Tag Archive: post-constructivism


This is the second post in a series on the intersections between ecology, ontology, and politics. (The first reviewed Andrew Pickering’s The Cybernetic Brain.) Here I focus on integral ecologist Sean Esbjörn-Hargens‘s article An Ontology of Climate Change: Integral Pluralism and the Enactment of Multiple Objects. This post can also serve as a prelude to the cross-blog reading group on Esbjörn-Hargens‘s and Michael Zimmerman’s Integral Ecology, to begin in May of this year. The next entry in this series will look more directly at Integral Theory founder Ken Wilber’s relationship with the ideas of process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead.


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I recently mentioned my belief, or hope, that the humanities and sciences are working their ways toward a post-constructivist synthesis, a paradigm in the making with the potential to become a powerful player in twenty-first century public discourse. “Post-constructivism” says little, and “post-representationalism”, “post-anthropocentric humanism,” and “post-Kantianism” — the other terms I used there — don’t help much. So I feel obliged to articulate in more detail what I mean by this assertion. If it is a trend, it is not one that can be demonstrated with quantitative evidence: no matter how many names or schools of thought one can list, there will have been no exhaustive survey done of how these names and schools stack up against all the others that continue to generate knowledge in our academies and in the other intellectual spaces of the world (including emergent ones like those found on-line).

This claim, or belief of mine, is just a reading — and not a disinterested one — of those fields that I cover in my own everyday reading, browsing, research and teaching practice. Its components include the following:

1) There has been a clear shift away from a strict “social constructionism,” or “constructivism,” in the humanities and social sciences to something more cognizant of the complex relations between the social and the non-social, a category that includes the material, the bodily, the affective and emotional, and the biological.

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more serious (nutritious) morsels…

Judith Butler’s recent talk on Alfred North Whitehead, which you can listen to here, is very impressive — and a heartening sign of the times. With Butler distancing herself from some of the implications of her earlier work on sex and gender (30-some minutes into the talk) and decisively settling into post-constructivist, non-anthropocentric, process-relational*, immanent naturalist**, vibrant materiality*** land, we can start to wonder: Of those who really shape the terrain of public thought, are there any real social constructionists left?

(*=Whitehead; **=William Connolly, ***=Jane Bennett; but the scope of all of these, which is the theoretical scope of this blog, is much broader.)

It’s a rich talk and I will probably have more to say about it soon. While I may be a little prematurely triumphalist here, it seems to me that the humanities are coming together around a paradigmatic convergence of sorts — a post-constructivist, post-representationalist, post-anthropocentric humanist, and post-Kantian one (I mean one that is post- exclusively each of those, not one in which there is no representation, no Kantian subjectivity, etc.), but whose positive terms have yet to find an agreed-upon center, an identifiable and singular “ism” (which is good). This shift has been long in coming, and I’m convinced it can be a powerful player in the public ‘making sense’ of the twenty-first century. While it still needs to be articulated in ever more coherent forms, a crucial next step — perhaps the crucial one — will be to communicate it across the “two cultures” divide. Because science is an important player in it, though it (unfortunately) hardly knows that yet.

And secondly, a useful new study of the religion blogosphere has come out, with the support of the Social Science Research Council, which is behind the Immanent Frame blog (that I’ve mentioned here before). “The New Landscape of the Religion Blogosphere” provides a very good overview of blogging in general (section 1) and academic blogging more specifically (section 2) before it goes on to map out the world of religious-themed blogs. Jason at The Wild Hunt notes that minority faiths remain sparsely represented, but within the more mainstream faiths, the landscape covered shows some healthy diversity in political orientation, style, and more. The whole report can be downloaded here. I can think of a number of other blogospheres that deserve this kind of study (environment, philosophy, etc.).