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From Medieval Mnemonics to a Social Construction of Memory - page 20 / 23





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(meditation, casuistry, rhetoric) were replaced with civil behavior, privatization of emotion, a calculating lifestyle, state monopoly of force, and scientific ratio- nality. Self-knowledge, morality, and consciousness in the modern nation-state of Marx’s time became the subject of social scientific exploration and exploita- tion. Today, in a time of both “globalization” and corporate monopoly of major information sources, we are indebted to Marx’s (1978) historical comparative method because it helps us think critically about corporate commodity memory presented as truth but sometimes experienced as incongruent with our lived experience or social remembrances.

According to sociology’s own “rules of remembrance,” theories of metaphy- sicians fall outside the cannon; however, the theories of metaphysicians such as Leibniz and Bergson influenced sociologists Halbwachs and Mead—particu- larly pertaining to ideas about memory. As a young man, Halbwachs studied with Bergson, but he became disappointed with Bergson’s teachings. Halbwachs later wrote one of his dissertations on Leibniz after which he joined with the Durkheim school; and in the early 1900s, he wrote The Social Frame- works of Memory. These works have been translated and are presented in Halbwachs’s (1952/1992) On Collective Memory. Halbwachs’s ideas about col- lective memory radically refuted Bergson’s popular ideas about the important role of individual memory. Halbwachs defended his radical ideas about collec- tive memory in papers written after The Social Frameworks of Memory. These later writings were collected and published in 1950 in French in a book titled La Memorire Collective, which was then translated into English and published with an introduction by the cultural anthropologist Mary Douglas (1950/1980). In her introduction, Douglas noted that Halbwachs’s synthesis on collective mem- ory “contains criticisms of Bergsonism with support from Leibniz” (p. 17).

American sociologist George Herbert Mead appreciated Bergson’s theories. According to John Dewey’s (1959, p. viii) preface to Mead’s The Philosophy of the Present (a book that highlights Mead’s last work on perception), Mead was reading Bergson’s Durée et Simultanéité the week before his death. Like Leibniz and Bergson, Mead was interested in finding new ways to explain per- ception, but he wanted to incorporate biological science, social sciences, statis- tics, and a concept of individual agency to derive a theory of the present. Unfor- tunately, Mead’s theories were not well developed before his untimely death. What is recorded of these theories was gleaned from conference notes that he wrote for the Carus Lectures as read at the Meeting of the American Philosophi- cal Association conference at the University of California–Berkeley in Decem- ber 1930 and presented in Mead’s (1959) The Philosophy of the Present.

In establishing sociology as a science, Durkheim also laid claim to the study of the social construction of memory. Through Halbwachs’s work, sociology inherited the study of memory as a social phenomenon that is experienced indi- vidually and collectively. This historical discussion leaves out important con- temporary debates regarding self-knowledge and memory, consciousness and emotion, and jurisprudence and the state. For example, truth-and-reconciliation

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