Captures the essence of base and superstructure.
THE MATERIAL ASPECT OF THE SOCIAL SITUATION
The dynamic logic of social relations is particularly intricate and has remained unconscious with Man because of his maximal proximity and involvement in his own situation. For millennia therefore, the activities of human society perhaps have been a greater mystery to him than every other part of the universe. Because of their greater distance from him he could see the movement of the stars and planets, or the life of the plants
and animals, more objectively. Therefore, the science of human society is today hardly as far developed as physics and astronomy were in the minds of Democritus and Ptolemy. It takes enormous sacrifice and discipline to view and accept himself as he is as an individual man, the structure of the individual psyche, its psychodynamics; but the degree of invisibility of the structure of human society, of its sociodynamics, is much greater than that of the single individual. The effort of becoming objective toward the socius encounters many more obstacles than to be objective toward his own individual mind. The involvement of the ego he can still grasp, perhaps he can pretend to know it because it operates within him. The involvement of the socius, however, he cannot pretend to know as it operates outside of him; but it is an outside to which he is inescapably tied.
This is a quote from Moreno — SOCIOMETRY, EXPERIMENTAL METHOD AND THE SCIENCE OF SOCIETY AN APPROACH TO A NEW POLITICAL ORIENTATION
J.L. MORENO — Foreword by GARDNER MURPHY
The same paragraph appears in a different context in Who Shall Survive? P73.
Here are my thoughts about this passage which I think has some important concepts and raises a question for another post:
- “The dynamic logic of social relations is particularly intricate”
This might sound trite, but it shows how he is focused on the relationship, not the individual. Not like Freud, Jung and all those on that tree of thought, who were predominantly individualists, in theory and practice. And note the words dynamic logic. Dynamic, moving changing, alive, and logic, something that makes sense, that can be grasped. Moreno wrote this in 1949 so this is written at the time of the upsurge of systems theory, cybernetics and the Macey conferences in New York. Maybe he was influenced by the zeitgeist of the time, or influenced it.
- “…remained unconscious with Man because of his maximal proximity and involvement in his own situation.”
- Unconscious. He uses the word unashamedly even though he is equally unashamedly anti Freud later in the same essay. The words maximal proximity are nice. McLuhan used the analogy of a fish not knowing what water is. It is because of the water’s maximal proximity to the fish. While so much is made of the bias of maximal proximity we see that for the study of humans Moreno turns this problem into the crucial advantage. Science is turned on its head, the group studies itself. Of course! Humans are explorers of space, of stuff outside of us, minimal proximity, so to study ourselves we have to make that inescapable maximal proximity a feature of the work.
- “… the degree of invisibility of the structure of human society, of its sociodynamics, is much greater than that of the single individual. The effort of becoming objective toward the socius encounters many more obstacles…”
The invisibility of the structure of human society is a phenomena. Invisibility … we can see people, but not ‘systems’. someone famously said “you can’t kiss a system”. Now the meditation on Moreno’s writing here gets interesting… note the title of the section: The Material Aspect of the Social Situation. So does the relationship, the network, have a material aspect? What does that look like? You can see two things but the relationship between them is a space. The space between is a cherished notion in Imago Relationship Therapy. I’m not sure how Moreno resolves these questions about the material aspect. (I think I heard Timothy Morton talk sense on this. For another post.)
The socius. Another potent word. He uses it as if there is a reality that exists. I think of his other wording: the sociometric matrix as being somewhat similar, if not the same. The socius is similar and just as slippery as ‘the psyche’.
• “The involvement of the ego he can still grasp, perhaps he can pretend
to know it because it operates within him.”
Note the word pretend. For Moreno it’s all roles. There really is no inner even though he uses that language here.
I’m looking forward to writing another post on the whole section on the material aspect of relationship
This Journal has Just come out. — Clipped the whole page here. Note the articles are online! I love that. I’m interested in the psyche and climate.
The cover by Nigel brown is great.
New Zealand abstained!!!
I signed the Greenpeace petition:
Two books of his on the go at the moment… might take me a while 🙂
See the this post for more about Raymond Williams.
I am interested in the absract expressionists. Particularly the art of Jackson Pollock. Lee Krasner, his wife as well, they are an amazing tragic pair. I am making this post to collate some posts I’ve made related to him and to have a place to add reflections and links. Here is a link to Wikipedia about the Blue Poles – the feature image above (a detail below). Jackson Pollock in Wikipedia.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Paul Jackson Pollock (January 28, 1912 – August 11, 1956) was an American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. He was widely noticed for his “drip technique” of pouring or splashing liquid household paint onto a horizontal surface, enabling him to view and paint his canvases from all angles. It was also called all-over painting and action painting, since he covered the entire canvas and used the force of his whole body to paint, often in a frenetic dancing style. This extreme form of abstraction divided the critics: some praised the immediacy of the creation, while others derided the random effects. In 2016, Pollock’s painting titled Number 17A was reported to have fetched US$200 million in a private purchase.
This site has the background & the paintings.
Copied one from 42
more from the Auckland Gallery:
Have you ever heard Jackson Pollock’s voice or seen him painting?
Hans Namuth and Paul Falkenberg made their film Jackson Pollock in 1951. When Namuth arrived at the artist’s studio he recalled that ‘A dripping wet canvas covered the entire floor. Blinding shafts of sunlight hit the wet canvas, making its surface hard to see. There was complete silence… Pollock looked at the painting. Then unexpectedly, he picked up can and paintbrush and started to move around the canvas. It was as if he suddenly realized the painting was not finished. His movements, slow at first, gradually became faster and more dancelike as he flung black, white and rust-colored paint onto the canvas… He completely forgot that Lee [Krasner] and I were there; he did not seem to hear the click of the camera shutter… My photography session lasted as long as he kept painting, perhaps half an hour. In all that time, Pollock did not stop. How could one keep up this level of activity? Finally, he said “This is it”.’
Here is a short excerpt from Namuth’s and Falkenberg’s fine film (dead link, but here is the whole BBC doco) where Pollock says ‘I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them. Technique is just a means at arriving at a statement.’
Progressive or reactionary?
And perhaps here we have come to something like an answer to my original question. If a talented artist cannot see or think beyond the decadence of the culture to which he belongs, if the situation is as extreme as ours, his talent will only reveal negatively but unusually vividly the nature and extent of that decadence. His talent will reveal, in other words, how it itself has been wasted.
Berger, John (2014-09-07T22:58:59). Selected Essays of John Berger. Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Berger credits Pollock with talent, but criticises him for not commenting on the decadence. Meditate on this: Pollock, is not commenting on anything, because he is too busy being who he is. He is… expressing. In that sense he might be the forerunner of a me generation, but forerunner is the wrong word, it’s been a me generation for centuries. There are other contradictions at play. This is the weird thing about abstract expressionism, which is not socialist, and even individualist, but at the same time something that emerged out of a culture that was counter to the decadence. To ‘do’ is different than to ‘illustrate’. And that is progressive. Pollock, in his very hurtfulness was also a victim as an outsider of a culture that violated his being. That is easy to overlook as that very society drops bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I can see him as making art while emprisoned. If that is true then it is true of Lee Krassner even more so.
Going West 1934 – 35
Number 1A, 1948
John Berger is worth attending to. He surprises and stimulates constantly about everything. I like this podcast: