Docstoc

Part I

Document Sample
Part I Powered By Docstoc
					                   Part I

Marriage and Mirrors: Establishing the Vision

             Outlining the Study
                                                6



                                         CHAPTER 1

                                  OF AIMS AND VISIONS

          FINDING THE MIRROR: OF REVOLUTIONS AND CRITIQUES

                                Everyone is a revolutionist concerning the thing he
                        understands. For example, every person who has mastered a
                           profession is a sceptic concerning it, and consequently a
                                                                       revolutionist.
                                                              -George Bernard Shaw

                            Revolutions have never lightened the burden of tyranny:
                                       they have only shifted it to another shoulder.
                                                                       -John Tanner

       This inquiry is borne of my own dance with ‘marriage’, in which I moved from dating
single to married wife (and mother), and then to divorced single mother, the latter overlaid
with a period of co-habitation. This dance positioned me so that I felt, at different times,
anger, rage, voicelessness, sadness and stigmatization, and it brought me to a place where I
became very sceptical of the institution. I became acutely aware of my discomfort when
doing marital or couple therapy so that ‘marriage’, in the end, presented itself on two fronts –
personal and professional – for critical inquiry.

       When I started this thesis I was very much convinced that I would never marry again
and the socialist and feminist voices in me were ready to make a case for the abolition of the
institution However, my post-structural epistemological leanings at the time required me to
try and turn my critical lens on the meaning of marriage as discursively constituted, thus to
broaden the scope beyond the structures of patriarchy and capitalism, to understand marriage
as a shifting meaning, in a socio-historical, discursive matrix. This position does not deny the
power that emanates from gender and class, but it also views the latter as discursively
underpinned and maintained, as part of a wider, ongoing network of power/knowledge
performances (Connor, 1989; Humphries, 2004). From this follows a particular
understanding of culture and ideology.

       The work of Michel Foucault and Michel Pecheux contributed to a political
understanding of culture, as a material and social force; it was no longer seen as a mere
                                               7

sphere of representation, but came to be viewed as a collective of forms and representations
that in themselves are power (Barker, 1998; Connor, 1989). This notion of culture echoes
Wittgenstein’s vision of culture as a cluster of symbolic and material practices, of ‘language-
games’, and it affords us an alternative understanding of ideology. For the purposes of this
study, I aligned myself with an Althusserian understanding of ideology, as social and
historical process and practice, rather than with the Marxist notion of a ‘false consciousness’.
This understanding is aided by the work of Brown (1994) and Foster (2004); both draw on
Althusser (1970) to describe ideology as that which constitutes the social practices that
impose on people their ‘natural and ethically appropriate’ identities through the process of
interpellation.

        A post-structuralist epistemology would allow me to reveal the ‘truths’ of marriage
through an ‘archaeological’ account of the socio-historical layers of meaning, as constructed
in language; but just deconstructing the meaning was not sufficient to understand the politics
of marriage – how the ideology set up very particular subject positions with regard to
marriage (inside and outside of its boundaries). This searching for an account of ‘truth’,
which could engage with its political effects whilst holding the multiplicity of truth, led me
towards Foucault’s dual lens of archaeology and genealogy to uncover the ideological
workings of knowledge/power in our historicized and institutionalized accounts of marriage.

            The Prismatic Mirror: Refraction of the Image to Reveal Power/Truth
                                          Resistance

                  Knowledge and power are integrated with one another, and there
                    is no point in dreaming of a time when knowledge will cease to
                      depend on power; this is just a way of reviving humanism in a
                    utopian guise. It is not possible for power to be exercised without
                   knowledge, it is impossible for knowledge not to engender power.
                                                                       -Michel Foucault

        What grounds reason, a grounding principle itself? From a Foucauldian place the
answer would be that the grounding principle of reason is power (Connor, 1989). The
institution of marriage is crisscrossed with power relations, which cannot be separated from
the knowledge of marriage, but when we look in the mirror that only reflects, rather than
refracts, we come to see knowledge and power in an either–or way. Whilst looking in this
                                                8

kind of mirror (that cannot be smudged) it would be tempting to take the revolutionary stance
and to advocate the overthrow of the institution in order to remove its power and oppression;
but then we would fall into the trap of just shifting the burden to the other shoulder, of setting
up a tyranny of rampant, selfish individualism. We would fail to understand marriage as the
nexus of many different knowledges, such as those of love, religion, citizenship and
psychology; and in that failure we would also fail to understand the myriad of micro-power
relations that underpin marriage.

       I had to find an epistemological position for the study that would allow me to do more
than just reflect in an either–or way – a position that would allow me to refract the image in a
way that would reveal the interrelationship between knowledge and power. An exploration of
the philosophical tradition of a social-historicist account of ‘truth’ put me on the road to this
kind of refraction, but it was primarily the philosophers of the post-structuralist school
(Foucault in the main) that brought power/knowledge into sharp relief for me. It is this
exploration that constitutes the first section of my epistemology chapter (Chapter 2).

       Aligning myself with these epistemological ‘truths’ allowed me to address the
institution and its power by illuminating the boundary between the institution and society as
the seat of power, rather than the institution itself. My ‘revolution’ mutated into an activist
stance; I no longer wanted to overthrow marriage, but I wanted to address and call to account
the interface between society and marriage, in particular psychology’s knowledge
contribution and the power that it simultaneously affords and withholds.

       When we interrogate the interface between the institution and society it is possible
that alternatives to marriage may reveal themselves, and it is possible that we might arrive at
a point where, at a given point in time, these alternatives might become more dominant than
marriage itself. The primary objective is thus not to abolish marriage, but rather to call
forward that which might be silenced by the ideology of marriage. Abolition is a non-sense in
terms of my epistemological stance; in a discursively constructed world nothing ever
disappears, it just falls silent between the current swells of the knowledge/power tide, which
simultaneously amplifies other alternatives.
                                               9

                                          Affirmation
                Postmodern analysis need not rest in smugness or unease, having
                 dispatched the philosophic problems of moral essences, universals
                 and foundations. The interesting question is not whether there is
               a truth, reality or virtue independent of all possible accounts of it,
                     but how such accounts are made adequate to their respective
                     purposes and practices of poetic and political representation.
                                                           -Richard Harvey Brown

       Having argued for a ‘re-fraction’ of marriage in the construction of my
epistemological stance, the next question became: Where does the critical impulse, the
deconstruction, leave us in terms of social justice? It allows us to resist any form of reified
meaning – but does it take us far enough in terms of the alternatives? And how do we
determine ‘far enough’ from within a postmodern metaphysic that views everything as
representation (Rosenau, 1992; Simons & Billig, 1994)? Here I had to turn to the socio-
historicists again, but now to the vocabulary of someone such as Habermas, to recuperate and
incorporate the idea of social justice. I use the word ‘vocabulary’ here with a specific intent
because it incorporates a ‘possibility’ rather than a ‘truth’ as to what constitutes social
justice. For Habermas (1987) it means that we cannot let go of rationality as an objective
measure of what is just. His proposed notion of ‘communicative rationality’ allows for
deliberation of this notion but it does not let go of an utopian ideal (which translates into a
regulative ideal), whereas my constructed stance would prefer to move rationality from the
outside to the inside, from the future to the here-and-now, where it reflects diversity and
minority, rather than to talk about it. Nonetheless, I am still trying to engage with
Habermas’s (1987) striving: to redefine the political rather than reject it, by steering clear of
both nihilism and absolutivity.

       This kind of rationality that I put forward, in the final chapter of Part II
(‘Epistemological explorations’), is of course not without its ideal, but the ideal here is a
process rather than a position – a process that would give us the leeway to be continuously
aware of the power inherent to our ‘better’ alternatives. This kind of rationality does also
have different implications for emancipation; it makes it more insecure and contingent.
                                               10

                                           Emancipation
                  My private purposes, and the part of my final vocabulary which is
                   not relevant to my public actions, are none of your business. But
                  as I am liberal, the part of my final vocabulary which is relevant
                      to such actions requires me to become aware of all the various
                 ways in which other human beings whom I might act upon can be
                       humiliated. So the liberal ironist needs as much imaginative
                  acquaintance with alternative final vocabularies as possible, not
                just for her own edification, but in order to understand the actual
                   and possible humiliation of the people who use these alternative
                                                                        vocabularies
                                                                     -Richard Rorty

         The third and final section of my epistemology chapter addresses emancipation by
attempting to make a space for the dialectic of relativism/realism, or as Brown (1994) refers
to it:   ‘a dialectic of irony’. Translated for the postmodern social sciences this means
providing the opportunity to both resist and affirm, whilst remaining appreciative of
resistance as contingent upon the cultural realm within which it operates, which in turn
outlines the horizon of the affirmative.

         The dialectic dynamic affords an ongoing movement between a continual
deconstruction (resistance) and reconstruction (affirmation). For this thesis it meant that I
could (in Parts III and IV) deconstruct and critique our current reified meanings of marriage
(both lay and professional) to lay bare their constructedness and manufacturedness along
with the oppressiveness that lurks in non/marital subjectivity, without losing sight of the
affirmative agenda that finds voice in Part VI (‘A critique of contemporary marriage’ and
‘Advocacy of alternatives’).

         Furthermore, returning to Richard Rorty, this dialectical position also affords the
possibility to address the dialectic between private autonomy and (public) social justice. It
strikes a bridge between the language games of Heidegger and Foucault on the one hand, and
Habermas on the other (Martin, 1995).
                                               11

                       Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: The Story Unfolds
                    However much we may all suffer through marriage, most of us
                     think so little about it that we regard it as a fixed part of the
                 order of nature, like gravitation. Except for this error, which may
                  be regarded as constant, we use the word with reckless looseness,
                 meaning a dozen different things by it, and yet always assuming
                          that to a respectable man (woman) it can have only one
                                                                            meaning.
                                                             -George Bernard Shaw

       Having established the epistemological stance that underpins my particular critical
inquiry, I could now embark on my deconstruction of marriage, employing Foucault’s dual
lens of archaeology and genealogy in the next two parts of the study (III & IV). It is
important to note here that I was not entering the (academic) territory of marriage as a
‘virgin’, neither from the point of practice (‘been there, done that’) nor from the point of text
(I had started reading novels, poetry and professional literature with my marriage lenses on
long before I embarked on this study). As I acknowledge at the beginning of this chapter, I
had some strong thoughts and feelings on this topic and thus my own non/marital subjectivity
had become a lens for that which spoke to me in my readings on the topic. Some of what
found its way into my archaeology chapter on the meaning of marriage was what was already
there. Some of the literature sources that I used, such as poems and novels, I had ‘owned’
long before they became the object of my deconstruction. I will say more on my own
position and my ‘owning’ of stories in Part V (‘Smoke and mirrors: The eye/I that sees’).

       Part III (‘Mirror, mirror on the wall: The story unfolds’) seeks to reveal the
continuities and discontinuities of marriage in order to resist its reified meaning as a natural
state through the execution of a socio-historical archaeology of the layers of our
contemporary meanings of marriage, aided by genealogical reflection. Having investigated
and described marriage as a socio-cultural artefact, the thesis turns in part IV (‘The
professional knowledge of marriage: The voice of psychology’) to an exploration of the
production of psychological knowledge, and in particular, of marital and couple therapy, and
its implications for our changing non/marital subjectivity over the last century.

       Part III employs fictional literature as one of the sources to reveal the fictions of
marriage that have been disseminated in Western culture from pagan times till today. As such
it draws on the knowledge of literary criticism. From a postmodern stance it becomes
                                              12

possible to blur the boundaries between literary criticism and psychological knowledge since
this stance reveals the artificial boundary between the two. For the purposes of this study,
then, we can consider both types of knowledge as important sources of self and (non/marital)
subjectivity. (The collapse of the boundaries around the different disciplines, as a function of
postmodernity, is discussed in more depth later, in the epistemology section). Both Parts III
and IV are informed by the relationship between knowledge and power, as constitutive of
subjectivity as formulated by Foucalt (1972; 1978) and espoused by Parker (1992; 1997) and
Fairclough (1998).

       Ultimately, it is hoped that this analysis can throw into relief the contemporary
regimes of truth, and their socio-historical legacies. But more than that, my hope is that this
study can comment on that which cannot be said or lived in this realm of choices: some
‘choices’ have become so reified and normalized that they are no longer choices. They go
without saying – things people say or do from a ‘taken-for-granted’ place. Revealing the
struggles for domination between our different ‘truths’ of marriage might assist in revealing
the silent aspects of our lived experience. The latter raise important questions about our
professional knowledge and its prescriptions for marriage. In an affirmative vein, it is
through a revelation of that which is silent that we can comment on and advocate new and
alternative ‘stories’ of marriage, which could allow both men and woman more choices about
the current ‘normativity’ of marriage.

                          Smoke and Mirrors: The I/Eye That See(s)
                     Another way to put it would be to say that we become interested
                       primarily in how we ‘do’ knowledge/knowing in writing, the
                       details of which are intimately connected to our psyches and
                                       subjectivities in the worlds we ‘doers’ inhabit.
                                                                          -Joseph Schneider

       I mention my own ‘de-centering’ in the text in the previous section and I deal with
this necessity, given the context of my epistemological stance, in Part V, preceding the
chapters on ‘A critique of contemporary marriage’ and ‘Advocacy for alternatives’. Part V
traces my own ‘discursive-ness’ by reflecting on my own ‘stories’ and ‘subjectivities’ of
marriage.
                                              13

       The phrase ‘smoke and mirrors’ conjures up the illusion of magic, but paradoxically
this chapter aims to strip the author of her power to create an absolute reality (which might
take on magical qualities to the degree that it becomes reified). The truth that appears does
not emerge like a rabbit from a hat, summoned forth by my (expert) wand (pure reason); it is
a particular truth that gets reflected and refracted, through the ‘smoke’ of my ‘stories’ and my
‘subjectivities’. It is my particular descriptions and re-descriptions of marriage, infused with
‘the smoke’ of my self and my subjectivities – and acknowledging the latter allows for my
truth to become dispersed.

       The ‘truth’ revealed and produced by this inquiry can never be separated from the
‘doer’ of this study; it cannot transcend my embeddedness. It is the very acknowledgement of
the embededdness, though, that creates the opportunity for critical reflection and re-
description – for resistance. On a personal level it becomes the opportunity for me to come to
explore the limits of my subjectivities and to search for the alternative discourse that would
open spaces of resistance. On the level of critical text work it provides me with a way to open
up my text for interpretation and, in the process, to open marriage up, for resistance and
transformation. As Parker (1999b, p. 31) observes:

       While reflexivity can be a passive contemplative enterprise that all too often
       succeeds in paralyzing individuals as they take responsibility for the pain and
       troubles of a painful and troubling set of circumstances, critical reflection is an
       active rebellious practice that drives individuals into action as they identify the
       exercise of power that pins them into place and the fault lines for the production
       of spaces of resistance.

       As a footnote to this section I should mention that I am not the first to be playing
around with mirrors. I find myself in the illustrious company here of Rorty (Philosophy and
the Mirror of Nature) and Baudrillard (The mirror of production), to mention two precursors.
At a minimum the parallel here, between myself and other employers of ‘the mirror’, is
probably the acknowledgement of the importance of a re-thinking of the image and, at most,
it is viewing the image not as a mere reflection of reality, but as that which has a productive
capacity with regard to reality.
                                               14

                                  Re-thinking the Image:
               From Reflections and Questions to Challenges and Interventions
                 (T)he knowledge produced by psychology is not simply a neutral
                and objective reflection of how the world is, but is rather a kind of
                 knowledge that is produced by a certain group, in certain ways,
                                                          and for certain interests.
                                                                                  -Derek Hook

       A post-structuralist stance that positions itself against totality and universality creates
the potential for diversity to be acknowledged, through the space given to paralogy and
performativity (Lyotard, 1984), but there is also the risk of setting up a different totality.
When reason and truth lose their legitimacy, this creates a space for power, through
performativity, to encroach in a fascist way that would serve the interest of capital rather than
the oppressed. The question then becomes how, when we have removed the barriers that
prevent us from seeing what Derrida would call the ‘unreason’ in reason, do we keep power
from flooding the space cleared, setting us up for a society where it is what sells that dictates.
The answer constructed in the epistemology section of this thesis propagates a position
(referred to above) of rationality as a process rather than a position, which would not lose
sight of the dynamic interplay between knowledge and power.

       This position alleges that the interrelationship becomes obscured when we ask ‘What
is the truth?’ as opposed to ‘How is the truth constituted?’ It acknowledges that knowledge
interrogated (through the lens of power) erodes the legitimacy of its truth and thus opens a
space for the will to power to dominate, unrestrained by a sense of what is just and fair.
Entertaining the latter question, ‘What is socially just?’, brings a realist dimension to the
constructed epistemological position in that it does nor discard the idea of truth, but it does
reject the idea of a rationality located outside of the realm of the intersubjective process. My
position does advocate a restoration of the ‘critical realm’ of returning marriage to the
community of psychologists, and marital therapists in particular, for interrogation of its
knowledge and truths about marriage, to ultimately speak to its practice and its ethics.

       My question for myself remains one of how to make critical theory useful, and in
terms of the earlier deliberation, in ‘the prismatic mirror’ section, this may be read as ‘How
can critical theory be put to use in the service of “social justice”?’ In terms of my position as
a psychologist and therapist, it is a dual question: ‘How can I become more aware of the kind
                                                15

of world that my truths create and keep in place? And how does this critical inquiry inform
and change my practice when I sit with a dyad (be it a couple or marriage partners) in front
of me, in a therapy room?’ In the end it comes down to asking critical questions about
ethical practice, based on a reflection of the interrogation of the interface between the
(marital) dyad and society; that nexus of power/knowledge where traditional psychology
operates, without acknowledging that it does.

       The critical–affirmative stance, privileged by my epistemological truths, makes it
possible for me to move from reflections and questions to challenges and interventions. As
explicated above, this move is underpinned by the question of what is socially just; what are
the tyrannies that we have to acknowledge and how do we address them in our practice? The
reflections and questions are addressed in Part VI (in the ‘philosopher’ voice), to form the
underpinning for the chapter which deals with the activist impulse – to address challenges
and interventions.

       These critical reflections and questions might reveal ‘better’ ways of intervention by
acknowledging the challenges to the profession, created by its own knowledge production.
However, given my preferred epistemological stance it would always be a ‘better’ that is
negotiated locally as opposed to a static, objective position. It is a ‘better’ that is
simultaneously self-conscious of its inventedness, in that it can be reflexive of the socio-
cultural discourses that it consciously draws on to put forward its alternatives, and
emancipatory, by opening up (freeing up) the repertoire of non/marital subjectivity.

       My account of challenges and interventions is open for interpretation, in the spirit of
the de-centering of the author in ‘post’ writing technologies; in itself it is not intended as a
new or better truth: it is intended to facilitate conversation and reflexivity amongst
practitioners. In its affirmative (activist) stance it can be read as an attempt to implore my
community (of professional psychologists) that we put ourselves in front of the mirror on a
continual basis –not the mirror that will reflect back something that encourages us to do more
of the same, but the prismatic mirror that refracts our knowledge to reveal its power; that
would allow us to explore alternative ways of practice. Put in another way, I would like to
think that this inquiry could aid an ethical critique of our professional positioning as
                                              16

psychologists, in this case as psychologists who engage with the marital dyad and other
alternative forms of pair-bonding.

                                 Spit and Polish: The Vision
       If it is difficult to say today what marriage is, it is even harder to say what it is not,
especially if we have to speak from a place where we take on ‘modern’ marriage as wrong
and we then have to comment on ‘postmodern’ marriage as right. This study thus does not
want to engage the binary of bad and good, although it does seek to go beyond only the
‘negative criticality’ associated with postmodernism. As explained earlier, it aims to ask
questions about what contemporary marriage allows us to say, do and think, and in the
process it will create the opportunity to explore alternative ways of being married and
alternatives to being married. This kind of opening up will enable me to ask questions about
the profession of psychology and what we put out there as normative in the realm of
marriage. I doubt that it will meet the criterion of counter-practice as advocated by Parker
(1999a), but I certainly hope to draw attention to the political implications of psychology’s
professional spun truths of marriage, and offer an exploration of alternative stances and their
political implications.

       From all of the above it is clear that the study cannot transcend epistemological
relativism. The alternative knowledge that it might suggest, like the dominant knowledge that
it aims to deconstruct, is embedded in local historical, social and linguistic practices and is
therefore equally valid or invalid (Brown, 1994). What the study hopes to show, however, is
that epistemological relativism does not necessarily imply judgmental relativism. When it
comes to applying or using knowledge we might have to employ some standard as to the
oppressiveness or emancipation inherent in a certain set of knowledges to make principled
political action possible, but with an awareness of the productivity of power.

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Stats:
views:9
posted:1/25/2011
language:English
pages:12