Friday, May 18, 2012

Giddens and Tradition

As I get closer to actually writing my dissertation, I have really tried to look at all the possible ways to analyze "my" actual methodology.  Because of my experience in studying historiography, I have lately developed a sort of love affair with sociology.  Mind you, this is not a "Christianized" sociology, much like I don't like to talk about a "Christianized" history.  Since I will be teaching Historiography in the Fall, I will be dedicating much of my summer time to exploring important sociologist with regards to modernity.

A couple of sociologists I have warmed up to are Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens.  What makes both of these figures special is that they fall somewhere in the middle with regards to the structure and agency argument.   Being the Barth guy that I am, I believe that Barth is also somewhere in the middle of the two; one can see his late work on Christian witness as an effect in light of the Spirit's previous work in giving humans real agency but without losing the focus of our place in societies structures.

I have only read a little from Giddens; I have just purchased his Consequences of Modernity and just read his short book Runaway World.  One thing that stood out to me is his important words about traditions and the Enlightenment:

"In my view, it is entirely rational to recognise that traditions are needed in society.  We shouldn't accept the Enlightenment idea that the world should rid itself of tradition altogether.  Traditions are needed, and will always persist, because they give continuity and form to life." (62-3)

The valuable point Giddens makes is that traditions will never cease to exist, yet, in the globalized world, traditions will find it difficult not to change, adapt and reinvent themselves in order to survive.  In fact, tradtions have historically always adapted to their environment.  One of the mistakes that the "secular" Enlightenment made were to make superstition and ignorance synonymous with tradition.

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