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The Not So Common Sense

The Not So Common Sense: Differences in How People Judge Social and Political Life

Shawn W. Rosenberg
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    The Not So Common Sense
    Book Description:

    In this fascinating interdisciplinary book, Shawn W. Rosenberg challenges two basic assumptions that orient much contemporary social scientific thinking. Offering theory and empirical research, he rejects the classic liberal view that people share a basic "common sense" or rationality. At the same time, he questions the view of contemporary social theory that meaning is simply an intersubjective or cultural product.Through in-depth interviews, Rosenberg explores the underlying logic of cognition. Rather than discovering a common sense or rationality, he finds that people reason in fundamentally different ways, and these differences affect the kind of understandings they craft and the evaluations they make. As a result, people actively reconstruct culturally prevalent meanings and norms in their own subjective terms. Rosenberg provides a comprehensive description of three types of socio-political reasoning and the full text of three exemplary interviews.Rosenberg's findings help explain such puzzling social phenomena as why people do not learn even when it is to their advantage to do so, or why they fail to adapt to changed social conditions even when they have clear information and motivation. The author argues that this kind of failure is commonplace and discusses examples ranging from the crisis of modernity to the classroom performance of university students. Building on the ideas of Jean Piaget, George Herbert Mead, and Jurgen Habermas, Rosenberg offers a new orienting vision, structural pragmatics, to account for these social phenomena and his own research in cognition. In the concluding chapter, he discusses the implications of his work for the study of social cognition, political behavior, and democratic theory.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12946-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. Chapter One Postmodernity, Not Learning, and the Not So Common Sense
    (pp. 1-32)

    In this book I explore the sense people make of the world around them, from the private world of their personal lives to the broader arena of social and political affairs. I provide theoretical argument and empirical evidence that there is an underlying structure to the disparate understandings and judgments that a given individual constructs. Whether one is trying to explain why a friend is unable to find a job or why unemployment is high in Germany, or whether one is trying to judge the desirability of a potential lover or the appropriateness of American military intervention in Bosnia, one...

  5. Chapter Two A Structural Pragmatic Social Psychology
    (pp. 33-78)

    The theory that underlies the concepts and research presented in this book is developed in this chapter, beginning with a brief sketch of the philosophical foundation upon which that theory builds. The approach I have employed focuses on how people understand their personal lives and the larger social and political world around them. This is understood in terms of the interplay between subjective and intersubjective constructions of meaning. The theory offered here is in part an attempt to offer a more adequate point of departure for making sense of the failure to learn and noncommon meaning, discussed in chapter 1....

  6. Chapter Three Linear Thinking
    (pp. 79-133)

    In this chapter I present an account of linear thinking. Although it is the second step in a developmental sequence, I begin with linear thinking because it is likely to be the most familiar. While it does not conform to the normative requisites of what may be designated fully logical or rational thought, linear thinking is probably the type of reasoning most frequently utilized in modern industrial societies. In this regard, the reader will find the account of linear thinking presented here to reflect a great deal of what is encountered in everyday life, including the preoccupation with fad, fashion,...

  7. Chapter Four Systematic Thinking
    (pp. 134-216)

    Systematic thinking is the most sophisticated form of thinking of the three analyzed here. It emerges with the objectification of the concrete and anchored relationships constructed in the course of linear thinking. Reconstructed as objective interactions or subjective propositions, these specific relationships are related to one another either in the context of a broader system of relationships in which they are articulated or with reference to an abstract principle of relationship that they exemplify. Systematic thinking thus supposes that, apart from their intrinsic or concrete qualities, the particulars of interaction and discourse have a more essential, relational meaning. Integration, abstraction,...

  8. Chapter Five Sequential Thinking
    (pp. 217-251)

    Sequential thinking is embedded in the immediacy of present circumstances and is intertwined with the unfolding of passing events. The most primitive of the three forms of reasoning discussed here, sequential thought emerges prior to linear and systematic thought. It is distinguished by its shifting focus, its dependence on appearances, and its relative lack of clear causal or categorical considerations. At its core, sequential reasoning is a synthetic tracking of events as they unfold. It produces conceptual relations that have the temporal concrete quality of these episodes both as they are observed to transpire and as they are felt to...

  9. Chapter Six Epistemology, Methodology, and Research Design
    (pp. 252-293)

    The question addressed in this chapter is how best to study the way in which people evaluate social and political life. The approach I suggest is rather different from that adopted in most political and psychological research on cognition and evaluation. To clarify the nature of this difference, the chapter opens with a discussion of epistemology and method. The basic point made here is that one’s conception of appropriate empirical method depends on the epistemological position one adopts. In other words, one’s approach to the conduct of research will reflect one’s underlying, often only implicit, assumptions about the nature of...

  10. Chapter Seven Results of the Empirical Research: Julie, Barbara, and Bill
    (pp. 294-369)

    In this chapter, the results of the empirical research are presented in two parts. In the first part, there is a summary discussion of the results. The reader will note that only the most rudimentary of statistics are reported. Given the clarity of the results, any additional statistical information would simply be redundant. In the second part, an attempt is made to flesh out the numbers provided in the first part. To this end, extensive excerpts of three exemplary interviews, one sequential, one linear, and one systematic, are included. This is done so that the reader may directly examine the...

  11. Chapter Eight Overview and Concluding Remarks
    (pp. 370-396)

    In chapter 1 I presented several examples of people’s responses to the challenges posed by the circumstances of their lives. One was quite general and involved the difficulties many people who live in advanced industrial societies have adjusting to the demands of modern (or postmodern) life in the late twentieth century. The other examples were much more specific. They included the difficulty Chad natives had comprehending the medical advice of a Peace Corps worker, the trouble Appalachian miners had adopting the political strategies taught by a political activist, and the difficulty many undergraduates have in understanding the theoretical or philosophical...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 397-410)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 411-420)
  14. Index
    (pp. 421-424)