The Spaces of Practices and Large Social Phenomena

Theodore Schatzki is a professor of Philosophy at the University of Kentucky, whose research and teaching deal with social ontology, theory of action, social theory, the philosophy of the social sciences, and 20th-century continental philosophy. He is the author of four books: Social Practices (1996), The Site of the Social (2002), Martin Heidegger: Theorist of Space (2007) and The Timespace of Human Activity (2010), and various other articles on Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and various topics in philosophy of action, social thought, and continental philosophy.

Below Prof. Schatzki delivers a lecture on ‘The Spaces of Practices and Large Social Phenomena’, as part of the 2011-2012 Alexander von Humboldt Lecture Series on “Spatial Practices”:

Abstract: This presentation argues that the spaces of large social phenomena are versions of the spaces of social practices, or rather, versions of the spaces of bundles of practices and material arrangements. It begins by discussing how practice-arrangement bundles both have and make spaces, differentiating between objective spaces and something called ‘activity space’. The presentation then explains how the spaces of such large phenomena as universities, economic systems, and international federations embrace the objective spaces, and draw on the interwoven activity spaces, of the practice-arrangement bundles they encompass. The talk concludes by disparaging the idea that society, or social life, is composed of levels, arguing that micro and macro phenomena, like small and large ones, are laid out in the same one plenum of linked practices and arrangements.

4 responses to “The Spaces of Practices and Large Social Phenomena

  1. After listening to this presentation/paper i couldn’t help get all nostalgic about Rorty. I was certainly digging the bit about “bundles of practices and arrangements” as a way to code the reciprocal but differential aspects of practice-as-activity and arrangements-as-materiality, but he kinda lost me as he went on with all his idiosyncratic terms and concepts. Why Rorty is relevant here is because this talk reminded me that a lot of academic theory-work is just trying out new ‘vocabularies’. Schatzki didn’t seem to be saying anything new of true importance that isn’t available in already existing ontologies and frameworks. His conceptual bundlings seemed to me just a re-working or re-framing via an explicit practice-vocabulary.

    So I’m wondering how much can be extracted from this for practical/tactical deployment? What are the ‘take-aways’ here?

    And did anyone get something other than concept-play out it? Please do tell…

    • I can see how this would sound very familiar to someone like yourself who has been deep into these lines of inquiry for some time but for all of his awkwardness Schatzki was a pivotal figure in the post-linguistic-turn “practice” turn and in some ways helped to get us out of the bibliophilia of folks like dear old Rorty and placed us back in the concrete/3D world.

      So I think in terms of laying out a kind of background for this project he is an important element in the mix, see: http://conceptsinsts.wikispaces.com/file/view/PracticeTurnInContemporaryTheory.pdf

      good to remember I think that most folks have not been turned on to practices/performances (are not yet post structuralist ) so I think that we still have to make the broader case with a variety of what Wittgenstein called inter-mediate cases.

      • Very good point. I think the problem I had with this particular talk was how abstract it was. He provided some good examples but the sheer amount of abstraction and conceptual play was a bit overwhelming for me in the moment. I plan on giving it one more go just to see what can be gleaned. Let me report back.

        What did you take from it Dirk?

  2. Pingback: The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory (2001) | synthetic_zero·

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