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Knowing Your Place

When Enough is Enough

Donald Winnicott’s concept of the good enough mother has endured past its psychoanalytic origins, gaining an unusual level of popularity since its first airing in 1953. No wonder, as Winnicott offers a logical and reasoned rebuttal to the unachievable concept of the perfect mother: A mother is neither good nor bad nor the product of illusion, but […]

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The Beat of a Different Drum

The basic premise of Dirty Looks is that other people matter, that our relations with other people have serious consequences for our health, wealth, happiness, education, attitudes and politics. The theoretical premise is that the relational world has its own rationale, it own rules of engagement, compared to other forms of regulation (legal, temporal, cultural, […]

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Knowing Your Place

An Awareness of What is Missing, Part 2

In their introductory chapter to the collection of the same name, Michael Reder and Josef Schmidt connect Habermas and his ‘awareness of what is missing’ to other thinkers such as Ernst Bloch, Theodor Adorno and most notably Bertolt Brecht (pictured).The Brecht link makes sense (there’s a link there also to Bloch): although Habermas never makes […]

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An Awareness of What is Missing, Part 1

Recent discussion over reason and religion has been so overshadowed by the work of Richard Dawkins and his ilk, that it might surprise some to suggest a debate could ever take place between the two. It might be the case that such debates have a tendency towards polarity, but the dead hand of fundamentalism on […]

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The Power of Words

As evidenced on this site numerous times, understanding the relational world has proven a challenge to the social sciences – for disciplinary as well as ideological reasons. It doesn’t help that it lacks its own discipline, relying instead on the half-empty promise of inter-disciplinarity to come to the rescue. Neither does it help that the […]

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Knowing Your Place

Faking It

The earning of respect and status comes with a price attached. Originally coined in the 1970s, the concept of ‘imposter syndrome’ has become a convenient way to encapsulate the dread that can oftentimes accompany success (at whatever level) – the sense of being undeserving and unworthy of glory and honour. This is normally shadowed by a […]

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Knowing Your Place Saving Face

The Stresses of Work

The workplace provides a fertile space for the relational world to weave its magic/unleash its misery. The set of relational senses – honour, respect, pride, envy, shame, humiliation, acceptance, belonging (some of the usual suspects) have a field day with the combination of close relationships, institutional hierarchy and the inevitable emphasis on relative status. As […]

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The Invisible Man, Part 3

The nature of social invisibility, a topic often ignored in intellectual circles, is starting to achieve some level of visibility for itself in the halls of academe. Much of this is a result of Axel Honneth’s pioneering work, an influence to the fore in a recent special edition of Distinktion: the Scandinavian Journal of Social […]

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Saving Face

The Invisible Man, Part 2

H. G. Wells’ short novel The Invisible Man was originally published in 1897, and was subsequently made into a horror movie in 1933, a film that stayed faithful to Wells’ original story. The Invisible Man (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia) The 1970’s Invisible Man series (with David McCallum), which portrayed the protagonist as a troubled but sympathetic […]

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Saving Face

The Invisible Man, Part 1

For all the trouble it brings, the omnipresent watchful gaze of the relational world does have its benefits. You get noticed, for one thing. This is a significant benefit of an intersubjective existence – no-one dislikes anything more than to remain invisible in a social world dependent on attention, acknowledgement and recognition. To be noticed by […]