Reflexivity, social transformation, and counter culture
Cox, Laurence (1997) Reflexivity, social transformation, and counter culture. In: Proceedings "Alternative Futures and Polular Protest" 3rd annual conference, Manchester Metropolitan University.
This paper attempts to identify how reflexivity works within the local rationalities of social movement milieux that, it is argued, represent an important source of the development of reflexivity in contemporary lifeworlds. In interviews in the Dublin counter culture, reflexivity appears above all as the institutionalisation of autonomy, the creation of new social forms for self-determined purposes. A starting point is strategies of distancing from the taken-for-granted assumptions of individuals' lifeworld backgrounds, as well as participation in "mediated subcultures" enabling the use of knowledge of other lifeworlds to gain perspective. The flourishing of experiments and projects within the space thus opened up depends on a habitus foregrounding creativity rather than repetition. This is emphasised in everyday life by the value placed on development of the self, by the elaboration of purely verbal projects, by a fascination with form and "mind games", and by a delight in creative technical and practical activity. This also implies a structure of feeling that emphasises tolerance for different obsessions and orientations, a lack of identification with individual projects, organisations, or even the lifeworld itself, and thus a sense of the lifeworld as a provisional and open-ended project, valued primarily insofar as it is reflexive and creative rather than repetitive and "stagnant". Even its "stagnant" side, however, can be related to the active demands of a reflexive orientation to everyday life that privileges choice, creativity and explicit decisions and actions, and undermines or rejects the use of routine as an organising strategy for everyday action. At the same time, the apparent individualism of many of its activities created hides the thoroughly social genesis of these different "technologies of the self", in which cultural resources are mobilised in new social contexts to sustain and develop reflexivity. The key role of intellectual activity in the (re-)thinking and (re-)organising of social life then connects this lifeworld to the more explicit political and cultural challenges that arise from it. In conclusion, the paper suggests the possibility of radicalising the concept of reflexivity beyond the reflexive consumption of social relations to their reflexive production. It argues that the stakes at play, within disorganised capitalism, are precisely those of the meaning of concepts such as "autonomy" and "reflexivity" within the opposing formations of the New Right and the counter-cultural left.
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