Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Micro/Macro?

I wonder sometimes about distinctions. Quantitative and qualitative. Micro and macro. Objective and subjective. Those are the big ones that come to mind. There are others, sure.

But in the shower I was thinking about the issue of micro and macro. I feel like I have a desire to incorporate them, which is obvious, I guess. The social micro and macro, is what I wonder about. The individual and the system.

I feel like I think about Clausewitz when I think about this issue. Clausewitz was talking intensely about both the macro and the micro. He was talking about how individuals make tough decisions in war, and also what war is in a bigger picture. He kept the individual and the whole in mind at the same time.

But sometimes I read things that are intensely one way or the other. Goldman, for example, takes a micro approach in that he looks at the question of individual minds, and not the question of social structures or processes.

Foucault, on the other hand, takes a macro approach that is supposed to illuminate micro issues. So when I read Discipline & Punish I had this desire to illuminate has macro analysis with references to Goldman's micro work.

I've become more interested in macro analysis. In Marx, in Harvey, in Zizek, in thinkers who are painting in broad strokes, theorizing on that level of meta-narrative. I wonder about all that.

I found a book today that I'm worried about. It was called The Empathic Civilization. Huge book, all about the relationship between historical development and the role of empathy. I am skeptical of its broad strokes, and I'm skeptical of claims about empathy. I love empathy, as a thing, as an idea. But I'm skeptical as to why the role of empathy isn't more self evident.

I told a co-worker about my curiosity about the relationship between empathy and language. Because to me it seems like Searle's analysis in Making The Social World says that language is a more important factor in the development of society and history. Empathy is there, sure, but language, too, is an innate capability of humans. And it seems more powerful to me.

The tug of war between language and empathy.

The macro of language, the micro of empathy.

I wrote an essay about language and empathy a few months ago. But their relationship clearly deserves much closer inspection.

How exciting.

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