Giddens and Dissenting

In Rewriting Harris defines countering as “looking at other views and texts not as wrong but as partial- in the sense of being both interested and incomplete.” (57). Harris also talks about the three different ways “individuate” ideas, arguing the other side, uncovering values, and dissenting. Harris describes Dissenting as “identifying a shared line of thought on an issue in order to note its limits.” (57). Dissenting is a beneficial tool to use when countering an idea because it makes the reader try and understand the point the author was trying to make. Giddens frequently does this through out the book. In The Consequences of Modernity Giddens uses the works and ideas of many other authors to illustrate his point. However, whenever he uses another person’s work he either completely agrees with them, or completely disagrees with them, there is no middle ground. The problem I have when reading Giddens is that it is hard to get the full picture of what he is trying to say when he omits parts of an argument that he is using.

In the last chapter of The Consequences of Modernity Giddens gives his final thoughts on globalization, and restates points that he had made throughout the book. In this chapter Giddens states “Modernity is inseparable from the abstract systems that provide for the disembedding of social relations across space and time and span both socalised nature of and the social universe.” (151). I believe Giddens is trying to say Modernity and abstract systems are connected, and that we are globally connected through large abstract systems. I agree with him when he says this, abstract systems are a major reason why our world is so connected. Things like airports, cruises, and trains all connect us. Additionally, things like email, and the Internet help spread information, and keep people up to date on things happening all around the world. Giddens also spoke about a topic called “Utopian Realism”, and the effects that it has on society. Giddens defines Utopian Realism as “The heavily counterfactual nature of future- oriented thought, an essential element of the reflexivity of modernity, has positive as well as negative implications” Utopian Realism has different components to it, including Life politics, Politicisation of the Local, and Politicisation of the Global, and Emancipatory Politics (politics of inequality). Giddins also mentions Marx views on the subject. Unlike other points Giddens tries to prove through the book he does a good job of showing all of Marx’s argument, not just utilizing the points the work for his argument.

6 thoughts on “Giddens and Dissenting

  1. I find myself mainly using the tools of countering and dissenting when reading and analyzing the works of Giddens. Since I don’t always find myself agreeing with what he says, I feel like I’ve truly benefitted countering and dissenting; I also like how they allow me to argue his thoughts in a respectful and acknowledging manner. Another tool Harris give that I feel goes hand in hand with these is coming to terms with a piece, or “to give a text its due and show what uses you want to make of it” (Harris 15).

    You brought up one of my favorite parts of “The Consequences of Modernity,” which was how abstract systems (like travel) connect our world. Because this book is a little dated, I’m sure Giddens had no idea how much of an impact things like the internet or email would make. I’m sure that in 15 years from now, we will be saying similar things about technologies that are still taking their baby steps today. Looking forward, what abstract systems do you think will continue to connect our world? What areas of our lives would benefit from a larger does of globalization?

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  2. I found this last chapter in Giddens to be the most fascinating. You state, “I believe Giddens is trying to say modernity and abstract systems are connected, and that we are globally connected through large abstract systems.” I completely agree with this statement. Modernity gives rise to abstract systems, which help connect the world on a global scale. Yes, our world is becoming extremely connected but on the other hand I think it’s also becoming less connected in the sense of personal interactions.

    The rise of abstract systems has caused a decrease in personal interactions. You can now order clothes from online and have them delivered to your house. Before that was possible, you would have to go out to the store and interact with people such as salesmen and cashiers in order to get your clothes. I believe that abstract systems are turning things that were once personal into impersonal.

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  3. This is actually a great section to use the dissenting tool with. Your last statement, “Unlike other points Giddens tries to prove through the book he does a good job of showing all of Marx’s argument,” is very important to point out because I believe there is a reason why he does this, and does it in the middle of the chapter. Giddens’ comment on Marx’s observation, “We must keep to the Marxian principle that avenues for desired social change will have little practical impact if they are not connected to institutionally immanent possibilities.” (pg. 155). The term ‘possibilities’ I suppose can be determined in a number of different ways I suppose but I think the reason he includes this is because he is using Marxian principles to set the groundwork for his own argument. Giddens’ own opinion seems to be a mix between his own thought and Marx’s texts which is why it keep appearing on later pages. But the idea is very interesting to think about. Based on the quote I wrote, do you think people who desire social change in today’s modern society now face greater difficulty in their quest for influencing power if they are NOT connected to some type of institution?

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  4. Much like Emily, and Kayla, I find myself using the move “dissenting” a lot while writing on Giddens’ work. However, I slightly disagreed with your statement, “whenever he uses another person’s work he either completely agrees with them, or completely disagrees with them, there is no middle ground.” I believe that many times, Giddens’ purpose is neither to agree, nor disagree, but to just acknowledge that this is what others are saying on that particular topic. This being said, I do not think Giddens always articulates this in the best way, so it does seem like he is making a strong agreement or disagreement.

    When Giddens states, “Modernity is inseparable from the abstract systems that provide for the disembedding of social relations across space and time and span both socalised nature of and the social universe” (Giddens 151) I too believe that he is connecting abstract systems and modernity. Your specific examples of “airports, cruises, and trains” are perfect examples of abstract systems that we put trust in, which is a big theme in Giddens’ writings.

    What do you think about the Utopian Realism section? I was very conflicted while reading it at first and I’d like to know what your thoughts are about it. Thank you for another great post!

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  5. Andrew,

    It’s interesting that you seized on Giddens’s use of Marx. You claim “Giddins also mentions Marx views on the subject. Unlike other points Giddens tries to prove through the book he does a good job of showing all of Marx’s argument, not just utilizing the points the work for his argument.” Some commentators on Giddens’s work have complained that Giddens has an over-simplified view of Marx’s complicated oeuvre. But you’re right that compared to how quickly he dispenses with others, Gidddens takes Marx–relatively–seriously. Do you think he does so for strategic (or writerly) reasons or what?

    ~DM

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  6. Andrew,

    Your post was very interesting, and like Kayla said this is definitely a great section of Giddens’ writing to use the method of “dissenting” on. I found myself “dissenting” Giddens’ work numerous times throughout the novel as well. Bring up the quote, “Modernity is inseparable from the abstract systems that provide for the disembedding of social relations across space and time and span both socalised nature of and the social universe.”, from page 151 was very helpful as well. You went on to explain it as, “I believe Giddens is trying to say Modernity and abstract systems are connected, and that we are globally connected through large abstract systems.” I agree with this explanation, I myself interpreted this quote in a similar manner to what you said. Abstract systems definitely play a huge part in our global lives and manners of communication with other life. You then go on to bring up “Utopian Realism” and dissent that topic, which helps the reader better understand what Utopian Realism is. I can also agree with the fact that Giddens’ did an exceptional job of explaining Marx’ view on the situation, overall this post was very informative.

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