All entries for Friday 14 March 2008

March 14, 2008

2.3 and 2.4

We gave up on the book group today as only two of us had actually read the relevant parts.

2.3 What Is a "Social Imaginary"?

Taylor introduces properly his idea of the "social imaginary" that he has referred to previously. It's the way "ordinary people 'imagine' their social surroundings, and this is often not expressed in theoretical terms" and is "that common understanding which makes possible common practices". 

He clarifies the idea with some examples; highlighting the sense of moral order and sense of realisability that must be present. He then looks at how theories can "infiltrate" the social imaginary and (interestingly) visa versa.

I found this section very interesting. For those who have read Taylor's other books (so Mark): presumably he is oversimplifying his ideas here; there must be a many social imaginaries - think trivially of the way conservatives and liberals view the world - held by different members of society (although there may be significant commonality)?

The idea of "social imaginary" immediately suggested to me a notion of "religious imaginary": with theology(?) playing the complementary role of 'theory'. Do you think this works? Does anyone know if any thinkers have taken this approach?  I recall Luke Timothy Johnson looking back at the history of the (Catholic) Church and interactions of elites/common people but that's not quite the same.

2.4 The Economy as Objectified Reality.

By this section the coffee had worn off so what follows shouldn't be trusted. Oh and there were continual references to Grotian-Lokean theories etc. which didn't help.

It seemed in this section he should have traced how "the economy" followed the process in 2.3: from theory to popular background. Instead we are treated to a discussion of "invisible hand" factors, Lokean theory and unnecessary comparisons to Kant. The entire section could have been trimmed down to "the economy being seen more and more as the dominant end of society". I'm not convinced any of this was or is part of the social imaginaries then or now. 

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The collaborative weblog for Mark Bratton’s Reading Group. Currently we are reading A Secular Age by Charles Taylor which we hope to finish sometime before the end of the decade.


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  • Thank you very much James for this helpful summary. Regarding the 'middle condition' Taylor (if I re… by on this entry

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