Friday, February 15, 2008

On agency and the hidden transcript...

These are some of the points we discussed in this weeks lectures. What are examples of hidden transcript that you know of, and what do you think of the concept? (Students who have not attempted commenting at the first post should do so.)

“The term agency is usually juxtaposed to structure and is often no more than a synonym for action, emphasizing implicitly the undetermined nature of human action, as opposed to the alleged determinism of structural theories. If it has a wider meaning, it is to draw attention to the psychological and social psychological make-up of the actor, and to imply the capacity for willed (voluntary) action.”

From the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Sociology.

Marx: Base/Superstructure:

For Marx, the origin of determination is in people’s own activities

Marxism attempts to relate the production and reproduction of social reality to the material and economic organization of life. This is articulated through the base and superstructure model: It suggests that -

• the foundation of society is the economic structure;
• legal and political superstructures arise from the base;
• definite forms of social consciousness (awareness of social reality) correspond to the above processes.

So then this suggests that it is the economic life of society that determines the social, political and spiritual processes of life.

Social being determines consciousness instead of the other way around.

Richard Williams book “Problems in Materialism and Culture” asserts that it is difficult for most people to move beyond experienced reality (becomes absolute to them).

A dominant culture is perpetuated by schools, work, family, etc.
And reality comes to depend on them

Dominant modes ignore the full range of potential and actual human agency.

But in critique of Marx base/superstructure model, Williams says that at some point, no dominant culture or mode of production can exhaust the full range of human potential (both practiced and imagined).

It is the quality of agency that distinguishes active society from passive society.

The emergence of agency takes human creativeness, instigated by the contradictions in social awareness… between expectations and achievements or allowances.
Agency derives from environment, and social awareness or social consciousness.

Agency depends on how people perceive others:
People could be self-righteous or have the naïve belief that everyone shares the same view. On the other hand, they could make realistic judgements of dominant social processes.

Social consciousness could be a false consciousness;
It could refer to feelings of powerlessness;
And it could depict a real awareness based on balanced judgements.

Agency needs to be awakened by social consciousness. And action then realters consciousness.

An example of agency occurs in the concept of the public vs hidden transcript.


Until the philosophy which hold one race superior
And another
Is finally
And permanently
And abandoned -
Everywhere is war -
Me say war.

That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes -
Me say war.

That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race -
Dis a war.

That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
World citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained -
Now everywhere is war - war.

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
that hold our brothers in Angola,
In Mozambique,
South Africa
Sub-human bondage
Have been toppled,
Utterly destroyed -
Well, everywhere is war -
Me say war.

War in the east,
War in the west,
War up north,
War down south -
War - war -
Rumours of war.
And until that day,
The African continent
Will not know peace,
We Africans will fight - we find it necessary -
And we know we shall win
As we are confident
In the victory

Of good over evil -
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil -
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil -
Good over evil, yeah! /fadeout/


Anonymous said...

Hidden transcript is everywhere in the lyrics of the greats...Peter Tosh, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, John Lennon etc.
The concept itself is extremely interesting especially with regard to musicians. Most people listen to the way a song sounds before they actually hear the lyrics-I know i do, and so people can be told about all sorts of things without even knowing that they're being told. At least on an unconcious level anyway...

Will Smyly

KimyaShafinaaz said...

Hi there..
Well then heres a question for you?>
Did you think about the concept of hidden transcript or rather the meanings that these songs had all the time that you were listening? Or were you just enjoying them? :)
Has this lecture added some perspective?? This is real ACTIVE Sociology! You will never see a movie or listen to a song in the same way ever again! ;)

Anonymous said...

i'm not sure:) i know i was enjoying the songs. the real meanings of the songs might have gotten away from me because of the context they were written, and now i don't think i know what hidden transcript is exactly. confused...

will smyly

KimyaShafinaaz said...

Read your course outline regards hidden transcript!!!!! And I will post something here after the lecture..

Anonymous said...

I feel that agency is greatly affected by the social consciousness.Our social sonsciousness is what makes us part of society.Agency on the other hand is what allows us to differentiate between right and wrong.It is when people act out of a sense of agency that we get songs such as WAR from Bob Marley and other freedom fighters that dare to challenge the social consciousness


KimyaShafinaaz said...

Hi Deeven,..

Maybe we should start by saying that being PART of society Allows us to have (or create) a social consciousness. Why I say this is because, social consciousness is social awareness. To be conscious of something is to be AWARE of that something (in this case, social features, social life, etc). When we are aware for example, that social life is oppressive, restraining, etc. we talk about it. We feel about it (frustration, dissatisfaction). We try to retaliate! (Strikes, etc).these all point to our ability to act (we have AGENCY in acting)..talking to each other about loadshedding difficulties or political frustrations is part of our public transcript.
In the case where talking against an oppressive regime or government might get a person imprisoned (in trouble?) or be life threatening.. people use the 'hidden transcript'.. hence artistic forms eg poetry, songs, etc.

Anonymous said...

I’m confused … is it a positive thing or not. Are we saying we should have hidden transcripts or not, is it just an argument to show that we are agents and this is just an illustration of agency? What does this mean exactly?

Thobile Gumede

Anonymous said...

i find culture and religion to be interesting also especially when it comes to black africans. in many occassions black culture clashes with religion. i would like to explain this in a personal manner. i am a black african girl who grew in a religious household, mainly a christian household. my family prohibits us to do some cultural activities because of our religion. as a young black woman i find it difficult to articulate and accept everything about our religion because i do believe in the cultural ceremonies or activities in the black culture. as much as i love and believe in jesus i would also like to embrace the beliefs in my culture although some of them may seem taboo in the christian religion.


Anonymous said...

Personally I feel like I had and still have no choice in terms of which to choose, culture or religion. My family raised me by Christian values (religion), because that is what they knew. I strongly believe that I will raise my children the same way.

Even though I am Zulu speaking, I do not know much of the Zulu Culture. I do know a few practiced customs (e.g umemulo/ the coming off age ceremony) I feel like I can do without. It does not bother me that I know so little about it. I do not think this is a bad thing, do you??

Precious Majola

Anonymous said...

In terms of listening to music, it is against my cultural beliefs to spend spare time in anything other than prayer or gaining knowledge. Listening to your lecture has brought a new perspective to music, in that i now see music as having meaning from which knowledge can be gained.


Anonymous said...

basically I think i understand the term agency in Max Weber's understanding where he states that human can not be understood or studied the same way as natural sciences simply because unlike objects humans attach meanings to their actions. therefore in order for us to understand society or human behaviour, sociologists need to take ethnographic research.205504085 Zungu Qn

Anonymous said...

i think hidden transcripts are a good thing. well they were a good think in the apartheid era or when ever the public are not allowed to speak freely and voice their opinion about issues that are affecting them on a daily basis.
however i think that it should not be practised any more because as human beings living in South Africa - freedom of speech is part of our constitutional right and therefore (i think) it would be wise to then have public transcripts instead of hidden transcripts.
on the other hand, whether the people concerned attend to the problem at hand is another issue ...

Reesha Kara

Anonymous said...

today's lecture was a great help as it cleared up a lot of things regarding the diary project.

i think thursday's reflective essay was a success... well for me, because it made me sit down and actually think about what i am doing ...regarding the diary project and sociology as a whole and it really put things into perspective for me.

however i think that it would have been better if you told us from the beginning what the diary project is about and all the steps required. i think that revealing things one step at a time is not that effective because (well for me) it is easier to work or begin a project if you know what is expected of you throughout the assignment and you have a vague idea of what the end result should be.
on the other hand im sure there was a reason you introduced us to the diary project the way you did. - it would have skewed the research.
thats my opinion.hope it is fine that i aired it as a public transcript.or would it have been better as a hidden transcript?
hope you do not mind me making my opinion be known. everything i said was said with the utmost respect for you as a lecturer.
thank you

Reesha Kara

Anonymous said...

Hidden transcripts are present everywhere in society, but most notably in the arts. Movies, music, poetry and the like all convey deeper meanings, whether it be good triumphing over evil, new love, lost love, freedom from oppression or ending of war. Hidden transcripts created in different time periods were a reflection of the social consciousness of the people present in those time periods. In most of the modern world public transcripts are the order of the day, where anyone can express their view and have it undergo global exposure, anonymously if they want, through technology such as the world wide web and even cellular phones. Societies that are generally well educated and have a sense of right and wrong practice the concept of agency more actively when they feel that their quality of life is being undermined. I feel this occurs most frequently in first world democratic nations.

M Hemrajh

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