Cultures of Disorder in Modern Society
This is a graduate (Master) level seminar that brings together basic knowledge of how human beings regulate their social relationships through creation of episodic panic phenomena—within themselves, in small groups and in inter-group relations, in crowds, and in society as a whole (disorder). We will be looking at how communication in human social life becomes ordered along the lines that promote anxiety, fear, and eventually panic: "something bad is about to happen" (=”swine flu, terrorist attacks, volcano ash, global warming, etc”); and how these are culturally channeled through expert knowledge and state power: "you are incompetent" (= "you need to turn to an expert"). Our interest is–how can such messages work? Why would human beings become vulnerable to such social suggestions? In order for this to be possible there has to be some intra-psychological readiness to accept such suggestions (rather than brush them aside). The basic processes of internalization/externalization are the arena where such vulnerabilities are being negotiated within our personal-cultural domains. These processes are embedded within purposefully organized redundant textures of the environment—suggestions for the particular direction of feeling (e.g., fear about what might happen paired with non-doubtful acceptance of “the authority” advice) are encoded in multiple forms in parallel within the collective culture. We will look at how the basic principles of human thinking function in an interplay with the fundamental structures and processes of contemporary societies—termed risk societies by Ulrich Beck—to produce the cultures of panic. In other words, we will try to understand how fear as an emotion and panic as a condition of its social expression turn into an increasingly self-solidifying state of affairs in social groups and communities, and how such social consolidation guides the psychological processes of persons towards further fear and panic, as well as to its social regulation by institutions. How is that organized? How can the spiral of escalation of socially constructed and collectively shared panic phenomena be neutralized, and—ideally—reversed in the direction of resiliency?