A central feature of method in modernity, as it was conceptualized in the 19th century (see Gaukroger’s The Emergence of a Scientific Culture, p. 30), in particular in the social sciences (see Schnädelbach Philosophy in Germany 1831-1933) is that it is designed to create change, but at the same time, not any change but the right kind of change, described as ”scientific progress”.

This is a peculiar idea! That you can sort of have a machine, something that works without thinking, in a way, constantly and persistently producing a particular kind of new. The thing is that this idea is founded on an ambivalent image of the power of human imagination. Because – why is method needed? Why not think freely? Because, as individuals, we are imperfect, fallen, ridden by idiosyncratic needs and desires – and thus we need to be checked. But still – we have something in us that opens up for the kind of change that we should really want, that is: progress.

There are many ways of thinking about the constitution of this method – sometimes including creativity (as Popper did), sometimes just depending on ”rational” rule-following. However one conceives of it – the only way to make sense of method is through this split vision of the power of individual human subjects, as partly ”fallen”, partly ”godlike” (se Michael Allen Gillespie would have put it in The Theological Origins of Modernity).

From a sociological perspective, we can get another understanding of method, namely as a way of providing constant, non-revolutionary change. And this ”explanation” of what method really does for us, fits well with the sociological circumstances under which it rose to prominence in Europe, that is, after the unruliness of the first decades of the 19th century. In the sociological level, the idea of ”scientific method” can be seen as a compromise.

The point here – in this post – is that method has an interesting counterpart in the concept of the entrepreneurial spirit and the entrepreneurial self. Andreas Reckwitz accounts for the emergence of this, as he calls it, ”dispositif” in modernity, becoming hegemonic recently, after the 1980’s.

What we have here, perhaps, is another complementary way of keeping human creativity and fantasy in check. This time, not through the imposition of law – as method does – but through the creation or establishment of a fabricated environment, to which the individual must adapt to survive.

Method, in a way, also constitutes such an environment, through invariant and stable mechanisms for control, ensuring that method ”has been follows” – thus putting the process of change in a sort of ritual setting (following here the definition of Roy Rappaport).

For the entrepreneur, this ”control” is instead taken care of through the dynamics of the market, if market is understood in a wide sense as the conditions for getting a ”following” in the present state of culture: we think here of e.g. Twitter, Facebok, Youtube, whatever – where the conditions for success are determined by the ”state” of this market, an always difficult to determin ”readiness of the new”, which, when it is satisfied, results in the ”viral” – the Internet variation of the theme of success in the market.

Here, as an individual, you are completely free to think, say, do and produce whatever you like. Importantly, however, culture and society will not be threatened by these creations, as long as their ”impact” is determined by this market logic. To have an impact, you must act on the market, in the double sense of the word of putting your product on the market, and adapting it to what you think is the ”desired of the market”. The successful entrepreneur follows this constantly shifting, but in another sense invariant and stable, desire, always satisfying the need and desire that at this particular moment had a potential for emerging. He does then, not, obviously, think and create freely, but as an instrument of this market logic.

There is an interesting parallel between these areas: In science, as in the market economy; the brilliant scientist, as well as the successful entrepreneur – are described as thinking outside the box. But in fact, what is valued is having a sense for exactly the walls of the box, never leaping outside, but rather coming up with new things that can be stuffed inside it. A marxist would call this box capitalism. But perhaps it is better to talk about it in a somewhat wider sense, leaving the question of what explains what more open…

That the market is a ”box” is of course already known – the point in this post is the connection between market and method – as stabilizing measures in modernity, complementing each other in putting our modern culture in a constant state of checked transformation.

Connecting to previous posts, these checks on culture, are connected to the image of growth of our two favorite substances, knowledge and money. Our way of talking about and understanding the reason for the necessity of method and market, is in terms of this growth. We are attached to these substances, and as long as we conceive of change in terms of their growth, our culture will be kept in order.

Thus – two easy (?) ways of changing direction is to let go of any of these processes of growth, economic or scientific.

/Sverker & Ditte