Arguing Giddens’ side

On the second page of Harris’ chapter on countering, I made an immediate connection to our class’s experience with the scholarly work of Giddens.  In graduate school, Harris “did everything he could to rebut the views of a certain scholar”, he “seized upon every gap, contradiction, or misstep” he could (Harris 55).  Much like our class trying to find what Giddens can possibly be talking about and how it relates to modernity or post modernity, Harris did the same.  What he came to learn though, is rather than nitpicking on an author’s “moments of blindness”, we should “add to what can be said about a subject (Harris 55,56).

Regardless of complaints about Giddens’ rant about what is and isn’t modern about our society, we do good job of explaining what we think is right and wrong and look to further his points that we think are valid.  A key point in Harris’ chapter on countering is to better understand an author’s writings is “arguing the other side” (Harris 57).  Instead of bashing Giddens for explanations that don’t make sense, we should identify the point he is trying to make and formulate a better argument to better see his point of view.  Even if we don’t believe in what he is trying to convey, we will comprehend his writing more and be able to understand specifically where his arguments fall short.

A specific part of Giddens’ argument that I found particularly confusing was his concept of money.  Giddens claimed that “money does not exist”, but to any person, it clearly does exist both physically and fundamentally (Giddens 22).  Maybe his point is that money only represents debts owed between people and its sole purpose is to eliminate those debts.  Money, a key aspect of our transition from pre modernity to modernity, has not always been the way in which to pay debts.  Before, bartering was used in place of money and even before that people lived off of what they produced and never owed debt to anyone.  In this respect, money could be replaced anytime by a new innovation and it would be forgotten like it never existed.  Money may not always be around, but debts will be.  Debt and transactions are what exist in any stage of society and that it was makes money non-existent.

7 thoughts on “Arguing Giddens’ side

  1. I really liked the standpoint you took on relating our class trying to decipher Giddens’s book to the writing experience Harris had in grad school. As you noted, Harris learned to move away from picking apart “moments of blindness” of the author and instead adding to the subject in your own words. Another point Harris raises that I think is helpful to becoming a successful writer is when he says, “Your aim is not to refute what has been said before, but to respond to prior views in ways that move the conversation in new directions.”(P. 56). This counters what the previous writer has said and adds a new perspective instead of ending the conversation. I also agree with your idea that we should look to further Gidden’s points that we support instead of getting frustrated at Giddens’s when he try’s to establish connections like disembedding mechanisms such as tokens and trying to relate that to how were post modern or not.

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  2. I also made the connection between Harris’ experience in graduate school and what we are doing in class. I think it’s pretty cool how these two books relate to each other so much. Giddens performs basically all the techniques that Harris explains in Rewriting, which makes it much easier to understand how to perform these techniques. I agree with you in that when arguing the other side “we should identify the point he is trying to make and formulate a better argument to better see his point of view.” But I think a really important aspect in arguing the other side that Harris mentions is, “Don’t guess at intent” (Harris 68). When people disagree with you it can be easy to think that they’re doing so for “sinister reasons” but that’s usually not the case and it’s not worth it to think that way.

    -ML

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  3. Jack,

    You give a compelling account here of how you came to respond to a puzzling moment in Giddens in a spirit of generosity, as Harris recommends. You also raise a great point, that debts (in a non-financial sense) have existed for a long time. What’s the effect of our transition to using money to cover all kinds of debts? Or do you see other kinds of things circulating in the present to meet debt obligations?

    ~DM

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  4. You say that “Instead of bashing Giddens for explanations that don’t make sense, we should identify the point he is trying to make and formulate a better argument to better see his point of view.” This is a great way to understand what Giddens is saying, but also adding your own ideas into the picture. Harris says that the best way to do this is to, “Restate her or his project in clear and generous text to set up your response to it, and then move as quickly as you can from its language to your own” (68). So not only does restating Giddens argument help us understand the passage, it also allows us to set up our own argument even if we do want to bash Giddens. This is a respectful and professional approach. If this is such a better way to write, then why are people always bashing other writers in articles and posts? Is there a flaw to this type of responding?

    Stephen

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  5. In ‘Arguing Giddens’ side’, I was impressed with your upbeat, proactive and helpful tact to build onto Giddens positions and ‘better understand an author’s writings’. I agree that when we fully comprehend Giddens point of view and clarify points his logic confused us on, we are in a much better position even if we don’t agree with his point of view. However, I must ask you if you would feel the same way if you learned a particular author was a radical extremist who was leading a harmful revolution? How would you ‘formulate a better argument to better see his point of view’ then? A very intriguing post – thank you.

    -chris

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  6. I really like the connection you made between this chapter in Rewriting and our classes experiences with The Consequences of Modernity. I also found Gidden’s argument about money very confusing. How could he claim “money does not exist”? Your answer to this question helped me understand what Gidden’s was trying to say. “Maybe his point is that money only represents debts owed between people and its sole purpose is to eliminate those debts.” Before we had money, our currency use to be goods, which we exchanged through bartering and trading. Debt, gave people who didn’t have goods the ability to trade and get what they need.

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  7. The way you attack this chapter of Harris and relate it to Giddens and our experience with him is very refreshing and also very helpful. You do a great job of tackling a very confusing pout Giddens made about money, applying your own interpretation of it, and then explaining it. You took the quotation, “Money does not exist”, from Giddens and explained what that could possibly mean. “Maybe his point is that money only represents debts owed between people and its sole purpose is to eliminate those debts.” I never looked at it this way but the explanation makes sense to me and helps tie some other lose ends within that chapter of Giddens. Instead of disagreeing with Giddens, you respectfully forward one of his ideas and make it your own. Very good work.

    -AP

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