Being taken seriously

If the land of confusion does exist, more likely than not it reserves a special place for the concept of serious. It’s common to hear people state their desire to be taken seriously – in life, in the workplace, in their social circles generally. It’s especially evident when people feel they are not being taken […]

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“A Butterfly Fixed to a Cork”

Martin Jay, in an excellent paper ‘Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and the search for a new ontology of sight’ (itself part of a superb set of essays Modernity and the hegemony of vision, edited by David Levin), takes Sartre to task for being unable to escape the shadow of Cartesianism. For all his talk of situating consciousness in […]

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Knowing Your Place

Wrapt In a Brown Mantle

The line ‘wrapt in a brown mantle’ is taken from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land. It is part of a section (lines 359-365) that was inspired by an experience Sir Ernest Shackleton had on one of his expeditions. Detailed in his book South, Shackleton describes how he was convinced that he and his colleagues […]

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Knowing Your Place Uncategorized

The Desire to be Desired

Love is a relational emotion as central to the human condition as the need for physical sustenance.  It is an emotion inescapable in both public and private life, with much of popular entertainment devoted to romance and relationships. But its ubiquity is no guarantee of understanding – love is still viewed as a mysterious force […]