Adam Kotsko on Social Constructs

Without the notion of ‘social constructs’ as “real” affective assemblages in the world our cognitive navigational mappings will remain just so many unreflexive reactions to banal perceptions of mere objects.

Social constructs and their associated schematic prompts are not simple objects with simple location, but rather enacted distributed networks involving brains, social tokens (symbols) with semiotic relation (language, semantics), ecosystems, infrastructures, and practices/habits. That we can’t point to one thing to say “this is a social construct” or “this is a narrative” does not mean these assemblages are incapable of affecting causal flows as territorializing attractors with distributed intensive and extensive properties. And so we need bridging language and concepts like ‘social constructs’ to better understand how these kinds of generative hyper-objects and compositional matrices operate beyond simple location.

What we call the Real is not simply some litany of discrete objects available to banal human perceptions, but a mangled and messy combination of properties and gross (material) to subtle (informational) relations that generate action.

The mainstream debate about social constructs shows how deeply engrained individualism is in the American psyche. From an individualist viewpoint, there are two categories that a claim to knowledge can fall into: objective (existing “out there” in the real world) or subjective (all in your head). The concept of a social construct points toward a […]

via A periodic reminder about social constructs — An und für sich

4 responses to “Adam Kotsko on Social Constructs

  1. As Nietzsche would say,

    All the stupidity and the arbitrariness of the laws, all the pain of initiations, the whole perverse apparatus of repression and education, the red-hot irons, and the atrocious procedures have only this meaning: to breed man, to mark him in his flesh, to render him capable of alliance, to form him within the debtor-credit relation, which both sides turns out to be a matter of memory – a memory straining toward the future. (On the Genealogy of Morals, p. 190)

    • Yeah, Agreed. That first attempt was in haste and mostly “hideously inarticulate and vapid”. I tried to fix it, so I hope that works better for you. The issue is trying to find words and phrasings that suggest a different way of thinking about things that are not “things” at all, but still part of an assemblage with causal efficacy. Sometimes I fail miserably.

  2. “The anthropocene is an assemblage of scaled transformations from micro trace elements, to visible material fragmentations to concepts that permeate and destabilize our modes of thought… From pigments to plastics, concrete and technology, the materialities of art are a re-mineralisng to represent, capture, access and store the various modes of affect to which the human condition is linked and exposed.”

    https://abstractgeology.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/fossils-of-affect-art-and-materiality-in-the-anthropocene/

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