In the late American writer Raymond Carver’s (1981) celebrated short story ‘What we talk about when we talk about love’, there is both conversation and experiment – maybe even pragmatist conversation and experiment. Carver’s story is set during one early evening in suburban Albuquerque, where two increasingly drunken couples – two bottles of gin are consumed before dinner – talk across a kitchen table about what counts as love. Each of the four offer different stories. One of the women, Terri, says the man that she lived with previously “loved
This book makes the case for a pragmatist approach to the practice of social inquiry and knowledge production. Through diverse examples from multiple disciplines, contributors explore the power of pragmatism to inform a practice of inquiry that is democratic, community-centred, problem-oriented and experimental. Drawing from both classical and neo-pragmatist perspectives, the book advances a pragmatist sensibility in which truth and knowledge are contingent rather than universal, made rather than found, provisional rather than dogmatic, subject to continuous experimentation rather than ultimate proof and verified in their application in action rather than in the accuracy of their representation of an antecedent reality. The power of pragmatism offers a path forward for mobilizing the practice of inquiry in social research, exploring the implications of pragmatism for the process of knowledge production.
As the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire of 14 June 2017 has slowly revealed a shadowy background of outsourcing and deregulation, and a council turning a blind eye to health and safety concerns, many questions need answers. Stuart Hodkinson has those answers. Safe as Houses weaves together Stuart’s research over the last decade with residents’ groups in council regeneration projects across London to provide the first comprehensive account of how Grenfell happened and how it could easily have happened in multiple locations across the country. It draws on examples of unsafe housing either refurbished or built by private companies under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to show both the terrible human consequences of outsourcing and deregulation and how the PFI has enabled developers, banks and investors to profiteer from highly lucrative, taxpayer-funded contracts. The book also provides shocking testimonies of how councils and other public bodies have continuously sided with their private partners, doing everything in their power to ignore, deflect and even silence those who speak out. The book concludes that the only way to end the era of unsafe regeneration and housing provision is to end the disastrous regime of self-regulation. This means strengthening safety laws, creating new enforcement agencies independent of government and industry, and replacing PFI and similar models of outsourcing with a new model of public housing that treats the provision of shelter as ‘a social service’ democratically accountable to its residents.
The deep mapping projects of Tim Robinson’s art and writings, 1969–72
map is both process and product of a
The deep mapping projects of T
deep engagement with a particular place over a period of time. In the following
section, I unpack the concept of deep mapping as a means to understand all three
of Robinson’s artistic projects.
Deep mapping: ‘a conversation not a statement’
The concept of a deep map is often attributed to Wallace Stegner’s Wolf
Willow: A History, A Story (1955), and is more fully developed in William Least
Heat-Moon’s PrairyErth: A Deep Map (1991), which is an experiential account of
the people and
inquirers before the study, but cast the net wide to gather a group of people from various communities and social worlds and allow shared issues to emerge through conversation among them. Place, rather than other forms of social identification, such as class, sexuality, gender, ethnicity or religion, was deployed as a relatively neutral lens through which to gather citizens and form a community of inquiry, ensuring that the academic had minimal control over which citizens’ knowledges were articulated through the project and whose interests it potentially served. As Lake
Alex Schafran, Matthew Noah Smith and Stephen Hall
conversations that directly revolve around reliance systems in some ways. These examples – universal basic income and the Green New Deal – involve different systems, different political lines, and vary in terms of their global reach. We purposely chose a more global example and a more regional (North Atlantic) example to highlight the scalability of this framework.
The spatial contract framework in practice: universal basic income
The idea of providing no-strings-attached money to all citizens or residents – a basic income, or universal basic
-based practice develops solutions in context. Reaching socially agreed solutions is part of the development process that could lead to production of knowledge and new concepts. Involvement of local people in the process of articulating the issue and looking for solutions facilitates the implementation of local change. In development you should not expect a universal model or perfect formula that you can act on to achieve targeted goals. Instead, you need to monitor the situation continuously, shape conversations among local actors constantly and develop ideas contingently. As
… argument,” he suggested, is “to think of it as the practical wisdom necessary to participate in a conversation (and) the attempt to prevent conversation from degenerating into inquiry, into a research program” ( Rorty, 1979  , 372). Relinquishing the goal of accurate representation, pragmatism seeks engagement in a collective democratic experiment aimed at discerning what Dewey called “a sense for the better kind of life to be led” ( Dewey, 1919  , 39).
Pragmatism and social research: past and present
The take-up of pragmatism has had a long, uneven and
Connemara landscape as subject for his writing, one part of a layered description
of the bogland that he hikes, the tidelines that he maps and the human stories that
Tim Robinson as narrative scholar
he records. In an interview conversation with Robinson, I asked him about this
narrative process, about how memory and experience coalesce in his writing. He
responded with the following example:
In Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage I describe a bay on the Atlantic cliff coast of Árainn called
Blind Sound because from sea it looks like a sound between two islands but a vessel
interaction between the self and situations informs both ‘habitual’ and ‘creative’ thought and action ( Joas, 1997a ). This builds on the belief that human agents have the ability to anticipate the intentions of other actors through the development of language as a means to describe the intricacies of reality, allowing complex forms of social interaction and negotiation. Mead (1934) argues that meaning derives from social action, which comprises what he terms a ‘conversation of gestures’, in which one gesture elicits a response from another actor. This takes the form of