restricted access FOUR: Styles
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FOUR STYLES A SENSIBILITY is how style presents itself in experience. For the observer, style may become apparent as an interpretative tone, deployed by native expertise. As such it exhibits a distinctive texture in social process, sensed by those immediately involved. Analytically , style can be of any scope and level: it is a scale-invariant concept . And whatever the scope, two basic aspects of style come intertwined : (a) the interpretive tone along with (b) the feedback dynamics. Style is not transposable, though it may get reconstituted. Style is immediately available through attending to the sensibility that goes with texture in life. Some family mealtimes are homely in style. Graduation ceremonies are formal in style. I will always remember the style around Harvard Yard in mid-April 1976, where Elysian weather accompanied both extreme social stress and mellow discourse to form a unique texture. But style is not to be seen everywhere—not, for example, in administrative routine of a business day or deployment of an army battalion. Style generates its own context and so is involute, constituting a boundary, in contrast with the network population of chapter 2 (see 2.1.3). Style also differs from the disciplines of chapter 3, whose survival and properties depended on how they are embedded into contexts . Networks need not persist just as they happen to be thrown up by stochastic eruption, any more than a particular discipline, with its projected identity, will persist and reproduce itself independent of social context, which is in turn made up of networks. These social contexts are necessarily stochastic. Style transcends and commingles network populations and disciplines via peculiar patterns of switchings. Despite being a self-reproducing context and a self-contained identity, style can change through stochastic social processes across diverse constituents among networks and disciplines. Social temporality emerges, basically, from a profile of switchings across netdoms. Whereas identities can be like musical notes that struggle for a melody, and discipline embeds these identities in the larger context of a genre, style is the rhythm of social life. Metaphorically , identities contextualized in disciplines make up the melody to which style adds temporality. Couples dancing close, for instance, are in a style, and so are teenagers jumping around on the dance floor. S T Y L E S 113 Styles encompass a wide range in scope, scale, and level. Style can characterize strategic actors as well as whole social contexts. Hence, a style is scale-invariant—or “scale-free” in the sense laid out by Abbott (2001). Like those “Russian dolls” that are identical in shape, pattern, and colors, but differ slightly in size, style offers a nested structure. Thus, for example, a person, in the ordinary sense that we avoided in chapter 1, is a style. Pithy conversation may establish a style, such as in a Paris salon or a research discussion group. Successful mobilization toward a political end embodies a style, perhaps differently around the cause of human rights than around the cause of ethnic autonomy. Expertise attends to style as interpretive tone, as will be argued later; however, rational choice theory seeks mobilization of rationality as the style for expertise. My initial examination of sensibility will end with two large-scale studies of womankind. Then we turn to three studies of style emergent in networks of commerce. Next comes an examination of person as style, followed by the argument that rationality itself is a style. These discussions motivate, then, taking up general ways to appraise and measure social spaces and profiles. One main focus is how best to observe styles, personal or other, and to locate them in some ecology. The divisions in this chapter—and the book—are not conventional. The numerous and diverse examples spread across conventional framings of social life as found in textbooks. In particular, this central chapter is cited in the next three chapters, as well as having been foreshadowed in the previous three chapters. Indeed, analysis in each chapter of the book must, given the nature of social process, presuppose and draw on findings from the others, as I show visually in the final chapter (see figure 8.1). Not surprisingly, many studies to be reported will be large and heterogeneous, not neat and focused. After thus spelling out approaches to recognizing ecology, I will explicate more general selves and also communities as styles. Then we return to observing emergence and change with three further studies of style, where the cultural is intertwined with the social. To...


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