The Varieties of Reflexive Experience
Jacobs, Mark D.
Sociology George Mason University Fairfax, VA, USA
Reflecting the interrelation of developing selves and others, reflexivity?the unifying split within consciousness of objectivity and subjectivity?describes the relation of self to society. Foundational postulates concerning that relation?strong or weak, harmonious or conflictual, transparent or opaque?plot the varieties of reflexive experience. Traceable to Hegel?s famous parable of lord and servant, through the influence that Georg Simmel exercised over the American pragmatists, reflexivity is a core concept of both micro- and macro- sociology. In appropriating Simmel?s conception of reflexivity, however, the American pragmatists (as well as the macro-sociologists, Shils and Parsons, they influenced in turn) changed its tone, ignoring Simmel?s basic postulate that the individual exists inside and outside of society at the same time. Unlike Simmel, the ?marginal man? whose work expresses a sense of estrangement from society, the American pragmatists were socially well-established reformers inspired by communitarian ideals. DuBois?s Simmelian vision of ?double-consciousness? could not take strong root in American sociology until relatively recently. Psychoanalysis has had relatively little influence on American sociology, in part because of Freud?s postulate of the innately unknowable and anti-social nature of the self. And despite his revisionist image of society as a confidence-game rather than an expression of value-consensus, even Erving Goffman can be read as a theorist of social solidarity. In its European revival as a macrosociological concept?in the work of such theorists as Giddens, Bourdieu, and Beck, for example--reflexivity has shed its optimistic overtones. The varieties of this concept are integral to the contrasts between European and US sociology, between the hermeneutics of suspicion and the hermeneutics of trust, between rhetorics of irony and metaphysics, and between modernity and postmodernity. These varieties ground different moralities and different visions of national and supra-national integration.