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Whitaker on Trialectics: Comparative History of Environmental Degradation & Sustainability (1/2)

Spirit of the Staircase Notes about My Talk on Trialectics This is a 23-minute discussion of my method of trialectics with 7 minutes of discussion. This was a presentation at "Norbert Elias and Figurational Sociology: Prospects for the Future," in Copenhagen, Denmark, April 4, 2012. For what Elias and 'figurations' are, read about it elsewhere. like at Wikipedia. Sorry for the lack of visibility of the slides in the yellow font. First, I attempted to adjust it in rendering this video. Second, during the talk, when I noticed what was happening, I spoke clearly about 'what was printed in the yellow font' to correct for the lack of visibility. This old university's room arrangements--once a hospital designed for lots of natural light before the invention of electricity--is not a good architecture for competing with modern presentations based on weak LCD projectors. Plus, attempting to describe principles and patterns of 3,000 years of history in 23 minutes is an interesting challenge whether conducted in an old hospital or not. So the following short notes are my 'spirit of the staircase' comments. They are directed toward what I felt were the questions or confusions mentioned in the very short 7-minute comment period. The original call for presentations at this conference was aimed to attract people who integrating biophysical issues into historical and social science in particular cases. However, besides myself I didn't see anyone really integrating biophysical materials figurationally into particularly historical case analysis. Most were just the same old social science problem of ignoring the environmental issues in history or there were philosophical attempts at integrating environmental issues as concepts yet without any case analysis. My environmental integration was based on case analysis. So the talk was hardly abstract--it was abstracted: I discuss some integrating theoretical principles for analyzing all civilizations in human history as equals without Eurocentric assumptions of primacy. Europe is just another case--a geographically larger case, though a mere case nevertheless of the same dynamics as the past I am arguing as before with rare attempts at escaping such repetitions sometimes, just as we have nowadays as well. The talk's data was drawn from about 3,000 years of analysis of human history and environmental history of figurational change. The cases upon which this very short talk is based are the attempt to closely follow the ongoing developmental changes in China, Japan, and Europe over 3,000 years. On the contrary, Elias's empirical data and his subsequent ideas of theory were drawn exclusively upon Eurocentric cases and built from around only 500 years of time. Moreover, Elias only used a very limited set of data. It was very self-selected and deductive. It was about the interaction of courtesy and state formation--instead of as I am arguing, attempting to see how 15 different social referents in any period fit together more inductively, strategically, and interactively in historical assemblages and in interaction with the politics across four different sites of political cooperation and conflict in such stratification (states, science/religion, consumption, and finance). Elias only analyzed the state 'node.' I felt I should go to this conference because Elias has been an inspiration, and because they wanted to hear about material integration into figurational sociology--which I do. I had compared European cases and non-European cases for much larger periods of time than Elias ever did. However in this talk, my interest was in the methodological/theoretical principles derived from such a global, long term view and how it challenged both Smith and Marx--and how it expanded Elias instead of challenged him. (If you want historical discussion, see the other video talk about Ecological Revolution). The main issue I talk about here rises to the fore of the analysis if you take a long enough view: on the one hand, there are planned figurational changes in history--in assemblages of culture and politics and institutions some doing what they planned and some failing at it or getting a completely different outcome; on the other hand, their are unplanned interactions with other versions of the same. And both are figurational. There are singular jurisdictional attempts, and these are figurational attempts some successful and some failures; and there is the interaction between different jurisdictional attempts as a merged figurational issue in which no one really designs the interaction (in true Elias sense, if you read his work on 'game models' in his book What is Sociology.) ... [due to space constraints, the rest of this description is posted at the website]
Length: 14:52


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