Theorizing Social Ideations: Beyond the Divide between Humanities and Social Sciences

This article briefly reviews the historical changes in the social theories of collective cognition/knowledge, and reveals a classical divide between two major, supposedly rival, paradigms that still influence mainstream studies, i.e., (1) the realist determinist; and (2) the subjectivist constructionist. This division has prevailed in both humanities and social-behavioral sciences until recent challenges by critical realism and synthesizing trends. In fact, a growing number of meta-theoretical speculations have recently advocated a conciliatory orientation conceptualizing social reality in terms of an interaction between social agency and social structure. However, a genuinely integrative trend is required to incorporate the ideational aspects of social realities into its agenda as a third dimension by acknowledging an ‘autonomous ontological status’ for ideation in relation to human agency and social structures. Nevertheless, due to current global changes and the consequent emerging modes of consciousness, there is a need to reformulate our notions of knowledge and cognition under a new concept; what I refer to here as ‘social ideation’. ‘Social ideation’ sits within a multidimensional and comprehensive model in which the complexity of the concept and the autonomy of its ontological status are well recognized. Finally, the article outlines a new approach, titled ‘social ideation studies’ (SIS) which constitutes a meta-theoretical base for integrative and interdisciplinary studies.

Read the full-text Theorizing Social Ideations

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Transversality in Diversity: Experiencing Networks of Confusion and Convergence in the World Social Forum

Hosseini, S. A. H. (2015). “Transversality in Diversity: Experiencing Networks of Confusion and Convergence in the World Social Forum.” International and Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Sciences, 4(1), 54-87.

Abstract

Drawing on the World Social Forum as an exemplary case study, this article shows how an emerging mode of cosmopolitanist vision (‘transversalism’) can be explained in terms of activists’ experiences of both complexity and contradiction in their networks. The paper questions the idea that the transnationalization of networks of solidarity and interconnection can uncomplicatedly encourage the growth of cosmopolitanism among global justice activists. Activists’ experiences of dissonances between their ideals, the complexity of power relations and the structural uncertainties in their global justice networks can provide them with a base for self-reflexive ideation and deliberation, and thereby encourage agendas for accommodating differences. Underpinning the accommodating measures which arise for dealing with such a cognitive-practical dissonance is a new mode of cosmopolitanism, coined here as ‘transversalism’. The article proposes a new conceptual framework and an analytical model to investigate the complexity of this process more inclusively and systematically.

Keywords

transversalism; transversality; global justice networks; cosmopolitanism; world social forum; dissonance; social movements

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17583/rimcis.2015.03

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Alternative Globalizations – cited in Globalization 230 Most Asked Questions on Globalization

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Capital and Its Alternatives: Why capital in 21st century needs a better definition

PDF copy: Capital and Its Alternatives

David Harvey in his short criticism of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in 21 Century, rightfully questions Piketty’s definition of ‘capital’ as one of his central difficulties:

“Capital is a process not a thing. It is a process of circulation in which money is used to make more money often, but not exclusively through the exploitation of labor power. Piketty defines capital as the stock of all assets held by private individuals, corporations and governments that can be traded in the market no matter whether these assets are being used or not. This includes land, real estate and intellectual property rights as well as my art and jewelry collection. How to determine the value of all of these things is a difficult technical problem that has no agreed upon solution.”

However, David Harvey’s definition capital remains very much influenced by its 19th century Marxian understanding of industrial capitalism. In 21st century, capital deserves a more comprehensive and a more representative definition than just a process in which money makes more money through production relations. I, therefore, propose the following definition:

Capital is a ‘social process‘ , through which surplus value is produced and controlled by ‘unsustainable’ and ‘un-sovereign’ ways of exploiting labor (both manual and intellectual), land (and other commons), nature (non-renewable sources of energy and the earth’s bio-capacity including climate), and societal cohesion/solidarity (from the level of household to the world community level).

Capital is a social process and not just an economic one, since it involves specific sociocultural and political modes of sociability as well as particular modes of livelihood. It is based on exploitation rather than ‘self-sustaining use’ of human and natural resources. Here, ‘exploitation’ is distinguished from ‘use’, since the former makes (1) the resources to lose their capacity to be sustainability reproduced over generations, and (2)  the communities to lose their capacity to ‘determine’ the levels and ways of use democratically and autonomously.

Thus, a comprehensive analysis of capital and capitalist systems requires not only the theorization of the exploitation of labor, land and nature through the processes of production (the first dimension of exploitation), but also of financial speculations, enclosures and hoardings, that are determined undemocratically through the chaotic interplay between the uncertainty of market mechanisms and the plutocratic influences of financial monopolies or corporate powerhouses. The latter includes what David Harvey calls ‘capital strike’ used by monopolies to cause “artificial scarcity” and thereby increase the “rate of return” or what I would like to call in more general terms, ‘spurious surplus’, which has real impacts on real production processes. Despite acknowledging this fact, Harvey (unlike Piketty) unjustifiably excludes the latter process of producing spurious surplus from his definition of capital!:

Money, land, real estate and plant and equipment that are not being used productively are not capital. If the rate of return on the capital that is being used is high then this is because a part of capital is withdrawn from circulation and in effect goes on strike.

The withdrawal of capital from productive circulation is part of (and has become increasingly a significant component of) today’s capital. This is because, according to our new definition of capital, even ‘capital strikes’ are about creating and controlling surplus (no matter how spurious it is) and it prevents democratic determination and sustainable use of resources associated with the withdrawn capital.

Accordingly, ‘alternatives to capital’, from this point of view, consist of a broad range of approaches from reformist orientations to democratic social regulations of ‘capital’ (like post/Keynesian visions), to antipodal alternatives to the existence of capital (like anti-market, anti-trade initiatives).

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Citation: Hosseini, S. A. H. (2015). “Capital and Its Alternatives: Why capital in 21st century needs a better definition.” GlobalAlternativesWordpress.com, Retrieved 22 Feb 2015, from https://globalalternatives.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/capital-and-its-alternatives/

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Major issues confronting academics

My Statement (Nomination for the University Council 2014-2016)

I believe that the purposes of academia cannot be realized without the freedom of inquiry, workplace democracy, and fairness in the distribution of opportunities. Unfortunately, our universities have become increasingly under assault by the forces of ‘austerity’, ‘commercialization’, and ‘corporatization’. Sustainable improvement is possible only in an equitable and empowering environment, especially for those who carry the chief burdens of teaching and research. As a diligent council member and a member of NTEU, with a practical sense of the emerging challenges, I will raise voices of colleagues otherwise unheard, will strive to reduce disparities and advocate for greater autonomy through proposing new initiatives such as participatory budgeting, consultative decision-makings, meaningful course/teaching evaluations, a systemic assessment of the management by the staff for stronger mutual accountability, adjustment of ‘performance expectations’ against the existing levels of ‘support’, and the liberation of academic promotions from financial/administrative constraints. It’s time to start thinking of alternatives.

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My responses to the NTEU questions (link to NTEU’s website):

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Joseph Stiglitz: The price of inequality

Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel prize winning economist, warns that the trend towards inequality is rising worldwide. So what’s causing it? Why is it on the increase and what are the consequences?

* Duration 54:27, Play Position: 49:52

* Published 4/11/14 8:05:00 PM

* Episode Download Link: http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2014/11/bia_20141104.mp3

* Show Notes: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bigideas/joseph-stiglitz/5833266

* Podcast Feed: Big Ideas – Full program podcast (http://www.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/feeds/bia.xml)

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