- Aug 2018
Bearing in mind the conceptual difficulties and limitations of the level approach, we can see that an understanding through levels achieves a number of things. It emphasises the complexity of time and imposes order on the multiple expressions. It prevents us from focusing on one or two aspects of time at the expense of others. In addition to the more obviously social components, it establishes the centrality of the physical, living, technological, and artefactual aspects of social time. It stresses and affirms connections and relationships. It brings to the surface both the continuities and the irreducible aspects of social time. It helps us to avoid confusing the time aspects of our social life with those of nature
Despite the limitations, Adam largely supports Mead's approach since it "emphasizes the complexity of time and imposes order on the multiple expressions" over other frameworks centered on time as a series of stages or experienced as dualities.
To Mead the past is irrevocable to the extent that events cannot be undone, thoughts not unthought, and knowledge not unknown. In this irrever-sible form, he contends, the past is unknowable since the intervening knowledge continuously changes the meaning of that past and relentlessly recreates and reformulates it into a new and different past. He argues this on the basis of the proposition that only emergence in the present has reality status. He does not accord the past and future such a status because they are real only with respect to their relation to the present. In Mead's thought the past changes with respect to our experiencing it in the present and the meaning we give to it. In contradistinction to the past, he conceptualises the reality of the present as changing with each emergence.
Adam describes Mead's conceptualization of past/present/future as fluid levels. Present experience constantly changes our understanding, meaning, and knowledge about the past and future.
Adam notes, however, that there are limits to Mead's concept of levels, as they tend to be organized as nested hierarchies. The emergence of a new reality (present) changes not only past and future, but pushes the present into a constant state of flux and change, which further alters the past and future.
It's a fun house mirror of theoretical madness.
Not the number of levels or their content are at issue here since these might be varied according to the degree of the analysis' generality but their static developmental stages where the level 'below' is denied aspects that characterise the level 'above'. In other words, whilst theories of time levels are theoretically of interest and echoed in many subsequent social science conceptualisations -including those of Sorokin ( 1964) and Elias (1982a, b, 1984), for example -they deny to non-human nature what we have found to be central: the importance of past, present, and future extension; of history, creativity, temporality, time experience, and time norms. If time differ-ences are conceptualised with reference to stable, integrative levels then this prevents any understanding in terms of resonance and feedback loops. With discrete, unidirectional levels, consciousness cannot be shown to resonate throughout all of nature; and what we think of as 'human time' stays falsely imprisoned at that level.
Adam contends that if time layers are viewed as bounded levels then "this prevents any understanding in terms of resonance and feedback loops."
She also talks about "discrete, unidirectional levels." This congers up thoughts about Bluedorn's writing about "time's directional arrow." Is this the same thing?
Despite these important advantages, however, there are difficulties associated with the conceptualisation of social time in terms of levels. These relate to our tendency to reify the levels, to conceptualise them hierarchically, and to postulate clear cut-off points between them. The three, as we shall see, are closely interconnected.
The idea of layers of time is problematic because people tend to want to transform abstract ideas into concrete examples (reify), assign rank order (hierarchy), and contain the layers (cut-off points).
A conceptualisation in terms of levels seems therefore well suited to explain and theorise the multitude of times entailed in contemporary life. To think of these times as expressions of different levels of our being avoids the need to discuss one aspect at the expense of all others. It means that we do not need to chose on an either/ or basis. It encourages us to see connections and not to lose sight of the multiplicity while we concentrate on any one of those multiple expressions.
Time is expressed in a variety of ways and conceptualizing them as levels allows people to imagine them holistically and as interconnected even while focusing on one aspect/layer.
However, this idea is contested further in the passage.
Does Adam's sense of time follow/counter Lindley's view of entangled time?