What do I want from Schatzki?

Over the last few days, my mind has been turning to Schatzki and forming a desire to re-read him more extensively and more carefully. Why? Why detour from the three master thinkers/ paradigms I have been most concerned with in recent times: Halliday and his systemic functional linguistics; Heidegger (Gadamer) and their ontological hermeneutic phenomenology of Dasein; and Laclau and his poststructural rendering of hegemonic politics? Not forgetting, of course my long standing interest in Rhetoric, more particularly Perelman’s New Rhetoric with its foregrounding of solidarity-building epideictic discourse.

Three elements of Schatzki’s work keep entering my mind:

  1. his privileging of social practice over language as the ground of intelligibility;
  2. his grappling with the complexity of the notion of ‘context’;
  3. and finally, his exposition of an ‘event’-based notion of ‘timespace’ for framing history, action and social causality.

If my memory serves me right, each of his three books is dedicated to these issues in turn:

  • Social Practices: A Wittgensteinian Approach to Human Activity and the Social (henceforth, SP) to the first topic – social practice over language;
  • The Site of the Social: A Philosophical account of the constitution of social life and change (henceforth SS) to the second – context: and
  • Timespace of Human Activity: On Performance, Society, and History as Indeterminate Teleological Events (henceforth THA) to the third topic – ‘events’ as the ground of social life.

Knowing the way my mind works, I am sure that there will be many detours along the way, but grappling with Schatzki carefully as a way of wrestling again with thinkers who have been constant companions to my own thinking will hopefully be a productive strategy for provoking a fading and lazy brain.

Warning: As Tony Abbott warned, most of what I will write in the early blogs will be provisional and speculative, thus open for revision or retraction. So, don’t hold me too strictly to anything I say or any particular phrasing. Hopefully, over time my judgement, grasp and language will tighten up, becoming more incisive and insightful – and thus worth engaging with. In short, the early blogs will be principally addressed to myself as provocations; hopefully the later blogs, if I can find some footholds, can be addressed to a wider audience.

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