Pierre Bourdieu & Roger Chartier on false problems of sociology & history

ROGER CHARTIER: It seems to me that the social sciences – sociology, history, anthropology – are currently all occupied with the attempt to resolve a dilemma (which is perhaps a false problem anyway) between what dominated them in the 1960s, that is, approaches in terms of structures, hierarchies, objective positions, and, on the other hand, all of those attempts which /…/ desire to restore the actions, strategies and representations of individuals /…/ It is clear that in history, after the dominance of a social history aiming at exhibiting the objective hierarchies of a society, /…/ we are now geared to approaches that seek to conceie the roles of subjects. Hence the return to biography, the return to intentionality, /…/
I believe that this tension exists not only in history, but also in sociology. In the last book that you published, Choses dites, there is an interview that takes up this opposition – between structuralist approaches and all those others that have something in common with phenomenology, whether they are called interactionism, ethnomethodology or whatever – but only to declare it false or ineffective. It seems to me that for you /…/ these oppositions are largely false problems, but are non the less essential because they allow people readily to stand out and present an easy image of originality and innovation, while others, who remain loyal to structures, are dismissed as traditional or archaic. /…/

PIERRE BOURDIEU: /…/ if these false sociological problems, false scientific problems, persist, this is because they are often based on real social problems or on real social interests. For example, as you suggested, I believe that the majority of these oppositions between macro and micro, objective and subjective, and today, among historians, between economic analysis and political analysis, and so on, are false oppositions that do not resist three seconds of theoretical analysis, but that they are extremely important because they fulfil social functions for those who use them. For example, the scientific field unfortunately obeys laws of change that are completely similar to that of haute couture or that of the religious field. In other words, young people, new arrivals, start revolutions, create heresies, either real or pretend, and say: “Look, the oldies have all bored us in thirty years with economic history in the style of Labrousse and Braudel /…/” That’s exactly the same as dresses that are longer one year and shorter the year after…
Now, why are those problems false problems? /…/ First of all, there is Durkheim’s idea that sociology is difficult because we all see ourselves as sociologists. /…/ one of the obstacles to understanding is this illusion of immediate comprehension. One of the ways to break with it is to objectivize it. So we get that famous sentence thich was like a thunderclap in the world of science: “Social facts must be treated as things.”

Excerpt from Pierre Bourdieu & Roger Chartier, The sociologist & the historian (Polity 2015)

Jeffrey S. Librett on the “abstract historiography of the nonexistent present”; conclusions from “Orientalism and the Figure of the Jew” (2015)

I have reviewed important determinations of Orient and Occident, and within the figure of the Orient, its verious bifurcations into a “good” (appropriable) Orient and a “bad” (nonappropriable) one. We’ve seen that the nineteenth-century historicist thinkers invariably used the Christian construction of the Jewish-Christian relation, that is, supersessionist figuralism, as a model for their contructions of the Oriental-Occidental relation. In Enlightenment thinkers such as Lessing and Kant, whom I left in the background for reasons of space (though I treat them in detail elsewhere), the ahistorical ethical demand of tolerance interrupted supersessionist narratives to some extent, but at the cost of an abstraction that the historicists wanted to overcome. At the fare end of the historicist vogue, critical modernists such as Kafka, Freud or Mann made supersessionist Orientalist narratives the object of their irony, but likewise tooke their distance from the ahistorical formalism and moralism of the Enlightement.
We’ve seen further how the various nineteenth-century bifurcations of the Oriental prefiguration culminate moste destructively in the Semitic/Aryan split, and we’ve seen how this split tends to be doubled and shadowed in turn by a split between the “good Semite” and the “bad Semite” (a game we are still playing in the Middle East and in international publoic opinion today, with sad consequences for all). Thus, one of my main general points about the study of modern Orientalism /…/ has been that it cannot be pursued in isolation from the study of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism and vice versa. /…/
In philosophical and psychoanalytic /…/ terms, as we have seen, modern thinkers mobilize the determinations of the limits of East and West defensively in order to organize a whole series of binary oppositions. /…/
The most important, or fundamental, opposition in the series, which is an ontological one, is /…/ that between foundations and their lack. This is the case, I believe, both because in modernity absolute foundations are pervasively in question and because, with particular explicitness in modernity since Leibniz, to be without foundations is to be thought not to exist. /…/ I have argued that it tends to be precisely a panic, but in the psychoanalytic sense of an ego starting to dissolve in the absence of any ego ideal, and responding with an extreme hope and fear in urgent search of an elusive resolution. Fortunately, so to speak, Orientalism is there, in its various forms, /…/ to disavow the absence of absolute foundations and so to reassure “us” of “our own” existence! Unfortunately, as we have seen, one can never reassure oneself of the stability of one’s foundations by situating groundlessness elsewhere (e.g. in a pre-Orient or in the “bad” Orient), projecting it outward, because grounding and groundlessness interpenetrate. The use of ethnic or cultural identity categories for the sake of metaphysical assurances is both futile and destructive.
What we’ve found in the various readings /…/ is that there is a relatively simple set of metaphysical homologies in operation. To begin with ontology, the two levels of material and spiritual are most generally associated with groundlessness (or insubstantiality) and (self-)grounding (or substantiality), respectively. The East must end up being material, while the West is spiritual. This remains the general Orientalist program even though the typological tradition completes this scheme in a dialectical manner. That is, the anticipatorily and externally combined but still split excessive spirituality and excessive materiality of the East condemn it (like the simultaneity of Jewish abstraction and Jewish ceremonial-legalistic fetishism from a Christian point of view) to an ultimate materiality, whereas the synthesis and overcoming of these two excesses gives rise in the West to “concrete” spirituality, as spirituality “properly” so called, the “realization” of spirituality. And so, in modal categories, matter is associated in historicist Orientalisms with potential, or unfulfilled possibility, whereas spiritual form is reserved for realization, or the ultimate reality itself.
In the lagnuage of fundamental logical terms or principles, the equivalent of these oppositions is the binary of difference and identity, which rhetorical philosophy translates as figural and literal. /…/ Figuration (the “dead letter”) is the realm of difference /…/ whereas the literal represents the sphere os identity. And the Pauline and medieval doctrine of figura organizes the Jewish-Christian relationship (and later the East-West relationship) by combining the figural-literal opposition with the possibility-reality binary.
Further, in terms of what Kant called the forms of sense, space and time are bound of within this set of conceptual homologies as well. /…/ In temporal terms, the split duplicity of memory and anticipation (or pastness and futurity) constitutes the site of temporal nonidentity, while the unitary monologism of the pure present, or (As so prominently in Goethe) Augenblick, functions as temporal identity, self-assured existence, and so on.
In following the trajectory of modern German Orientalism, however, we have seen that none of the extreme terms of these binary oppositions can be plausibly made to correspond to given cultural phenomena, or to the givings and misgivings of human manifestation. /…/ We simply cannot have spirit (and the series of terms associated with it) in isolations from matter (and all the notions it traditionally implies). So how can we begin to reconfigure cultural historiography that it would dop what Hegel says no one ever does, namely, learn from (the mistakes of) historuy? The point would certainly not be to renounce historiography entirely /…/ for to embrace an ahistoricism would be to repeat the illusory ambitions of an exclusively synchronic analysis /…/ Rather, it’s still a matter of learning from the limitations of both Enlightenment formalist normativity and nineteenth-century historicism, and continuing to unfold the implications of advanced modernism for history. /…/
We begin with panic, or radical anxiety (i.e., “hope and fear”, as Spinoza put it): the acknowledgement that there is no absolute escape from the leaderless, foundationless position. /…/
Further, not only are cultural essentialisms /…/ patently false and uninteresting, but also methodological or discursive distinctions like that between a material – for example, political and social – history and a history of ideas (or cultural forms) are henceforth in principle untenable. This opens up new possibilities for the recombinations of materialist accounts with idealist ones, /…/ If the history of ideas is already a history of material foprms, and if matter and spirit is not thereby simply overcome, then new representational economies and recombinations become both possible and necessary.
Indeed, the very narrative structures of history become open to reconsideration when one reflects on the inadequacy of the ontological-modal schemas of possibility and realization, anticipation and fulfillment. For example, what it, on the one hand, no potentials are ever realized, /…/ because what comes later is also in one sense radically new? And what is, on the other hand, no reality or situation ever ceases to be shot through with potentialities (both for the future and from the past) that render it essentially other than it is? How would reflection on these specifically modal aporias – which introduce insettling discontinuities and continuities into history that are more resistant to monological description than the discontinuities Foucault pursued – alter our representations of individual works, epochs and developments in history?
Moreover, when one takes seriously the notion that there is (pace Goethe) no “present moment” or Augenblick (and thus no gaze) that is not dispersed into an endless multiplicity of pasts and futures, even while it remains radically separated from them, how will the adequate representation of a given moment in its originary diaspora proceed or take shape? If history hgas always attempted to describe a presumed (past) present or (present) past that, in fact, has never existed as such, then how will we write the history of a nonexistent present? To be sure, the inscription of the present in a temporal process has been the concern of historiography since the beginnings of historicism at the very least (perhaps all the way back to Herodotus, Thucydides, the Old Testament narratives, the Ramayana, etc.), not to mention oral traditions. Yet the passage beyond the model of a sequence of presents linked by various linear figures of potentiality and realization introduces /…/ difficult and important forms of narrative (dis)continuity.
let me nonetheless close with a few illustrative and illusive remarks on German Orientalism in the (nonexistent) present of what we call present-day Germany.
After the high modernist episode, the first thing that happens with historicist German Orientalism is that it explodes into World War II and the Shoah as the National Socialist assertion of the Aryan myth in its most extreme form. Under the Nazis this myth becomes the principle of the limitless colonization of a world they view as subject to an ever-growing threat of Semiticization. The National Socialist ideology identifies the Aryan racial principle with immediate positive presence, while it reduces the Semitic (and specifically the Jewish Semitic) principle to mediation, negativity and absence caused by representational excess, or (dis)figuration. /…/
Subsequent to the war, /…/ the Orient-Occident split continued to haunt German culture in various forms, such as its own division by the occupying powers into East and West, /…/ During this time, the East appeared to the West as a still precapitalist despotism destined to realize itself one day in capitalism, while the West appeared to the East as precommunist, in a reversal of East-West teleologies that retained the supersessionist (Hegelian-Marxist) narrative of a dialectivally attained freedom. /…/
Orientalist schemas and stereotypes from yesteryear persist in many respects, including the pressure to determine a “good”, assimilable, Oriental origin and a “bad”, nonassimilable, one. With respect to Turkish-German relations, this pressure takes innumerable concrete forms that I cannot specify here, sometimes, for example, by opposing a “good” Turkey to a “bad” one, sometimes by opposing a “good” Turkish Orient to another Orient designated in some sense as “bad” or the reverse.
The “bad” Orient always represents, here as elsewhere, the site of the projection of “bad” traits potentially characteristic of the West in general and Germany in particular. One sees here the same structure as the projection of Western sexism onto the Oriental despot in Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio, /…/
Another complex illustration is the contemporary Jewish-Christian or Jewish-German relation, which in turn (by comparison, contrast and competition) to some degree overdetermines and is overdetermined by the Turkish-German one on conceptual, historical and phantasmatic levels. Even apart from that overdetermination, the old question of “good” versus “bad” Orient repeats itself here in connection with the search for foundations, /…/ The foundation here understandably sought, then, is that of a clear conscience, as the possibility of an unashamed and un-self-conscious national-cultural self-assertion. And the “good” Semite would be precisely the mirror in which that clear conscience could catch a glimpse of iteself. In this situation, a certain desire to moralistically devalue and blame the Israelis in a sweeping manner as “bad” Semites, while exculpating the Palestinians as “good” Semites and victims of the Jews, is thus both supported /…/ and undermined /…/ To choose the more subtle and rational middle position, in favor of the maximally equitable reconciliation of a tragic conflict, leaves one exposed to the anxiety of both positions at once. /…/
Since Jews were associated by the Nazis both with capitalism and with bolshevism, one has two possible ways of trying to satisfy with respect to diasporal Judaism any conscious or half-conscious interest one may retain in compensatory identification with the murdered Jews. On the one hand, one can pursue the Western, and more specifically U.S. American cultural identification by way of New York and L.A. (as prominent sites of Jewish cultural production). This is one familiar tendency since the war and in our own times. On the other hand, one can (at least for a time one could) move in the direction of Marxist, Eastern European cultures, which are (or were) associated with a different sort of Jewish universalism and assimilation. (A certain Frankfurt School culture, for example, arguably participates in this phantasm.) Either way, however, one finds oneself potentially opposed to oneself through one’s very choice. /…/
Yet our historical representations of complicatedly temporal processual events are compelled to configure them in fragments characterized by a certain abstraction, just as our theoretical claims must materialize in forms marked by a degree of opacity that we will never overcome.

Excerpts from the concluding chapter of Jeffrey S. Librett, Orientalism and the Figure of the Jew (Fordham University Press, 2015)


Bland slavägarnas teoretiker förtjänar George Fitzhugh att särskilt uppmärksammas; i en mycket varsam och respektfull essä har Eugene D Genovese (1969:118-244) tilldelat honom rangen av att vara den som gav slavägarnas världsbild den slutliga formuleringen. /…/
Genovese framhåller att Södern var en särskild form av samhälle. /…/ Fithugh anser att kapitalismen och slaveriet är oförenliga, hans argumentation tar därför formen av en polemik mot Nordstaternas samhällssystem liksom mot kapitalismen som sådan. Han är också övertygad om att han har historien på sin sida i sin strävan att krossa kapitalismen; överallt i alla tider har någon form av slaveri eller andra ofria relationer existerat. Till kapitalisterna säger han om förhållandena i sin samtid (1960:106): ‘Er värld är inte en tiondel av hela världen och allt är fred, lugn och välstånd utanför den. Vi från Södern, och alla slavländer, vill inte ha någon ny värld.’ Och han talar om kapitalismen som ‘det lilla experimentet’, som inte kommer att bli annat än en parentes i mänsklighetens historia.
Plikten att beskydda de svaga innebär nödvändigheten att förslava dem. De svaga har på motsvarande sätt en naturgiven rätt till en herre, som kan beskydda dem. Slaveriet är grundat i naturen själv. /…/ ‘För att säkra ett sant framsteg måste vi befria begåvningen från bojorna och fjättra medelmåttigheten. Frihet åt fåtalet – slaveri i varje form för massan!’ utropar Fitzhugh /…/
Slaven och herren bildar en enhet, som utvecklar moral och mänsklighet hos båda. /…/
(Mot denna bakgrund fördömer Fitzhugh det romerska imperiets latifundier, eftersom de medförde en rumslig koncentration av slavar utan att dessa gavs någon möjlighet att träffa sin ägare.) /…/
Alla arbetare, såväl svarta som vita, bör bli slavar; dock hör knappast några svarta till dem som är lämpade att vara slavägare. Den konsekventa klasståndpunkten innebär också att det vore bättre för Gamla världens arbetarklass att åter bli livegen eller ännu hellre förslavad.
I likhet med vad som är fallet för Aristoteles är slaveriet för Fitzhugh således ett system grundat i naturliga skillnader mellan människor och av godo för såväl slaven som herren. Men Fitzhugh framhåller också att slaveriet är givet av Gud och att kristendomen i sin tur vilar på slaveriets existens.
Hans bild av slavsamhället utgör vidare utgångspunkten för kritiken mot kapitalismen: penningens välde, den fria marknaden och konkurrensen skapar fruktansvärda och djupt omoraliska relationer mellan människor.
Fitzhugh ser således mycket tydligt att de samhällen han diskuterar är klassamhällen, men klasserna är sprungna ur naturen och Gud – klasskamp förekommer endast i kaåitalismens förvridna, onaturliga och okristliga sociala relationer. /…/ Slavsamhället uppmuntrar till humanism, eftersom slavägaren måste ta väl hand om sina slavar av egoistiska skäl: dåligt skötta slavar sjunker i värde. Kapitalisten behöver däremot inte bekymra sig om sina anställda, utan intresserar sig bara för att exploatera dem.

ur avsnittet “Exkurs: En sociologi för södern” i Jan Ch. Karlssons avhandling Begreppet arbete. Definitioner, ideologier och sociala former (Arkiv förlag, 1986, andra upplaga 2013)


Positivismen kan generelt definieres som en videnskabelig holdning indenfor historie- og samfundsvidenskaberne, der hylder den antagelse, at man relativt uproblematisk kan anvende naturvidenskabelige metoder her /…/
Indenfor den økonomiske videnskab er det især Adam Smiths og Ricardos modeltænkning, altså anvendelsen af metoder fra den klassiske fysik, tankeeksperiment, idealisering, matematisk iklædning af lovmæssigheder, der bærer de naturvidenskabelige metoder frem indenfor samfundsvidenskaberne. Heroverfor står en helt anden opfattelse af den økonomiske videnskab, som er knyttet til forestillingen om politiske faktorers konstituerende indflytelse på bestemmelsen af økonomiens genstand. En sådan opfattelse karakteriserer den såkaldte ældre og yngre “historiske skole” indenfor den økonomiske videnskab.
“Den ældre skole” repræsenteres af navne som Roscher, Knies og Hildebrand, “den yngre historiske skole” af navnet Schmoller[2] især. Schmoller forsøgte i 70-erne og 80-erne af det 19-nde århundrede at skabe en alternativ økonomisk videbskab, det var knyttet til arbejderbevægelsen og i økonomien så en mulighet for at realisere etiske normer, der konkretiseres i retning af en forbetring af arbejderklassens vilkår gennem en integrering i det kapitalistiske system. Denne skole stiftede foreningen “Verein für Sozialpolitik, som også Max Weber var medlem af. /…/
Dette program gik ud på at afvise generelle love i den økonomiske videnskab. Love her var af en meget begrænset gyldighed.
De økonomiske fænomener og bevægelser bestemtes derimod efter Schmollers mening delvis af sociale og politiske faktorer. Derfor skulle den økonomiske videnskab holde sig fra præcist afgrænsede begreber, thi sådanne kunne først nås for enden af emnets egen udviklingsproces, der var betinget af politiske faktorer. I stedet for modeltænkning og deduktion skulle den økonomiske videnskab benytte sig af induktion, altså af empirisk generalisation, og derved nå til indsigt om visse lovmæssigheder, der ikke var af særlig universel karakter.
Denne opfattelse af den økonomiske videnskab hører naturligvis nøje sammen med den opfattelse af samfundet som bl.a. kommer till udtryck i Bernsteins och Kautskys revisionistiske socialdemokratisme.
Hertil hører Hilferdings teori om ‘den politiske løn’, altså tesen om, at lønnens størrelse bestemmes af arbejderklassens politiske styrke og ikke af værdiloven, altså ikke af forholdet mellem enkelt- og totalkapital som indeks på akkumulationsfondens og profittens størrelse.
[2] “Historisme” betyder en historisk forståelse, der vil forstå fortiden på dennes præmisser, og måle den med dens egne alen. Det betyder også en erkendelseteoretisk og videnskabsteoretisk holdning, der afviser en “transcendental”, altså eviggyldig, uhistorisk tilgang til det sande.
Denne betegnelse har ikke udelukkende “negativ” eller kritisk indhold. Begrebet “historicisme” er vel den angelsaksiske version av “historisme”, og har samme betydning, blot bruges ordet i en mere negativ sammenhæng. Med Popper er det blevet et skældsord mod en holdning indenfor historie- og samfundsvidenskaberne, som Popper vel nok selv i vid udstrækning har opfundet, men som af ukyndige alt for ofte problemløst forbindes med Marx’ og Mannheims skrifter. Denne negative betydning er blevet yderligere cementeret af Althusser, dog i et andet ærinde end Poppers.”

ur Ole Fogh Kirkeby: Kapitallogik og historie (Ruc Boghandel & Forlag 1975), s. 173–175, 220

Jacues Le Goff: Money and the middle ages (conclusions)

According to Karl Polanyi, the economy had no specificity in western society until the eighteenth century. It was, he said, embedded in what he called the labyrinth of social relations. I believe this observation to be equally true of the conceptions of the Middle Ages, which did not include the notion of economy, other than in the sense of domestic economy inherited from Aristotle, and I have tried in this book to show that this was true of money too. Money is notoriously difficult to define. As I indicated in my introduction, Albert Rigaudière has neatly demonstrated that the notion of money always eludes those who try to define it. The principal dictionaries bear witness to the difficulty of providing a precise definition: ‘[any sort of money] and by extension what this money represents: capital, funds, fortune, specie, cash, takings, resources, wealth, not counting colloquial expressions such as bread, dough, dosh…’ (Le Petit Robert, 2003 edition).

This absence of a medieval notion of money has to be seen in conjunction with the absence not only of a specific economic sphere, but also of economic theses or theories. Historians who attribute an economic thought to scholastic theologians or to the mendicant orders, particularly the Fransiscans, are guilty of anachronism. As a general rule, in most areas of individual or collective existence, medieval people behaved in ways that make them alien to us and which mean that contemporary historians need to turn to anthropology to inform their interpretations. This medieval ‘exoticism’ is particularly visible in the sphere of money. We have to substitute, for the general idea we have of it today, the medieval existence of many moneys, the minting, use and circulation of which expanded considerably in this period. It is difficult for us to appreciate the scale of this in the absence of adequate numerical sources from before the fourteenth century, and we are often ignorant of whether the money indicated in a source is metal coin or money of account.

The rise of money, especially from the twelfth century, during what Marc Bloch called the second feudal age, also permeated the institutions and practices we call feudalism. To oppose money and feudalism is to defy historical reality. The growth of money went together with the development of the whole of medieval social life. Though it was associated with the towns, money also circulated widely in the countryside. It benefited from the growth of trade, which is one of the reasons for the importance of the Italians in this sphere, including in northern Europe. The increasing use of money in the Middle Ages was also associated with the formation of princely and royal administrations, whose need for funds led to the creation, with varying degrees of success, of a range of taxes paid in cash. The greater presence of money in the Middle Ages took the form of a proliferation of currencies and it was only at a late stage, from the fourteenth century, and to a limited degree, that the use of these currencies was replaced by other means of exchange and of payment, such as the bill of exchange or the annuity. Further, even if the practice seems to have been less common at the end of the Middle Ages, types of thesaurization persisted, not only in the form of ingots but also and predominantly in the form of treasure and gold and silver objects.

It is also clear that, in parallel with a certain social and spiritual promotion of the merchant, the management of money benefited from a shift in the ideas and practices of the Church which, it seems, wished to assist the people of the Middle Ages in their desire to safeguard both their money and their lives, that is, both their earthly wealth and their eternal salvation. Given that, even in the absence of specific conceptions, a sphere like that of the economy existed outside of any consciousness of it on the part of the clergy and the laity, or rather lack of consciousness of it, I remain inclined to locate the use of money in the Middle Ages within a gift economy, money sharing in the general subordination of human beings to the grace of God. Two conceptions seem to me to have dominated the use of money in the Middle Ages in earthly practice: the search for justice, most notably found in the theory of the just price, and the spiritual requirement expressed by caritas.

It may be true that the medieval Church, in the course of time, was induced to rehabilitate those who handled money, if only on certain conditions, and that in the late fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries, within a restricted elite consisting of those we call the pre-humanists, wealth – and particularly wealth in money – was restored to respectability. It remains the case that, though it may have ceased to be accursed and infernal, money remained suspect throughout the Middle Ages. Lastly, I feel I need to spell out, like many famous historians before me, that capitalism was not born in the Middle Ages, and that the Middle Ages was not even a pre-capitalist age: the shortage of precious metals and the fragmentation of markets prevented the necessary preconditions from being realized. It was only in the period between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries that there took place the ‘great revolution’ which Paolo Prodi wrongly situated, as I have tried to show, in the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages, money, like economic power, had not liberated itself from the global value systems of Christian religion and society. The creativity of the Middle Ages lay elsewhere.

Jacques Le Goff: Money and the middle ages. An essay in historical anthropology (2012)
First published as Le Moyen Age et l’argent (2010).

Douglas Rushkoff on the self-help movement

By the 1960s, the German philosopher Herbert Marcuse had revived much of the spirit of Reich – this time for an audience already dissatisfied with the spiritual vacuum offered by consumerism. /…/
Marcuse became a hero to the real counterculture movement, and his words inspired the Weathermen, Vietnam War protests, and the Black Panthers. They saw consumerism as more than a way for corporations to make money; it was also a way to keep the masses docile while the government pursued an illegal war in Southeast Asia. /…/ But as Stew Albert, a cofounder of the anti-Vietnam war movement the Yippies, contended, the police state began in an individual person’s mind. People who sought to be engaged in political activism needed first to make themselves new and better people.
The counterculture and its psychologists again revived the spirit of Wilhelm Reich in the hopes of freeing people from the control of their own minds. To this end, in 1962 the Esalen Institute was founded on 127 acres of California coastline. The Institute hosted a wide range of workshops and lectures in an atmosphere of massage, hot tubs, and high-quality sex and drugs, all in the name of freeing people from repression. The Human Potential Movement – Renaissance individualistic humanism updated for the twentieth century – began in an explosion of new therapies. Fritz Perls taught people how to kick and scream while George Leonard conducted ‘encounter sessions’ between black and white radicals, and another with nuns from the Immaculate Heart Convent in Los Angeles – a majority of whom discovered their sexuality and quit the order immediately afterward.
Underlying all of this therapy and liberation was a single premise: Esalen hero Abraham Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’. The Brookly-born psychologist’s map for the individual’s journey to more liberated states of being held that people needed to fulfill their lower needs for food, shelter, and sex before they could work on higher ones such as self-esteem and confidence.s At the very top of Maslow’s pyramidal chart sits the ultimate human state: ‘self-actualization’. For Maslow and his followers, the goal of the self-actualizer was autonomy, independent of culture, environment, or extrinsic satisfactions. Agency, personal creativity, and self-expression defined the actualized ‘self’.
Like Dorothy embarking down the yellow-brick road to self-fulfillment, thousands flocked to the hot tubs of Esalen to find themselves and self-actualize. Instead of annihilating the illusion of a self, as Buddha suggested, the self-centered spirituality of Esalen led to a celebration of self as the source of all experience. Change the way you see the world, and the world changes. Kind of. Instead of fueling people to do something about the world, as the Weathermen and Yippies had hoped, spirituality became a way of changing one’s own perspective, one’s own experience, one’s own self. By pushing through to the other side of personal liberation, the descendants of Reich once again found self-adjustment the surest path to happiness. Anna Freud would have been proud. You are the problem, after all.
The self-improvement craze had begun. Instead of changing the world, people would learn to change themselves. Taking this as their central operating premise, the students of Fritz Perls, Aldous Huxley, and the other Esalen elders developed increasingly codified and process-driven methods of achieving seld-actualization. David Bandler introduced the Esalen crowd to what he called Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP. Part hypnosis, part behavioral therapy, NLP sees the human organism as a set of learned neural patterns and experiences. By reframing one’s core beliefs, a person can relearn reality. The NLP practitioner is a kind of hypnotist who can help reprogram his patients by changing their ‘anchors’, ‘associations’ and ‘body language’.
This work trickled down both directly and indirectly to Werner Erhard and Tony Robbins, who democratized these self-actualization technologies even further through their workshops for EST (now the Landmark Forum) and Unleash the Power Within. Erhard based his seminars on an insight he had gained as a used-car salesman: people weren’t buying cars from him at all – they were buying something else that they were simply projecting onto the car. When he was doing his sales job properly, he was just selling people back to themselves. So why not do this without the cars at all?
Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within seminars explicitly married self-improvement with wealth and power. By walking across hot coals, his seminar participants were supposedly demonstrating to themselves the power of mind over matter and, presumably, over money and other people. While the initial focus of this commercial form of NLP may be on self-hypnosis, one only needs as much of that as is necessary to justify the hypnosis of others. That’s why the focus of most NLP today is on applying it to sales, advertising, and even influencing jury selection and deliberation.
It’s not that the self-help movement solf out. It was sold out to begin with. /…/
Making money off the new spirituality is not a corruption of this movement’s core truths, but their realization. In that sense, the obligation of Landmark graduates to enlist their friends in multi-thousand-dollar courses really does confirm the teachings of Werner Erhard. In their logic, the refusal to do so indicates a weakness, an inability to master the energy of money, or a difficulty communicating with one’s friends from a place of power. /…/
Every new self-help modality is an opportunity for a new pyramid of wealth-building as it is shared with successive groups of benificiaries. The patient of a healer first pays to be healed, then pays even more to learn the technique and heal others. Finally, if he’s lucky, he can move to the top of the pyramid and charge still others to be healed themselves. /…/
Getting past any guilt, shame, or ethics, today’s self-helt practitioners no longer consider profit to be a happy side effect of their work, but its raison d’être.
Maintaining one’s brand means keeping up appearances. Confessing to a neighbour over a beer about the loss of a job or a missed mortgage payment may have once meant enlisting his help. Among branded neighbors, it means admitting vulnerability. /…/ What labor unions once earned through solidarity, a society of secreted, branded careerists takes away. Now we can all get paid less for what we produce because admitting to one another how little we’re making is bad for our brands.
That doesn’t stop this ethos of self-branding from trickling into almost every arena of human interaction, from dating to college applications. Courses in ‘Speed Seduction’ teach NLP hypnosis to nerds hoping to incapacitates bimbos’ cognitive functioning for long enough to bed them, while professional counselors rewrite seventeen-year-olds’ personal essays with the right emotional hot buttons for admissions officers. Hey, that kid sounds cool.
Just like those young businessmen in Bret Easton Ellis’ satirical novel American Psycho who obsessed over the embossing of their business cards, for us the image is everything.
But it’s a difficult moment to try to return to being human again, too. Even that sounds more like a self-help course than a workable strategy. And so human beings go from subjects to citizens, citizens to workers, workers to consumers, and consumers to brands. In the journey towards self-incorporation, market-friendly spirituality provides a momentary release from this uneven fight. All the while, the artificial structures we created – corporations – become bigger players, the true gods of this artificial realm, immortal, utterly impervious to our humanity, and capable of rewriting the rules as they go along.

Douglas Rushkoff: Life Inc. (2009)

Tidskrift för polisvetenskap (1934)

Det är särskilt tvenne omständigheter, som för närvarande gjort polisvetenskapen aktuell i vårt land. Den ena är några rent praktiska förhållanden. Den andra är vetenskapens egen alltjämt fortskridande utveckling. – Allt sedan sekelskiftet och ännu något tidigare har ju den svenska samhällstypen undergått en högst väsentlig förändring, främst markerad av Sveriges omvandling från en stabil bondestat till ett samhälle av en allt mer mekaniserad och urbaniserad struktur. Den sociologiska betydelsen härav för vårt land och folk är allt för väl känd för att här särskilt behöva föras till erinran. Upprätthållandet av “lugn, ordning och allmän säkerhet”, som ännu för några decennier sedan föreföll vara en relativt enkel uppgift, har med de förändrade samlivsförhållandena och nya idéströmningar visat sig vara ett allt mer komplicerat problem, som för sin rationella lösning numera ställer allt större krav på myndigheternas omdöme och handlingskraft i polisiärt hänseende. Utan stödet härvid av den “erfarenhet av högsta dignitet”, som vetenskapen representerar, kan näppeligen någon verklig effekt och framgång förväntas av polisarbetet – lika litet som man t.ex. inom näringslivet kunnat ställa sig utanför vetenskapens utveckling. Glädjande nog kan man konstatera en allt närmare kontakt mellan vetenskap och polismakt till – har man kunnat fastslå – båtnad för båda parternas. Denna linjer måste uppenbarligen fullföljas fram till den punkt i vår kulturutveckling, då all polisverksamhet och organisation i görligaste mån vilar på: vetenskap och beprövad erfarenhet. Det eminenta stats- och samhällsintresse, som är knutet vid polisväsendet, har helt enkelt rätt att fordra en sådan utveckling. – I utlandet, t.ex. i Tyskland och U.S.A., har denna tanke tagit sig uttryck bl.a. uti inrättandet av särskilda organ och institutioner för polisvetenskaplig forskning.
Vilken uppfattning man än må hava om vetenskapens natur och nuvarande utveckling – om den biologiska vetenskapens grundläggande betydelse för vår uppfattning av tillvaron kan ingen tvekan råda. I många hänseenden framstår densamma numera som den slutlige och definitive härskaren på det vetbaras strids- och arbetsfält. I samma mån denna biologiska grundsyn vinner terräng vid uppfattningen av de mänskliga livsföreteelserna, i samma mån skall polisvetenskapen veta att hävda sin rangplats bland de biovetenskapliga disciplinerna. Såsom objekt för vetenskaplig forskning är polisväsendet dock ytterst att återföra till en av grundformerna för livsskeendet: organismernas skyddsanpassningsarbete, och det är ett “attribut”, som är knutet till snart sagt varje form för mänskligt och djuriskt samliv – t.o.m. växtsamhällena hava ju sina “poliskonstaplar”. Så som få andra samhällsdiscipliner bidrager därför polisvetenskapen till att klarlägga natur- och kulturutvecklingen inom de sociala förbanden. Och ändock har denna vetenskap hittills endast mer sporadiskt varit uppmärksammad av forskningen. Det kan vara på tiden, att en ändring sker uti detta förhållande även i vårt land.
Utan att ett organ finnes, i vilket dessa synpunkter kunna komma till uttryck, kan polisvetenskapen knappast erhålla den betydelse den förtjänar. Tidskrifter behandlande polisiära ämnen, hava vi ju flera i vårt land. Både medicinska och tekniska fackorgan, likaväl som nautiska och militära sådana bruka avhandla polis-spörsmål. De lida dock alla i regel av det felet, att de behandla de polisiära frågorna från en snäv specialfacklig synpunkt. Huru många polisiära uppgifter och problem gives det emellertid icke, som samtidigt äro objekt för ett flertal yrkesmäns åtgöranden, läkarens, officerarens, juristens, sjömannens, ingenjörens etc. Det fordras ett organ – där samliga dessa olika fackmäns synpunkter på “fallet” kunna bliva ventilerade. Därmed förverkligas då ock i någon mån ett annat av den nutida vetenskapens krav: den syntetiska uppfattningen av tingen, sammanförande till en enhetlighet av element, som naturligt höra tillsammans. – Se där de huvudsakliga anledningarna till framträdandet av denna tidskrift!
De principer, efter vilka den kommer att redigeras, torde framgå redan av det sagda. Det blir, kort sagt, den på strängt naturvetenskaplig grund vilande uppfattningen av individen, gruppen och staten samt de konsekvenser denna åskådning medför för det polisiära handlandet, som därvid kommer att vara normerande, en uppgift, som naturligen både kan och bör fullföljas utan något ställningstaande till politiska särintressen.
Närmast vänder sig tidskriften med sitt innehåll och sin idé till polisfunktionärerna i vårt land /…/ De spörsmål, polisvetenskapen avhandlar, omfattar emellertid även samhälleliga och statliga verksamhetsgrenar, som falla vida utöver, vad man inom “praktiken” vanligen räknar som polistjänst. Hit höra t.ex. metoderna för disciplinens upprätthållande inom militärförläggningarna, arbetsplatser eller skolor. Mycket av den “inre” tjänsten inom armén och flottan, den offentliga hälsovården, delar ur kommunikationsväsendet m.m. är även att räkna in under polisvetenskapen. Redaktionen vågar därför påräkna en större läsekrets för tidskriften än, den snävare, den närmast är avsedd för. Samtliga arbetare i det samhälleliga och statliga skyddsarbetets tjänst, såsom officerare, läkare, lärare, ingenjörer m.fl. böra med fördel kunna taga del av, vad tidskriften är ämnad innehålla. Men också ledamöter av fattigvårdsstyrelser, barnavårds- och nykterhetsnämnder, eller andra sociala och kommunala välfärdsinrättningar, riksdags- och tidningsmän m.fl. alla böra de kunna hava något att hämta av intresse för sina samhälleliga uppgifter i en tidskrift som den föreliggande. Den är dock avsedd att avhandla det, som närmast berör oss alla i samhället, “den inre friden” och “ordningen” – förutsättningen för all mänsklig sammanlevnad och kultur.”

Ur öppningsartikeln till första numret av Tidskrift för polisvetenskap: organ för samhälls- och statsvetenskaplig forskning på naturvetenskaplig grund (1934).
Redaktion: Prof. fil.dr. John Frödin, prof. emir. med.dr. Alfred Pettersson, jur.dr. Eric Carlquist