Re: Introductory Comments

W Ramsay (
Wed, 15 May 1996 15:00:08 +0100

Dear Bob,

I write with some diffidence in reply to your posting of 14 May, indeed I'm
writing only because I'm a crypto-syndico-anarchist and fan of William
Godwin (despite still not having fought my way all through "An Enquiry
Concerning Political Justice"). About methodology there are others more
expert who can give you advice, but I'd like to offer the following
freewheeling comments:

You wrote:


>Because the self is such a transient construction, perhaps we are studying
>temporary and fragile constructions.


I'm a little puzzled by this, at least in the context of politics. It runs
counter to my early psychological education (pre-modern, so to speak) and
reminds me of the beast in "The Forbidden Planet" which, you may remember,
was "recreating its molecular structure from micro-second to micro-second".
I'm prepared to accept this, on a more extended time-scale, from a
behaviourist point of view (although the last time I did this on the list a
shudder of horror ran through at lest one of us), but find it hard to accept
in a constructivist context. If we construe the 'self' - indeed if 'self
<-> non-self' is a construct, then 'self' has (or is it _is_?) a replication
which is either stable or "reconstruing its replication from - when? -
moment to moment, hour to hour?" And, to get to the point, can a political
system (which implies stability) be established by any community of such
selves? (The other extreme would be an ant-hill, presumably).


>I am focusing my concern
>with PCP on the challenge of constructing a grid that will help me
>interpret ideologies along three value dimensions: equality-authority;
>community-individual; and state-anarchy.

For what it's worth, why these dimensions, and with these combinations of
labels? Do we risk distorting meanings by enforcing opposites that may not
be those used by our students? For example, why not 'equality <->
inequality'; 'group <-> individual'; 'authority <-> anarchy', or 'hierarchy
<-> anarchy'? Or even, to be mischievous, 'democracy <-> anarchy'?
Pedagogically, this is a case where I would be tempted to let the
individuality corollary have its head.

I once had a set of constructs, construing 'other countries', from a
third-year High School student which included 'monarchy <-> republic';
'repressive <-> liberal' and 'poor <-> rich' which showed 100% matches among
all three. I couldn't do anything about it, being on a data-gathering visit
for someone else's project and not being a politics teacher, but even such a
simple example suggests the potential of the approach. I'd love to take
your course!

Best wishes,


Bill Ramsay,
Dept. of Educational Studies,
University of Strathclyde,
Jordanhill Campus,
G13 1PP,

'phone: +44 (0)141 950 3364
'fax: +44 (0)141 950 3367