Thursday, January 3, 2013

Note on Social Weakness and Strenght #1

Social "weakness" and "strength" are always relational to the burden society has been historically and socially determined to bear. A persons social weakness/strength depends on that persons ability to preform the tasks  the dominant ideology (consciously and unconsciously determined by the dominant class) considers socially necessary. Images and ideas about strength and weakness appear as quasi-objective measures of something essential to every human society, veiling the socially constructed and historically determined reality of it.

To see how strength/weakness is relational to the tasks that happen to be at hand, one need only look at the world of sports. When commentators and experts speak of the "strengths" and "weaknesses" of the players in a soccer game, they are speaking purely about their ability to play soccer. If a commentator were to say, that among soccer player X's strengths is that he knows a lot about marine biology, that would appear as an absurdity. It's very obvious why that is the case, since player X's knowledge in the field of marine biology is largely irrelevant to his ability to act as a team player in the game of soccer.

This example only goes so far in describing social weakness and strength in society at large, though. In professional soccer games, it is necessary for all the players to have conscious knowledge of the rules and objectives of the game. Here, we are talking about a form of strength/weakness which is, while being an example of the categories of weakness/strength being relational, not descriptive of the form of social weakness/strength I am discussing here. A soccer game is very much a consciously controlled and regulated game. Rules are written down, positions are given to players, judges attempt to enforce the rules and positions, and players attempt to perform the objectives of the game in a way in which all the players, judges, trainers etc. have close to exact knowledge of. The weaknesses and strengths of the game of soccer is constructed consciously, while the weaknesses and strengths of everyday society is constructed at a deeper, subconscious level.

The sociologist Bourdieu famously said the “most successful ideological effects are those which have no need for words, and ask no more than complicitous silence”, and this is true for the ideological effects of social weakness and strength too. What is considered to be "strong" and "weak" appears objective, and we understand it without question. In other words, the relational, socially and historically constructed form of strength and weakness which is ideologically imposed upon the population by the dominant class appear as if it is a essential, trans-historical, and trans-societal measure of social ability. Unveiling the true nature behind what appears to be an objective measure of social ability, value and worth means creating an opportunity to transcend the limitations it imposes upon us, and to realize the social worth of all.

To be continued.

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