On standards and values: Between finite actuality and infinite possibility

Stenner, Paul (2016). On standards and values: Between finite actuality and infinite possibility. Theory & Psychology, 26(2) pp. 144–162.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0959354316630619


This article explores the relation between subjects and standards in a way that is informed by a process orientation to theoretical psychology. Standards are presented as objectifications of values designed to generalize and stabilize experiences of value. Standards are nevertheless prone to becoming “parodic” in the sense that they can become obstacles to the actualization of the values they were designed to incarnate. Furthermore, much critical social science has mishandled the nature of standards by insisting that values are nothing but local and specific constructions in the mundane world of human activity. To rectify this problem, this article reactivates a sense of the difference between the idea of a finite world of activity and a world of value which points beyond and exceeds passing circumstance. Resources for the reactivation of this difference— which is core to a processual grasp of self, memory, and value—are found in the thinking of A. N. Whitehead, Max Weber, Marcel Proust, and Soren Kierkegaard.

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