The evolution of sociology, political science, economics, psychology, and other modern social sciences was contingent on the possibility of amoral discourse on human behavior. While this process can be traced to a multiplicity of factors, I would like to argue that the complex dialectical and complementary relations between the theater and the machine as political metaphors played a particularly important role in the a moralization of behavior as an object of scientific inquiry and the crystallization of modern categories of social, political, economic, or psychological phenomena.
Although at first sight the theater appears to be the more traditional, and the machine a modern, metaphor of society or politics, a closer examination reveals a more complex picture. Towards the late twentieth century, in the age of mass communications, for example, it is the return of a radically modified version of the theater metaphor of society and politics which seems to anachronize and weaken the grip of the machine metaphor in key spheres of social and political life. As we shall see, it is in fact very much due to the dialectical interactions of these two metaphors and their consequences that human action could be conceived and framed by social scientists as simultaneously voluntary and deterministic, uncertain and predictable, subject to moral evaluation as well as to neutral scientific accounts.
Theatricality : From Hypocrisy to Causality
From Plato through the Puritans to modern thinkers like J.J. Rousseau and Thomas Paine, the criticism of theatricality in human affairs presupposed both that overt human actions, or rather what is apparent about persons, can deviate from their true reality and that such misrepresentations of persons and actions are essentially corrupt. What Jonas Barish aptly calls "the anti-theatrical prejudice" in Western culture refers to an attitude which was largely sustained in the modern era by moral and traditional political criticisms... [continues]
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