Constraints and (implicitly) possibilities -- III

3- The family as communication system.

This is the eighth in a series of notes to fifteen lectures for my class TF5005: Interdisciplinary Study of the Family.
Transition notes
As some of you noticed Shorter's causal chain implies 
  1. a psychological theory: Shorter assumes that individuals, given the opportunity because of the organization of production, will choose to satisfy certain needs, particularly in matters sexual.  In the absence of specific controls, sexual needs will assert themselves (Shorter may thus align himself with the sociobiologists who might actually ground the view that sexual needs are primary and more natural than any controls over sexuality
  2. a political evaluation: by adopting the language of the utopists labeling "liberation" all lessening of social controls over sexuality, Shorter aligns himself with the 19th century "progress" evolutionists who saw in Euro-American history a universal and necessary movement towards "freedom."  However, while Marxists argued that full sexual freedom requires first economic freedom (communism), Shorter, following Parsons and many others, argues that sexual freedom is dependent on political freedom (from "communal controls") and do not discuss whether the industrial relationship of all to their (re-)productive needs can in fact be characterized as "free" (rather than strongly controlled by the possibly needs of industrial "productivity" as liberal economists might talk about it).

  1. Shorter brings us back implicitly to the other major concern of all family theorizing: the impact of family organization (including the kind of control exercised by the various members on each other) on personality development (assuming of course a theory of "normal" development grounded in the genetics of human beings and often thwarted by cultural constraints)
    1. In the Parsonian and related literature (e.g. Erik Erikson), particularly in the work of psychologists like Laing and Lidz, the stance is determinedly causal 
    2. A note on causality, "functionalism" and systematicity in social interaction
  2. There are however other theories of determination or, as I would prefer, constraints.  The most powerful being the "system" theories that emphasize feedback in an "open," that is temporalized, manner where it is understood that no system can actually return to either its original state, or the homeostatic state on which its interactions appear to depend: all attempts to return to homeostasis through various recalibrations of all parts necessarily displaces, however slightly, the homeostatic center.  These system models are communicational models and were first brought to the attention of family theorists by the work of Bateson and his partners in Palo Alto.
  3. Models of communication: situation and construction
  4. An investigation into new ways of reaching the systematicity of social relations within a household:
      Ambiguous Harmony


October 21, 1999