Cultural Theory and the Open Society

Catriona Kelly, Professor of Russian at Oxford Universty, has written an article about the concept of freedom in the context of Soviet and post-Soviet politics. She takes issue with the two-sidedness that pits the open society against the closed society, finding in Grid-Group Cultural Theory a helpful and illuminating alternative.

”The “open society” to which Soviet existence is often claimed to have been opposed resembles the old idea of “the free world”. A non-moralistic approach to group relations in the Soviet Union moves beyond the simplistic link between modernisation and openness”

Of Grids and Groups

The Open Society?Photo credit: Flickr/stephenpace

3 thoughts on “Cultural Theory and the Open Society

  1. Love your web site and your recent posts on our blindness to our own biases. When I first encountered your work, I was scratching at the relations and assumptions around liberal autonomy and our social interdependence. Since then I have taken a nice cruise around what I consider relevant efforts, “Connected”, Chistakis and Fowler, Philp Tetlock’s “Hedgehogs and Foxes,” and Elliott Aronson and colleagues’ “Mistakes were made, but not by me.”

    In this article Kelly gives us a murky analysis of almost century-long, conflicting currents in the Soviet Union. Like psychoanalysis, it seems there is a quadrant for every historical behavior and political faction.

    For another swing at charting historical / political currents check out the recent analysis of the Tea Party, in the NY Times, Stone column. It’s not grid-group, but glides along the group continuum from Descartes’ autonomy to Hegel’s construction of self through a redundant social interaction. He then pirouettes to a turn of the shadow side of our ‘protests to much’ beliefs.

    So far, for me, the grid-group heuristic is more revealing on the individual meaning making front than the social analysis level. Or, maybe its profligate productivity of credible theories of past actions is less credible and gives us less traction, than when used as a heuristic to determine our future options and current biases.

    In either case, I am grateful for your and the grid group gang’s work for giving me a tool to get a handle on the unceasing opinions and changes gushing my way.

    Than you so much. You’re doing wonderful work.

    PS Talking about gushing, grid-group’s early work on energy, risk and supply is like deja vu all over again with BP and the Gulf catastrophe. I suspect we won’t be hearing from Michael Thompson or any of his proteges soon on mainstream media outlets.

  2. Thanks Mort for your encouragement. I’m glad you have found this blog interesting. I quite agree about the sense of deja vu with BP. The Brent Spa debacle was one of the examples Michael Thompson frequently used to illustrate the idea of cultural blindness. Here in the Gulf of Mexico we have similar biases in operation.

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