In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

humanities 133 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 resist including entire chapters on values and ethical theories (chiefly utilitarianism) which add little to the development of her case. If hitting children is indeed both harmful and unnecessary, then you don=t have to be a utilitarian to condemn it. Furthermore, building the case against corporal punishment on the basis of utilitarianism weakens it, for it allows an escape route to those (and they are many) who reject the theory. Additionally, the crucial parts of her case are scattered through different chapters rather than collected together in one logically developed argument. Because of these impediments, the book may attract a less extensive readership than its subject and argument deserve. And that would be a shame, for the children=s sake. (WAYNE SUMNER) Douglas Mann. Structural Idealism: A Theory of Social and Historical Explanation Wilfrid Laurier University Press. ix, 309. $42.95 Douglas Mann=s Structural Idealism begins with a passage from Richard III: >Go, gentlemen, every man unto his charge ... March on, join bravely ... If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell.= Presumably such an opening gambit is meant to inform readers about the ambitious project to follow (and perhaps claim a certain modesty about the outcome). And indeed, this is no false claim, as Mann invites onto the intellectual battlefield some of the most commanding sociological and philosophical minds of the past two hundred years, including Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Weber, Freud, Collingwood , Foucault, and Derrida. As Mann puts it, >My goal here is to produce a bird=s-eye view of the archaeology of a social act within what I term a Astructural idealist@ model.= By structural idealism, Mann means two things. First it is a descriptive method and unified theory of sociological explanation that overcomes the limits of >historical idealism= and >socialstructuralism .= Structural idealism is to provide a >bridging concept= between >individual conscious human intentions= on the one hand and >deep structures= on the other hand. Second, Mann uses the term >structural idealism= to refer to the actual functioning of the >social mind.= Structural ideals >rely on semi-conscious and unconscious ports of entry to find their way into our lives.= They involve an >idea that suggests the normal or proper ... ordering of a historical agent=s social field.= Mann gives the >idea of private property= as an example. This idea is both the basis of the system of capitalism that orders everyday interaction and a general moral ideal such that a child=s claim to control use of her toys and a millionaire=s possession of stock certificates manifest the same structural ideal. Unfortunately, Mann=s basic premise B that the presumed deadlock between agency and structure in social theory is rooted in the dichotomy between idealism and materialism B is false. He sets out the premise on his first page: >This division between idealists and materialists gets played out 134 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 within sociology as the debate between agency B the focus on individual decision making, with the associated assumption of a relatively free, rational subject B and structure B the focus on the social, economic, and in general the material forces that shape, guide, or determine human behaviour.= Clearly, this necessary alignment of idealism with agency and materialism with determinism does not stand up to scrutiny. As Mann=s own discussion of Hegel shows, history is for Hegel the teleological, predetermined unfolding of human ideas. Similarly, Mann=s quick dismissal of structuralists like Saussure, Barthes, Levi-Strauss, and even Durkheim means that their cultural-linguistic emphasis on the ideal as structure is largely overlooked. Indeed, while the Durkheimian school of sociology is described by the author as >largely discredited,= this reader cannot help but be reminded of Durkheim=s dynamic notion of >collective representations= when considering Mann=s >structural ideals.= Durkheim defines collective representations as >the way the group thinks of itself (agency) in relation to the objects which effect it (structure).= Equally, materialism cannot straightforwardly equate with determinism if Marx=s central notions of praxis and class consciousness are taken seriously. In the second half...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 133-134
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.