Re: [OPE-L] Overdetermination

From: antonio callari (antonio.callari@FANDM.EDU)
Date: Tue Dec 27 2005 - 09:37:23 EST

this is a response to Juriaan's side comment.

No issue here, Juriaan, I don't think. My posting in response to
Howard's questions (you can see my first paragraph there) made a
distinction between social relations that are independent of "any
'one'" mode of consciousness (and certainly independent of the
consciousness of any one individual) and social relations that are
independent of the realm of consciousness altogether. I would never
(nor do I think that anyone has) reduced social relations to a
particular individual's consciousness. The discussion about
overdetermination/postmodernism/ etc. etc. seems to be to be about
the question of whether the "social" can be understood as independent
of consciousness/mind writ large--and whether, therefore, there are
"objective" deep structures which can be identified and accessed
independently of theoretical/cultural considerations/positions.

When, for example, you say (below)

>  "A social "structure" in this case refers to a relatively stable
>(reproducible) complex of objective social relations, which may be directly
observable, or observable indirectly through the empirical effects it has."

That could well be a "market" structure. This structure is not
independent (nor can it be correctly thought of as being independent)
of a number of issues of consciousness: a general buying by social
agents into private property, a culture that quantifies wealth, a
social/cultural distinction between the private and the public
spheres (since some products of labor are produced inside the
household and not as commodities, and an overview of the whole system
of a division of labor would have to include that as an element),
etc. etc. (Jack Amariglio and I wrote an article on this kind of
stuff--on commodity fetishism--a while ago, and I think that, by and
large, it still is to the point). The fact that the relations are
empirically observable (even if one could ever divorce an observation
from theoretical frameworks being used) does not mean that these
relations are "objective" in the sense of being independent of the
realm of culture/consciousness.


>>My answer here, Howard, is that I can't think of a "social structure," as I
>>said above, that is (in your words) "mind independent.
>Side comment:
>Surely the point is that the social structure exists, not without minds, but
>rather regardless of what individual people may think, i.e. they are
>necessarily related in certain ways, regardless of what they may
>individually happen to think about it, or even regardless of how they may
>In my wikipedia contribution to the article "social relation" (
> ) I distinguish the following
>typology of social relations:
>  a.. the subconscious social relations (for example at the level of the
>collective unconscious or between parents and children,
>  b.. social relations which exist only in subjective awareness or
>subjective perceptions (a person might act as though a social relation
>  c.. intersubjective social relations involving shared meanings conveyed
>through communication,
>  d.. objective social relations which exist whether someone is aware of
>them or not (they might nevertheless be communicated insofar as we
>communicate with everything we are and do);
>  e.. social relations in the process of being transformed from one kind
>into another, or being interrelated with each other;
>  f.. spiritual or intuitive social relations of some kind.
>A social "structure" in this case refers to a relatively stable
>(reproducible) complex of objective social relations, which may be directly
>observable, or observable indirectly through the empirical effects it has.
>Precisely because it exists independently of what any particular individual
>thinks, the real nature of this structure may be accurately or falsely
>interpreted, and to reveal this real nature may require scientific research,
>or at least comprehensive experience of the social world.

Antonio Callari
Sigmund M. and Mary B. Hyman Professor of Economics
F&M Local Economy Center
P.O. Box 3003
713 College Avenue
Lancaster PA 17604-3003
phone: (717) 291-3947
FAX:  (717) 291-4369

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