They pro vide a base that operates automatically analogous to the instincts

They pro vide a base that operates automatically

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knowledge and social institutions compensate for biological underdevelopment. They pro- vide a “base” that operates “automatically,” analogous to the instincts that guide other ani- mals’ behavior. “Commonsense knowledge is the knowledge that I share with others in the normal, self-evident routines of everyday life” (ibid.:23). It is what allows us to perceive the reality of everyday life as “reality,” to suspend our doubts so that we can act in the world. Social institutions are the bridges between humans and their physical environments (Turner 2001:109). Following Schutz, Berger and Luckmann emphasize that it is the intersubjective character of commonsense knowledge that enables human institutions and culture to pro- duce stability. It is because “most of the time, my encounters with others in everyday life are typical in a double sense—I apprehend the other as a type and I interact with him in a situation that is itself typical”—that social interaction is successful (Berger and Luckmann 1966:31; emphasis in original). Without intersubjectivity—that you know that I know that we both know—social order and interaction would break down, and we would be left to doubt the most fundamental aspects of communication. This brings us to the issue of habitualization —that is, the process by which the flexibil- ity of human actions is limited. All activity is subject to habitualization, as repeated actions inevitably become routinized. Habitualization carries with it the psychological advantage that choices are narrowed. That an action may be “performed again in the future in the same manner and with the same economical effort” provides a stable background from which human activity can proceed (ibid.:53–54). In other words, from the time we wake up in the morning until we go to bed at night, we can direct our minds and bodies to constructive action only because we take most actions for granted. Moreover, habitualized actions set the stage for institutionalization , because “institu- tionalization occurs whenever there is a reciprocal typification of habitualized action by types of actors” (ibid.:54). That is, it is when habitualized actions are shared or “available to all members of the particular social group” (ibid.) that institutions are born. Akin to hab- its that function at the level of the individual, then, institutions control human conduct by setting up predefined patterns of conduct that channel in one direction as opposed to another theoretically possible direction. Of course, institutions are not created instantaneously, but rather are “built up in the course of a shared history” (ibid.). In other words, over time, shared habitualized actions become institutions that are taken for granted and therefore limiting for the individuals who are subject to them. Thus, it is through institutions that human life becomes coherent, meaningful, and continuous (ibid.).
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