Monthly Archives: December 2015

何东记忆

万圣节的凌晨,从港大地铁站洋洋得意地往上爬,刚站上电梯就看到一个亮黄的身影急吼吼蹿上来。此人唤作Beni,是我旧时在大学舍堂的楼友。香港的大学宿舍不似内地,每个楼层都俨然一个小集体,同学们常在楼道里隔空喊话,气壮山河。所以尽管我住走廊头,她住走廊尾,作息时间又不一致,我们还是成为了熟人。美中不足的是她的中文名总被喊的千疮百孔,我的广东话又出师未捷,因此我至今不知她中文姓甚名谁,只能不清不白地喊一声“Beni”。

熟人相见,自然分外眼红。定睛一看,细长眼的Beni,三七分长发已经微微染黄,比两年前时尚许多。只是脸上的痘还没褪去,背上依旧扛根曲棍球棒,一身短打,又还是大一时的青涩样子。当时Beni极爱运动,是曲棍球队和垒球队的核心成员,有时也去网球队跑跑龙套。这几支球队在舍堂里地位颇神圣,Beni自豪的微笑每每出现在我的Facebook新鲜事里。加之她还是舍堂学生会进步分子,所以在何东的四百名好汉里,也算是排得上名号的人物,级别就算不是常委,起码也相当于中央办公厅主任。

我和Beni同路,边走边聊。她原来在舍堂一住四年,享尽了香港大学生最奢靡的住宿体验。我们所在的舍堂全名“何东夫人纪念堂”,也就是多情多金的富二代何东,为了纪念去世的原配,慷慨捐钱盖的全女生宿舍。说来也算历史悠久,所以才能占到薄扶林山上的黄金宝地,毗邻高尚住宅区宝翠园。建成六十年,这宿舍很出了些有名的姨太太或卖国贼,譬如范徐丽泰,陈方安生,以及周梁淑怡。若是“扫把头”叶刘淑仪也曾入住何东,四位能人凑一桌打麻将,想必很有意思。

在房价瞬息万变的香港,何东人是很为自己冗长的历史自豪的,因而都积极自觉地构建何东文化。譬如说,何东有自己的主题色亮黄,铺洒在T恤、卫衣、风衣、短裤上,极其活泼。又比如,何东有各色运动队,一群十八九岁的少女,起早贪黑蓬头垢面地去训练。每月一次的高桌晚宴,大家都穿上绿袍白衫黑长裙,面无血色,意兴阑珊地去楼下食堂吃一顿三分饱的饭。食堂芳名何添,楼高三层,刷得雪白,除了高桌晚宴外的其他时段都物美价廉。食堂边矗立一座同样历史悠久的利玛窦宿舍,全住男生,与何东相映成趣。此宿舍每年九月会派出几十壮士来何东抢夺一面据说大有来头的铜锣,妖童媛女们周瑜黄盖地打成一片,场面蔚为大观。

这些文化的点滴在香港电影《玻璃之城》里被上纲上线到了极致。煽情的昏黄色调里,何东女主,也就是舒淇,和利玛窦男主,也就是黎明,在运动场上一见钟情,后来莫名其妙分手了。再见面时两个人都已有家室,莫名其妙又出轨了。最后两个人开车去偷情,莫名其妙就车祸死掉了。电影的导演是位何东旧生,这种天马行空的剧情以及满目苍凉的结局果然非常符合何东”tough and strong”的犀利作风。说起来,我有位美丽楼友还真的找了位利玛窦的帅气男友,两人情比金坚,大学携手四年,目测会一直幸福下去。

猜也知道,《玻璃之城》这样的玛丽苏片一定吸引了很多粉红少女投奔何东,比如说我。我想我是真心喜欢过何东的高桌晚宴以及修女套装的。我也是真心喜欢过何东的羽毛球队,乒乓球队和龙舟队的。我尤其喜欢我那些风韵犹存的楼友。头两年我一直住在六楼,广东话“六”和“绿”同音,所以一旦遇到楼层集体就餐的大日子,大家都很配合地绿装出场,放眼望去好似十数只蚂蚱,可谓“携蝗大嚼”。

数数楼友就会发现,何东其实是香港local的何东。大一的时候,同层的大陆生大概五六个,local们则占领半边江山。大二的时候,大陆生换了许多新面孔,local却还是那一群。这里边的玄机在于,local是建设舍堂文化的生力军,我们只是无意闯入的“新移民”。她们是要过迎新营喊口号站军姿的,是要任劳任怨打球训练的,是要冲锋陷阵保卫前文所述的何东铜锣的。而我们更多是看看笑笑,既无兴趣,亦无资格。

本地生过得这么辛苦,主要怪港大宿舍入住竞争太激烈。香港地小人稠,大家普遍住得离港岛十万八千里,不住宿舍就要踩筋斗云来上学,非常辛苦。但港大的舍堂名额有限,并不是人人可住。舍堂学生会掌握生杀大权,本地生若在舍堂活动里表现不够出众,存在感太低,就面临无处可住的危险。大陆生则要好过些,一则舍堂学生会对我们较为宽容,二则租房有学校补贴可以承受。因此在楼里出没比较多的,还是各领风骚的local同学。

当年我们这层楼里,Beni有位好朋友名Boni,十分清秀,是何东剧社历年话剧的女一号。我与她同去美国交换,她选了几门表演课,如鱼得水。聊天时得知她有个话剧梦,但是务实的商人家庭恐怕不会同意。我想这人生编排已经足够戏剧,何必要在舞台上扮演?Boni又有位好友Mary,读护士科,笑起来眼眸弯弯,温柔无比。肤色黝黑的Oreo长了一口白牙,名至实归。法律系穆斯林女孩Sakina,常常戴条粉色头巾,入学不久就转去剑桥读书,假日不忘还往楼里寄回明信片。

楼主叫周翎风,英文名Chow Lingfung,一头短发飒爽无比,是个清瘦又搞笑的萌妹。常年与网球搭档Lily同吃同住,好似一对天线宝宝。Lily长发飘飘,网球单打据说有香港青年队的水平,是何东的一大杀器。时常一起出现的还有卿秀,一位马来西亚博士姐姐,昵称PhD,喜欢听张信哲,经常在楼里默默地蒸洒满大葱花的鱼。有次我被莫名邀请去她们三人的聚餐,海边的Cafe de Coral(大家乐)里,四盆红泥小火锅上飘着袅袅炊烟。我们欢快地聊起天。Lily嘲笑猛力扮ABC的港女一掷千金买沙拉,翎风附和,“其实真的不贵,十五文这么多水果,还送一个杯呢!”

是这样,我和local朋友聊天时,经常聊到钱的话题。这在我的大陆同学里面是不常有的。我在何东的第一个室友Ady,曾经带我在荃湾的某栋大楼里穿梭一下午,只为找一家便宜的眼镜店。夏天偶然听到羽毛球队队友们聊天,说起放假为何不住回家,她答,家里兄弟姐妹多,位置逼仄,不如宿舍舒适。当时我心中一紧,低头写作业。听说过香港年轻人总是抱怨生活压力大,但并没有如此切身的感受。正如杨绛所言,在居住空间上,那刻真是体会到“幸运者对不幸者的愧怍”。后来亦听到有香港同学因为家庭条件所迫,不能出国读书,需要先赚钱再申请博士;又有同学父母工资不能自给,希望她不要读研究生,快些去赚钱。这些故事终于让我对“香港同学们不好好读书只想赚钱”的都市传说,添加了一点新的认识。

回想起来,当时面对同住宿舍的楼友,我总有种冷酷的精英主义。仿佛人家不念书每天早起打球就是幼稚,把“何东精神”挂在嘴边就是无脑。仿佛她们从何东走出去,就会义无反顾地投身这个拜金又虚荣的社会,然后拜金又虚荣地活下去。而我,从没把自己想象成这社会的一分子。

但Beni看见我,仍然是真切的开心的,嘴咧到耳朵边。我们聊起曾经的楼友,毕业的毕业,回大陆实习的不知道何时返来,一个学姐新近结婚了,Beni这学期又有好多考试。那你呢?我答我在读研究生,还想读博士。Beni大笑,说你当时就像个,那个,书呆子,现在更严重了,正适合这个新眼镜。“不过,你一定会很厉害的啦。”

我们都笑起来。站在何东门口,Beni转过来,面对我伸出右手。我们像两个有志青年那样,在晚风里击拳道别。小小一间舍堂,其实多像这里的小小社会。面对难以理解的对方,也许我们都有种无奈的孤独。

Theory week: Anthony Giddens

The author cracks four myths and establishes two implications in the study of sociological theories. The four myths are: the myth of the great divide between 1890-1920 generation by Parsons, the myth of the problem of order, the myth of the conservative origins of sociology, and the myth of schism. The two implications are to reformulate the theory of industrial society and to reconsider the epistemological status of social theory.

Four myths
First, the myth of the great divide refers to the “fundamental watershed that separates the prehistory of social theory”, located between 1890 and 1920, especially between Durkheim and Weber. This divided was largely promoted by Parsons in his 1937 book The Structure of Social Action. For the same reason, Marx and Engels were excluded from this part of discussion because they were reduced to limbo.

Second, the myth of the problem of order refers to the notion that most non-Marxist authors of the 1890-1920 period were being preoccupied with an abstract “problem of order”. Parsons phrased this ,especially with reference to Durkheim’s Divisions of Labor, as the “Hobbes problem”, that was, how do men escape from the nature status of “war of all against all”? But according to Giddens, Durkheim was not primarily concerned with this problem at all. Not only did Durkheim dismissed the “Hobbes problem” at early stage of his writing, but he was not criticising the utilitarianism of Hobbes but German idealism – both the holism of Wundt and Schaffle and neb-Kantian philosophy. Parsons treated The Division of Order in an ambiguous way to establish his own structural functionalism, but Durkheim intended to show the anthesis between individualism and holism. Parsons also framed Durkheim as dominated by the notion of moral consensus, but the latter also cares for institutional analysis and institutional change. That is, it is not Durkheim that was conservative – but Parsons himself was.

Third, the myth for the conservative origins of sociology was promoted by Nisbet, who claimed Durkheim was conservative because he drew from conservative sources, and who processed anti-individualism ideas himself. However, Durkheim both drew from neb-kantian sources that were not conservative at all, and was again methodological individualism instead of moral individualism.

Finally, the myth of schism was invented by Dahrendorf, means “consensus versus coercive” resolution of the problem of order. The former is attributed to Durkheim by Parsons, while the latter is attributed to Marx. But this is also misleading in that both authors at least agreed that the “nonalienated and free”, the “man in nature” arose exactly as a product of social development, instead of the pre-condition of capitalism. According to Giddens, Marx and Durkheim were only different in the question “what form of society” will there be anomie?

Two implications
In the 1970s when Giddens wrote this essay, there were there response to the malaise of social theory. First, a resurgent critique of positivism in the social sciences; second, the argument that sociology is tied to ideologies and thus need a radical sociology; and third, the fight between theory of order and theory of conflict. For the latter two, Giddens responded that they were resulted from the problematic theory of industrial society, that the fundamental contrast in the modern world is between traditional agrarian society and industrial urban society. This is reflected in paris of notions like “mechanic and organic solidarity” and “Gemeinschaft versus Gesellschaft”. But this is no longer our problem for now, because the assumption under this theory, that society develops in endogenous way, that all societies share the same path of development soled based on technological and economic development, no longer held in the globalizing 1960s. Thus there should be more mature and international theories. In the end, Giddens also rejected the positivism trends in sociology, but I failed to understand this part.

Theory week: Metatheories

Alert: This is yet another post on sociological theories that can bore you to death. Worse, the post is mostly about my bluffing about my random “insights”, which means it is probably not well-structured and will remain that way. This is what happens when a romantic pretends to be a scholar, and when you do sociology in a poetic way.

There is no way I cannot finish it today, but I post it anyway simply to keep myself motivated. (Thank you, my imaginary audience!) It will be a thread organised by dates and “how-do-I-feel-today”. If I am lucky, it will also be organised by themes.

// too much rambling already…

Dec 9, 2015
I didn’t coin the term “meta-theories”. It must have be used by someone and read by me in Rizter’s theory textbook. When you use “meta” as a prefix, that usually means an upgrade of analytical levels, or a grouping of individual properties. Then what’s individual becomes collective, unique becomes common.

That at least shows one hidden property of “meta”, that it can only be used on groupable abstract things. You cannot say “meta-apple”, but you can surely say “meta-field” (Bourdieu’s “field of power”). You can also view life as “meta-cells”.

Well I was wrong. Upgrading of analytical levels doesn’t equal to grouping of individual properties. Because grouping might change the structural of analytical levels. That is, they might not be subject to the same methods of analysis… (Stop here to consider the question: what is an analytical level?)

Like in Bourdieu’s field of power is where legitimacies compete for domination, meta-theory would be something about the legitimacy of (classical) theories.

Dec 10, 2015
Principle one: Happy theories are all alike; every unhappy theory is unhappy in its own way.

Theory week: prologue

This is a quick post on two things. First, it starts with a short summary of a historical sketch of sociological theories after 20th century. Second, I will lay out my ambitious plan to skim three theory books this week. This is a long overdue task of mine. Lack of proper theory training, I always felt somewhat missing in the glorious realm of sociology. Sorry to those of my readers that are not so interested in my subject. Well there are only four so…

Summary
The original text is already a sketch, so the summary here is more like an item-list of who-is-who. The author starts with the liberal orientation of early American sociologists, their emphasis on social change and scientific method, and the establishment of (old) Chicago School who connect to religious ideas, scientific method and urban problems. There were also a bunch of female sociologists at that time who, due to gender politics in the discipline, are seldom read today. With the left of Mead and the rise of Parson, Harvard replaced Chicago as the center of US sociology, and American Sociological Review was established to challenge the triumph of American Journal of Sociology. Structural functionalism was on rise. Then it was Marxian theory, largely ignored by sociology from 1930s to 1960s, was rediscovered in the 1960s (possibly of social turbulence in the 60s and the Soviet Union?). Around the same time there was the sociology of knowledge by Mannheim – remember Berger and Luhmann “social construction of reality”?

Since the Mid century structural functionalism began to decline possibly due to its tendency towards conservatism. [This is reputed by Giddens 1979] Arising are radical sociology that wants to challenge the conservative origins of sociological theories (C. Wright Mills), Exchange theory of Homan and Blau that deals with elementary forms of social behaviour, Dramaturgical analysis of Erving Goffman, phenomological sociology of Schutz and ethnomethodology of Garfinkel. Also there are radical paradigms like Marxian theory and Feminist theory. Then there are more recent trends of micro-macro integration, agency-structure integration, and post-modern theories.

Summary: Liu and Emirbayer, “Field and Ecology”, Social Theory

Summary
Liu and Emirbayer were at pains to compare Bourdieu’s field theory and Chicago school’s ecology theory as spatial views of society. There are four sections in this paper. The first section offers brief overviews of important elements in the two theories as members of “spatial theory family”; the second and third analyze their similarities and differences along different dimensions (sociologically fancy substitute for themes); the last section discusses how the two theories can borrow from each other.

Field theory and ecology theory are both “theoretical metaphors for charactering social space” (Silber 1995, as in Liu & Enirbayer 2015). There are three elements in any spatial view of society: actors, positions, and the relations that associates them. [Reflection 1] Moreover, social spaces are different with social system in that the latter doesn’t concern positions but only the roles of actors; different with social network in that the latter only sees structural ties between actors, but has no concern with actors’ shift of positions; different with social structure in that the latter only cares for positions but not actors that occupies them. [For more detailed discussion on this dichotomy, see Reflection 1]

Field and ecology theories are similar in three aspects. First is structural isomorphism – fields become similar in their interaction. In Bourdieu this process is homology, in ecology theory Abbott links different ecologies by hinges (the same actors get rewards in different fields) or avatars (actors create their alternative self in another field?). Second is their conceptualisation of time. Field theory incorporates this dimension by tracing the trajectories over time of social actors and positions they occupy – that is, relations between them. For ecology theory, the focus on interaction itself implies an emphasis on time and fluidity of structures. Finally they are similar in the social psychologies discussions. Habits – unreflective dispositions – comes first, and only when habits are not enough will there be more reflective practices. In conclusion, field theory and ecology theory both conceptualise society as relational and views social relations as structured process.

Field and ecology metaphor are different along five dimensions. First, field theory is devoted to power relations and dominance / subordination pairs. It even has a meta-field of “power of powers”, or the field of power struggle between dominants in sub-fields. It is in this field that the legitimate principle of legitimation is produced [c.f. province head vs. centre head in CCP]. Ecology theory views society more like plant ecology, there are competition but few direct domination. Second, Bourdieu insists fields are inter-connected and are receptive to external influences. But ecology theory assumes social spaces are endogenous, for example they do not research life of immigrants in Chicago city. Thus they concerns more internal interaction than preexisting structures. Third, in field theory social spaces are heterogeneous, but in ecology there is usually one type of actor. [This can be attribute to the second difference – or there will be power. but how about competition? If there is only one actor, no competition, no plant ecology?] Fourth, the two theories use different metaphors in describing [don’t approve this sub-argument – they also have different authors?]. Last, field theory is more abstract in conceptualising than ecology theory. In the former a “space” is not necessary physical, while in the later a “space” is really a space.

How to incorporate field theory with ecology theory? For ecology to learn from Bourdieu, it can take into relations between spaces, heterogeneity of actors in a space, power relations between actors. A good example is Abbott Systems of Professions. For Bourdieu to learn from ecology, it can give more attention to interactions between actors and consider wider range of interaction besides domination/subordination. For example, competition, cooperation, accommodation and exchange.

Reflections

  1. Although this dichotomy between position and actors resemble the theoretical pair of structure / agency, or objective / subjective, the two authors bridge the pair by adding a “relation” dimension. According to them, on the one hand, Bourdieu also tries to bridge the European objectivism / subjectivism or structure / agency in his field. Three elements here: topological area, organisation of forces, and contestation battlefield. The third is where actors try to make position shift – that is, bridge the changeable with prepositions. They use their habitus to do this. However, since their habitus is also largely predetermined by their position, Bourdieu’s theory is still closer to structuralism / objectivism compared to interactionists’ theory. On the other hand, the second Chicago school – Park and Burgess – build on Simmel’s concept of reciprocal relationship and proposes interaction as “the fundamental social process”. This is a characteristics of ecology theory.
  2. Liu’s own PhD thesis on Chinese lawyers is an empirical application of this integration of field theory and ecology theory. He defines two fundamental processes: boundary-work and exchange. Boundary-work includes boundary making, boundary blurring and boundary maintaining. This happens between different legal professions in legal field, legal profession and state. Exchange is exchange of resources.