Valuing disorder: perspectives on radical contingency in modern society

Scanlan, John (2001) Valuing disorder: perspectives on radical contingency in modern society. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis explores the relationship between social and individual forms of ordering social life on one hand, and the emergence of a number of ‘spheres’ of disorder in the experience of life on the other. In modern society such evidence of disorder can only be characterised in terms that reinforce the negative or formless experience of the human confrontations with disorder. Manifestations of radical contingency (taken as the cognitive residue of such disorder) in experience are thus contrasted with the progress and limits of reason and desire (which create the ‘valuable’ part of life), and these are further examined within a language of being that establishes the discordant nature of the relationship.

It is argued that reason and desire, in creating value, always construct an edifice of social and personal expectation that is justified on the basis of the reliability of causal relations between phenomena in lived experience, and in so doing ‘make’ an objective and orderly social world.

Several notions central to an understanding of the accumulation of categories of being in modern society are examined as the positive expression of the conditions of autonomous action, and thus as crucial determinants of value and identity. The central relationship is further investigated through the elaboration of three negative categories of experience, which are seen to contain individual and social forms of action that forcefully remove, or contradict order and autonomous freedom as it is here defined. The thesis is therefore divided into three parts. Part 1 examines the loss of autonomy through gambling, and specifically through the singular experience of the wager, which is seen to be an intensification of the motion that constitutes life, but that boldly refuses to be contained, as rational autonomy would dictate. Part 2 deals with the atomisation of knowledge and experience in modern society, looking specifically at instances of ‘non-representational’ art of the twentieth century as the residue of developments that had as a positive aim the refinement of experience. Part 3 deals with the material exclusion of various kinds of garbage resulting from both social and technological progress, and from the emergence of a multiplicity of opportunities for the establishment of self-identity that are seen as both a product of dividing the world of experience into ever smaller categories (i.e., the refinement of the ‘objective’ world) and of the subjective relationship between the individual in modern society and the world of objects.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Ferguson, Professor Harvie and Reith, Dr. Gerda
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-1145
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2009
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2021 14:19
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.1145

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