A Society of Signs? by David Harris

By David Harris

An advent to present debates round the issues of tradition, id and way of life. Such debates frequently start with the statement that we are living in a "society of signs". positive factors comprise: precis and demanding dialogue of a few easy ways in social idea and cultural research; key readings of a few of the paintings of writers together with Barthes and Giddens; experiences of labor in additional conventional components, for instance, the sociology of id and the embedding method present in social lifestyles; and recommendation on additional studying.

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As he suggests, this causes difficulties in encounters with a ‘scientific attitude’, apparently written from an abstract, disinterested and de-centred perspective, with quite a different set of typifications and relevance systems. Any teacher or student can recognise this sort of cognitive problem which is very clear when encountering social sciences in particular: for example, shortly before writing this section I was teaching a media studies class, where it was clear that an academic reading of a Jaws movie (seeing the shark as a representation of ‘nature’ and sexuality, for example) simply starts in a different place and works in a different way compared to the ‘normal’ type of engagement and interpretation offered by relatively inexperienced students (who wanted to discuss the special effects and their personal impact, or to imagine what they would have done with certain scenes had they been the director).

These developments enable further reflection upon action, further orientation to the (various) others, until we end with the establishment of a working social relationship. In this way, participants socialise each other, so to 21 SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES AND MODERN LIFE speak (and, of course, the support for ethnographic research from this perspective is also easy to trace—here, groups socialise the researcher in this interactive manner, leading to more sympathetic understandings). From this primary sort of interaction, it is possible to generalise to less intimate groupings and encounters.

To borrow from a discussion in Mepham and Ruben (1979), embedding takes place: • in ‘real relations’ (for example, the actual relations between bosses and workers in production); • via the ‘phenomenal forms’ we discussed above, which can scarcely depart from the system that produces them and thus appear ‘natural’; • in ‘ideological categories’ (more developed and ‘scientificlooking’ but still rooted in the phenomenal forms at crucial moments; and, Lecourt tells us, ultimately nested within practical ideologies (see Macdonell 1986).

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