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Latest update: July 17, 1999
Faculty on the Site.

Problems with Recognition of Identity in the Academy
Calhoun's Discussion of "Administered" Society
Koster's Tirade
Reference Sources

Calhoun's Discussion of the "Administered" Society

by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata

"Administered" society is a term we have borrowed from Craig Calhoun. He uses it in his interpretation of Habermas' concern over the extent to which the public today is prepared to carry on public discourse. Habermas' concept of legitimacy through good faith discourse requires the synthesis of many factors.

Habermas believes sincerely in rational discourse, in our ability to think and talk our way through the crises of community and individual needs and freedoms. But he is a philosopher, with little experience of the nuts and bolts of making discourse happen, on all levels, like our site.

Calhoun reminds us that much of our work experience has shifted from doing and making things to servicing things and supervising people. Manufacturing jobs are still disappearing. Work is changing. Calhoun describes Habermas' thinking thus: "[T]he boundaries between state and society had been increasingly collapsed," Habermas thought, " . . . Social decisions were increasingly removed from the rational-critical discourse of citizens in the political public sphere and made the province of negotiation (rather than discourse proper) among bureaucrats, credentialed experts, and interest group elites."

A professor on one of our campuses was recently overheard to say: "It used to be that we told the registrar what to do about students' grades. Now the registrar tells us what to do." We understand this as an example of the administered society, and as illustrative of how the public has come to accept being "supervised," told what to do, instead of working together to govern its own behavior.

Koster's article

Comments on "Chomsky and the Reconstruction of Reason" by Jan Koster

"A Platonist believes in the immutability of structure, not in the immutability of our understanding of structure Most philosophically inclined high-school students --as both Michel Albert and I remember it (from independent experience at two different continents)-- will ask themselves sooner or later if not all of reality is only a dream, an illusion or even a hallucination. Strictly speaking, the claim that all of reality is a dream cannot conclusively be refuted. However, few people at a more mature age (or outside the arts) will continue to believe that reality is only a dream. "

Comments: Yes, but reality need not be one or the other. There can be a structure that forms a foundation around which we function - but we are interdependent in constructing the soft tissue around that structure, and we cannot be certain, as Koster himself reminds us of what that structure might be.

Quote from Pornography.

Back to Koster, I think. "Although philosophers like Rorty have tried to distance themselves from relativism and the postmodern banalities found in large segments of the humanities, their resistance to the decline of objectivity is weak and the relative subtleties of their voice lost to the noisy ignorance of the "poststructuralist" academic crowds. " But that's the same problem we all have. It's that crowd that took the empiricism and reality too far.

More to come . . . July 17, 1999

Problems with Recognition of Identity in the Academy

by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Part of the Narrative of Learning Identity
Copyright: July 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.

Narratve and learning identity have been primary in our concerns with dealing with today's student. Both "narrative" and "identity" are terms that have been adapted to a variety of disciplines in a variety of contexts. In this brief essay, we want to focus on Craig Calhoun's description of the fact that the "morally charged subjectivity [of identity] is not in all respects uniquely modern", [though that] "does not stop it from being distinctively modern." (op.cit., at p. 194) What we understand by that is elaborated further by Calhoun in the context of recognition of identity as the recognition of our "self-knowledge," our self-image by the authoritative context in which that self functions. Calhoun gives as an example the validation of the Bishops of the Catholic Church by the symbols of their office and their recognition by the authoritative body of the Church and those who acknowledge it. Calhoun cites Bourdieu: "[T]he clariity of earlier identity schemes . . . has allowed schemes of understanding and normative order to appear as doxic, as simply given, rather than merely orthodox, or authoritatively defended, let alone heterodox and implicitly contested. (citation omitted; quoting from Calhoun, op.cit, at p. 195.

Through most of our work, through the Amsterdam paper on the co-optation of programs designed for minorities, through our elaboration of writing techniques and critical thinking techniques for what were generally referred to as non-traditional students, we were concerned primarily about discrimination, about labeling or self-fulfilling prophecy effects as the non-traditional student tried to express a new narrative of learning, define a new normative order. Status characteristic theory (Cohen, cite Formal Theory in Sociology), Katz' work with bi-racial groups, reported in Social Class, Race, and Psychological Development, and recent material on expectation theory (should support - need citations) led us to the concern for redefining and gaining recognition for an identity within a hostile expectation climate.

We spoke of deconstruction in the sense of providing students with opportunities to perform which contradicted the negative expectations that were commonly voiced within the academy and in the press with respect to "non-traditional students. Much of our recent work with criminology theory has led us to recognize, as Calhoun is saying, than no identities are stable and safe anymore in the postmodern era. But part of the problem that has been encountered in higher education with the non-traditional student stems not from the non-traditional student him/herself and the identity he/she is trying to narrate, fit to the more traditional normative ordering patterns propagated by the institution, and have recognized. Part of the problem stems from the identity instability of the faculty, the professionals of the academy, whose professionalism has been denied, who have been maligned publicly in the press and by the dissipation of their faculty governance system.

This means that not only do we have to take into account the bright rat/dull rat dichotomy of self-fulfilling prophecy that Tolman so thoroughly illustrated, but we must also take into account that the bright rat/dull rat syndrom is now being applied to faculty and is causing major instability in the interdependent relationships of teacher and student in the academy. Bright rat=corporate manage, profit producer; dull rat=expensive senior worker.

This is a draft process text. . . We will be developing it. . . July 17, 1999


Craig Calhoun Critical Social Theory: Culture, History, and the Challenge of Difference. Blackwell, Oxford, UK. 1995. At p. 31.

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