Tuesday, July 21, 2009

more notes on functionalism

Without going into the vexed question of functionalism in modern society, and how it is to be reconciled with the idea of "gradations of rank", which is no doubt much more complex than I described...

what I'm interested in is the notion of a functionalism that is imagined to work for a whole society, and a society which is ordered hierarchically, and whose real "gradations of rank" are imaginatively carried over as a necessary organisational principle underlying this functionalism...

since society is to be reproduced as a single intentional entity, a "spiritual" entity, and not a monist system where everything is as important as everything else, or a composite of rather prosaic functionalist parts that do not yet crowd out human subjectivity

We already have a model of "cultural functionalism" (where functionalism works through a hierarchical order etc) in Kandinsky's text. This text makes explicit claims, and its contemporary prestige can be more or less well reconstructed.

According to the logic of "cultural functionalism", truth is concentrated in a single point. This circumstance problematicises humanist culture, the social structure of which is predicated on the idea that people in general are capable of making distinctions between what can be considered "true" and false". If we take humanist culture to be necessarily polyvalent, it might be represented as a horizontal section cut through the "triangle", such that it formally comprehends a "lower section" that supports it and from which its subject matter is drawn, while this culture is itself formally comprehended by an "upper section" it in turn supports.

As I mentioned the question of how an interplay of functionalisms contributes to human culture in any particular society is too complex to adequately address. We can, however, draw some conclusions from the limit case of "cultural functionalism" for which we have Kandinsky's description. What might we expect of a humanist culture inflluenced by these ideas?

1. culturally consistant "upper" and "lower" sections

2. the sacralisation of a practically dormant "upper section" (in bourgeois society, bourgeois humanism would have to invent an imaginary "upper section")

3. the idea that there is a natural trade off between the security of humanism and the inactivity of the "lower section"

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