Posts Tagged ‘Foucault’

Minor Intellectuals Further Theorize About Selling Out Here

In Organizations, Sociology on February 17, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Editor’s Note: It is nice to see the affinity for the fascinating subject of sartorial conformism on the part of sympathists.  This post is organized as a dialogue, made up of comments to previous posts as well as material written expressly for the colloquy.

Tim Chanecka, Kyoto

Interesting observations, Mr. Inch, and good recollection as well. I would point out further that as one who shared that office with you and MT, it always seemed to me that for most of the rest of us (although if you’ll recall, I also seasonally wore a tie) the choice not to wear a tie was also an act of rebellion against the cultural norm that we were thrust into. In other words, an act of rebellion against a culture that insisted that anything less than a necktie was less than professional. Some of us, I believe you would be included in that group, wanted to be taken seriously as professionals for what we DID, not the packaging in which we did it. I guess that would skew quite seriously the idea that we could become something which we were not by pretending to be it.

At any rate, for me anyway, the wearing o’ the tie has become de rigueur, perhaps for the same reasons MT did and still does it, perhaps because I am in a culture which I cannot change, so I have changed my practices to be more in step with it. It still comes off before I even get out the door in the evening, however.

Dean Williams, Kyoto

What about MY sartorial choices? Something wrong with suspenders and bow ties? It was me, not the slim one, who read and took to heart the self-help smash, “Dress for Success–If You Want to be a Circus Clown.”

Matthew Thomas, Kyoto

Mr. Inch’s wonderfully ambivalent post deserves a full response, and, at the risk of typecasting Sympathies as a blog focusing on the minutia of social practice, will receive one. For the moment, I would only add that Puritano’s ability to pull off the circus clown look is wholly dependent on the projection of an identity that supports the fashion in question. For those many of us yet to acquire to ability to turn on and turn off more or less at will what for lack of a better word can only be called “charisma”–a conventional, even conservative professional appearance may indeed act as a kind of catalyst through which a measure of social effectiveness may be harnessed. I think that the ambivalence, perhaps even the hint of insecurity, that animates Andrew’s post is precisely born of his uncertainty about how far charisma, charm, and personality can take before he too will need to rethink his rebel pose, his “alternative (…) perhaps less respect-able but nonetheless conformist, relationship to the rules and rituals that regulated life in that particular setting,” and find it in himself to don the noose.

Andrew Inch, United Kingdom

Fascinating stuff, Mr Thomas.  Goffman does indeed provide interesting means for thinking about the self and identity.  I think, however, that in part you have misinterpreted the roots of my ambivalence, and in so doing attribute something rather different to my post than I intended Continue Reading

On Knotting the Necktie and Other ‘Practices of the Self’

In Sociology on January 29, 2009 at 9:25 am

Editor’s Note: Sympathies is pleased to present the first of what we hope to be many posts from our old friend, Mr. Andrew Inch. Here, Mr. Inch responds to an earlier post of mine on J.G. Ballard and “My Dinner With Andre.” As is his wont, Mr. Inch has zeroed in on the true topic of the post which may have been submerged by a certain amount of thematic rambling.  Despite the fact that he has chosen the very European lifecourse of professional student, Andrew too once worked in an office, as his post makes clear.

Andrew Inch, United Kingdom

necktyingSo after promising not to get drawn into writing anything other than my doctoral thesis I find myself responding to something here on Classical Sympathies at some length, maybe even provoked to do so. Or perhaps just with a memory of provocation. Or a desire to provoke. In any case, Matthew Thomas’ recent post on “Social Image and Social Reality: On Ballard’s “Conversations” and “My Dinner With Andre”” seemed to invite a response.

Matthew’s post was concerned with the way we come to perform particular identities, to take on, or affect certain social positions. He seems interested by the nature of this performance, placing it in relation to the worlds of theatre and literature through the work of J.G. Ballard and the film My Dinner with Andre. He is concerned to probe the possibility of some kind of authenticity, and to wonder at the self he himself presents to the world through the stabilizing practices of routine. Ultimately, he seems to want to assert the potential for creative agency through exercise of the will-to-power, the possibilities immanent in the performance of new identities through the carrying out of the appropriate rituals.

For me this drew to mind a one time colleague, for arguments sake let’s call him MT, who would as a matter of course dress for work in a neatly pressed business shirt and necktie. Or at least that is how I remember him -some years have passed since we worked together after all. This was, however, particularly noteworthy since, in the workplace in question, there was at that time no formal dress code, and many of the rest of us chose to dress in a less formal fashion. Continue Reading