Archive for the 'Postmodern Society and Consumer Culture' Category

For me, democracy is…

In August 2o18, I have presented a paper at a writer’s conference on ““Measuring Understanding of Democracy: Discussing Solutions for Methodological Fallacies” at the Humboldt-Universität in Berlinorganized by Norma Osterberg-Kaufmann, Toralf Stark and Christoph Mohamad-Klotzbach.

In this article, I argue that narrow, standardized, quantitative instruments might miss to assess this broad variety of individual understandings of democracy, as there is a much broader variety than can be measured by standardized tests. I argue that research in understandings of democracy beyond survey research should address four major issues: First, if we use open questions in surveys as well as qualitative methods we need a theoretical and methodological basis on how people construe their basic concepts, or “everyday life philosophy”. Phenomenology offers basic theoretic and methodological assumptions that can be used for this purpose and is outlined. Rooted in a Schutzian phenomenological perspective and empirical insight of 389 qualitative episodic interviews, we argue that developing more sophisticated instruments to assess understandings of democracy in large-n studies can only be derived from and complemented by open, qualitative assessments. Second, I argue that simply asking for understandings of democracy may lead to a confusion of concepts, as people often compound the meaning of democracy with other issues. This should be considered carefully if one investigates in understandings of democracy. Third, I advocate a qualitative multi-dimensional analysis that separates democracy, politics/polity and actual use of democracy. This can be used to develop a typology of individual, but collectively shared, political lifeworlds. Based on two qualitative studies in Baden-Wuerttemberg I find three groups of life worlds – distant, delegative, and participatory – with different patterns and concepts of Democracy and Politics, as well as different levels and forms of participation. Finally, I argue that insights from this research could be used to develop a comprehensive instrument to assess the variety of understandings of democracies in a more comprehensive way.

If you are interested in more information, please contact me.

Soziale Milieus – politische und soziale Lebenswelten

Unter diesem Titel ist der neue Buerger im Staat 2-3/2016 soeben erschienen. Das Heft lestet eine Bestandsaufnahme von Modellen der Gesellschaftsanalyse, von deren Erkenntnissen und gesellschaftspolitischen Implikationen. Dabei geht es zum einen um die Frage, wie die Sozialwissenschaften auf gesellschaftliche Realitäten zugreifen. Zum anderen geht es darum, wie sozialwissenschaftliche Erkenntnisse genutzt werden (können), um politische Entscheidungen vorzubereiten.

Beträge von Rainer Geißler zur Sozialstrukturanalyse, Joerg Ueltzhoeffer zu sozialen Milieus in Europa, Stefan Hradil zu sozialer Ungleichheit und Clarissa Rudolph zu sozialen Ungleichheiten im Geschlechterverhältnis werden unter anderem ergänzt durch Artikel, die sich mit dem Schrumpfen der Mittelschicht (Nina-Sophie Fritsch und Roland Verwiebe), verunsicherten Milieus (Judith Niehues), Jugendbeteiligung (Thomas Gensicke), Milieus und soziale Berichterstattung (Silke Mardorf) , politischen Lebenswelten in Baden-Württemberg (Daniel Buhr und Rolf Frankenberger) sowie von Migranten (Haci-Halil Uslucan), die Erlebnisgesellschaft (Sylvia Kämpfer und Michael Mutz), Politik in Zeiten schwindender Stammwähler (Udo Zolleis) und der Erosion sozialer Milieus (Oskar W. Gabriel) sowie der Krise der repräsentativen Demokratie (Oliver Eberl und David Salomon) und der Frage des Problems der Bevölkerung (Rolf Frankenberger).

Lesen Sie hier das komplette Heft als pdf-Datei.

Towards an Analytics of Information Society

When we are talking about Information Society or, as Manuel Castells puts it the Information Age, we are apt to pronounce the positive sides, advantages, and acquirements of this global development. That information and knowledge are central objects and means of power exertion, governance and domination often is neglected or at least not explicitly articulated in public discourses. But from various thinkers, e.g. Michel Foucault, we know that power and knowledge can form complexes, information can become knowledge that is used for domination. The distinction between codifiable and non-codifiable knowledge can constitute forms of domination and the access to information can cause new forms of social stratification and marginalization. The so called digital divide separating the older, less educated and more traditional parts of society from the more progressive, higher educated and younger rest is just one example. To develop an Analytics of these power relations that constitute the information society in various ways, a re-lecture of Jean-Francois Lyotard, Michel Foucault and jean Baudrillard together with newer approaches as Manuel Castells’ seminal work can be helpful.

The particular importance of information and knowledge for postmodern societies has been analyzed in different ways. In “The Postmodern Condition: A report on knowledge”, Jean Francois Lyotard argues that information processable in binary code receives special appreciation in the age of digitalization. This affects all information that can be represented by sequences of Zeros and Ones (00101000111). In other words: only this kind of information can be processed and analyzed by computers, what is of main importance in times of enormous data flow rates. As this encoding is not possible for all kinds of information, some forms of information and knowledge – and with them the bearer or carrier – are discriminated against. This process of selection and hegemonialization of digitally processable information and knowledge tends to banalize information beyond this boundary. They are excepted from the digital discourse.

New parallel information societies with their own specific rules and codes emerge through these mechanisms of selection. We can argue with Michel Foucault that new “orders of the discourse” emerge, that compete for access to power and domination, and to politics.

Discourses are amongst other things characterized by the access to information with different status: open source, being subject to patent law or copyright, declared as top secret. The latter can be called exclusive domination-knowledge. In this context, a capitalism of information emerges and a new meta-narrative takes form around the paradox myth of information stating that strength and innovation arise from information and knowledge. As a consequence information should be particularly protected and at the same time access should be kept as free as possible. The latter often refers to information that are neither relevant for business nor for security. Within an economy of information, no one profiting economically from informationn can be interested in a total freedom of information. On the other hand, new subcultures and information producers form up around banalized and seemingly irrelevant and therefor open source and freely accessible information and knowledge (This means the emergence of a new economy of information, indeed). New constellations of emitter/dispatcher, media, and receiver/recipient with totally new logics can be observed, as for example Web 2.0 shows. That these developments abet Baudrillard’s thesis of the denouement of realities is another chapter of another story.

Another important point seems to be the exponentially growing production rate of information. This point evokes different interpretations: First, that reality itself disappears with the flood of informations and the dissolution of the difference between emitter and recipient, message and medium. Reality is transformed into simulations, as Jean Baudrillard would have put it. He describes this information society as follows: „Such is the last stage of the social relation, ours, which is no longer one of persuasion (…) but one of deterrence: `YOU are information, you are the social, you are the event, you are involved, you have the word etc`.“. Und weiter: „No more subject, no more focal point, no more center or periphery: pure flexion or circular inflexion“ (Baudrillard 1994:29). Second, there is an idea of global control and “empowerment, on the basis of globally available masses of information. This discussion encompasses the work of Michel Foucault in “discipline and punish” and Jeremy Bentham’s “Panopticon” as well as the newer work on Security and Risk, and the Surveillance Studies.

It seems to be necessary to develop the dimensions of an Analytics of Information Society according to these roughly specified approaches. Within the framework of a political economy of Information, these dimensions are relevant for a study of power relations and domination within information society on the levels of society, of information and on a processual level. On the societal level this would include 1) social control vs. social dissolution; 2 simulation vs. reality of identity; 3) integration vs. exclusion in discourse societies. On the processual level this would mean to analyze communication in terms of 4) emitter vs. recipient, and 5) liberty vs. limitation. Last but not least this would include the dimensions 6) binary codes vs. narratives; 7) relevance vs. irrelevance; 8 ) economic vs. non-economic usability and 9) security contents on the informational level.

Starting from these dimensions, various models of an analytics of information society emerge. They can be used on different levels or can link the dimensions with each others. For example, economic thresholds can prevent emitters from emitting and recipients from receiving (costs for internet or licenses, copyright etc.). Though, there has to be made an economic decision, whether and if, which, resources are used for one or another information and which results are expected. This is especially relevant for political decision making, governance and leadership.

Chart 1: the economization of informational exchange


Over the categorization of various informations and the simultaneous economization and politization a double hierarchization of knowledge and information emerges: economically, i.e. patent law and copyright and the trading of information and licenses, that are by far not affordable for all; politically through the classification of knowledge as relevant for security, top secret etc. This hierarchization of information then causes a hierarchization of discourses and discourse societies as information is availabe to different degrees (how can I argue against the use of nuclear weapons or energy without results of clinical studies showing the impacts of radiation?). At the same time this can mean that power discourses are cut off from relevant information as information from subcultures or alternative ways of communication cannot be processed.

Chart 2: Figuration of Discourse societies

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Related Reading:

  • Baudrillard J (1983) Simulations. New York: Semiotext(e).
  • Baudrillard J (1994) Simulacra and Simulation. Translated by Sheila Faria Glaser. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
  • Baudrillard, Jean; Glaser, Sheila Faria (2006): Simulacra and simulation. 15. Druck. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  • Bell, Daniel 1973: The coming of post-industrial society. A venture in social forecasting”, New York, NY
  • Burchell, Graham; Foucault, Michel (2007): The Foucault effect. Studies in governmentality ; with two lectures by and an interview with Michel Foucault. [Nachdr.]. Chicago, Ill.: Univ. of Chicago Press.
  • Castells, Manuel (2006): End of millenium. 2. ed., [New. ed., Nachdr.]. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell (The information age, Vol. 3).
  • Castells, Manuel (2006): The power of identity. 2. ed., new ed. reprint. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell (The information age, Vol. 2).
  • Castells, Manuel (2008): The rise of the network society. 2. ed., new ed., [Nachdr.]. Malden, MA: Blackwell (The information age, Vol. 1).
  • de la Mothe, John/Paquet, Gilles 1999: Informational Innovation and their impacts, in: (ibid): Information, Innovation and Impacts, Chapter 1, Boston.
  • Dean, Mitchell (2007): Governmentality. Power and rule in modern society. Reprint. London: Sage Publ.
  • Foucalult, M. (2001): The Order of things: an Archeology of Human Sciences. London:Routledge
  • Foucault, Michel (1991): Governmentality. In: Burchell, Graham; Foucault, Michel (Hg.): The Foucault effect. Studies in governmentality ; with two lectures by and an interview with Michel Foucault. Chicago, Ill.: Univ. of Chicago Press, S. 87–104.
  • Foucault, Michel (1995): Discipline and punish. The birth of the prison. 2nd Vintage Books ed. New York: Vintage Books.
  • Foucault, Michel (2002 /// 2007): The order of things. An archaeology of the human sciences. Repr. London: Routledge (Routledge classics).
  • Foucault, Michel; Gordon, Colin (1980): Power/knowledge. Selected interviews and other writings, 1972 – 1977. New York: Pantheon Books.
  • Lash, S. / Urry, J. (1993): Economies of signs and space. London:Sage
  • Lyotard, Jean-Francois (1989): The postmodern condition. A report on knowledge. 7.print. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (Theory and history of literature, 10)

Back from Paris, in the French Republic

Coming back from my visit at the ISPP Conference in the holy halls of french political science at sciences po, paris, I have brought with me a lot ofnew insights and perspectives on the field of political psychology and cognate disciplines. As t was a conference with many panels I wasn’t really able to attend all of the panels I wanted to, but I was amazed how many people for example are doing authoritarianism studies. Another important thing to learn was that political psychology is still an academic discipline heavily relying on quantitative research – or to put it otherwise: Many researchers are concerned with counting the legs of the fly, but by doing this do not really learn much about the fly itself. Despite some really exciting contributions that are approaching phenomena from other sides – philosophy, phenomenology, and qualitative research methods – most of the scholars seem to be stuck in the paradigmatic mud of social sciences following Descartes.

This is not to say that these approaches could not produce interesting insights, but they for sure are not able to capture all the important informations out there. As French Philosopher J.F. Lyotard put it in his study of “postmodern knowledge”, all information not to be encoded in binary codes gets lost and is devaluated: The narrative, myths, fairy tales, witchcraft, imagination, just to name a few.

What I also learned at the conference is that there are at least some people out there in the world that largely share equivalent academic experiences, are reading similar or even the same books, are asking questions and are adressing phenomena that are not really in the mainstream of social sciences, and that are using innovative theories and methods in their fields. This really encourages to keep a “good spirit” and to carry on for a littly while (Thanx to S.). And by the way it is a lot of pleasure and fun to hang around with these people (Thanx to S. and M.).

I am really looking forward to the next ISPP Conference in Dublin and hope to organize atleast one panel or workshop that is concentrating on this “otherness” of perspectives, theories and research methods in political psychology and more general, in the social sciences.

If you are interested in the papers I presented at the conference, please check the publications-page at this blog, where you can load them down as pdf-files. Comments of any kind are welcome.

31st ISPP Annual Meeting in Paris

On Wednesday 9th July 2008, the 31st Annual Meeting of the International Society for Political Psychology will open its doors at Sciences Po, Paris. I am really looking forward to this conference, not only because Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in Old Europe, but also because there will be some very interesting panels. To learn more about the conference program, pleas visit the conference homepage. You can also search all papers presented of the conference there. I will present two papers. One ison an empirical research project about postmodernity and personality conducted in Germany. The other is a bit like selling coals to Newcastle, as it is named “Learning from Baudrillard and Foucault. Consumer Culture, Social Milieus and The Governmentality of Lifestyle” and is presented in Paris.I am looking forward to inspiring discussions.

This also means that I will be out of office most of the next week – sorry.