Unfortunately, social scientists rarely get to experience “eureka!” moments like those of Archimedes taking a bath or Newton noticing an apple falling from a tree (or maybe
we are I am just too thick-headed to pick up on the ‘signs.’)
From time to time, though, I have experienced breakthroughs – as breakthrough as it gets when you are in the business of producing convincing documents – prompted by a good question, an everyday event or, as in most cases, a compelling metaphor.
I thought I wanted to share one such anecdote, falling into the latter category, which gave me a whole lot to think about a year or so back. It was certainly a moment that tied together a lot of loose ends in my thinking, namely about ethics as something that is performed rather than a given in the order of things.
The quote below, which is a telling indicator of Norbert Elias’ ‘process sociology,’ led me to think that ‘ethics’ is always ‘ethicising’ in more or less durable configurations, suggesting that any form of ethicality is always contested, becoming, and in the making – and nothing else.
We then think of wind as a thing that can take days off and not be blowing. But wind only exists as blowing. We would do better to say ‘the wind is blowing’ and better still to do without the noun/verb syntax entirely and only use the gerund, blowing, to recognize that blowing is all there is (Frank 2004).
Ethicising, it makes things so much more, um, complicated. I have since added several more gerunds to understand these processes, in fact, my thesis is built around the sub-themes standardising, materialising and unethicising. And now back to work…