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  • Chapter 4. Active Social Symbolic Selves: The Phenomenological Sociology Tradition

    By reading and writing, people act socially and symbolically, constituting themselves, their orientations, attention, relevancies, and consciousnesses in relation to social communicative interactions. The Soviet Russian psychological tradition, as we have seen in the previous two chapters, provides some means for understanding how the individual within social interaction develops the means for self-regulation of behavior and for carrying out social interaction, forming a cognitive organization and a consciousness built upon the neurobiology of the brain that becomes elaborated through participation in social activity systems. In the course of developing such social selves individuals are also building a social world, a world saturated with meaning and human activity. Reading and writing are means not only of building individual consciousness and shaping individual action of the literate person, they are also means of the developing the collective thoughts and interactive organizations of the societies within which individuals develop their lives and consciousnesses. Thus there is a dialectical relationship between the psychological and sociological.

    For example, the texts of popular political parody, government constitution, political theory and analysis, and the like provide the terms within which politically oriented youth develop their personal thoughts and in which politically engaged groups develop their ideas and plans. They are also the means by which individuals and groups engage in political action, attempting to influence candidates and issues. Politically oriented youths affiliate with groups, extend their awareness of the texts viewed relevant, and seek to make their ideas more widely known and directly realized in the workings of government. In doing all this they contribute to a climate within which further new generations will form their political consciousnesses and engagements. Of course, immediate face-to-face interaction, experience, need, and passion are important shapers and drivers of political culture. Nonetheless, in a literate world through texts individuals learn facts about situations occurring outside their immediate observation and gain access to ideas and experiences of non-present others. Texts, additionally, can be used to plan and coordinate work of local and more extended groups. Further, modes of thought and analysis characteristic of literacy are likely to influence political stances and shared texts are likely to be discussed and form common bonds among the politically active. Even more, the reach and delivery of political words and news of actions are extended and transformed through the circulation of texts, so that individuals and groups orient to larger political units beyond the local town such as the province, nation, or international bodies. Thus the nature of political individuals and political culture change through the communicative means which form the medium of knowledge, thought, expression and action for both individual and group.

    The next four chapters explore some theoretic grounds for understanding the relation of psychology and sociology by examining several related traditions of European and American sociology arising out of phenomenology and pragmatism. Along the way we will draw some connections with Russian socio-cultural psychology. The aim of examining these several traditions remains the understanding of the modes of being that are developed, carried out and transformed through the inventive means of written language. While this account may at times appear to extend some distance beyond writing, we will regularly return to consider implications for literate modes of interaction and being.

    Schutz, the Problems of Economic Behavior, and a Unified Social Science

    Miller’s (1984) move to see genre as an instance of Schutz’s typification process (Schutz 1967b; Schutz & Luckmann, 1973) provided a key link in our understanding of text as social action and as constitutive of the social order. Miller’s recognition was paralleled independently by Schutz’s followers who considered genre as a typifying force. Here we will be looking into the problems and reasoning that led Schutz to his central concept of typification and to some of the extensions and implications he drew. This examination of Schutz will provide resources for understanding genre as typification and its role in constituting individual consciousness and social order. This examination will also provide a vehicle for understanding the relation of contemporary genre studies to the several lines of sociological research that have been deeply influenced by Schutz.

    Alfred Schutz (1899—1959) was a banker, economist, and social philosopher, first in Vienna and then migrating to New York in 1938 when Germany annexed Austria. As a member of the Austrian school of economics he was much concerned with grounding issues of economic behavior and, by extension, grounding issues of the social sciences. After immigrating to the United States he continued his career as a banker but also affiliated with the New School, becoming the foremost spokesman for phenomenology and phenomenological sociology in the post war period, influencing many developments in microsociology, ethnomethodology, conversational analysis, and interactional analysis (Heritage, 1984), to be examined in Chapter 7.

    While most commentators see Schutz’s career in banking and economics as separate from his philosophic interests, Prendergast (1986) persuasively identifies the roots of Schutz’s interest in processes in social typification lying within problems of economic behavior that troubled him and his colleagues in Austria at the start of his career. The problem may be stated as follows: The principle of marginal utility (the most distinctive contribution of Austrian economics) rests on a simplified model of human behavior as dictated by a rational calculation of self-interest, based on knowledge of markets in relevant goods with few extra-economic, extra-market considerations. This model is the well-known homo economicus acting with other rational self-interested individuals in a market which contains all information necessary for acting within it. The concept of homo economicus stands behind much of modern economics and dates back at least to the time of Adam Smith: it has also been from the beginning regularly critiqued as a narrow fiction. Schutz wondered how it was that this clearly fictive assumption that reduces the complexities of human behavior in patently unrealistic ways still produces accounts of behavior that are highly predictive for economic behavior within markets. Further, he wondered, given that we have no direct and unmediated access to the thoughts of others, how can we with any confidence make any assumption about their motives and the meaning of their choice making.

    In grappling with these problems, Schutz turned to Husserl’s phenomenology (1964). In so doing Schutz transformed phenomenology from a philosophic inquiry into a sociological method and ontology, as a way to understand how individuals came to act and attribute meaning according to socially constructed ideas and structures. One of the major vehicles for this transformation was a synthesis with Max Weber’s sociological method of ideal types, which Weber saw as the fundamental method of sociology. Schutz (1967a) argued that ideal types were not only an analytical method of sociologists but also the practical method by which individuals made sense of their social world, developed guidelines for their own choices and behavior, and came to attribute meaning to their own actions and the actions of others. In proposing a solution to the problem of economic behavior using a general philosophic method of phenomenology and a general sociological method of ideal types, Schutz developed an approach to understanding all forms of social behavior and a general model for a unified social science.

    Schutz’s Typification

    His proposal, in short, was that individuals, in order to participate in what they see as a meaningful or useful social arena, take on what they believe to be principles of that arena. They then use those principles to guide their own behavior and to make their behavior meaningful and intelligible to other participants. Whatever their underlying motives and thoughts are, as the impulses become realized within social action, impulses take on the forms of social types. Those types in turn provide a cognitive orientation for the individual, establishing patterns and principles of thought and identifying relevant knowledge that the individual brings to bear on the circumstances. Thus if you depend on a market where you trade goods and money based on their perceived value to you, you will begin to adopt a perspective of marginal utility, calculating which goods would grant you the greatest satisfaction of desires, given the relative prices of goods, the amount you already own, and the additional cost and pleasure attached to each increment under current market conditions. Further, you will gather information relating to goods, desires, the desires of others with whom you would buy and sell, and so on. In short, you would develop the consciousness of a rational economic actor in the market in the course of making choices within that market. The principles of economic behavior are therefore not essential and unchangeable facts of human psychology—they are rather patterns of behavior associated with particular market formations which individuals orient towards and adapt themselves to by acting typically within such markets. Even if individuals are not at first oriented towards markets but find themselves living within market economies, where to meet their needs and desires they by necessity must adopt a market orientation, they are drawn into a nexus of economic reasoning which may come to dominate their life-world. Thus laborers as much as capitalists are drawn into the cash nexus. In a cash economy, monks are freed to contemplate other matters only if they have a protective institution that takes care of economic matters for them.

    Although Schutz seemed unaware of it, Adam Smith, a century and half before, advocated the idea of rational economic behavior as a social fiction that if adopted by all people would provide a basis for an economic socio-political order. Thus Smith attempted to enlist people into the very capitalist system of economic behavior that Schutz was grappling with. Smith hardly believed that humans naturally operated as homo economicus; rather, he followed Locke and Hume in seeing individuals having idiosyncratic experiences leading them to developing idiosyncratic sets of associations, with consequent divergent perceptions, desires, beliefs, behaviors, and guiding principles. Smith did, however, note that the general patterns of life and economic circumstances—the activities and forms of production one engaged in as well as the particular circumstances and dilemmas of individual lives—provided some clues on which to construct a sympathetic understanding of the range of thought and knowledge as well as the particular choices they might make. He further noted that humans had the unfortunate tendency to affiliate with and be deferential to those whom they perceived to “be their betters,” those who stood hierarchically above them in contemporary systems of social order. People, nonetheless, also had a tendency to want to better themselves within those same circumstances and orders. Humans in Smith’s eyes were hardly rational creatures. They tended to remain committed to hierarchical societies dominated by church and monarchy, despite the exploitation and lack of needs satisfaction they experienced within those social orders. He did feel, however, that they would be more likely to pursue their own interests more consistently and rationally (and therefore participate in a society more directed by local knowledge and providing for a greater satisfaction of their perceived needs), if they were convinced to pursue their impulse to better themselves and if there were available a universal mechanism of exchange that would allow them to pursue their own individual notions of betterment (Smith, 1978).

    Money and markets were to be that mechanism. If people could be convinced to see money as the universal means to satisfy their diverse needs, desires, and interests, then they would all pursue those interests through economic exchange within markets, which would then provide a universal site of social ordering and affiliation. As Marx (1909) would say, all would be drawn into the cash nexus once they adopted this economic attitude, and this nexus would be self-regulating and universally motivating, and thereby be so powerful as to provide a compelling alternative to hierarchical forms of social domination.

    Smith’s project to enlist people into market behavior directly implied the Schutzian concept of typifications. The types of behavior appropriate to markets would frame modes of consciousness, into which desire and motive would be channeled. Schutz, however, generalized this idea beyond the economic rationality that one engages in to participate in markets to the forms of consciousness one develops in participating in any specialized domain. Thus a chess player in entering into a chess game adopts certain motives and principles of choice-making that comprise the typical attitude of the chess player. As a person becomes more serious in their orientation and psychic commitment to the game, that person takes on the typical motives and consciousness of a chess player. We can readily specify the kinds of things the player wonders about, the kinds of plans they make, and the kinds of choices they confront. As the person moves through various levels of skill, we can even begin to specify some of the different levels of consideration they are likely to process rapidly or even know automatically. We can as well identify some of the new areas of consideration where they are likely to attend to more consciously and intently as they advance in their skill. Indeed learning at the higher levels in part means learning to attend to the kinds of considerations the better players attend to. These levels are historically emergent as newly discovered principles of useful strategy; thus the history of chess thought is usually recounted by the types of strategic and tactical thinking introduced in each period. Further, as chess becomes a larger part of a player’s life, such as among professionals, we can specify the kinds of concerns and orientations they adopt in building a chess career and adopting the chess way of life.

    Equally we can say that the fourteenth century Venetian entering into the world of courtiers, or the late nineteenth century educated New Englander entering into the world of poetry, or the twenty-first century web designer entering the competitive workplace each absorb the modes of thought and action they perceive as typical of those domains, even as they attempt to innovate in their interests and establish their distinctive qualities within the criteria of excellence of their times. This is the insight developed by Bourdieu in analyzing the fields of artistic production and the ways one distinguishes oneself to adopt a unique position within a structured field of endeavor (Bourdieu, 1984, 1993). Insofar as the person is immersed within a specific domain and activity system, we can begin to describe the orientation, motives, organization, and typical contents of her or his consciousness, and describe her or his individuality in dialectic with the typicality of the time, place, and domain.

    Further, our familiarity with that domain and the cognitive orientation of the other participants allows us to understand and appreciate what others do. People in an economic market can make deals with each other because they know reliably what kinds of actions the other will take along with their motives and reasonings. Thus they can shake hands on a deal, knowing paperwork, products, and payments will follow in what is considered a timely and appropriate way. Of course, they are also aware of the kinds of ways others may attempt to take advantage of them and are on the lookout for the forms of cheating that have developed in those domains. At the same time, experienced practitioners will be in a position to recognize what might count as a reliable partner and a good deal. They can also appreciate the truly novel or clever move in their world in the way outsiders cannot. Similarly, skilled chess players are able to understand the moves of players at or just above their level, and even appreciate a move that pushes the play to a new level or escapes the bounds of the expected to gain an unanticipated advantage. The meaning or value of that admirable move would escape players at a level that has not yet introduced them to the way if thinking that makes the move intelligible. Courtiers can understand what other courtiers are doing, as can people initiated into particular poetic worlds best understand what poets in that world are doing, and experienced web designers can understand the meaning and motive of an innovation.

    The many practical guides to participating in a field (whether how to invest in the stock market, be a courtier, play the middle game in chess, or design web sites) provide information for people entering into a domain, before they have internalized these typical orientations and guidelines into their own practice. Such guidebooks attest to the strong impulse we have to reflexively understand and articulate the principles of acting within particular spheres and the need for training in specialized modes of thought to maximize performance. Similarly, the many interpretations and appreciations—whether accounts of exemplary courtiers, analyses of chess games, interpretations of poems, or critiques of web-designs—suggest how specialized knowledge of the typified act aids understanding and appreciation, thereby expanding our consciousness within the realm, giving us more resources to think with when engaged in that realm.

    The Typified Internal and External, and the Falling Away of the Untypifiable

    This understanding of typifications never lets us into the full stream of consciousness of the individual, as Schutz points out. Rather, it only lets us anticipate the general outlines of consciousness, and then read back from the particulars of public performance, behavior, or accomplishments what the individual was likely to have contemplated and intended specifically. The thoughts that the person rejected as irrelevant or the thinking about other things (worrying about Uncle Joe’s health while playing the chess game) that do not obviously derive from the activity or resources translated from outside the domain are opaque and invisible. In the emergent production earlier thought, contemplated behavior, and mood fall away, and we are only left with what the person brings into the public arena in the form they bring it. The individual acting too is left with the emergent public product as a public commitment and identity. Ultimately all that mediates between us is what has been externalized (See Thomason, 1982).

    Our prospective motives of what we might desire to do, furthermore, are directed by our understanding of the way the action realm works and what actions are typically successful. We can only anticipate going to market to sell our agricultural produce if a marketplace exists, and we can only desire to learn the musical instruments we have seen and heard. Even if we are to innovate in organizing a public square to transform prior irregular trades or to create a new stringed instrument, we still work from what we have seen and heard before to imagine improved possibilities. Just as we form our own participation and orientation out of what we internalize from the activity world around us, what we add to that world is only what we manage to externalize. It is those externalizations that provide information for others to understand our behavior within its typified realms, and for them to construct their constantly evolving and emergent notions of what is typical in those realms, thus orienting their own behaviors and consciousness. They now can organize their lives to come to the regular Tuesday market, or they can learn to play a new instrument and explore its musical potential. Further, our own reflexive awareness of our actions within that typified realm provide us information about our own identities, commitments, and actions, upon which we may base our after-the-fact accounts of motives. We become merchants or mayors, violin players or composers, as we participate and succeed in our activities and carry on future actions based on our experiences and successes.

    This dynamic dialectic of internalization of existing social forms to provide the grounds of action and the externalization of material actions with material consequences that remain after the evanescence of our internal processes creates some of the deepest puzzles and tensions of writing. This dialectic is in the difficulty we have in locating or composing the state of mind from which our meanings will flow; it is in the feeling that our words do not fully reflect what we feel; it is in the surprise we find to read what we have written; and it is in the surprise we have when we find others understand something different in our words than we intended. This dialectic is also in the contradiction between the conviction we may have that the meanings we get from texts seem so profound and robust and yet the recognition that written language is a fragile vessel for evanescent cargos of internally perceived meanings. (For an elaboration of internalization and externalization processes from a Vygotskian perspective, with specific attention to the role of concepts and concept language in writing, see Bazerman, 2012).

    Relevance in Consciousness and Externalized Mediations

    The specific resources, knowledges, memories, and other contents we bring to bear in constructing these externalizations and that we represent within these externalizations are driven by our sense of relevance for the project at hand. We assemble what we think we need, based on what we think we are doing, shaped by the typified project and the typified rules that we adopt as part of engaging in and understanding the project. Of all those things that might potentially come to our mind or that we might search out in the library and world, our attention focuses on just those things we view as enabling us to do what we are doing, as we understand what we are doing (see Bazerman, 1985 for an example of how writing intentions influence reading choices), and it is just those things that are then available as we assemble our actions. For the process of writing this means what we bring to bear as we assemble the text and what we display in the text arises from a project-shaped consciousness. We are thinking to write and we are writing with the contents we have mentally assembled as relevant within the typified understandings of our projects.

    A second kind of motive for identifying relevance occurs after the fact when we need to give an account of our actions and the conditions that gave rise to it, to justify or explain or take lessons from our actions. What is considered relevant in such accounts, both in what enters our consciousness and emerges within our externalized accounts, is what we understand to be relevant to such accounts and which we believe our audiences will accept as relevant—and thus we are accountable in typified ways. In our original projects, in fact, we may anticipate such accountability needs by acting so as to provide evidence of the “appropriateness” or “reasonableness” of our actions. Some projects within their typifications already establish the need for such accounts of their coming into being, as a scientific experimental paper requires an account of the theory, previous findings, experimental methods, and laboratory events that are claimed to have brought the experimental investigation and consequent paper into being. That these are cleaned up to make more coherent and acceptable accounts in the final externalized version (see Medawar, 1964; and Bazerman, 1988) is precisely to be anticipated given the Schutzian observation about the emergent shape of typified behavior and consciousness, and the slipping away of those things viewed as irrelevant, outside the project, or non-normative within the activity world. Typifications in this way control our horizon of attention and what is viewed as unproblematically appropriate to such actions, and accordingly obscure those things that might be perceived as not worth thinking about or being discussed as part of the project we are engaged in.

    The Natural Attitude and the Pull of Typified Consciousness

    Typification and relevance are so strong in shaping our consciousness and horizons of attention as we are drawn into realms of activity and relationship, that it is hard to remember that we could be thinking, perceiving, or doing in any other way. Berger and Luckmann (1966) elaborate the reconstructive nature of autobiography and memory to make sense of our lives. Further, we tend to see things from the normalized perspective of their after-the-fact accomplishment rather than their in-the-making assemblage. Latour (1987) in considering the difference between accounts of science-in-the-making and science-already-made shows how much is obscured by viewing completed projects as accomplishments rather than still open puzzles. What we patch together through contingent choices thus comes to appear as the full recognizable, natural, and complete acts rather than shaped by an historical process of social construction of typifications.

    This inability to see beyond the habituated typified order has been called the natural attitude by Husserl (1964). This is particularly true of socially pervasive practices which we are drawn into from earliest childhood, such as systems of morality or family relationship or street navigation or communication through language. Only through some unusual experience, reflective position, or intentional inquiry are people able to step out of their naturalized world to begin to perceive its arbitrariness, to see that there can be fundamentally different ways of going about things, and to recognize those other ways are not a priori inferior or unnatural. When a person starts to learn another language and then finds in it different potentials of meaning, for example, then that person can start to see the limits and particularity of the first language. Similarly for writing there are many understandings and expectations of writing so deeply tied to our primary places of learning of written language and reproduced in institutions and practices of literacy throughout our society, it is hard to see them as anything but natural, the only and right way to proceed with writing and reading—whether at the level of spelling uniformity and adherence to prescriptive grammars or at the level of what constitutes proper topics and self-representation. The practices, situations, and evaluative criteria of schooling have been especially influential in creating our naturalized view of writing.

    It is not only the early and pervasively engrained that can be the basis of the natural attitude. When we spend a long time engaged in any practice it is easy to forget that things could be otherwise. Even if in some moods we know that alternative practices, projects, and relevancies are possible, an impassioned commitment to a community or project may foster intolerance of alternative domains of meaning that can be evoked by other approaches to writing. Many scientists, lawyers, or even poets, so clearly engaged in historically emerged literate practices which they themselves only learn in adolescence or later, believe there is only one right and natural way to pursue their projects. Their views of writing correspond to what they believe they ought to be doing as competent practitioners, despite doubts that they cannot in every or any instance live up to the normative typified expectation. Self-castigation against an extreme and inflexible typification of competence and the way things ought to be is rampant in many domains of writing. Developing a comparative or historical interest, or engaging in wide and varied practical experiences writing in multiple domains, however, provides a way out of the “naturalness” of current modes of practice to understand the arbitrariness and historical choice making that make expected practices something other than eternal moral truths.

    This process of taking culturally developed principles and typifications as commitments for actions and thereby making them concrete in their consequences is the process of reification (Thomason, 1982)—making the ideal or ideological or conceptual materially consequential and factual within life. Reifications of social practices become social facts. This social construction of reified, naturalized orders, however, need not be taken as creating delusions, although in some cases social facts may obscure facts readily apparent to those adopting other perspectives. Reification only means our orienting to, taking part in, and therefore bringing further into being some regime of activity, relations, consciousness, and meaning associated with the invoked world.

    We need not be blind to what is happening and how we construct the world we live in. I can be quite well aware that I am entering into a world of chess-playing or music making or legal argument, can be aware of the principles, beliefs, and commitments I take on, and can notice the shifting weights of relevance associated with this world. Equally I can notice the changes that happen to my experience and thoughts as I become more heavily involved in those domains. Indeed, people often reflectively notice and comment on just those changes in themselves and their experiences at moments of transition. On the other hand, we may enter into many regimes of reification long before we have the reflective tools to notice, that we forget our prior states and moments of transition as we move into compelling and encompassing regimes. Or we may lack the motive, opportunity, or position to reflect upon our position. Under such conditions our worldview may become so dominated by the artifice of the regime and is so supported by the perceptions of co-participants, that we become blind to the fact that our investment in this world was elective or accidental. Rather, we attribute those investments and meanings as something natural and eternal, grounded in a moral order that is beyond the human. Violations of the expectations of such unreflective reified practices can be seen as moral outrages and those who commit them as uncivilized, uneducated, or otherwise seriously faulted and needing correction. A reflexive awareness of the reification and naturalization processes that have established school practices and social beliefs about writing can relieve us much of the sense of rectitude and moral outrage that surrounds our view of our own and others’ writing.

    Critiques of Social Construction and Ways Out

    Nonetheless, the whole idea of social construction has been met by some with a kind of moral outrage, that it is akin to anarchy and nihilism, casting us into radical relativism, throwing all meanings into skeptical disbelief (Sokal & Bricmont, 1999). Even worse, recognition that all statements of knowledge are socially constructed raises the fear that the material world is unknowable, or rather that adherents of social construction are enemies of the scientific and philosophic projects that attempt to know the world outside of our constructed meanings. There have of course been many books and articles written on this epistemological debate, both throughout the history of philosophy (starting with Plato’s quarrel with the Sophists in the Gorgias) and more recently in what have been called the science wars. Without engaging this full debate and sidetracking the concerns of this volume, I just point out that Schutz was very careful to make his concept of reification only a methodological principle, an extension of the phenomenological epoché—a bracketing to hold in suspension those things we take as natural so as to investigate how we take them to be natural. He remained avowedly agnostic on the actually knowability of social and material reality (Schutz, 1967a). The pragmatist tradition, the topic of the next chapter, provides another way of conceiving this issue that get us outside of dichotomies between socially constructed language and the experienced world outside the world of representations. Pragmatism recognizes that we use language as part of our living in material and social worlds with which we have extended experience and in which we have continuing interests. This issue of how we represent our experience of the world is for writing more than a philosophic worry about the status of knowledge; it is a practical problem, as much writing aims at some representation of the world around us. More particularly, writing often draws its force and authority from its claimed accuracy or truthfulness of representation of the world about us. Much writing, moreover, is specifically driven by the attempt to create useful or accurate or truthful accounts of the world we live in and experience.

    Finally, it is sometimes claimed that reification (as further obscured by naturalization) necessarily puts a wedge between the created meanings we commit ourselves to and our true natures, creating a false consciousness and giving rise to alienation. However, the view of reification here provides pathways for the realization and development of ourselves; through participating in socially typified projects, adopting the associated reifications, we realize social and cultural possibilities. Reification threatens alienation only if we are drawn into or compelled into typified actions that are not the realization of our own impulses, but the impulses of others at odds with or inattentive to our needs and desires. The problem is not in the making of social meaning and the participation in the socially constructed meaningful activities; it is in the relationship between that activity and our own impulses and development, or the organic evolution of social groupings we are part of to respond to changing situations, needs, and possibilities.

    Typification, Novelty, and Particularized Meanings

    Being able to articulate our own position and interests within available genres and the associated activity systems can make those genres and associated activity systems continuing sites for our own articulation, development and expression of motives, thereby decreasing alienation from the ensuing discourse. In articulating our interests we bring the particularity of our selves, situations, knowledges, and resources to bear, which introduces novelty in the genre. Participation in many discursive regimes may even require some degree of novelty; it is one of the expectations of newspapers that they make us aware of recent previously unreported events and of scientific papers that they propose fresh findings or ideas to advance communal knowledge. Certain discursive orders may cause us to bring in other resources, other thoughts into the activity in ways appropriate to and intelligible within the type of the activity system and mode of consciousness associated with it. Thus the novelist may draw on personal experiences or historical accounts or new literary theories to make the new novel fresh and different, while still being intelligible and marketable as a novel. However, in becoming part of the world of the novel the original material takes on rules, meanings, and functions appropriate to the world of the novel.

    Yet no matter what combination of regimes is drawn on, no matter how individual and subtle these are, they are nonetheless dependent on our mechanisms for meaning making and interpretation in concrete circumstances. This kind of complexity of multiple systems and specific contents is what Geertz considered in his thick description (Geertz, 1980). The building of complexity and novelty of meaning from the fundamental mechanisms of situated understanding is also most relevant in understanding the particularity of individual written statements. People are constantly doing new things through writing, and readers are, with varying levels of motivation and success grappling with new meanings, while still drawing on typifications. Schutz, however, in a number of his most prominent publications has only a single vaguely described mechanism for moving beyond the most gross and distant typifications: getting to know an individual more personally and intimately. He characterizes personal knowledge as something entirely different from typified knowledge, eventually displacing typifications in cases of personal relationship. He sees our relationships on a spectrum ranging from the most typified and anonymous to the most individual and personal, with the great majority of our relationships in the world as being highly typified and anonymous. We know the postal clerk as a postal clerk and relate to that person as a postal clerk. In our office we adopt the role of our professional position and relate to others through those roles. As we develop more personal relationships with others and move out of the realm of the anonymous, we treat them and understand them in less typified ways.

    While there is a general descriptive truth to this, I find it unfortunate in implying that in getting to know people, situations, and utterances in greater detail, we put aside our systems of meaning making, rather than invoking them more complexly and with higher degrees of locally relevant information. As a teacher, for example, my knowledge of most students does remain typified in terms of the teacher-student role within educational activities, though when I go from one university to another, I need to develop new models of what kinds of students each campus has, what moves and motivates them, what projects they are engaged in, what backgrounds and skills they have, what local sub-cultures they divide into and are part of. Further I need to learn more about the culture of the classrooms in each place, what students expect to do and experience in different types of a class, how they attend to different activities, and how they evaluate and relate to various kinds of instructors, instructor personalities, instructor statements, and instructor interventions. So getting to know what it means to be a good teacher on a campus means developing through experience and observation a more finely tuned set of typifications which helps me to relate better and more closely with students even if I do not know the particulars of any one of their lives.

    In fact, I do gradually learn a certain number of particulars about all of the students, and a great number of particulars about some as our student-teacher relationship develops. We become familiar in the ways appropriate to students and teachers, filtered through our understanding of the expanded types of mentoring relationships. I also learn particulars of their lives that extend beyond the classroom—family difficulties that may interfere with their school work, experiences that motivate them, ambitions shaped over many years, the multiple factors that influence their career choices, the underlying interests that motivate a particular research project. Similarly students learn particulars of my life and interests as I make reference in instruction and more informal circumstances. They may learn about ideas I have had, things I have written, trips I have taken, career choices and struggles—these all may come out in direct interchange in classroom examples, advising, or mentoring situations. Or students may find out more on their own as part of personal curiosity about what kinds of persons professors are or about this one individual that is taking a role in their lives. This familiarity framed and motivated by the typifications of teacher-student relationship—a set of typifications that I think it ethical to keep strictly in force and not to confuse with other forms of relationship that would be tainted by the powers and motives inherent in and generated by the teacher-student relationship. All the personalized elaborations of it employ sense-making mechanisms built on typifications of an increasingly refined sort. How do I make sense of a student’s motivations in light of their autobiography? How do they make sense of being a student as they recount their lives to me? How do we orient toward each other’s comments so as to provide direction for continuing dialogue that carries each of us further down the path of growth and learning that gives meaning to educational relationships?

    Typification and Particularity: Appreciating the Music of Life

    In his essay on “Making Music Together: A Study in Social Relationships,” however, Schutz (1951) provides us a more profound insight into how we become attuned to the most novel and subtle sharing of the contents of consciousness with each other. The processes of deep and particular understanding he describes depends on much socially shared typified knowledge at the same time as allowing particular communion over an intricate and moving object that inhabits our mutual consciousnesses to provoke similar attentions, meanings, and motives. Although Schutz draws his examples from nineteenth century classical music culture, his arguments are easily extended to musical traditions even without transmission of written scores, and then to many other forms of collaboration.

    Schutz points out that a skilled pianist trained in the European tradition, even when playing an unfamiliar nineteenth century sonata from a written score totally new to her, relies on familiarity with sonata form, piano music of the period, and many other typifications to begin to make sense of the piece and express an understanding in performance. The pianist brings out the particularity of the music by relying on a large stock of culturally developed knowledge concerning the structure, sound, and movement of music of the sort she is performing as well as on the embodied technique of piano performance. The more the pianist locates the music within its traditions, the more tools for understanding and interpreting she has, as well as for noticing and bringing out what is thematically new or striking in the piece. Thus the pianist with familiarity can heighten the particular character, sound, or pleasure to be found within each piece. The more, in fact, performers work on music of similar types—whether of the same decade, genre, and nationality or of the same composer, or even period in the composer’s life—the more precisely she can develop an interpretation in and against the typical motifs and organization of these more finely tuned types. Even increasing familiarity with that one piece of music and its performance by different artists creates a most local type within which theme and variation, foregrounding and backgrounding can take on local shape against expectations and the environment created across the moments of the piece.

    Equally we can say in any music tradition every learning of novel pieces relies on training within the tradition, learning its types, organization, techniques, thematizations, and structuring of the sound space and temporal experience. The more the performer gets to know what the music sounds like and how to produce it, of course the better she can play the most typical of music, but even more, the more refined, complex, surprising, pleasing and interesting effects she can bring to being within the type of music. The typification is not only in the overt forms that can be described abstractly, but within the complex realm of practices of listening, understanding, and performing.

    The listener of each kind of music also engages in a process of learning to attune to this music, learning what to listen for, how the sound is organized, what the formal rhythms are (as might be described in a music appreciation book), but also in actual embodied experience of listening to the music—actually immersing oneself in the sound of the kind of thing that is going on, and letting that hearing shape one’s consciousness. In that process one becomes in a sense a typical listener, an anonymous listener, but a fully formed anonymous listener, able to hear the music with all that is produced following the motives and motifs and intentions put into the music by the composer and performer. The more one learns to listen to a kind of music, and a particular piece, the better able one is to experience a special moment, different and evocative the way no other moment has been, deeply interesting in its particularity, even seeming to evoke one’s own most personal of internal sentiments and meanings.

    The result of this production and listening of music by the culturally knowledgeable musician and listener is the joint attention over a period of time—not only the externally clocked time of performance, but over the internally experienced time of the music. Indeed, within the range of variations of attunement and experience and knowledge an entire audience can share these moments of attention and the shared sensation of the passage of consciousness through time. This is as true of villagers gathered in a temple in Bali to hear a monkey chant as it is of a modern American teenagers attending a rock concert or of King Friederich listening to Bach’s latest organ invention.

    It is not a far analogy to apply Schutz’s analysis of music to literacy, which also calls for mutual alignment to produced meanings and the giving over of consciousness to performances that draw on detailed knowledge of typified realms. The more refined the writer’s and the reader’s knowledge of the communicative domain, the greater the potential for refinement of meaning and experience. One of the great powers of literacy is the handing over of our consciousnesses to meanings evoked by others, the re-creation of others meanings in our own minds. Nonetheless, some differences between music and writing might limit the analogy. First, music as an activity is often taken as an activity in itself. We listen to music to enjoy it, to appreciate the performance, to give ourselves over to it (though it may be secondarily embedded in other social occasions, whether of personal relationships or nationalist bonding, where participating in a musically induced state of consciousness has implications for participating in other systems and activities.) While some reading is as purely for enjoyment as listening to music, our reading is often more subordinate to other projects we may have, whether keeping up with the news as part of political engagement or looking at consumer information to decide which car to buy. Thus in reading we are less likely to be entering into an autonomous area of activity whose meanings are primarily embedded within that activity; rather we are likely to be engaged in any aspect of life, from health or the spirit to work or recreation. As we read in those domains, words will call on our knowledge and experiences of those domains and will expand and reconfigure our understanding of those parts of the world, whether of law or insurance, of geology or international relations, of entertainment celebrities or personal relations. Even in reading for enjoyment we engage our knowledge of the world and its domains, and our thoughts and feelings relevant to those domains.

    Writing’s complex interplay of typification, social and cultural knowledge, experience with the world, and the making of individual meaning is powerfully at play in the experience of poetry, where the common linguistic medium is precisely chosen and shaped to evoke powerful personal meanings and emotions—such as the way a Shakespearean sonnet in its well-crafted words become the container for the reader’s individualized sentiments of loves and longings as well as perhaps memories of specific moments and relationships we associate with it. Equally, such seemingly different languages as that of law or scientific specialties, evoke experiences of the social and historical worlds in which the individual develops and acts.

    Schutz, Berger, and Luckman and the Social Production of the Everyday

    Schutz provides us a philosophic understanding of the relation of individual consciousness and meaning to socially patterned structures of meaning. Although Schutz started out with the problem of specialized economic behavior, he generalized to the everyday world which we are socialized into before our reflexive understanding develops. This everyday sense of what is natural is so deeply habitual that we don’t realize the social understandings and practices that create it. His students such as Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann who co-authored the widely influential Social Construction of Reality (1966), took the inquiry in a more sociological direction, examining the processes and patterns of social organization that create structures of individual consciousness and individual’s perceptions of their lives and themselves that in turn influence actions.

    They have since pursued the practices of forming life accounts, by examining what reconstructive genres, where individuals create public memories of events that have allegedly previously occurred. Gossip and story telling are reconstructive genres, and we may note have some relation to fictional literary narratives. Bergmann has explored genres of gossip at some depth in his book Discreet Indiscretions (1993), where he notes that gossip is filled with ambivalences, denials and ploys to cope with its dangerous violations of the public and the private, the discreet and the indiscreet, the taboo and the envied, the intimate and the condemnatory, and other social boundaries. In doing so, the social genres of gossip create a special recognizable social discursive place where gossip occurs and into which gossip partners must make entry, even as the person gossiped about must be excluded. Nonetheless, the creation of this holiday from usual social norms reconfirms the speaker’s commitment to everyday morality about which the gossip so carefully plays. Moreover, gossip creates accounts that evaluate everyday behavior and to which the gossipers thereby make themselves accountable. Here we see the importance of genres for formation of attitudes and we see how social relations and groups are built around the moral recounting of daily life. These are issues of some interest for the practice of literature.

    More broadly, Luckmann (1995) has specifically drawn the connection between genre and the construction of daily life:

    The elementary function of communicative genres in social life is to organize, routinize, and render (more or less) obligatory the solutions to recurrent communicative problems. The communicative problems for which such solutions are socially established and deposited in the social stock of knowledge tend to be those which touch upon the communicative aspects of those kinds of social interactions which are important for the maintenance of a given social order. . . . Different societies therefore do not have the same repertoire of communicative genres, and the communicative genres of one epoch may dissolve into more “spontaneous” communicative processes, while heretofore unbound communicative genres congeal into new genres. . . .

    At any particular time in any particular society the repertoire of communicative genres constitutes the “hard core” of the communicative dimensions of social life (Bergmann, p. 182; see also Bergmann & Luckmann, 1995).

    Günthner and Knoblauch (1995) further refine the idea of repertoire of communicative genres to a communicative budget which attends not only to the available range of genres, but how these genres are socially distributed (according to characteristics such as gender, caste or office; according to institutional domain such as gender or religion; and according to heterogeneous groupings such as family and leisure groups). The communicative budget gives concrete form to Bourdieu’s more general notion of a linguistic field (1991), specifying the kinds of linguistic acts available to the various participants, thus shaping their roles and forms of interaction, and contributing to the formation of their habitus.

    Schutz’s phenomenology also stands behind other recent micro-sociological examinations of social order created by mechanisms of meaning and sense-making in concrete interactions, including ethnomethodology, conversational analysis and Goffman’s presentation of self, as we will examine in later chapters. In all these approaches social structure can be seen as concretely enacted in micro-events created by individual agents, acting in typified circumstances. Genre thus can be seen as a way of bridging traditional macro-sociology of roles, norms, and classes with more recent micro-sociology, which in looking at the details of concrete interactions has been skeptical about traditional macro-categories that are not easily identifiable at the level of unique encounters among individuals.4 Genre provides a means for individuals to orient toward and enact situations in recognizable ways with recognizable consequences. Genre thereby establishes a concrete mechanism for structurational theories, that suggest that social structure is constantly remade in every interaction which reenacts ordered relations (Giddens, 1984). Luhmann (1983, 1995) has further suggested that society exists in the communications that go between individuals rather than in the aggregation of individuals, who always act as individual agents, and thus social structure is to be found in the structuring of communications, which in turn structure social relations.

    Schutz’s phenomenology provides a philosophic means for understanding how we achieve mutual orientations and attitudes towards meaningful utterances and their contexts, giving shape to our motives. But just as it has been the task of sociologists to see how these communicative practices concretely shape social relations and give rise to social structure, it is the task of specialists in rhetoric and writing to understand the production, reception, and use of texts within concrete social circumstances in order to produce specific socially shared meanings and knowledge. Because text production and use are so deeply enmeshed in the formation of individual and group consciousness, Schutz provides us a fundamental means for considering the ways in which texts orient our minds towards social worlds of action.

    To put it another way, texts are vehicles of articulating meanings within social spaces, externalizing inwardly conceived impulses and relationships into social actions to influence the consciousness of readers through the meanings conveyed. The typifications and social-symbolic understandings that are brought to bear in the course of externalizing and internalizing meanings are strengthened (in both a neural network sense and a personal identity sense) in the course of their active rehearsal. Each time we invoke sets of social understandings, we become that much more engaged with, oriented towards, and committed to those social arrangements, practices, and forms of consciousness being rehearsed. We turn them into stronger social and phenomenological realities. We strengthen the reification. This is a view consistent with and elaborating Vygotsky’s understanding of the role of language in shaping mind and regulating activity (see also Russell, 2010). Through participation in social spheres of discursive action, attending to the objects of that sphere in the ways appropriate to that sphere, we develop our minds and modes of thought in socially mediated ways.


    4. Conversational analysis, for example, in trying to give a precise empirical grounding to social observations, has tended to set aside any abstractions about context, event, or organization that individuals may bring with them to situations. They have attended to the smallest details which might indicate a kind of syntax of interaction, with most attention to the way in which turn taking is negotiated. However, in examining how people manage to gain the floor for longer turns, Schegloff (1996) considers larger recognizable turn units—which are something like recognizable genres. If someone is telling a joke, you know to let her continue until the punchline.