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A Sociology of Suspicion


https://medium.com/@jamessurwillo/a-sociology-of-suspicion-45ef487e4ab2

A Sociology of Suspicion

James Surwillo
Mar 2 · 11 min read


Emile Durkheim studied the religion of primitive people over a century ago and found that the “Sacred”, the highest form of shared commitment across a culture, is ultimately what shines light on our loftiest ideals. I recently wrote Towards a Metamodern Sociology of Knowledge. My intent was to show an optimistic and pragmatic portrayal of human possibility through knowledge creation over time. Central to that idea has always been some form of religion or highest common intersubjective principal. The modern world re-positioned its focus to a new objective truth that began to beat down the hard won truths of history as it pertains to a reverence of faith.

Of course religion has always been contested because it is always personal to some degree. For well over a thousand years in the West the Catholic Church centralized religious ideals by bringing in nearly every form of cutting edge proto-science and philosophy under its umbrella as a truth. If you walk in Notre-Dame in Paris you can’t help but be overwhelmed by the majesty, beauty, and transcendental nature of a rich history built on a foundation of truth, yet it is just material. The same can be said of any grand Cathedral regardless of belief, time, or space. The telephone, airplane, and television were built in the modern world with completely different logics and motivations. They are no less amazing in their utility and capability as a Gothic church, yet lacking in their spiritual depth and tradition.

Martin Luther broke down the door to Protestantism in 1517 as a skeptic of the continuity of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. As Kurt Anderson described in Fantasyland, a historiography of delusion in the United States over the last 500 years, Luther opened the floodgates to DIY Christianity. Francis Bacon followed in the path of Luther by outlining the inductive method scientifically. Humans could go out in the world, collect data, and generalize about what the hell was going on. Beware of the idols embedded in human intuition that may read false positives. David Hume believed that ethics and morals belonged in the category of emotion rather than reason while Rene Descartes believed in innate knowledge of the rational and deductive mind where skepticism guided the light towards truth.

Immanuel Kant brought these ideas together in Critique of Pure Reason in 1781. The first wave of the modern world overtook humanity and Revolution fell on France within a decade. Modern sensibilities had collided with the realpolitik. The hierarchy of a cultural universal truth slowly began to die as the power and authority of Popes and Kings were beginning to dissipate. When the masses begin to question the power bestowed by elites and they obtain new communication methods and technological resources to fight the Kings, the Ancien Regime dies a violent death. In Game of Thrones it would have been impossible for a single commoner to challenge the Iron Throne. It was not yet a rule that had been inserted into the game.

In the modern world, however, individual agency suddenly arises armed with the embedded code of Kant, even if no one knew what the hell he was talking about. Among the chaos, a changing Sociology of Knowledge persisted in the Sacred realm for some time and in certain respects. Georg Hegel launched a century of German Idealism based on Kant’s contradictions by identifying the existence of the “Other”, which is always found outside of man’s conscious self-image. Still, the emergent idea, thanks to Baruch Spinoza, was that a spirit of “Blessedness” existed and propelled life forward with a divine rationality of God regardless of religious intuition. This was the spirit of the “becoming” according to Hegel, and the final blow of agonized disenchantment of being to those left outside of its warm embrace. We looked to what was emerging rather what was infinite.

God was dead, claimed Nietzsche, by the end of the century, but the optimists who carried the spirit of Hegel vowed to remember the Sacred as a virtue with an essence of its own. Karl Mannheim, the great early 20th century sociologist realized the inevitable break towards relativistic tendencies by the 1920’s and sought to describe the mechanisms in a contextual manner to allow the individual a chance to regain the Sacred through faith and the positivism of science. My conclusion is that this trajectory of breaking through proto-postmodern inertia to find new meaning, or “Conjunctive Faith”, as the developmental theologian James Fowler defined, is vital to both the individual and to the culture. We must enter paradox to reconstruct the ideas of the Sacred in a measured but Utopian fashion.

That sounds like a nice way to collect knowledge and use it for good but what if the mass delusions of society point in the wrong direction? What if power has been usurped by the elites? What if prevailing norms have caused us to worship false gods and in turn corrupted the Sacred shared truths? What if new forms of alienation strip bare the Sacred of the individual? To Durkheim the Profane was the opposite of the Sacred. In today’s world the Profane is the set of subjective and mundane phenomena that detracts from advancing a new cultural logic that reconstructs meaning in new ways. Metamodernism is the set of logics and norms of what will become in the next stage of humanity by adherence to the infinite. We must understand that the modern world is very much alive in all of us yet postmodern tactics have disrupted the way we perceive and act in the world. Neither gives us the elegance of the traditional world. Isaiah 11: 1–2 says, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a stump shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him”.

The world is pregnant with new, complex, and disparate ideas of profanity that have a slight possibility of becoming Sacred. The Profane always arises out of the individual but it has a natural attractiveness. Sociologist Max Weber’s idea of the Protestant Ethic of hard work and individualism was a slap in the face to the sacred doctrines of the Catholic Church. Who were you to create your own religion the priests asked Luther? Joseph Smith found Eden in Independence, Missouri, not far from where the Kansas City Chiefs play football today. Blasphemy! Christianity split into various sects, especially in America. DIY religion democratized and secularized all Christianity. Only the Catholic Church held it together. If the Church reforms it is lumped in with all of the other flavors of Christianity. They are the one true church of St. Peter we are reminded.

Kurt Anderson begins Fantasyland by claiming that ultra-individualism has skyrocketed in recent decades beginning in the 1960’s. More than likely the catalyst has been new information and communication systems to align the antennae’s towards the Sociology of the Skeptic. When Weber was describing the new ethic of the individual, specifically in America around the turn of the century, it was on the backs of the great existentialists and phenomenologists of the 19th century. The world had become purely rational which perverted the Sacred towards the disenchantment of the majesty of the universe itself. Lack of historical wisdom, emergent narcissism, and a willingness to perceive conflict in new complexities allowed our skeptical nature to imagine grand conspiracies in the “Other” against “I” and the intersubjective “Us”. It injected doubt into words, thought, and actions that nothing was as it seemed.



---
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Mar/6/2020, 4:04 pm Link to this post  
 
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Re: A Sociology of Suspicion


The Great Divergence of the late 19th century and early 20th century made the world truly modern. Science as an entity had transformed the world and the capabilities of corporate supply chains to deliver new products. Ingenuity had mixed with innovation thanks to connection of people, knowledge, and organization. The philosopher Paul Ricoeur attempted to unmask this new reality in Freud and Philosophy in 1965. He claimed that the existential qualities of human emancipation lay outside the clearly defined boundaries of the modern world. This method laid bare the iron cage of reality itself. Marx showed us the conspiracy of elites at the expense of the masses, Nietzsche the embedded morality of self-imposed slavery, and Freud the repression of the super ego to the will of the Id. We were doomed to error towards the Profane rationally in the modern world as postmodern critiques slowly started making sense over the coming decades.

The notion of the “Other” conspicuously by Hegel is a continuation of our Pre-Christian Manichean tradition of the devil. Monsters are among us is a mantra of many Jordan Peterson lectures. They are coming for you so build yourself up to absorb the shocks rather than run away. All of history proves it. It is the oldest hero myth. Thomas Hobbes said, “Life is brutish, nasty, and short” and the strongest motivator of man is the fear of death. Nietzsche philosophized with a hammer for the will of man. The doctrine of the Profane suggests that the goal of humanity should never search for Utopian solutions but to search and destroy the knights and the pawns of competing ideological systems. The individual became the manipulator of reality itself. It was a fact. The proof was his capability to transform physical world itself.

Not everyone is or was included in the elite project of building the modern world. Those without agency in the process began contriving stories that felt real, and perhaps were real. In Conspiracy Theories and Paranoid Styles of Mass Opinions, A University of Chicago study, said those left behind had a “weakness for melodramatic narratives to explain prominent events that can be reduced to a universal struggle of good and evil” and is a pretty good indication that you will succumb to conspiracy theories (along with the propensity to attribute unexplainable phenomena to intentional forces). Former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski said, “History is much more the product of chaos than conspiracy”. Simply, conspiracy theories are the private belief that a large malignant force purposefully dictates the forces of reality.

Jan-Willem van Prooijen studies why humans are susceptible to what Ricoeur would call the hermeneutics of suspicion. Biologically, natural selection favors the error of seeing a tiger when none exists rather than not seeing a tiger when one is present. The same logic in hunter-gatherer societies towards suspicion of invading tribes allowed genetic transmission to another by not dying before procreation. By the time that the agricultural revolution arose and civilization was formed, human suspicion had learned to assign cause through story. In 331 BCE Roman citizens were dying of an unknown cause. The logical explanation apparently decided that 170 women were guilty of a conspiracy to poison the population.

In the Middle Ages Heinrich Kramer wrote The Witch Hammer that described the process whereby witches mate with the devil and sacrifice infants to concoct potions to give their broomsticks flight. These same sentiments traveled to the New World for the Salem Witch Trials at the end of the 17th century. From there it is not such a slippery slope towards the mature modern version of conspiracy. In 1964 John Stormer, who grew up not so far from where I am currently writing, penned None Dare Call it Treason and claimed a deep Communist infiltration in America and it sold 5 million copies. The naive Age of Aquarius and its reactionary cousin perpetuated new narratives in counterculture. The individual pursuit of entertainment itself purposefully blurred the lines of reality, regardless of religious, moral, or political persuasion.

From P.T. Barnum to alien abductions, creationism, flat earth theories, and QAnon, the bigger and more robust the theory the more likely many would believe it. A credible and retired academic purported genuinely that the Sandy Hook Massacre was a hoax to the face of a victim’s father. In 1981 Jean Baudrillard wrote Simulcra and Simulation which claimed a new “hyperreality” where learned from the phenomenology of the past 100 years, thanks to media methods and content, had made the simulation of the mind more real than reality itself. It is said that this book was required reading on the set of the movie The Matrix, where taking the red pill awoken the individual to the inconvenient realities of the mundane.

On the internet today “red pilling” is awakening to the real world learned through the hermeneutics of suspicion. It is essentially using the methods of critique from the postmodern against the modern world to critique the postmodernists themselves, and it seems to be working. Conversely, the “blue pill” is staying asleep through the catastrophic pillaging of the masses by the elite who have garnered control of everything from government, entertainment, education, and business. The natural progression of the world had developed a blind spot towards the truths of most of history it had seemed. Only the conspiratorial red pill awakens the senses to the slaughter of the innocents.

And it is not irrational to suppose that malignant forces do not interject. It is not obvious at all that we are heading towards a deeper and richer Sociology of Knowledge as I suppose in part I of this essay. Trojan horses are very real in an ontological sense. Julius Caesar was executed in conspiracy by a secretive group of elites. Conspiracies certainly exist, but as Brezhinski claims, they are usually more chaotic than people imagine. It is certainly arousing material. William Shakespeare, perhaps the most important author in the English language, made a career out of conspiracy theories. The DaVinci Code is the best-selling book since its release 17 years ago and is based solely on conspiracy.

A longitudinal study by Joseph Vscinski and Joseph Parent from 1890–2010 found no significant difference in the belief in conspiracy theories in America over that period based on newspaper editorials. The instincts of humans do not evolve that quickly. A 2015 study by Kossowska and Bukowski called Motivational Roots of Conspiracies claimed that a desire for certainty and the threat of personal control contributed to conspiratorial beliefs while Prooijen says the degree of belief in authority, tradition, and order mixed with a collective narcissism regarding the superiority of your in group may predict one’s degree of suspicions over the power of social norms and beliefs. The difference is the attractor points of their signaling as communication technology becomes more personal.

This parsimony of thought returns us to Ockham’s razor of the Middle Ages . . . the simplest answer is usually the most correct. Not necessarily because nuance does not exist, but the more complex the explanation the more vulnerable the argument becomes to critique. There are malignant forces in the world that would cause us harm and they are real. The ones most perceptive to this conflict are probably the most narcissistic according to Prooijen. The controversial narcissism researcher Sam Vaknin said that before 1974 narcissism was considered a Freudian regression to childhood pathology. Today it is considered a positive adaptation and is almost a religion of the self on its own terms. Because of the uptick of narcissism in recent decades the (sometimes) false narratives of the Profane have become a positive adaption. In many on-line platforms it is a form of cultural currency. Whenever a culture is conducive to narcissism it passes like a deadly virus.

The populist explosion of narcissism is one way to define the political polarities of the world. The corrupt elite vs the noble everyman or toxic masculinity vs toxic feminism . . . each set of rational logics draws further away from the dichotomy of the Sociology of Knowledge and the towards the Sociology of Skepticism. In Towards of a Metamodern Sociology of Knowledge I attempted to contemporarily ground the Sacred although it may be impossible in the short term and an obscure process philosophy in the long term. The Sacred is the highest set of intersubjective appeals to move transcendental norms. The opposite, and the necessary, fuels the suspicion of a subjective combination of critique. It is ever present and ever justified, to beat back the idealism. Whether it is internally misunderstood or externally mislead is not the issue, only that it seems suspicious and is open to skepticism.

The oldest and loftiest ideals brought about by religion unite the cosmology, epistemology, and ontology of the individual into a way of being on earth and with God or the gods. Whatever principals can be deduced, embodied, and practiced with regards to our allies bring about the Sacred. Yet there is always the “other” lurking in the forest to steal our way of being. The Profane is that which consumes our individual pursuits until it threatens our Sacred. I had never seen a black squirrel until I visited Michigan, to paraphrase Hume, but I can now say that black squirrels exist. I can only construct my version of reality by experience and intuition. The pure Sociology of Knowledge is forever corrupted by the vast experience of the single individual. It arises over the arc of history, and then dissipates, never to be completely captured in the same form.


---
Encyclopedia of Narcissism and Psychopathy

http://samvak.tripod.com/siteindex.html

Buy 16 books and video lectures on 3 DVDs about narcissists, psychopaths, and abusive relationships

http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com/thebook.html
Mar/6/2020, 4:05 pm Link to this post  
 


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