Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

Progress and Control: Positivism and the European Epistemological Hegemony1

Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

Progress and Control: Positivism and the European Epistemological Hegemony1

Article excerpt

Introduction

The traumatic experience of the twentieth century (see Badiou, 2007) has made researchers more conscious about the need to develop viable strategies in order to properly understand how the intricate mechanism of civilizational dialogue functions, in all its potentially conflictual stances, be they cultural, religious, demographic or ideological/institutional, and more precisely, how should such fierce civilizational contention be sublimated into stability or, at least, the intensity of its occurrences mitigated. To this end, scholars started to envision conflict as a scientific concept constructed in the theoretical debates that have been generated by the multiple, and indeed contradictory discourses and narratives which surrounds it. The complexity of conflict as a concept derives from the intricate relationship created between its fundamental constitutive elements. These elements, such as culture, religion, politics, geography or psychology demand a multidisciplinary approach in this demarche of constructing an explanatory theory of cultural interactions and conflicts between different cultures. Having in mind this heterogeneous nature of human reality, we can hardly find an exhaustive and all-encompassing understanding of it. Researchers, according to their fields of study, have each attempted to bestow their very own specific interpretation of human reality; for instance, psychologists have insisted on the relation between the conscious and unconscious, the Freudian school of thought being of major importance as an interpretational tool of human behavior (Brunner, 1995). Others have insisted on the cultural aspects that shape the nature and define our relationship with each other (the culturalist school). Yet another school of thought has insisted on the economical dimension in cultural interactions (Ryan, 1995).

The development of modem sociology and psychology has brought a new understanding on human behavior from a positivistic standpoint. The logical and mathematical manipulation of data was became the only tme mechanism for understanding and addressing social phenomena. Human behavior and human interaction were now to be envisioned as a mathematical equation, an impersonal and abstract relation between numbers (Putnam, 1975). In this brave new world2 of technology and computational perspectives, scholars have enlarged their understanding of reality by blindly accepting the output resulted from the huge amount of data that was to be processed by computers. These materialistic perspectives, enforced by their radical positivistic methodological reflexes, have consequently become normative in studying and understanding human societies. Because their focus has been, at least in their initial phases on native European societies, results and methodologies that were naturally evolved in a European ambience assumed a more or less paradigmatic standing.

The imposition of such theories worldwide, in an age marked by the hegemony of the mighty European civilization, would set the roots for decades of misunderstanding, and eventually conflict between the West and the rest of the world. The western scientific obsession rooted in a largely secularized environment would, in time, give birth to serious preconceptions about societies unwilling or unprepared to accept this holistic perspective of confidence in progress, science and rationalism. In the same time it created a sort of blindness towards social and cultural phenomen rooted in the pre modem past, embedded by patriarchal symbols and spiritual itineraries. Thus, concealed and mislead by their methodological hegemony, many Western scholars created a simplistic and schematically flawed picture of the different human societies characteristic to other civilizations. What they failed to notice was that although these societies were developing in the shadow of the multiple manifestations which European modernity has assumed in various specific civilizational and social contexts, they were still retaining a surprisingly high degree of pre-modem traits. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.