Intersubjectivity and contemporary social theory : the everyday as critique
Traditional analyses of popular or everyday culture have been couched in terms of, on the one hand, variants of the Frankfurt School view that it distorts or offers a false consciousness of an underlying reality, whilst on the other, the response from discourse theorists and more traditional forms of social constructionism has been philosophically conventionalist in arguing that discourses, definitions and labelling activities directly construct meaning. The argument of this thesis is that it is possible, via Dummett's reading of Frege, to construct a realist account of meaning or, more strictly, sense, which preserves an element of rationality in everyday cultural reception without thereby effecting a radical relativisation of the notion of what constitutes rational processes and practices. This is achieved via Dummett's Context Principle, through which it is argued that the actual meaning of an utterance is not given directly by the conventional meaning of its constituent terms and phrases, but rather that the object picked out, its reference, depends on the context in which the utterance occurs. Hence the terms and phrases offer no more than a clue, a route to the reference, not the actuality of the reference. Consequently, whilst the sedimented meanings of the elements from which an utterance is composed provide a structuring of meaning, the actual constitution of meaning will depend on the context. The thesis explores the view that meaning or sense has an open-ended, but ontological quality by examining a variety of issues and themes including reflexivity, forms of conventionalism, conceptions of the everyday, perspectives in phenomenological social theory and philosophy, rationality, semiotics, reference, discursivity, spatial and temporal locations of sense. It counterposes the emphasis on the contextual structuring of meaning as an effect of the subject's everyday appropriation of background routines, to passive constructions of subjectivity as offered by the Frankfurt School, and what it sees as overly direct constructions of meaning via classification systems in social constructionist approaches, which again have a reductive effect on the subject's role in the production of meaning.