Symbolic Action and Communication: Metaphor and Money in Kenneth Burke
- УДК / UDK: 82(091)
- About the author:
Andrei A. Gornykh (Doctor Hab. of Philosophy, professor, European Humanities University, Vilnius, Lithuania)
- Abstract: The article examines how the social-critical vision of modern society stems from the key notions of Kenneth Burke's conception of “symbolic action”. The bridge between literary criticism and Burke's socio-anthropological constructions is the concept of motive. An authentic source of motives for human action is a metaphor that gives an image that is simultaneously poetic, imaginary and dynamic, moving (in the form of “third term” of the metaphor). The metaphor reveals unexpected, but essential unity of dissimilar things. And in this sense it serves as a model of inter-subjective relations. Group cohesion can be understood as an “extended metaphor” in which all group members have a common “third term”. Thus, Burke brings the fields of anthropology and poetics closer together. A metaphor is a relationship in which the elements do not absorb each other, but reveal the essence of each other, sublate their partiality, contingency, that is make up a collective form. This is the “paradox of substance”. The commonality of a tribe is not an abstraction that arises “after” individuals, but exists in the form of a generic substance in the individuals themselves. This defines the dialectic of identification: the individual coincides with himself by mediation of not-himself (some external “character”). The paradox of substance places symbolic actions in the general field of “symbolic communication,” in which the word is not only an external instrument, but an internal quality of individuals. Poetic imagery is the substance of the social. Metaphor in this capacity is contrasted with money, which, displacing metaphor as a principle of social coherence, undermines truly human motives (utilitarianism instead of communal poetics).
- Keywords: Kenneth Burke, symbol, motive, metaphor, money, utopia, communication, social cohesion.
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