We are social beings and most of what we do, and particularly architecture, is for and with other people. Therefore, formulating a model of an individual’s experience in the world must take into account the interface with fellow sentient beings.
My own particular route into this topic is through Karl Marx, and in particular the opening section of Capital Volume 1. Here, Marx explains his concept of commodities which are key to Capital as expounded in it’s opening sentence. “The wealth of societies in which a capitalist mode of production prevails appears as an ‘immense collection of commodities." He goes on to describe them as “an external object, a thing which through it’s qualities satisfies human needs of whatever kind.”
While Marx explains this term purely as a way of explaining how money and capitalist society operates there is a broader philosophical application, and I believe it is key to understanding how these internal phenomena become communicated to fellow human beings. Commodities, as Marx describes them, are comprised of three main properties. These are value, use-value and exchange value. Value suggests that all commodities are the products of human labour; use-values suggests that commodities satisfy a human need or want (which relates to Damasio’s homeostatic tree); exchange values place the commodity in a relationship with other commodities in a similar way to the relational properties of phenomena in Heidegger’s model of ‘Dwelling.’ An object which is the product of human labour and a use-value (which Heidegger would refer to as a thing) is not automatically a commodity. A commodity is rendered a social ‘thing’ by it’s exchange value, that is a “use-value for others, social use-values.”
While Marx was discussing exclusively the physical products of human labour, it is here that we can observe the commodification of the internal phenomena discussed by Heidegger and Damasio, although we need to redefine some of Marx’s terms. Value, defined by Marx as the products of human labour, can be redefined as the product of human physiological homeostasis. Use-value can be defined as the interpretation of action required to satisfy the value. Value plus use-value therefore equals a phenomena. Our ability to relate this phenomena to another human being in a way that they can relate to one of their own internal phenomena allows the phenomena to become commodified.
...and everybody else?
In this introduction to his seminal work ‘Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature,’ Richard Rorty describes culture as “an assemblage of claims to knowledge.” It appears to me this has a strong link to Marx’s opening sentence of Capital where he describes the wealth of societies consisting of “an immense collection of commodities.” We can equate the commodity-as-socialised-phenomena as a claim-to-knowledge, that is an understanding of what a phenomena means for us and the agreed socially accepted reaction or interpretation thereof.
This brings us to the work of Pierre Bourdieu, a sociologist heavily influenced by Marx. Bourdieu describes different social groups as ‘fields,’ which is another name for these assemblages of commodified claims to knowledge. Fields are fluid things, with individuals being able to take part in them, or not, as they wish. Each individual will partake of a host of fields at any one time. It is important to to note that, in a given context, it may be expected or ‘socially necessary’ (to borrow another of Marx’s terms) for an individual to partake in a particular field.
The commodified claims to knowledge within a field organise themselves into relational projects, much like Heidegger’s notion of dwelling. These projects, however, are Platonic. They do not exist in lived experience like Heidegger’s projects, but exist as a social script for how-things-should-be-done in a given context. Bourdieu refers to this collection of Platonic, commodified projects as the ‘Habitus.’
This pantheon of Platonic projects provides a ‘best practice’ which often gets caught up in moral and ethical judgements. The ‘best way’ becomes the ‘right way,’ and anybody who does it otherwise is viewed in a negative light. Performing in the ‘correct way’ within a Habitus bestows the actor with cultural or social capital, which, much like Marx’s description of capitalism, all subscribers of the Habitus are striving to achieve for both themselves and their Habitual construct. Different Habitual constructs will ascribe different values to particular cultural practices.
As we always fall back on the enlightenment model described earlier, the subscribers of a Habitus assume that their Habitual construct provides the objectively correct way to be. They will therefore promote and defend it with any alternative Habitus quite often being viewed as a threat or an affront. This is when political discourse comes into play, resulting in either compromise or conflict.
Value can be attributed to anything which stimulates the human senses; a product of human homeostasis.
Use-value can be attributed to anything that directs our action on the world; an awareness of a human want or need.
Phenomena possesses both value and use-value.
Projects comprise of linked together phenomena and are aimed toward the satisfaction of the identified want or need.
Exchange-value is a communicable use-value; something which identifies the want or need of more than one person.
Commodities possess value, use-vale and exchange-value. They are socialised phenomena.
Habitus is comprised of commodified sets of projects, the Platonic way-of-being of a collection of people achieved through an agreement reached using social discourse.
Cultural-capital is achieved by subscribers to a Habitus who perform or act within the Habitual guidelines in an exemplary fashion.
Political discourse occurs when two or more Habitual constructs occupy the same space enabling more than one way-of-being to exist simultaneously utilising conflict or compromise.